I entered the week eight games behind MDS. I exited the week eight games behind MDS.
And now I have only 32 games left to make up an eight-game gap.
But it’s not time to surrender. A sweep this week gets me halfway to a tie, since we disagree on four games.
We each went 9-7 in Week 15. For the year, he’s 147-77. I’m 139-85.
All picks appear below. As they always do.
Dolphins at Bills
MDS’s take: Going to Buffalo in December won’t be an easy road trip for Miami, as the Bills’ defense is playing well. But it’s hard to pick a team with nothing to play for against a team that just needs to win out to make the playoffs.
MDS’s pick: Dolphins 24, Bills 20.
Florio’s take: Buffalo already beat the Dolphins in Miami. With Thad Lewis at quarterback. Lewis is back at quarterback, and the rematch occurs in Buffalo. But the weather won’t be all that frightful, and the Dolphins have come a long way since losing to the Bills in October.
Florio’s pick: Dolphins 27, Bills 17.
Saints at Panthers
MDS’s take: The Saints looked lousy away from home last week, and I expect them to look lousy away from home again this week. That’s bad news in New Orleans, because losing this game likely means losing the division, which in turn means the Saints will spend the postseason on the road.
MDS’s pick: Panthers 23, Saints 17.
Florio’s take: New Orleans squandered a chance to nail down the division and secure a bye by losing badly to the Rams. The Panthers now get them outside in Charlotte for the biggest game at Bank of America Stadium in a long time. A win puts Carolina in the driver’s seat that the Saints squandered, and the Panthers have the defense to disrupt Drew Brees’ timing.
Florio’s pick: Panthers 27, Saints 20.
Vikings at Bengals
MDS’s take: The Vikings are actually looking like a decent team with Matt Cassel at quarterback, while the Bengals turned in a lousy effort last week against the Steelers. But with the Bengals suddenly in danger of missing the playoffs, Marvin Lewis will have his team ready for a big game.
MDS’s pick: Bengals 34, Vikings 21.
Florio’s take: Relegated to spoiler, the Vikings have played that role well, tying the Packers, beating the Bears, and upending the Eagles. But Cincinnati hasn’t lost at home this year, and they are one of the best teams in the league when properly focused. They’ll be focused on Sunday.
Florio’s pick: Bengals 24, Vikings 13.
Broncos at Texans
MDS’s take: The Broncos are two wins away from clinching home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Texans are two losses away from clinching the first overall pick in the NFL draft. Both teams will get halfway there on Sunday.
MDS’s pick: Broncos 35, Texans 10.
Florio’s take: In 2012, Peyton Manning wanted to come to Houston. But the Texans didn’t want him. On Sunday, Houstonians will get to see what they’ve been missing. A lot.
Florio’s pick: Broncos 42, Texans 20.
Titans at Jaguars
MDS’s take: This game is utterly meaningless unless you care who comes in second place in the AFC South. I’ll take the Titans to win a close one.
MDS’s pick: Titans 24, Jaguars 21.
Florio’s take: The Titans aren’t in the losing business. In Jacksonville, they’ll be in the not winning business. If they’re really lucky, they’ll be in the tying business.
Florio’s pick: Jaguars 30, Titans 27.
Colts at Chiefs
MDS’s take: In this likely preview of a wild card playoff game in two weeks, the surging Chiefs will prove that they’re a whole lot better than the slumping Colts.
MDS’s pick: Chiefs 35, Colts 17.
Florio’s take: They seem to be locked in as the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds, but the Chiefs still have some incentive to play hard. If they win and the Broncos stumble only once, the No. 1 seed remains within reach for a team that won only two games in 2012.
Florio’s pick: Chiefs 28, Colts 20.
Browns at Jets
MDS’s take: Neither of these teams is any good on offense, but the Jets are decidedly better on defense and special teams, and I’ll pick them on the strength of that.
MDS’s pick: Jets 17, Browns 13.
Florio’s take: The 2014 preseason has begun for both teams. Flip a coin. Throw a dart. Light a match.
Florio’s pick: Browns 17, Jets 10.
Bears at Eagles
MDS’s take: The NFC North leaders visit the NFC East leaders in a game that figures to showcase the weaknesses of Chicago’s defense. I expect Philadelphia running back LeSean McCoy to have a huge game as the Eagles roll to a big win.
MDS’s pick: Eagles 28, Bears 17.
Florio’s take: Even with linebacker Lance Briggs expected to be back for the Bears, Chicago doesn’t have the defense to slow down LeSean McCoy and the rest of the Philly offense.
Florio’s pick: Eagles 31, Bears 24.
Buccaneers at Rams
MDS’s take: Both of these teams have shown more fight late in the season than I expected, so this game may be interesting to watch even though it doesn’t mean anything to the playoff race. I like the Rams, who are a last place team in the NFC West but would be contenders in the NFC North.
MDS’s pick: Rams 27, Buccaneers 20.
Florio’s take: The consistently inconsistent Rams stunned the Saints last week. And so it would be fitting for the Rams to stumble against the Bucs, especially with a trip to Seattle looming.
Florio’s pick: Buccaneers 24, Rams 21.
Cowboys at Redskins
MDS’s take: Dallas’s D is terrible, but Washington is terrible on offense, defense, and special teams. Advantage: Cowboys.
MDS’s pick: Cowboys 34, Redskins 20.
Florio’s take: The Cowboys are coming apart, and the Redskins have nothing to lose. Especially since they’ve already lost their first-round draft, which pick belongs to the Rams. Kirk Cousins riddles the Dallas defense and London Fletcher lifts the Washington defense in his final home game.
Florio’s pick: Redskins 35, Cowboys 31.
Giants at Lions
MDS’s take: The Lions have choked away their NFC North lead, but they at least have a slight chance to get to the playoffs. The Giants, on the other hand, are playing like a team that just wants this bad season to be over with already.
MDS’s pick: Lions 34, Giants 20.
Florio’s take: It would be fitting for the Lions to blow another game they need to win. But they play the Giants. And the Giants aren’t good.
Florio’s pick: Lions 30, Giants 20.
Cardinals at Seahawks
MDS’s take: Give Arizona a lot of credit for staying in the NFC playoff race a lot later into the season than most people expected, but the Seahawks will crush the Cardinals’ hopes on Sunday and ensure that the road to the Super Bowl in the NFC goes through Seattle.
MDS’s pick: Seahawks 35, Cardinals 14.
Florio’s take: The best team to not make the playoffs will give the Seahawks a great tuneup for their coming playoffs games. While the Cardinals have done great things this year, no one will be beating Seattle in its own building.
Florio’s pick: Seahawks 24, Cardinals 10.
Steelers at Packers
MDS’s take: With the Packers now having a clear path to the NFC North title, they’ll take care of business against an inconsistent Steelers team.
MDS’s pick: Packers 24, Steelers 20.
Florio’s take: The last time the Packers rallied for a playoff spot, they beat the Steelers in the Super Bowl. While the Super Bowl is a long way away, a win over the Steelers could at least propel the Pack toward a fifth straight postseason berth.
Florio’s pick: Packers 34, Steelers 31.
Raiders at Chargers
MDS’s take: The Chargers still have an outside shot at a wild card, and if they somehow get into the playoffs I think they’d be a dangerous team. It probably won’t happen, but they will take care of business against a Raiders team that has nothing left to play for.
MDS’s pick: Chargers 38, Raiders 20.
Florio’s take: Even if the Chargers don’t make it to the playoffs (and they likely won’t), they’re laying the foundation for future competitiveness. The Raiders aren’t.
Florio’s pick: Chargers 30, Raiders 17.
Patriots at Ravens
MDS’s take: The Patriots have been the better team for most of this season, but the Ravens are playing their best football at the right time, while New England is struggling. I like the Ravens to win a tough, physical, low-scoring game.
MDS’s pick: Ravens 14, Patriots 13.
Florio’s take: The Ravens have won four in a row. The Patriots have suffered one too many injuries to remain highly competitive. Baltimore moves another big step closer to a sixth straight playoff appearance.
Florio’s pick: Ravens 22, Patriots 17.
Falcons at 49ers
MDS’s take: In the most lopsided game of the week, the 49ers will roll to an easy win, while the Falcons will wish this disaster of a season could end already.
MDS’s pick: 49ers 45, Falcons 7.
Florio’s take: The last game at Candlestick Park comes against an opponent that is neither nimble nor quick.
Florio’s pick: 49ers 35, Falcons 21.