Alas, I failed to gain any ground on MDS in Week Eight. I didn’t lose any either. We each went 10-3, splitting the two games on which we differed.
This week, we disagree on three games. Which means I can cut his four-game lead down to one. (I was always good at math. Speling not so mutch.)
For the year, he’s 81-39, and I’m 77-43.
For a complete look at this week’s picks, just keep on reading.
Actually, I don’t care if you keep reading. The click already has been registered.
Bengals at Dolphins
MDS’s take: The Bengals are surging and the Dolphins are falling. I see Cincinnati winning big and NFL Network televising another Thursday night game that many fans will turn off at halftime. Also, never bet against a team that wears black and orange on Halloween.
MDS’s pick: Bengals 30, Dolphins 10.
Florio’s take: This is precisely the kind of game that the Bengals can lose. Road game against an overmatched opponent with four straight losses and general disarray. But a skeptical nation will be watching this one while discreetly bogarting its children’s Halloween candy. One of the best teams in the AFC will step up, or risk not being perceived as one of the best teams in the AFC.
Florio’s pick: Bengals 31, Dolphins 20.
Chiefs at Bills
MDS’s take: The Bills’ defense is good enough to hold the Chiefs’ offense in check, so this game should be close into the fourth quarter — certainly closer than you’d think for an 8-0 team facing a 3-5 team. I have a funny feeling a big play on special teams late in the game will give this one to the Chiefs.
MDS’s pick: Chiefs 17, Bills 14.
Florio’s take: It’s time. The Chiefs have flirted with disaster the last two Sundays at home, narrowly beating the Texans and the Browns. This week, the Chiefs go on the road, where they really haven’t been tested this year. The Bills have easily beaten the Chiefs each of the last two years. While this one won’t be a blowout, it’s time for someone to score more points than the last undefeated team in the NFL.
Florio’s pick: Bills 23, Chiefs 20.
Falcons at Panthers
MDS’s take: The Falcons are finished. The Panthers are playing great football right now. Carolina has won three straight games by more than two touchdowns, and Sunday will make it four in a row.
MDS’s pick: Panthers 35, Falcons 17.
Florio’s take: It’ll be interesting to see if the Panthers can recover from a 10-point deficit. With the defense playing as well as it is, that may not happen any time soon. With some tough games looming, the Panthers could get a tough test from a team fighting for its playoff life. Based on how the Falcons played in Arizona last week, it won’t matter.
Florio’s pick: Panthers 24, Falcons 17.
Vikings at Cowboys
MDS’s take: The Cowboys’ defense may be shellshocked after what Calvin Johnson did to them on Sunday, but there’s no way the Vikings’ terrible passing game is going to make big plays in Dallas. The Cowboys will probably only need to win eight games to win the NFC East, and they’ll earn their fifth win on Sunday.
MDS’s pick: Cowboys 27, Vikings 13.
Florio’s take: Adrian Peterson returns home to Texas to face a team that could really use him. Even without him, they have enough firepower to defeat a Vikings team that could be worse than the 3-13 edition from 2011.
Florio’s pick: Cowboys 35, Vikings 17.
Saints at Jets
MDS’s take: I expect Rex Ryan’s defense to rebound from last week’s disaster in Cincinnati and play well against the Saints’ offense, but I don’t expect Geno Smith to play much better than he did last week. As a result, the Saints win a low-scoring game.
MDS’s pick: Saints 20, Jets 14.
Florio’s take: It’s a Ryan twins reunion in New York. Even though the Jets are doing better than expected, they aren’t good enough to close a major gap in talent one week after being blown out by the Bengals.
Florio’s pick: Saints 30, Jets 17.
Titans at Rams
MDS’s take: The Rams were more competitive than I expected them to be in Monday night’s loss to the Seahawks, but the Kellen Clemens-led offense is going to be in a lot of low-scoring losses the rest of the season. That’s what I expect to happen when Jeff Fisher’s old team comes to town.
MDS’s pick: Titans 14, Rams 13.
Florio’s take: The Titans play their first game ever without owner Bud Adams — and against long-time coach Jeff Fisher. With Tennessee having two weeks to get ready and the Rams operating only six days after a physically and emotionally draining loss to the Seahawks, this could be the ugly result everyone expected on Monday night.
Florio’s pick: Titans 27, Rams 13.
Chargers at Redskins
MDS’s take: Washington is just not a good team in any phase of the game: The offense still looks like it needs last year’s Robert Griffin III, the defense allows too many big plays in the passing game and the special teams are an absolute disaster. San Diego will put a lot of points on the board and win an easy one.
MDS’s pick: Chargers 31, Redskins 17.
Florio’s take: Philip Rivers owns a 5-1 record against Mike Shanahan. The Chargers are rested and the Redskins are reeling after suffering a 38-point second-half barrage against the Broncos.
Florio’s pick: Chargers 24, Redskins 14.
Eagles at Raiders
MDS’s take: Everyone has spent so much time in the last couple weeks asking what’s wrong with Chip Kelly’s offense that a lot of people are overlooking all the problems with the Eagles’ defense. When you can’t even force a turnover against the Giants’ offense — and the Eagles’ defense couldn’t last week — you know something is wrong. Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor makes his share of mistakes, but the Eagles don’t have the defense to take advantage of those mistakes. Pryor will make enough big plays with his feet to win this one and make Kelly wish he had a quarterback like Pryor.
MDS’s pick: Raiders 20, Eagles 10.
Florio’s take: The Raiders complete a rare two-game sweep of Pennsylvania’s pro football teams without ever having to leave the Bay Area. All four NFC West teams will be at or above .500 come Sunday, thanks to their ability to pulverize the teams of the NFC East.
Florio’s pick: Raiders 17, Eagles 9.
Buccaneers at Seahawks
MDS’s take: The Buccaneers are playing as badly as any team in the NFL right now. Seattle is the toughest place to play in the league. The Seahawks can name their score.
MDS’s pick: Seahawks 41, Buccaneers 13.
Florio’s take: Two teams that entered the NFL together in 1976 couldn’t be more different in 2013. While the Bucs still have the bragging rights that come from winning a Super Bowl, the Seahawks could be on course to match that achievement this year. Tampa will be a minor speed bump along the path to New York
Florio’s pick: Seahawks 31, Buccaneers 10.
Ravens at Browns
MDS’s take: Browns quarterback Jason Campbell actually played well against the tough Chiefs’ defense, and the Ravens haven’t been playing well recently. Call me crazy, but I think the defending Super Bowl champions are going down in Cleveland.
MDS’s pick: Browns 20, Ravens 14.
Florio’s take: The team that used to be the Browns has beaten the Browns 11 straight times. If the Ravens can’t run that streak to 12, their five-year run of playoff berths could be ending, too. Rested and re-focused, the Ravens will find a way, as they always seem to do when they need it most.
Florio’s pick: Ravens 20, Browns 10.
Steelers at Patriots
MDS’s take: The Patriots have had so many injuries that they feel like they’re going to fall apart at any moment, but there they are in their customary spot atop the AFC East. They’ll keep it going against the Steelers.
MDS’s pick: Patriots 27, Steelers 21.
Florio’s take: The Steelers can win if they commit fully to the run, and if they can find a way to slow down a good-not-great New England offense. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger seems to be too determined to prove he’s still a franchise quarterback to buy in to a run-based attack, even if the team’s use of the Wildcat means that the Steelers no longer view him as a true game changer.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 24, Steelers 21.
Colts at Texans
MDS’s take: Case Keenum may provide the Texans a spark, and the Colts may be due for a letdown. I’m tempted to pick Houston to pull off an upset and snap their five-game losing streak, but I just can’t pull the trigger on it.
MDS’s pick: Colts 21, Texans 20.
Florio’s take: Two weeks after Peyton Manning returned to his adopted home of Indianapolis, Andrew Luck returns to his real home of Houston. The question is which Colts team will come with him — and whether Case Keenum can build on his near miss against the Chiefs from Week Seven. I’ll say the one that lost to the Chargers, and yes.
Florio’s pick: Texans 27, Colts 20.
Bears at Packers
MDS’s take: In this week’s only matchup of teams with winning records, the Packers will strengthen their grip on the NFC North race with a win over the Bears. Both teams are banged up, but the Bears’ loss of Jay Cutler and Lance Briggs makes it tough for them to win anywhere. I certainly don’t see them winning in Green Bay.
MDS’s pick: Packers 34, Bears 17.
Florio’s take: Josh McCown, Luke McCown, Cade McNown. Either way, it’s a McLoss, McDog. Green Bay keeps rolling toward another division title, as long as the quarterback doesn’t join the injured list.
Florio’s pick: Packers 35, Bears 21.