The lead is back to five.
Last week, we disagreed on one game: Eagles at Saints. I took the home team, MDS took the road team. And I ended up 10-4 for the week to MDS’s 9-5.
This week, we disagree on twice as many games as last week. Which sounds better than two.
For the year, I’m 83-49, and MDS is 78-54. Yep, that’s a five-game lead. Which definitely sounds better than two.
Colts at Jaguars
MDS’s take: The 5-3 Colts have an easy enough schedule the rest of the way that if they just win the games they should win, they’ll finish the season with a winning record. One of the games they should win is this one, and I think they will.
MDS’s pick: Colts 20, Jaguars 17.
Florio’s take: The last time the Colts visited Jacksonville, a win by the home team ensured that Andrew Luck would head to Indy. The Colts return as a playoff contender, intent on avenging a September home loss to the Jaguars.
Florio’s pick: Colts 27, Jaguar 20.
Raiders at Ravens
MDS’s take: For a 6-2 team, the Ravens have a lot of question marks, especially on their aged and injured defense. But the Raiders have even more problems on defense, and I like Baltimore to win a high-scoring game.
MDS’s pick: Ravens 35, Raiders 31.
Florio’s take: The Raiders aren’t as bad as you’d think, and the Ravens aren’t as good. Look for Baltimore’s decimated run defense to thrive against Oakland’s decimated running game, and for the Ravens to do enough to fend off the Steelers as a pair of games against Pittsburgh loom on the schedule.
Florio’s pick: Ravens 31, Raiders 14.
Broncos at Panthers
MDS’s take: Broncos coach John Fox will win back at his old stomping grounds in Carolina, where Peyton Manning will pick apart the Panthers’ defense while Von Miller will make Cam Newton’s life miserable.
MDS’s pick: Broncos 28, Panthers 14.
Florio’s take: John Fox returns to Charlotte with a quarterback far better than any he ever had when he coached the Panthers. Against a team with plenty of guys Fox knows very well. The Carolina winning streak ends at one.
Florio’s pick: Broncos 30, Panthers 20.
Giants at Bengals
MDS’s take: I could pick this game with confidence if I knew which Giants team was going to show up. Will it be the team that showed up for 60 minutes and pounded the 49ers, or the team that sleepwalked through long stretches of close wins against the Redskins and Cowboys, and a close loss to the Steelers? Given the way the Giants have played the last three weeks I’m tempted to go with the upset, but the Bengals’ defense has been so bad this season that Eli Manning simply has to have a good game.
MDS’s pick: Giants 29, Bengals 25.
Florio’s take: The Bengals are in a free fall, and the Giants are caught in the early stages of their annual midseason swoon. I’ve got more faith in the Giants getting it done, especially since Eli Manning will surely have the benefit of some insights from his big brother, who won four days ago in Cincinnati.
Florio’s pick: Giants 31, Bengals 20.
Titans at Dolphins
MDS’s take: The Dolphins missed a golden opportunity to establish themselves as the AFC wild-card frontrunners on Sunday against the Colts, but I still like the way this team is playing, especially on defense. The Titans got a tongue-lashing from their owner after another bad loss on Sunday against the Bears, but that won’t be enough to shake them out of their doldrums.
MDS’s pick: Dolphins 35, Titans 17.
Florio’s take: Jake Locker returns, his left shoulder coincidentally healing at the time Matt Hasselbeck lost his hot hand. Locker will learn what everyone else has learned this year. The Miami defense is pretty good.
Florio’s pick: Dolphins 17, Titans 13.
Lions at Vikings
MDS’s take: When these teams met in Week Four in Detroit, the Vikings were bolstered by two kick return touchdowns and won 20-13. But the Lions have shored up their special teams problems, Vikings kickoff returner Percy Harvin is hurt, and the Lions should earn their first NFC North victory of the season in the rematch in Minnesota.
MDS’s pick: Lions 23, Vikings 10.
Florio’s take: With a brutal post-bye schedule, this game could determine whether the Vikings will finish 6-10 or 5-11. I’ll pick the Vikings now, primarily because it’s the last time I’ll pick them all season.
Florio’s pick: Vikings 23, Lions 20.
Bills at Patriots
MDS’s take: In another rematch of a Week Four meeting, the Bills’ defense is in big trouble. It probably won’t get quite as ugly for Buffalo as it did in the Patriots’ 52-28 win in September, but the Patriots will put plenty of points on the board.
MDS’s pick: Patriots 38, Bills 20.
Florio’s take: The Pats scored 45 points against the Rams in 60 minutes, and 45 against the Bills in 25. New England needs to keep its foot on the gas in order to get ready for some tough challenges that are waiting in the postseason.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 38, Bills 21.
Falcons at Saints
MDS’s take: The Saints have won three out of four, and a win here would signal that New Orleans really has turned its season around. Unfortunately, there are just too many holes on the Saints’ defense for New Orleans to stop a Falcons team that can attack with Matt Ryan, Roddy White, Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez, Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers. This Falcons team just has too many weapons.
MDS’s pick: Falcons 27, Saints 21.
Florio’s take: Halfway to an unblemished regular season, the Falcons simply don’t have the feel of a 16-0 team. With four games against the Saints and Bucs over the balance of the year, the Falcons most likely won’t be. It starts now, with the Saints staking their claim for a wild-card berth by hanging loss No. 1 on Atlanta.
Florio’s pick: Saints 28, Falcons 27.
Chargers at Buccaneers
MDS’s take: With running back Doug Martin and a solid front seven on defense, the Bucs are becoming exactly the kind of team Greg Schiano wanted to build: A team that wins by running and stopping the run. Tampa Bay will do it again against a Chargers team that has yet to beat a good opponent all season.
MDS’s pick: Buccaneers 16, Chargers 14.
Florio’s take: By playing last Thursday, the Chargers had some extra time to figure out how to stop the Muscle Hamster. It won’t be enough.
Florio’s pick: Buccaneers 27, Chargers 21.
Jets at Seahawks
MDS’s take: Seattle is a tough team to play for anyone, but I see Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez and his receiving corps having a particularly tough game against a good Seahawks secondary. Rex Ryan will have a good game plan to contain Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, but the Seahawks’ defense will lead the way to a low-scoring win.
MDS’s pick: Seahawks 12, Jets 7.
Florio’s take: The Pete Carroll-Mark Sanchez reunion provides a great story line. But the bottom line is that it’s foolish to pick against the Seahawks at home.
Florio’s pick: Seahawks 21, Jets 13.
Cowboys at Eagles
MDS’s take: Until Monday night, I was still a believer in the Eagles’ ability to turn their season around. But Philly’s offensive line looked terrible, the defense looked like it has taken a step backward with the departure of coordinator Juan Castillo, and the Eagles look like they’re ready to pack it in for the season. The Cowboys may still make a run at the playoffs, but the Eagles are done.
MDS’s pick: Cowboys 24, Eagles 14.
Florio’s take: It’s a early playoff game between two teams that are destined to miss the playoffs. In the past two weeks, the Cowboys gave the Falcons a much better game in Atlanta than the Eagles gave the Falcons at home.
Florio’s pick: Cowboys 24, Eagles 21.
Rams at 49ers
MDS’s take: The 49ers’ defense has had a few letdowns, but when they’re on their game it’s just about impossible to score on them. And they’ll be on their game against a mediocre Rams offense.
MDS’s pick: 49ers 20, Rams 3.
Florio’s take: Lost in the success of the Falcons and the Bears, the resurgence of the Packers, and the collapse of the Eagles, the Niners are ready to remind everyone that they may be the best team in the conference.
Florio’s pick: 49ers 27, Rams 9.
Texans at Bears
MDS’s take: In the best game of the week, the Bears’ opportunistic defense will try to force turnovers against a Texans offense whose quarterback, Matt Schaub, has only four turnovers all season. I like the Bears to get the best of it.
MDS’s pick: Bears 17, Texans 10.
Florio’s take: The Texans haven’t been stepping up in high-profile games, which doesn’t bode well for the playoffs.
Florio’s pick: Bears 19, Texans 13.
Chiefs at Steelers
MDS’s take: The Steelers are on a three-game winning streak and the Chiefs are in a tailspin. The Monday night game will be over by halftime, and millions of Americans will go to bed early.
MDS’s pick: Steelers 34, Chiefs 9.
Florio’s take: Todd Haley gets a crack at the Chiefs. But the Chiefs also get a crack at Todd Haley. If this one were being played in Kansas City, I’d take the upset. But it’s hard to imagine a one-win team toppling the Steelers in their own building.
Florio’s pick: Steelers 24, Chiefs 16.