The proverbial pink champagne is on ice.
Yes, with a clean sweep in the three games on which we disagreed last weekend, I’ve now built a seven-game lead over MDS, with only 32 games to go.
The problem for MDS is that we probably won’t disagree on seven games in the final two weeks. Even then, he needs to be right on all of them.
For Week 16, we disagree on three. So I’ll lead by at least four and possibly by 10 by the time the fat man in the red suit breaks into my house, eats my cookies, and leaves behind a bunch of stuff for everyone but me.
For the week, I was 12-4 to a 9-7 from MDS. On the year, I’m at 146-77-1, good for 65.1 percent. MDS is 139-84-1, still at 62.0 percent.
Falcons at Lions
MDS’s take: Both of these teams have been severely inconsistent this season, with the Falcons consistently managing to pull out wins when they don’t play very well, and the Lions consistently managing to pull out losses when they play competitively. So after a week in which the Falcons blew out a good team and the Lions got blown out by a bad team, I’m picking both teams to revert to their inconsistent ways. Does this logic make sense? Maybe not, but I’m going to have to pick some upsets to catch Florio. So what the heck?
MDS’s pick: Lions 21, Falcons 20.
Florio’s take: It would be fitting for the Lions to close out a disappointing year with a pair of home wins over postseason contenders from Atlanta and Chicago. It would be fitting, but after seeing the Lions lay an egg against the nine-eggs-in-a-row-laying Cardinals, it’s impossible for me to think the Lions can take down a Falcons team that put a goose egg on the Giants.
Florio’s pick: Falcons 31, Lions 17.
Giants at Ravens
MDS’s take: Both of these teams once looked like locks to win their divisions and now look desperate. Former Giants coach Bill Parcells liked to say that in games like this, you go with the more desperate team. That’s the Giants, who probably need to win out to make the playoffs.
MDS’s pick: Giants 24, Ravens 13.
Florio’s take: The Ravens are desperate for a win. The Giants are more desperate for a win. Even though Eli Manning’s Giants have lost to two teams that Peyton Manning’s Broncos played previously and beat, the third time needs to be a charm, or Eli will have no chance to chase his third ring.
Florio’s pick: Giants 27, Ravens 20.
Raiders at Panthers
MDS’s take: A couple weeks ago this looked like it could be a game to determine the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. But the Panthers have won two in a row, and the Raiders won last week, and so now it looks merely like a game that could help shape the Top 10 of the draft. Which makes it an even less interesting game than it otherwise would have been.
MDS’s pick: Panthers 31, Raiders 10.
Florio’s take: Ron Rivera is making it very hard for the next G.M. to hire a new coach. It will keep getting harder.
Florio’s pick: Panthers 31, Raiders 20.
Saints at Cowboys
MDS’s take: The Dallas secondary is going to struggle mightily against the Saints’ passing attack, but with the season on the line I see Tony Romo having a big game against the Saints’ defense.
MDS’s pick: Cowboys 34, Saints 31.
Florio’s take: A loss to Dallas is a win for the Saints, since it makes it more likely that there won’t be a place with the Cowboys for Sean Payton. Even though the Saints won big over the Bucs, the Cowboys are chasing a playoff berth no one thought they’d secure.
Florio’s pick: Cowboys 30, Saints 24.
Titans at Packers
MDS’s take: Tennessee has actually played some reasonably good football in the five weeks since owner Bud Adams put the team on notice following a humiliating loss to the Bears: In those five weeks the Titans have blown out the Dolphins, ended the Jets’ playoff hopes and played a very close game against the playoff-bound Colts. But Green Bay in December is a tough place to play, and the Packers won’t have too much trouble putting the Titans away.
MDS’s pick: Packers 35, Titans 21.
Florio’s take: Green Bay is reached for a No. 2 seed. The Titans are reaching for a lower draft pick. Advantage Packers.
Florio’s pick: Packers 27, Titans 17.
Vikings at Texans
MDS’s take: It’s impressive that the Vikings are still playing meaningful games this deep in the season, but this is where it comes to an end. The Texans will clinch home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs by spanking the Vikings, and the loss will severely damage the Vikings’ playoff hopes.
MDS’s pick: Texans 41, Vikings 20.
Florio’s take: The Texans may not be able to stop Adrian Peterson, but they’ll likely come through in the most important statistical category — points scored versus points allowed.
Florio’s pick: Texans 31, Vikings 20.
Patriots at Jaguars
MDS’s take: The Patriots can’t be feeling good about themselves after Sunday night’s loss to the 49ers. They’ll take it out on the Jaguars in the day’s biggest blowout.
MDS’s pick: Patriots 38, Jaguars 3.
Florio’s take: Five years ago, these two teams squared off in the playoffs. The closest the Jaguars ever get to returning comes from periodically losing to New England.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 41, Jaguars 14.
Colts at Chiefs
MDS’s take: Let’s just stop and reflect for a moment on how important the quarterback position is in the NFL: In 2010, with Peyton Manning, the Colts were a playoff team. In 2011, with Curtis Painter, Dan Orlovsky and Kerry Collins, the Colts were the worst team in the league. In 2012, with Andrew Luck, the Colts will beat the Chiefs on Sunday and clinch a playoff berth.
MDS’s pick: Colts 28, Chiefs 14.
Florio’s take: The team that lucked into the top pick in the 2012 draft faces the team that won’t have the same good fortune finding a quarterback with the first or second overall selection in 2013.
Florio’s pick: Colts 24, Chiefs 13.
Bills at Dolphins
MDS’s take: Amazingly, the Dolphins are still in playoff contention, although they would need a lot of help in order to get there, even if they win out. They’ll at least take care of their end by winning on Sunday.
MDS’s pick: Dolphins 24, Bills 20.
Florio’s take: The Dolphins are surprisingly still alive for the postseason. The Bills unsurprisingly aren’t. Edge to the home team and the team that still have something to play for, which in this case is the same team.
Florio’s pick: Dolphins 20, Bills 17.
Redskins at Eagles
MDS’s take: The Redskins just need to win out and they win the NFC East. No way they get tripped up by the Eagles, who are just playing out the string. Who would have figured before the season that the Redskins would be playing for a division title while the Eagles would be long since eliminated from playoff contention?
MDS’s pick: Redskins 31, Eagles 10.
Florio’s take: It’s likely the final home game for Eagles coach Andy Reid. And Reid surely would love to spoil Washington’s chances to get to the postseason. Of course, Reid also would have loved to have had the kind of year that would have made Sunday’s game not his final home game.
Florio’s pick: Redskins 24, Eagles 14.
Bengals at Steelers
MDS’s take: The game of the day is in Pittsburgh, where these two teams will be fighting for the one open playoff spot remaining after the Colts take care of business. I like the Steelers to summon everything they have left and put themselves in prime position to clinch in Week 17.
MDS’s pick: Steelers 21, Bengals 20.
Florio’s take: The Bengals are 0-9 in their last eight games against the Steelers and Ravens. And the Steelers are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception. And the Steelers desperately need a win in order to keep their playoff hopes alive. This isn’t a game the Steelers lose.
Florio’s pick: Steelers 23, Bengals 13.
Rams at Buccaneers
MDS’s take: I was surprised the extent to which the Bucs looked on Sunday like they’ve given up on the season. Greg Schiano and Jeff Fisher both have rebuilding jobs on their hands, but Fisher’s Rams appear to be closer to getting that job done than Schiano’s Bucs.
MDS’s pick: Rams 17, Buccaneers 9.
Florio’s take: The Bucs play their final home game of the season while in a full-blown free fall. Since it’s potentially cornerback Ronde Barber’s final home game of his career, look for the Bucs to find a way to turn things around against a Rams team that saw its unlikely postseason run slam to a halt in Week 15.
Florio’s pick: Buccaneers 28, Rams 17.
Browns at Broncos
MDS’s take: The Broncos just need to beat two bad teams, the Browns and Chiefs, in order to ensure that if they rematch the Patriots in the playoffs, that game takes place in Denver. Peyton Manning and Co. will take care of business.
MDS’s pick: Broncos 28, Browns 10.
Florio’s take: The Broncos are closing in on a bye. The Browns are closing in on saying “bye” to their coach and G.M.
Florio’s pick: Broncos 27, Browns 14.
Bears at Cardinals
MDS’s take: The Bears need to win out and get some help to make the playoffs. I’m not sure if they’ll get the help, but with only the Cardinals and Lions left on the schedule, they should win out.
MDS’s pick: Bears 27, Cardinals 9.
Florio’s take: No one’s ass is getting crowned as a result of this one.
Florio’s pick: Bears 20, Cardinals 10.
49ers at Seahawks
MDS’s take: The Sunday night game is a big one, matching the two teams that may be playing the best football in all of the NFL right now. On a neutral field I’d probably take the 49ers, but in Seattle I give the Seahawks the edge.
MDS’s pick: Seahawks 21, 49ers 17.
Florio’s take: The “what’s your deal?” rivalry suddenly has become one of the best in the game, making the frosty relationship between the two coaches an afterthought. The Seahawks could have, and should have, won the last time these teams met. This time, the Seahawks are even better.
Florio’s pick: Seahawks 20, 49ers 17.
Chargers at Jets
MDS’s take: Greg McElroy may get the loudest ovation at home that a Jets quarterback has received since Joe Namath. I don’t think McElroy is the long-term answer, but I do think he’ll play competently, and the Jets’ defense will play well, and Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow will stand together on the sideline awkwardly watching the McElroy-led Jets win a low-scoring game.
MDS’s pick: Jets 13, Chargers 10.
Florio’s take: The McElroy era begins with a Bolt. Or maybe a butt fumble. There’s too much drama this week in the locker room for the Jets to come together and win.
Florio’s pick: Chargers 17, Jets 10.