Three weeks remain, and I’ve gradually built the lead back to four games.
But MDS has a chance to trim the gap down to one, if he’s right and I’m wrong on the three games on which we disagree.
And yes, Raiders fans, after four weeks of picking your team to lose, getting the exact score of two games right, missing a third exacta by one point, and correctly predicting the Raiders’ point total in all four games, MDS is picking your team to win this week.
Our picks on all Week 15 games appear below. (Then again, where the hell else would they be?)
For last week, I eked out the win, 11-5 to 10-6. For the year, I’m 134-73-1, a 64.4 percent accuracy rate. MDS is 130-77-1, which keeps him at 62.5 percent.
Bengals at Eagles
MDS’s take: I’d been saying for weeks that the Eagles have given up on the season and wouldn’t win another game this year, and they proved me wrong with a spirited effort on Sunday, beating a Buccaneers team with playoff aspirations. So can they do that twice in a row? I don’t see it. Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins will lead a defense that will make life miserable for Nick Foles.
MDS’s pick: Bengals 24, Eagles 10.
Florio’s take: The Eagles have now won more recently than the Phillies. At least that can’t change until April. Between now and then, the Eagles will change, plenty.
Florio’s pick: Bengals 24, Eagles 17.
Giants at Falcons
MDS’s take: The Falcons are still the favorites to earn home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, but I think the Giants are the better team. It wouldn’t surprise me to see the Giants win in Atlanta in December and then do it again in January.
MDS’s pick: Giants 30, Falcons 20.
Florio’s take: The Falcons need a win to prove they can win in the playoffs. The Giants need a win to help ensure they’ll get to the playoffs. This one feels like the NFC version of Texans-Patriots.
Florio’s pick: Giants 31, Falcons 21.
Broncos at Ravens
MDS’s take: Baltimore’s decision to fire offensive coordinator Cam Cameron strikes me as a desperation move. The Ravens know they’re not as good as the three elite teams in the AFC, and the Broncos are going to demonstrate that on Sunday in Baltimore.
MDS’s pick: Broncos 24, Ravens 14.
Florio’s take: The Ravens don’t match up well against Peyton Manning. They never have. Throw in a flat-tire offense that the Ravens are trying to change while the car is moving, and the late-season slide continues.
Florio’s pick: Broncos 28, Ravens 20.
Packers at Bears
MDS’s take: The Packers can clinch the NFC North with a win, and I think they’ll do just that. Lovie Smith has said from his first day as the Bears’ coach that his No. 1 goal is to beat Green Bay, and Smith’s seat will get even hotter when he fails to do that on Sunday at Soldier Field.
MDS’s pick: Packers 28, Bears 13.
Florio’s take: If Jay Cutler doesn’t play, who’ll shove J’Marcus Webb when this one starts to go south?
Florio’s pick: Packers 24, Bears 13.
Redskins at Browns
MDS’s take: The Redskins have been red hot lately, but the Browns are better than people give them credit for. Whether it’s Robert Griffin III or Kirk Cousins, the Redskins’ quarterback is going to have a tough time against Cleveland’s defense, and I like the Browns to win a close, low-scoring game.
MDS’s pick: Browns 13, Redskins 10.
Florio’s take: With or without RG3, the Redskins have found their groove and they’ll continue to push for the playoffs. Still, this one could be the toughest challenge yet, notwithstanding wins over the Ravens, Giants, and Cowboys.
Florio’s pick: Redskins 24, Browns 21.
Colts at Texans
MDS’s take: The Texans don’t have much time to lick their wounds after the epic beating they took in New England, but Houston is a more complete team than Indianapolis and should put the Colts away and clinch the AFC South.
MDS’s pick: Texans 24, Colts 17.
Florio’s take: The Texans may have never won in Indy, but they’ve finally figured out how to beat Indy in Texas. Besides, the Texans need the win to stay ahead of the Pats for the top seed — and the Colts for the division crown.
Florio’s pick: Texans 28, Colts 17.
Jaguars at Dolphins
MDS’s take: Neither of these teams is particularly good, but the Dolphins at least look like they’re going in the right direction, while the Jaguars look like they need to be torn apart and rebuilt from the ground up.
MDS’s pick: Dolphins 20, Jaguars 7.
Florio’s take: The Jags’ travel expenses will be low. Their offensive output will be even lower. And no one will notice.
Florio’s pick: Dolphins 20, Jaguars 10.
Buccaneers at Saints
MDS’s take: Drew Brees will turn in a big game against a depleted Buccaneers secondary, and the Saints will put together a solid win, too late for it to matter in the playoff race.
MDS’s pick: Saints 31, Buccaneers 21.
Florio’s take: Not long ago, both of these teams had a real shot at the postseason. Now? Not. Though the Bucs have held their own in the Bayou in recent years, the Saints will be buoyed by their bounty victory.
Florio’s pick: Saints 27, Buccaneers 23.
Vikings at Rams
MDS’s take: Raise your hand if you actually predicted before the season that this Week 15 game would have playoff implications for both teams. I’m betting on both of these teams falling just short, but I’m impressed that Jeff Fisher and Leslie Frazier have their teams playing well into December. I see the Rams’ defense forcing Christian Ponder into three interceptions and the Rams ending the Vikings’ playoff hopes.
MDS’s pick: Rams 21, Vikings 16.
Florio’s take: I broke from my vow to never pick the Vikings again this year after their Week 11 bye, and it turned out to be a smart move. For a change. So why not do it again? The young Rams remain inconsistent, and they’re due to lay an egg like the one they popped out against the Jets last month. Meanwhile, Adrian Peterson is making a run at history. What better way to take a big chunk out of the gap between A.P. and E.D. (that nickname isn’t as cool as it used to be) than to do it against the team with which he set the record?
Florio’s pick: Vikings 20, Rams 13.
Lions at Cardinals
MDS’s take: Neither team is playing particularly well, but at least the Lions are playing competitively. The Cardinals aren’t doing anything right.
MDS’s pick: Lions 20, Cardinals 6.
Florio’s take: Something’s gotta give when a pair of crappy teams get together in Arizona. The Lions are the lesser of two evils, thanks to the fact that they have the better of the two starting quarterbacks. By far.
Florio’s pick: Lions 31, Cardinals 17.
Seahawks at Bills
MDS’s take: Seattle catches a break here, as a bad road team is going not to Buffalo but to Toronto, where the pro-Bills crowd won’t be quite as raucous. The Seahawks strike me as a team peaking at the right time, and they’ll beat Buffalo handily.
MDS’s pick: Seahawks 34, Bills 17.
Florio’s take: The Seahawks are getting better on the road. Especially when the road is more like the semi-neutral site that is Toronto. The push continues for a playoff berth — and possibly the NFC West crown.
Florio’s pick: Seahawks 33, Bills 20.
Panthers at Chargers
MDS’s take: Give credit to both of these teams: Late in a tough season, when it would be easy to mail it in, they’re both playing hard. So this should be a pretty good game, something you can’t often say about a December game when both teams have losing records. A big game from Philip Rivers will win it for the Chargers.
MDS’s pick: Chargers 31, Panthers 28.
Florio’s take: Ron Rivera returns to San Diego, with inside information about the Chargers’ offense and a quarterback who seems to be finding his stride, again. Sunday’s upset by San Diego over the Steelers was an aberration; the Panthers’ unexpected win over Atlanta wasn’t.
Florio’s pick: Panthers 27, Chargers 20.
Steelers at Cowboys
MDS’s take: This might be the best game on a great NFL Sunday because both teams are desperate. Then again, the Steelers were desperate last week, too, and they laid an egg. Pittsburgh looks like it’s fading down the stretch.
MDS’s pick: Cowboys 20, Steelers 13.
Florio’s take: It’s a rematch of three prior Super Bowls, and each team’s ability to pursue another Super Bowl appearance rides on the outcome. It’s hard to overlook that ugly home loss by the Steelers — and it’s even harder to ignore the sense that the Cowboys are finding a way to pull together after Saturday’s tragedy.
Florio’s pick: Cowboys 27, Steelers 17.
Chiefs at Raiders
MDS’s take: This might be the worst game on a great NFL Sunday because both teams have nothing to play for other than possibly getting the first overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft. I like the Raiders to win and the Chiefs to take another step toward the top pick.
MDS’s pick: Raiders 21, Chiefs 13.
Florio’s take: It’s the latest renewal of a once-great rivalry, and it continues to disintegrate. If the Raiders can win at Arrowhead, they can hold serve at home.
Florio’s pick: Raiders 17, Chiefs 7.
49ers at Patriots
MDS’s take: In a potential Super Bowl preview on Sunday night, I think the Patriots will show they’re playing at another level from the rest of the league. Tom Brady will have a big game against a good 49ers defense, and Bill Belichick will have something up his sleeve for 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
MDS’s pick: Patriots 31, 49ers 17.
Florio’s take: Another prime-time home game against a playoff-caliber team, another big win for a Patriots team that is poised to make another assault on a championship.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 34, 49ers 24.
Jets at Titans
MDS’s take: I don’t think the Jets are particularly good, but none of the teams they’re playing in December are particularly good, either. So I like the Jets to win this one, and probably win out to earn a surprising 9-7 record and even an outside shot at an AFC wild card berth.
MDS’s pick: Jets 14, Titans 10.
Florio’s take: The Jets keep moving toward an unlikely playoff berth. The Titans keep moving toward an inevitable house cleaning. Mittens off for Bud Adams!
Florio’s pick: Jets 14, Titans 10.