All MDS wanted was a chance. Maybe he should have been more careful about what he wished for.
Down five games with 32 games left and his ability to close the gap hinging on the existence of enough disagreements between the two of us, we disagree on five games this week.
So, in theory, he can pull off a five-game sweep and pull even for the Week 17 push to the finish line.
Last week, he nailed 12 of 16 picks. But his decision to predict an Eagles sweep coupled with my decision to trust the Cowboys put me at 13-3.
For the season, I’ve moved to 150-74 (66.9%). MDS is 145-79 (64.7%).
Titans at Jaguars
MDS’s take: In one of the worst games the NFL has ever put on prime-time television, I think the Jaguars will show that they’re still playing hard late in the season, while the Titans have given up.
MDS’s pick: Jaguars 20, Titans 10.
Florio’s take: The Jaguars are favored for the first time in more than 40 games. And for good reason. The Titans stink.
Florio’s pick: Jaguars 17, Titans 13.
Eagles at Washington
MDS’s take: The Eagles are in a precarious position in the NFC playoff race, and I don’t think they’re going to make it. But I also don’t think they’ll lose to a reeling Washington team.
MDS’s pick: Eagles 20, Washington 10.
Florio’s take: Philly has a very real chance at winning the division, since the Cowboys have a very real chance at losing to the Colts and opening the door for a Week 17 win-and-in for the Eagles.
Florio’s pick: Eagles 27, Washington 17.
Chargers at 49ers
MDS’s take: The 49ers are done, while the Chargers still have slim playoff hopes. That’s enough to make me think the Chargers will come out motivated and the 49ers will not, so I’m taking San Diego.
MDS’s pick: Chargers 27, 49ers 17.
Florio’s take: The 49ers are playing for pride. The Chargers are playing for a postseason berth they ultimately won’t be able to earn, given the broken collarbone suffered by Keenan Allen. As players begin to realize that an era is ending, they’ll find a way to win at least one of the final two for the coach who nearly took the team to three straight Super Bowls.
Florio’s pick: 49ers 24, Chargers 20.
Browns at Panthers
MDS’s take: Johnny Manziel can’t possibly be any worse against the Panthers than he was against the Bengals, but I don’t think he’ll be a whole lot better, either. The Browns’ once-promising season will take another hit, while the Panthers will stay in contention in the NFC South.
MDS’s pick: Panthers 24, Browns 10.
Florio’s take: Johnny Manziel will be better this week; he can’t be any worse. But that won’t be enough to turn around a team that has gone into a characteristic free fall.
Florio’s pick: Panthers 23, Browns 10.
Lions at Bears
MDS’s take: The Bears have quit on the season, which means the Lions will get an easy win to clinch a playoff spot.
MDS’s pick: Lions 30, Bears 13.
Florio’s take: And the Bears still haven’t had a true franchise quarterback since Sid Luckman. The Lions continue to move toward the postseason. The Bears continue to move toward seismic changes.
Florio’s pick: Lions 31, Bears 13.
Ravens at Texans
MDS’s take: The Ravens haven’t clinched anything yet, but I think they’re going to make the playoffs and be a dangerous team when they get there. I like Baltimore to win easily on Sunday.
MDS’s pick: Ravens 34, Texans 10.
Florio’s take: The Ravens have run out of cornerbacks. The Texans have run out of quarterbacks. Advantage, team with no cornerbacks.
Florio’s pick: Ravens 24, Texans 14.
Vikings at Dolphins
MDS’s take: The Dolphins collapsed in their biggest game of the season last week, while the Vikings have played hard despite being long since eliminated from playoff contention. I’m tempted to pick Minnesota in an upset, but I just don’t think Teddy Bridgewater is quite ready to have a mistake-free game against a good defense, and so I’ll take Miami in a close one.
MDS’s pick: Dolphins 17, Vikings 10.
Florio’s take: It’s unclear whether coach Joe Philbin will return to the Dolphins next year, but it won’t hurt to finish strong. Enter the Vikings, who have shown plenty of fight in a lost season but who don’t have the talent to overcome a Miami team that still has a little something to play for.
Florio’s pick: Dolphins 24, Vikings 17.
Falcons at Saints
MDS’s take: Someone has to win the NFC South, and I still think the best bet is the Saints, who are not a very good team but should be able to put up good numbers on offense against a lousy Atlanta defense.
MDS’s pick: Saints 31, Falcons 28.
Florio’s take: With or without Julio Jones lining up for Atlanta, the Saints reverse a bizarre trend that has seen them lose four straight games at home. Maybe, just maybe, a 7-9 Saints team will host an 11-5 Seahawks franchise, four years after the roles were reversed.
Florio’s pick: Saints 31, Falcons 20.
Patriots at Jets
MDS’s take: It wouldn’t shock me to see the Jets come out fired-up in Rex Ryan’s last game against the rival Patriots. The Jets could very well take an early lead. But over four quarters they just don’t have the firepower to keep up with New England.
MDS’s pick: Patriots 20, Jets 10.
Florio’s take: When hired by the Jets, Rex Ryan said he wasn’t going to kiss Bill Belichick’s rings. In what likely will be their last meeting, Belichick will be kicking Rex’s ass one last time, for old time’s sake.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 41, Jets 13.
Chiefs at Steelers
MDS’s take: This is an intriguing game in the AFC playoff race, where the winner is likely to make it and the loser is likely to be home for the holidays. I think the Chiefs are going to go on the road and pull off an upset.
MDS’s pick: Chiefs 24, Steelers 21.
Florio’s take: The Steelers have lost at home to the Buccaneers and Saints. Which makes the fact that the Steelers will be playing their last two games at home not necessarily a good thing. But they’ve come this far and the division title is two victories away.
Florio’s pick: Steelers 27, Chiefs 17.
Packers at Buccaneers
MDS’s take: The Bills showed that a good defense can rattle Aaron Rodgers. The Buccaneers’ defense is not as good as Buffalo’s. The Packers will win to set up a Week 17 NFC North showdown with the Lions.
MDS’s pick: Packers 30, Buccaneers 13.
Florio’s take: The Packers looked horrible in Buffalo. They’ll have to look a lot more horrible to lose in Tampa, especially with a loss moving Green Bay toward missing the playoffs.
Florio’s pick: Packers 34, Buccaneers 20.
Giants at Rams
MDS’s take: If the Rams were in any division other than the NFC West, they’d have a real shot at being a playoff team. St. Louis can’t get to the postseason, but it can get to 8-8 with two more wins, and one of those wins will come on Sunday.
MDS’s pick: Rams 21, Giants 17.
Florio’s take: Both teams hope to finish the season strongly. The Rams are currently stronger than the Giants, despite a pair of victories by Eli and company.
Florio’s pick: Rams 24, Giants 20.
Colts at Cowboys
MDS’s take: The Colts don’t have much to play for after wrapping up the AFC South last week, while the Cowboys have plenty to play for as they could still finish anywhere from first seed in the NFC to out of the playoffs entirely. And yet I have a funny feeling that Andrew Luck is going to exploit the holes in the Cowboys’ defense and put up big numbers in a Colts win.
MDS’s pick: Colts 30, Cowboys 20.
Florio’s take: The Cowboys realize the stakes of this one; a win moves them closer to a division title and a loss could ultimately knock them out of the playoffs, again. DeMarco Murray will play, Tony Romo will deliver, and the Cowboys will continue one of their most surprising seasons ever.
Florio’s pick: Cowboys 34, Colts 23.
Bills at Raiders
MDS’s take: The Bills probably won’t make the playoffs even if they win out, but beating the Raiders will clinch Buffalo’s first winning record since 2004. This Bills team is making progress.
MDS’s pick: Bills 17, Raiders 10.
Florio’s take: By beating the Packers, Doug Marrone may have saved his job for at least a year. He could secure it for the rest of the decade by securing the team’s first playoff berth since 1999.
Florio’s pick: Bills 24, Raiders 14.
Seahawks at Cardinals
MDS’s take: I admire the way the Cardinals have continued to find ways to win despite injuries taking a huge toll on the roster. But a Ryan Lindley-quarterbacked team just can’t beat a Seattle team that is playing at a Super Bowl level.
MDS’s pick: Seahawks 24, Cardinals 6.
Florio’s take: Common sense points to Seattle, a seven-point favorite facing a third-string quarterback who was on San Diego’s practice squad a little more than a month ago. But I can already hear Bruce Arians telling reporters after the game how the players fed off the combined incentive of proving everyone wrong and seizing the brass ring that is home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Maybe I’m just a sucker for an underdog. Maybe I’m stupid. Maybe I’m a little tipsy. Regardless, I’d rather be wrong by picking the Cardinals than wrong by making the obvious pick.
Florio’s pick: Cardinals 23, Seahawks 20.
Broncos at Bengals
MDS’s take: The good news for the Broncos is they’re showing they can win with defense and a good running game on offense. The bad news is that Peyton Manning’s numbers are way down, and the Bengals’ secondary is solid. Look for the Bengals to frustrate Manning and pull off a home upset.
MDS’s pick: Bengals 24, Broncos 20.
Florio’s take: Andy Dalton has a putrid record of 2-9 in prime-time and postseason games. Make it 2-10. The only good news is that he’ll possibly not have a chance to lose another playoff game.
Florio’s pick: Broncos 30, Bengals 20.