That five-game lead over MDS has grown to seven, with seven weeks left.
If anyone is capable of blowing this lead, I am.
This week, we disagree on three games. Last week, we were 10-3-1 and 8-5-1, respectively. (I would have predicted the Rams-49ers would end in a tie, if I’d known games could end in ties.)
For the year, I’m now 93-52-1. MDS is 86-59-1.
Dolphins at Bills
MDS’s take: NFL Network gets the week started with a pretty lousy game, with the Dolphins reeling and falling out of AFC wild-card contention, and the Bills even further behind in the AFC East. I’m expecting the difference in this one to be Bills running back C.J. Spiller, who will do to the Dolphins’ defense the same thing that Titans running back Chris Johnson did to the Dolphins’ defense last week. Spiller will have a big game and lead the way as the Bills win.
MDS’s pick: Bills 28, Dolphins 20.
Florio’s take: The Dolphins have cooled off. The Bills were never hot. It’ll be cold on Thursday night in Buffalo. More importantly, it’s hard to imagine the Dolphins recovering from Sunday’s debacle against the Titans in only four days.
Florio’s pick: Bills 28, Dolphins 20.
Cardinals at Falcons
MDS’s take: The Falcons are no longer undefeated and no longer viewed by many people as the best team in the league, but a home game against the Cardinals should be a nice way for Atlanta to get back in the W column. The Cardinals’ defense might be able to keep this game close, but Arizona’s offense won’t be able to do anything.
MDS’s pick: Falcons 16, Cardinals 9.
Florio’s take: This is precisely the kind of game the Cardinals could steal. The Falcons, fresh from their first loss, view Arizona as a show-up-and-win opponent — the puff-pastry appetizer to a two-pack of tough steaks in the form of the Bucs and Saints on a short week. And the Cardinals have had two weeks to get ready for this one. If I didn’t have a seven-game lead over MDS entering the week, I’d consider calling for the upset. Instead, I’ll play a little prevent defense.
Florio’s pick: Falcons 35, Cardinals 21.
Buccaneers at Panthers
MDS’s take: Both of these teams have talented young quarterbacks, but it’s Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman who has taken a big step forward recently, while Carolina’s Cam Newton is looking shaky. The Bucs are entering the NFC playoff conversation with a win in Carolina.
MDS’s pick: Buccaneers 28, Panthers 14.
Florio’s take: When the Bucs beat the Panthers 10 weeks ago, it was regarded as a surprise. When the Bucs beat the Panthers this time, it won’t be. Tampa has gradually improved, and Greg Schiano could soon be getting some coach of the year buzz.
Florio’s pick: Buccaneers 24, Panthers 16.
Browns at Cowboys
MDS’s take: This is the first of three straight home games, all against teams with losing records, for the Cowboys. So their schedule is setting up for them to go on a nice little run. After saving their season against the Eagles, the Cowboys won’t blow their season against the Browns.
MDS’s pick: Cowboys 23, Browns 16.
Florio’s take: The Cowboys get ready for their Thanksgiving date with the Redskins by feasting on the team that is the color of sweet potatoes, both fresh and digested.
Florio’s pick: Cowboys 27, Browns 17.
Packers at Lions
MDS’s take: When the Lions get their passing game going, they’re as dangerous an offense as there is in the NFL. The Vikings were doing all they could to stop Calvin Johnson on Sunday, and he still went over 200 receiving yards. Unfortunately for Detroit, the Lions usually don’t get their passing game going until their defense and special teams have already given up an early lead. And the Packers are not the kind of team the Lions want to be playing catchup against.
MDS’s pick: Packers 23, Lions 20.
Florio’s take: The Packers are ready to make their move to the top of the division. The Lions already have made their move to the bottom.
Florio’s pick: Packers 27, Lions 14.
Jaguars at Texans
MDS’s take: Given that Florio is way ahead of me in our season picks contest, I’m tempted to take the Jaguars here because I’m going to need to hit on some big upsets if I’m going to have any chance of catching up. But even though I think the Texans might be due for a letdown after their big win in Chicago, the Jaguars are so bad that the Texans should beat them even if they turn in their worst effort of the season.
MDS’s pick: Texans 20, Jaguars 13.
Florio’s take: Didn’t this used to be an actual rivalry? It’s not anymore, thanks to the fact that one team has an 8-1 record, and the other is 1-8.
Florio’s pick: Texans 41, Jaguars 17.
Bengals at Chiefs
MDS’s take: Cincinnati’s big win over the Giants could be the first step toward a surprise late-season run back to the playoffs, and there’s no way the Bengals will stumble against a terrible Chiefs team.
MDS’s pick: Bengals 34, Chiefs 10.
Florio’s take: Logic tells us that the winless-at-home Chiefs should fall to a Bengals team that found a way to knock off the defending NFL champions. But the Chiefs are due to finally get that second pickle. It won’t do much to make things better in Kansas City, but things won’t get worse — at least not this week.
Florio’s pick: Chiefs 23, Bengals 20.
Colts at Patriots
MDS’s take: I’m a believer in the Colts, in the sense that I believe they are going to make the playoffs this season. But that’s largely because the Colts have an easy schedule the rest of the way, with four games remaining against teams that currently have losing records. Unfortunately for Indianapolis, this is one of the toughest games the Colts still have to play, and I just don’t think the Colts’ defense is good enough to keep Tom Brady and company in check. This game may be a first-round playoff preview, but it’s not a close game.
MDS’s pick: Patriots 28, Colts 10.
Florio’s take: A year after the annual Colts-Patriots game lost its luster with the absence of Peyton Manning, the arrival of Andrew Luck could help restore the sizzle. With the Colts better than folks realize and the Pats not quite as good as believed, the Colts could steal this one. They likely won’t, but they could.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 28, Colts 24.
Jets at Rams
MDS’s take: Neither one of these teams is very good, but the Rams have a lot of young guys who look like they’re hungry and playing as hard as they can in every game, while the Jets have a bunch of veterans who look like they give up when they fall behind and anonymously snipe at each other in the media. Advantage Rams.
MDS’s pick: Rams 21, Jets 17.
Florio’s take: Last week, Pete Carroll got a little revenge against the team that once fired him as its head coach. This week, Brian Schottenheimer gets a shot at revenge against the team that fired him without really firing him as its offensive coordinator. The fact that the Rams currently are good and the Jets aren’t will make it easier.
Florio’s pick: Rams 20, Jets 10.
Eagles at Redskins
MDS’s take: Stick a fork in the Eagles. They’re already on the first five-game losing streak of Andy Reid’s career, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see that losing streak extend all the way to the end of the season.
MDS’s pick: Redskins 28, Eagles 13.
Florio’s take: The struggling Philly offense finally finds an equally struggling defense. And the struggling Philly defense finally finds digs deep and finds a way to avoid getting torched.
Florio’s pick: Eagles 24, Redskins 21.
Saints at Raiders
MDS’s take: There’s not much doubt after the Saints beat the Falcons that New Orleans has turned this thing around. It should be easy to keep things going against a Raiders team that looks like it has given up on the season.
MDS’s pick: Saints 38, Raiders 17.
Florio’s take: Dennis Allen knows the Saints offense well, given the time he spent there as a defensive backs coach. Unfortunately, he lacks the personnel to slow it down.
Florio’s pick: Saints 34, Raider 20.
Chargers at Broncos
MDS’s take: The Broncos may be playing the best football in the league right now. Peyton Manning has the offense humming, of course, but Von Miller is a defensive player of the year candidate, and Trindon Holliday is one of the most dynamic special-teams players in the NFL — at least as long as he remembers that you’re supposed to cross the goal line before you start celebrating your touchdown. This is a complete football team, and the Broncos will all but wrap up the AFC West with an easy win over the Chargers.
MDS’s pick: Broncos 31, Chargers 13.
Florio’s take: This one will look a lot more like the second half of their last meeting, not the first half. And it could be the final two halves of football for Norv Turner in San Diego.
Florio’s pick: Broncos 31, Chargers 17.
Ravens at Steelers
MDS’s take: Ben Roethlisberger’s injury came at the worst possible time for the Steelers. Before Big Ben got hurt, I was expecting the Steelers to beat the Ravens both this week in Pittsburgh and two weeks from now in Baltimore, and to take the lead in the AFC North. But with Byron Leftwich in for Roethlisberger, I like the Ravens.
MDS’s pick: Ravens 17, Steelers 13.
Florio’s take: The Steelers have played the Ravens close without Ben Roethlisberger. And that’s when the Ravens actually had a great defense. If the Steelers can run the ball effectively and if Byron Leftwich can start his elongated throwing motion quickly enough to get the ball out before Terrell Suggs plants him into the ground, the Steelers can hold serve at home.
Florio’s pick: Steelers 17, Ravens 13.
Bears at 49ers
MDS’s take: In a battle of teams that may be playing without their concussed starting quarterbacks, I have more faith in the 49ers’ ability to win by running the ball and playing good defense.
MDS’s pick: 49ers 24, Bears 16.
Florio’s take: Though the Bears likely won’t have another five-game free fall like they did last season, the losing streak will extend at least to two — regardless of who ends up playing quarterback for either team.
Florio’s pick: 49ers 20, Bears 13.