With four weeks to go, the lead is back to three.
And we disagree on three games.
In other words, MDS a/k/a the master of Raiders exacta, could catch me by 4:30 p.m. ET on Sunday.
Last week, I went 11-5. MDS was 10-6. For the season, I’m now at 123-68-1, a 64.0 percent accuracy rate. MDS is 120-71-1, which equates to 62.5 percent.
Broncos at Raiders
MDS’s take: My amazing run of accuracy in predicting Raiders scores has put a lot of pressure on me to get this one right. So here’s what it boils down to: The Broncos are good, the Raiders are not, and the score won’t be close.
MDS’s pick: Broncos 31, Raiders 13.
Florio’s take: Peyton Manning has never lost in Oakland. Then again, he has played there only twice. Make it three on Thursday night.
Florio’s pick: Broncos 27, Raiders 13.
Rams at Bills
MDS’s take: The Bills’ defense has turned things around recently, with Mario Williams getting five sacks in the last three games. I think Williams will bring the pressure to Sam Bradford, and the Bills will win.
MDS’s pick: Bills 17, Rams 14.
Florio’s take: The up-and-down Rams play very well inside the division and not so well outside of it. The Bills sometimes play well at home, and sometimes they don’t. The difference here is that the Rams have an arguably realistic shot at the postseason, and the Bills don’t.
Florio’s pick: Rams 17, Bills 13.
Falcons at Panthers
MDS’s take: The Falcons are playing for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, and the Panthers are playing for the first overall pick in the draft. Advantage Atlanta.
MDS’s pick: Falcons 21, Panthers 13.
Florio’s take: Earlier this year, the Panthers nearly toppled the Falcons in Atlanta. The rematch comes in Charlotte, with the Falcons chasing the top seed and the Panthers pursuing respect. As they move closer to proving that they’re ready to hang with the big boys, the Falcons prove that their near-miss against Carolina was a fluke.
Florio’s pick: Falcons 31, Panthers 20.
Cowboys at Bengals
MDS’s take: This is a close, competitive game, and I have a funny feeling the Bengals’ superior special teams could turn out to make the difference. The Bengals will bolster their own playoff hopes and deal a lethal blow to the Cowboys’ hopes.
MDS’s pick: Bengals 24, Cowboys 20.
Florio’s take: Yes, the Cowboys won last week. But they beat the Philly “B” team, barely. The Bengals are moving in the right direction, and it’ll stay that way at least until they have to play the Steelers or Ravens again.
Florio’s pick: Bengals 24, Cowboys 20.
Chiefs at Browns
MDS’s take: The weekend’s worst game will be in Cleveland, where the Browns will win an ugly one.
MDS’s pick: Browns 15, Chiefs 12.
Florio’s take: A week after the biggest win of his career, Brady Quinn returns to the place where his career started. Though the Browns probably will win this one, I can’t pick against Quinn and the Chiefs.
Florio’s pick: Chiefs 23, Browns 20.
Titans at Colts
MDS’s take: I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Colts stumble on their march to the playoffs here — this team could be ripe for an upset after gutting out a tough, physical, hard-fought game in Detroit last week. I also have major doubts about the ability of the Colts’ defense to keep them in big games down the stretch. The Titans, however, don’t have much offensive firepower, and so I’ll take the Colts in a close one.
MDS’s pick: Colts 20, Titans 17.
Florio’s take: Andrew Luck and the Colts move closer to one of the most unlikely playoff berths in recent history. Meanwhile, Titans owner Bud Adams moved toward a series of pink slips and middle fingers fired at his employees.
Florio’s pick: Colts 34, Titans 20.
Jets at Jaguars
MDS’s take: Rex Ryan gave Mark Sanchez what should be an easy win in Jacksonville. I’m not sold on Sanchez, but I am sold on the Jets’ ability to shut down the Jaguars’ offense.
MDS’s pick: Jets 20, Jaguars 10.
Florio’s take: Whether it’s Mark Sanchez, Greg McElroy, Tim Tebow, Vinny Testaverde, or Joe Namath at quarterback, the Jets have the defense to shut down the Jacksonville offense.
Florio’s pick: Jets 10, Jaguars 6.
Bears at Vikings
MDS’s take: After an amazing start to the season, Chicago’s defense has declined in recent weeks. Playing against the struggling Christian Ponder is just the thing to cure what ails the Bears.
MDS’s pick: Bears 17, Vikings 7.
Florio’s take: It’s the last, best chance for the Vikings to remain in the playoff race. And it’s the last, best chance for offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave to show that he realizes that, with Adrian Peterson in the backfield, there’s never a reason to pass the ball.
Florio’s pick: Vikings 24, Bears 16.
Chargers at Steelers
MDS’s take: The Steelers showed what kind of team they are in Sunday’s win over the Ravens, while the Chargers showed what kind of team they are in Sunday’s loss to the Bengals: The talent gap between these two teams isn’t big, but the Steelers play their best in crunch time, and the Chargers play their worst in crunch time.
MDS’s pick: Steelers 23, Chargers 20.
Florio’s take: The Chargers haven’t won in Pittsburgh since somehow toppling the Steelers at Three Rivers Stadium for the 1994 AFC title. The 0-6 streak will continue on Sunday.
Florio’s pick: Steelers 24, Chargers 13.
Eagles at Buccaneers
MDS’s take: Greg Schiano’s guys are playing hard every week, win or lose, while Andy Reid’s guys have quit on the season. This is an easy one.
MDS’s pick: Buccaneers 35, Eagles 10.
Florio’s take: The Phillies have won more recently than the Eagles. That fact should hold for another week, or longer.
Florio’s pick: Buccaneers 27, Eagles 17.
Ravens at Redskins
MDS’s take: The Ravens’ run defense is terrible, and the Redskins’ run offense is excellent. Washington will rush for 200 yards and win a tough, physical game.
MDS’s pick: Redskins 13, Ravens 10.
Florio’s take: The Redskins currently look more like the potential Super Bowl team, beating every other team in the NFC East in a three-game stretch. Though it remains to be seen whether God really is on the Redskins’ side, He’s definitely not on the Ravens’ this year.
Florio’s pick: Redskins 23, Ravens 21.
Dolphins at 49ers
MDS’s take: Colin Kaepernick may have taken a step backward last week against the Rams, but he’ll show against the Dolphins that Jim Harbaugh made the right decision. And even if Kaepernick has a bad game, it’s not like the Dolphins are putting many points on the board against San Francisco’s defense.
MDS’s pick: 49ers 28, Dolphins 6.
Florio’s take: This game has considerably less hype than their Super Bowl XIX rendezvous. But the outcome will be similar.
Florio’s pick: 49ers 38, Dolphins 16.
Saints at Giants
MDS’s take: The Saints are out of the playoff race, but they’re still a dangerous team, and I’m tempted to pick them against the Giants, coming off a tough loss on a short week. But the Giants know their backs are against the wall, and that’s when this team usually plays its best football.
MDS’s pick: Giants 28, Saints 27.
Florio’s take: New York’s margin for error has, for now, shrunk to zero. Which matches the Saints’ chances of getting to the postseason.
Florio’s pick: Giants 28, Saints 17.
Cardinals at Seahawks
MDS’s take: With the Cardinals’ horrendous offense playing in a tough environment in Seattle, this game could get ugly. Looks to me like the biggest mismatch of the week in the NFL.
MDS’s pick: Seahawks 35, Cardinals 3.
Florio’s take: The Seahawks don’t lose at home. The Cardinals don’t win anywhere.
Florio’s pick: Seahawks 20, Cardinals 10.
Lions at Packers
MDS’s take: The Lions have a knack for playing well enough against good teams to keep it close, and then losing. That’s what they’ll do in Green Bay, where Calvin Johnson will have another big-time performance but Aaron Rodgers will pick apart Detroit’s secondary.
MDS’s pick: Packers 31, Lions 27.
Florio’s take: The Packers need to keep winning. For the Lions, it’s too late. At this point, they’re playing only for Calvin Johnson to break Jerry Rice’s record.
Florio’s pick: Packers 31, Lions 20.
Texans at Patriots
MDS’s take: Now this is a great Monday Night Football game. If the Texans win, the race for home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs is pretty much over. But I think the Patriots are a better football team right now, and they’re going to take this one and make a big statement that they’re the favorites to get to the Super Bowl out of the AFC, even if they have to win a rematch in Houston in January to get there.
MDS’s pick: Patriots 28, Texans 14.
Florio’s take: The Pats make their move toward the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoff field. It’s a great game on paper, but it’s got the potential to be a snooze-fest.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 34, Texans 24.