Last year, I prevailed over MDS in the regular season picks contest. MDS takes solace in winning the postseason edition of the head-to-head battle.
With 256 regular-season games and 11 playoff games, I’ll leave it to others to decide which victory was more significant.
Meanwhile, it’s time to defend the crown, like the Ravens. And I have to get it started not at my home but in Denver, like the Ravens. And tonight, neither of us like the Ravens.
We disagree on several games, we agree on most, and we state our cases below.
Ravens at Broncos
MDS’s take: The defending champions aren’t happy about having to open the season on the road, and I think they’ll be even less happy on their plane ride home. Peyton Manning is healthier than he was a year ago, he has a new weapon in Wes Welker, and the Broncos are going to put plenty of points on the board against the Ravens.
MDS’s pick: Broncos 31, Ravens 20.
Florio’s take: A shot at redemption comes early for the Broncos. Real redemption won’t comes until January. They’ll take what they can get to open the season against the defending champions — as long as they play the safeties deep in the fourth quarter.
Florio’s pick: Broncos 24, Ravens 20.
Patriots at Bills
MDS’s take: This is the easiest game to pick of Week One. Patriots coach Bill Belichick is going to have a great game plan in place to frustrate Bills rookie quarterback EJ Manuel, and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady should carve up the Bills’ secondary. I’ll be shocked if the Bills win this game, and very surprised if it’s even close.
MDS’s pick: Patriots 35, Bills 10.
Florio’s take: Buffalo receiver Stevie Johnson doesn’t believe the New England defense can cover him. He may be right. But it won’t matter if the quarterback can’t get him the ball. Or if the Bills offense can’t keep pace with the Pats.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 28, Bills 17.
Seahawks at Panthers
MDS’s take: I’m tempted to pick the upset here: I’m excited to see what Panthers quarterback Cam Newton does with new coordinator Mike Shula running the offense, and I’m wondering if maybe we all overhyped the Seahawks a bit. But I also believe that Russell Wilson can be even better in his second season than he was in his first, and I expect him to lead the Seahawks to a close win.
MDS’s pick: Seahawks 28, Panthers 27.
Florio’s take: We know there will be upsets, but we don’t quite know when and where they’ll happen — which is one of the ingredients in a true upset. Folks who pay for tickets to Bank of America Stadium on Sunday won’t be upset when the Panthers control the clock on offense, and when Ron Rivera (who historically did a nice job of shutting down Peyton Manning while in San Diego) finds a way to at least contain Russell Wilson, with the help of middle linebacker Luke Kuechly.
Florio’s pick: Panthers 20, Seahawks 17.
Bengals at Bears
MDS’s take: I think the Bears are one of the most intriguing teams to watch in Week One because I’m fascinated to see what new coach Marc Trestman will do with Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte. Unfortunately for Chicago fans, I expect Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins to show he’s worth every penny of that big new contract and get in Cutler’s face all day, as the Bengals take a low-scoring game.
MDS’s pick: Bengals 13, Bears 10.
Florio’s take: Everyone loves the Bengals, and everyone is down on the Bears. Those assessments may be accurate, but it doesn’t mean the Bengals will go 16-0 and the Bears will be 0-16. Chicago gets a chance to prove the doubters wrong for at least a day, and Cincinnati will have some early doubt creep into their brains.
Florio’s pick: Bears 24, Bengals 21.
Dolphins at Browns
MDS’s take: Some say the Dolphins overpaid for receiver Mike Wallace in free agency, but I see Wallace making an instant impact as Joe Philbin takes advantage of his deep speed by getting the ball to him down the field often. A big day from Wallace will be the difference in Cleveland.
MDS’s pick: Dolphins 24, Browns 20.
Florio’s take: Old school goes out the window in Cleveland, when a couple of franchises that want to throw the ball throw down the field at the Factory of Sadness. For at least one day, the assembly line will crank out a little happiness.
Florio’s pick: Browns 35, Dolphins 31.
Vikings at Lions
MDS’s take: Detroit was maybe the most disappointing team in the NFL last year, slipping from the playoffs in 2011 to 4-12 in 2012. A slow start to this season will lead to calls for coach Jim Schwartz’s head, but I think Schwartz will have his players ready on Sunday. The Lions’ defensive line will give Christian Ponder trouble and hold Adrian Peterson relatively in check as Detroit starts the season 1-0.
MDS’s pick: Lions 20, Vikings 13.
Florio’s take: Both teams had much different experiences in 2012 than in 2011, for opposite reasons. Many assume that both teams will revert to their 2011 form in 2013. The process gets started with the Vikings trying to unleash a passing game against a team that has one of the best in the league.
Florio’s pick: Lions 24, Vikings 20.
Raiders at Colts
MDS’s take: I’m expecting the Colts to take a step back from their breakout 2012 season, but Oakland might be the worst team in the NFL. Terrelle Pryor will make a few plays but also make a lot of mistakes, and the Colts should win this one without too much trouble.
MDS’s pick: Colts 24, Raiders 10.
Florio’s take: An unlikely playoff team in 2012, Indy has gone all in in the hopes of returning to the AFC’s elite. They draw in Week One a team that hasn’t been elite in years. The decision to go with Terrelle Pryor makes this one more interesting, but Oakland simply doesn’t have the talent to overcome the Colts in their own building.
Florio’s pick: Colts 24, Raiders 13.
Chiefs at Jaguars
MDS’s take: In a canny move by the schedule-makers in the league office, the NFL has ensured that one of the two teams that tied for the league’s worst record last season will start this season 1-0. I expect new Chiefs coach Andy Reid to build an effective offense in Kansas City, and we’ll get a preview of what that offense can do in Jacksonville.
MDS’s pick: Chiefs 31, Jaguars 17.
Florio’s take: Have two 2-14 teams ever been more different? The Chiefs have six Pro Bowlers, a coach who consistently took the Eagles to the playoffs, and a quarterback who was having a Pro Bowl season until he suffered a concussion that opened the door for a guy who some already think will be a Hall of Famer. The Jaguars have an energetic coach and an improved front office but not enough horses to contend, for now.
Florio’s pick: Chiefs 20, Jaguars 13.
Falcons at Saints
MDS’s take: In what may be the best game of opening Sunday, I’m looking for the Saints to exorcise the demons of last season and come out ready to make a statement that they’re the team to beat in the NFC South.
MDS’s pick: Saints 31, Falcons 27.
Florio’s take: Last year, when the Falcons soared to 13-3 and the Saints sank to 7-9, New Orleans held serve at home against Atlanta. With Sean Payton making his official return, the Superdome will be a rockin’. The Falcons will wish they hadn’t come a-knockin’.
Florio’s pick: Saints 31, Falcons 21.
Buccaneers at Jets
MDS’s take: Buccaneers cornerback Darrelle Revis will return to his old stomping grounds and intercept Jets quarterback Geno Smith at least once. Jets coach Rex Ryan always knows how to get his defense ready, but the Jets’ offense will be a mess, and Tampa Bay will win a low-scoring game.
MDS’s pick: Buccaneers 16, Jets 6.
Florio’s take: Bucs coach Greg Schiano returns to New Jersey, facing a team that would have a hard time beating Schiano’s Scarlet Knights. Tampa has too much for the Jets; the only question is whether Darrelle Revis will be the home team’s leading receiver.
Florio’s pick: Buccaneers 20, Jets 7.
Titans at Steelers
MDS’s take: I’m higher on the Steelers than most people, so it’s no surprise that I’m picking them to get their season started with a big win. Ben Roethlisberger will have a big game, Chris Johnson will be held under 50 yards, and the Steelers will win going away.
MDS’s pick: Steelers 28, Titans 10.
Florio’s take: Old-school Steelers football returns, with hard hits and plenty of running the ball and a score that won’t look like today’s NFL, which is for most teams seven-on-seven in pads.
Florio’s pick: Steelers 13, Titans 9.
Cardinals at Rams
MDS’s take: The 49ers and Seahawks look so good that we might as well call this the battle for third place in the NFC West. I don’t see either of these teams contending for the playoffs, but I do think the Rams are building a good young defense that should win them some close games.
MDS’s pick: Rams 17, Cardinals 12.
Florio’s take: Both teams have improved, even though it may not be enough to contend with the Seahawks and 49ers. For now, the Rams are better at more positions than Arizona — with an offense that can be prolific and a defense that is underrated. St. Louis went 4-1-1 in the division last year. They start 2013 at 1-0 in the NFC West.
Florio’s pick: Rams 30, Cardinals 20.
Packers at 49ers
MDS’s take: I don’t think San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick is going to do to the Packers what he did in the playoffs, but I do think the 49ers will have another big offensive game, making it hard for Aaron Rodgers & Co. to keep up.
MDS’s pick: 49ers 28, Packers 24.
Florio’s take: The Packers will perform better against San Fran quarterback Colin Kaepernick than they did the last time these teams played. Green Bay can’t do much worse. The improvement won’t be enough to outscore an offense that could be even better with a full offseason and preseason with Kaepernick as the starter.
Florio’s pick: 49ers 28, Packers 24.
Giants at Cowboys
MDS’s take: As the pressure mounts on Cowboys coach Jason Garrett following another 8-8 season, I see the Cowboys getting off to a strong start, with new offensive coordinator Bill Callahan bringing a different approach and Dallas opening the season with a win over a division rival.
MDS’s pick: Cowboys 30, Giants 20.
Florio’s take: Last year, the Cowboys ended the streak of Super Bowl champs winning their first game of the next season. This year, the Cowboys get a chance to end a streak that has far more relevance to owner Jerry Jones. Dallas never has beaten the Giants in its four-year-old home stadium. While the Cowboys may not be better enough to win the division, they’re good enough to outscore a banged up Giants team.
Florio’s pick: Cowboys 27, Giants 23.
Eagles at Redskins
MDS’s take: The first game of the Monday night doubleheader is an intriguing one: The return of Robert Griffin III vs. the debut of Chip Kelly. The Eagles are going to be a fascinating team to watch all season, as Kelly’s approach to coaching is unlike anything the NFL has seen before. But players win games more than coaches do, and Philadelphia’s personnel just isn’t as good from top to bottom as Washington’s.
MDS’s pick: Redskins 27, Eagles 20.
Florio’s take: If Chip Kelly had stayed at Oregon, he would have opened the season against Nicholls State. He’ll face a slightly more significant challenge at FedEx Field against the defending NFC East champions. No matter how high-powered the offense, the defense will have a hard time stopping Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris, and the other weapons the Redskins possess.
Florio’s pick: Redskins 30, Eagles 24.
Texans at Chargers
MDS’s take: The Texans are AFC championship contenders, while the Chargers will be fighting with the Raiders to stay out of last place in the AFC West. I don’t think this one will be close.
MDS’s pick: Texans 31, Chargers 12.
Florio’s take: Philip Rivers doesn’t need to be fixed. He needs help. And he doesn’t have much of it. And it won’t be more obvious than it will be against the Texans, who are the better team on both sides of the ball.
Florio’s pick: Texans 28, Chargers 17.