The gap has been narrowed from three games to two, thanks to 10-5 showing last week. The good news for MDS, who went a mere 9-6, was that he had his first hole in one of the year, picking the Seahawks to beat the Texans by the score of 23-20. (I’d be really impressed if he also predicted overtime.)
For the year, MDS leads with a mark of 43-20, or 68.2 percent. I’m closing in on him with a 41-22 mark, which equates to 65 percent.
This week, we disagree on 21.4 percent of the games. Read on for our takes and our picks.
Bills at Browns
MDS’s take: Browns fever is sweeping the nation! OK, that’s a slight overstatement, but this team is playing very well, especially on defense, where new coordinator Ray Horton deserves an enormous amount of credit. Cleveland will beat Buffalo and improve to 3-0 since allegedly giving up on the season by trading Trent Richardson.
MDS’s pick: Browns 17, Bills 14.
Florio’s take: The Bills are too banged up and the Browns, two weeks after they supposedly abandoned their season, are too strong on defense and sufficiently competent on offense to lose. With two home wins only four days apart, they’ll soon have to call it the Factory of Gladness.
Florio’s pick: Browns 20, Bills 14.
Saints at Bears
MDS’s take: The Bears’ defense is missing Henry Melton and struggled against Detroit’s offense last week. This week an even better New Orleans offense is heading to Chicago, and the Bears’ defense will struggle again.
MDS’s pick: Saints 28, Bears 24.
Florio’s take: The Saints are much improved, but they’re still not the same team when they exit the Superdome. The winless Bucs nearly beat them in Tampa; the much better Bears will finish the job on the choppy turf of Soldier Field.
Florio’s pick: Bears 24, Saints 21.
Patriots at Bengals
MDS’s take: The Patriots will miss Vince Wilfork’s presence on the defensive line. Look for Bengals running back Giovani Bernard to have a big day as the Patriots suffer their first loss of the season.
MDS’s pick: Bengals 21, Patriots 20.
Florio’s take: The Bengals are learning how to be a good team. A week after failing to win a game they should have, the Bengals find a way to prevail in a contest many assume they’ll lose. And down goes another of the undefeated.
Florio’s pick: Bengals 27, Patriots 24.
Lions at Packers
MDS’s take: The Lions have lost 22 in a row in Green Bay. The last time the Lions beat the Packers on the road, it was 1991 and the starting quarterbacks in the game were Erik Kramer and Mike Tomczak. The Lions are just not very good at Lambeau Field. The streak will continue for another year.
MDS’s pick: Packers 27, Lions 20.
Florio’s take: Earlier this year, the Lions won for the first time ever in Washington. And now it could be time to win in Green Bay for the first time since the year before Brett Favre arrived. But the Packers are rested and ready and healed (for the most part) after a bye week. More importantly, they’re desperate to avoid a 1-3 start to the season.
Florio’s pick: Packers 31, Lions 24.
Seahawks at Colts
MDS’s take: The Seahawks tend to struggle on the road, and the Colts are playing excellent football, looking even better than last year’s surprise playoff team. So my head is telling me to pick Indianapolis. But my gut is telling me Russell Wilson is going to have an easier time finding open receivers in the Colts’ secondary than Andrew Luck will have finding open receivers in the Seahawks’ secondary, and that will be the difference.
MDS’s pick: Seahawks 28, Colts 27.
Florio’s take: Colts quarterback Andrew Luck and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton won’t be allowing former Stanford cornerback (and receiver) Richard Sherman to spot any tendencies or tells this week. If the Colts can outscore the 49ers by 20 in their own building, the Colts can outscore the Seahawks by at least one at home.
Florio’s pick: Colts 24, Seahawks 23.
Ravens at Dolphins
MDS’s take: Perhaps it’s premature, four weeks into the season, to say this about the defending Super Bowl champion. But I just don’t think the Ravens are a very good team. The Dolphins’ defense had plenty of flaws on display in Monday night’s loss to the Saints, but the Ravens’ suspect offensive line is going to make it easy for the Dolphins to get to Joe Flacco.
MDS’s pick: Dolphins 31, Ravens 17.
Florio’s take: In 2007, the Dolphins got their only win of the season against the Ravens. This year, it will be one of a lot more than one. While it’s too early to write off Baltimore, it’s too late to consider them a viable candidate to knock off the improved Dolphins in Miami.
Florio’s pick: Dolphins 27, Ravens 20.
Eagles at Giants
MDS’s take: Other than the first half of Week One, the Eagles haven’t looked particularly good this season. But the Giants have looked downright awful. The NFC East is such a bad division that even at 0-4 the Giants aren’t out of it yet, but they’ll drop to 0-5 on Sunday.
MDS’s pick: Eagles 27, Giants 17.
Florio’s take: Forget the 0-4 record. The Giants are only two games out of first place, and they can pull to within one with a win over Philly and a Dallas loss to the Broncos. Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning finally find a way to a win. (And I’ll keep saying that until they finally do.)
Florio’s pick: Giants 27, Eagles 19.
Jaguars at Rams
MDS’s take: I’d pick anyone to beat the Jaguars. Easily. This Jacksonville team is as bad an NFL team as I’ve ever seen, and I remember the 2008 Lions well.
MDS’s pick: Rams 34, Jaguars 17.
Florio’s take: What’s more likely, the Broncos going 16-0 or the Jaguars going 0-16? This week, we’ll remain on track for “both.”
Florio’s pick: Rams 27, Jaguars 10.
Chiefs at Titans
MDS’s take: In this matchup of two surprise AFC playoff contenders, I probably would have picked Tennessee if Jake Locker were healthy. But with Locker out, the Chiefs will improve to 5-0. Who saw that coming?
MDS’s pick: Chiefs 20, Titans 14.
Florio’s take: Alex Smith gets his first crack at a Gregg Williams defense since proof emerged of Williams telling his players to hurt Smith. The bigger problem for the Titans is that quarterback Jake Locker is hurt. So which Ryan Fitzpatrick shows up — the one from before he got paid by the Bills, or after?
Florio’s pick: Chiefs 21, Titans 17.
Panthers at Cardinals
MDS’s take: The Panthers won’t catch the Saints in the NFC South, and the Cardinals won’t catch the Seahawks in the NFC West. But the winner of this game will have to feel like it’s in very good position to emerge as an NFC wild card contender. I think it’s going to be the Panthers, who have an offense that’s capable of putting a lot of points on the board. I don’t see Arizona’s offense keeping up.
MDS’s pick: Panthers 31, Cardinals 17.
Florio’s take: For Carolina, the bye week makes many forget a dominant performance against the Giants. Not me. The defense is clicking and the offense is doing enough to outpace a better-than-expected Arizona team in its own building.
Florio’s pick: Panthers 24, Cardinals 21.
Broncos at Cowboys
MDS’s take: This is the flip side of what I said earlier about the Jaguars: I’d pick the Broncos to beat anyone. (Although I’d probably have to think long and hard about it if they played at Seattle.) The Broncos are the best team in football and will improve to 5-0, while the Cowboys will fall to 2-3, which in the NFC East is still good enough for first place.
MDS’s pick: Broncos 35, Cowboys 21.
Florio’s pick: Broncos 42, Cowboys 24.
Chargers at Raiders
MDS’s take: In the midnight special, Philip Rivers will put up big numbers against a suspect Raiders defense. The winners will be the Chargers and the losers will be any fans who stay up to watch the whole game and have to be at work on Monday morning.
MDS’s pick: Chargers 28, Raiders 20.
Florio’s take: Terrelle Pryor has created hope for the Raiders, but that doesn’t mean there will be wins. The Chargers are the better team on both sides of the ball, and quarterback Philip Rivers is reminding everyone that he’s still a franchise quarterback.
Florio’s pick: Chargers 26, Raiders 20.
Texans at 49ers
MDS’s take: This is a big one for two teams that entered the season with Super Bowl aspirations and are now looking up at better teams in their own divisions. San Francisco’s defense will miss Aldon Smith, but they’ll still be able to get enough pressure on Matt Schaub to force him into another disappointing game.
MDS’s pick: 49ers 24, Texans 20.
Florio’s take: A pair of Super Bowl contenders that have failed to meet expectations meet in San Francisco with the expectation that the 49ers will win. Expect that to happen, with the Niners sticking with a smash-mouth attack and the Texans sliding under .500 — and possibly two games out of first place in the AFC South.
Florio’s pick: 49ers 24, Texans 17.
Jets at Falcons
MDS’s take: Geno Smith may develop into a good quarterback eventually, but right now he’s a mess, and Monday night he’s going to have a particularly tough time when playing with a depleted receiving corps. The Jets’ defense is good enough to keep this game low scoring, but the Falcons will force multiple turnovers and control this game.
MDS’s pick: Falcons 17, Jets 6.
Florio’s take: The surprisingly 1-3 Falcons host the surprisingly 2-2 Jets in a game with an outcome that will surprise no one. Folks who stayed up late to watch Chargers-Raiders will get to catch up on their sleep by turning in at halftime, and in the morning they’ll find out whether the Falcons once again blew a big lead. What has two thumbs and thinks they won’t?
Florio’s pick: Falcons 42, Jets 17.