Well, the regular season has ended, and I finished strong with a 13-3 mark. More importantly, I went 4-1 in the five games on which MDS and I disagreed, pushing the final margin to 11 games.
With only 11 postseason games and one agreement on the four wild-card games, he can’t catch me.
But we’ll start a new contest and re-set the clock to zero and we’ll see what happens.
I finished 170-85-1, good for 66.0 percent. MDS ended at 159-96-1, which puts him at 62.1 percent.
Bengals at Texans
MDS’s take: The rematch of last year’s first playoff game will look a lot like the prior meeting: J.J. Watt will make big plays on defense for the Texans, and although the Bengals will keep the game close early on, the Texans’ offense will sustain long drives in the second half to put the game away. As the No. 3 seed in the AFC, the Texans will move on to a divisional round playoff game at New England — where they played their worst game of the regular season.
MDS’s pick: Texans 24, Bengals 14.
Florio’s take: I’ve been accused of not believing in the Bengals. I’ve been accused of not believing in the Texans. I currently believe in one of them. And it’s the one that finished the season strong. The one that didn’t lose three of its last four games by a combined score of 45 points. The one that didn’t squander two shots at the No. 1 seed. The one with a quarterback who actually has postseason experience. The one with an underrated defense and an overlooked defensive tackle. Yes, Houstonians, I don’t believe that the Texans will be able to turn it around — especially since the reward for doing so is a return to New England, site of a 30-point Sunday night shellacking on December 10.
Florio’s pick: Bengals 24, Texans 21.
Vikings at Packers
MDS’s take: Six days after they played a great game in Minnesota, they’ll do it again in Green Bay. At this point, everyone knows the Vikings are going to ride Adrian Peterson, and defenses can’t stop it anyway. So that gives the Vikings a chance to put some points on the board, especially if Christian Ponder can play as well as he did on Sunday. Unfortunately for the Vikings, I don’t see Ponder playing as well at Lambeau Field as he did at the Metrodome, and I see Aaron Rodgers having a big game against the Vikings’ defense. The Packers will win this one and head to San Francisco.
MDS’s pick: Packers 34, Vikings 20.
Florio’s take: The Packers gave up 37 points to the Vikings in a game that could have given Green Bay a bye. Christian Ponder hasn’t lost since playing a key role in squandering a winnable game at Lambeau Field. And with Adrian Peterson’s shot at Eric Dickerson’s regular-season rushing record coming up 27 feet short, Peterson’s next goal will be the single-game postseason rushing record of 248 yards. Which is held, of course, by Eric Dickerson. All this one will need is Randy Moss rubbing his butt against the goalpost.
Florio’s pick: Vikings 30, Packers 27.
Colts at Ravens
MDS’s take: It’s amazing that the Colts are here at all after being the worst team in the league last season, but this is where I see the Colts’ great run coming to an end. Ravens running back Ray Rice will have a huge game against a weak Colts defense, and look for Jacoby Jones to make at least one big play on special teams. The Ravens will move on to the divisional round in Denver.
MDS’s pick: Ravens 28, Colts 17.
Florio’s take: The news that Ray Lewis will retire after the postseason transformed a toss-up into a sure thing. Which makes me very nervous. If I’m Colts coach Chuck Pagano, here’s what I’m telling my team: “Guys, they’re scared. They’re not just scared, they’re desperate. They know that we’re the better team. So how do they close the gap? Ray Lewis tells them he’s retiring. I know Ray Lewis. He ain’t retiring. Especially if he loses. And he will. And they know it.” Or something like that. Either way, few stories in all of football are more compelling than Ray’s. But one is Chuck Pagano’s, and the Colts won’t be deterred one bit by the knowledge that they’ll be sending Lewis into a retirement that may not take.
Florio’s pick: Colts 24, Ravens 23.
Seahawks at Redskins
MDS’s take: The presence of Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III and Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson — the only two rookies in NFL history to record passer ratings above 100 — makes this the marquee matchup of wild-card weekend. But I think the difference will be the Seahawks’ defense, especially cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner, who are going to make it tough for Griffin to find open receivers. The Seahawks beat the Redskins in the playoffs in 2005 and 2007 and will do it again.
MDS’s pick: Seahawks 20, Redskins 10.
Florio’s take: Before Week 17, we all assumed that the Seahawks would blow out any and all comers. When the Rams managed to lose only by a touchdown in Seattle and the Redskins finished their climb from 3-6 to 10-6, the sense that the Seahawks would make easy work of the postseason field evaporated. Though it may not fully return on Sunday, the Seattle defense will do a better job of containing the Washington offense than vice-versa, and the quarterback taken five spots after a punter will relish the opportunity to show that he can beat a quarterback with top-two pedigree.
Florio’s pick: Seahawks 31, Redskins 21.