Last week was a good week. For me. Not for MDS.
We disagreed on two games, and my faith in the Steelers and Saints finally paid off.
So that five-game lead MDS enjoyed has shrinked/shrunk/shrunken/whatever to three. And we disagree on three games this week. They also happen to be the biggest three games of the week.
Last week, I went 10-5 and MDS finished 8-7. For the year, he’s now at 78-43 (64.4 percent) and I’m at 75-46 (61.9 percent).
Saints at Panthers
MDS’s take: Someone has to win the NFC South, and it will probably be this game’s winners, who will be the only team in the division with a .500 record. I think the Saints’ offense will move the ball well in Carolina and make a big statement that New Orleans is the team to beat in the South.
MDS’s pick: Saints 31, Panthers 17.
Florio’s take: The Saints can’t lose at home, can’t win on the road. This could be the moment where the latter trend ends (at least for now), with New Orleans chasing a big win over the Packers with a trip to face a so-so team with an offensive line rattled by injuries.
Florio’s pick: Saints 27, Panthers 23.
Jaguars at Bengals
MDS’s take: Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles just makes far too many mistakes. He’s not ready, and the Jaguars’ coaches know he’s not ready, but they felt they had no choice but to play him because Chad Henne got off to such a bad start this year. Look for Bortles to continue to struggle and the Jaguars to continue to lose.
MDS’s pick: Bengals 30, Jaguars 10.
Florio’s take: A.J. Green is back, a week after the Bengals found a way to win without him. It will be even easier against a team with only one win.
Florio’s pick: Bengals 27, Jaguars 10.
Buccaneers at Browns
MDS’s take: The Browns may not be as good as their 4-3 record suggests, but the Bucs are every bit as bad as their 1-6 record suggests. Cleveland will get to five wins at the halfway point, which represents major progress considering the mess new coach Mike Pettine inherited.
MDS’s pick: Browns 22, Buccaneers 17.
Florio’s take: The Browns avoided a second-straight loss to a winless team. They now have to guard against a loss to a one-win team. It won’t be easy, but the Browns are starting to learn how to win the games they’re supposed to.
Florio’s pick: Browns 24, Buccaneers 16.
Cardinals at Cowboys
MDS’s take: I wish I knew for sure when picking this game whether or not Tony Romo will play, but even if Romo can’t play I lean toward the Cowboys controlling things offensively thanks to their great offensive line and MVP candidate DeMarco Murray.
MDS’s pick: Cowboys 21, Cardinals 20.
Florio’s take: The Cardinals haven’t gotten nearly the respect they deserve. That ends here. Despite the injuries, the suspension, the defections, and the Super Bowl hosting jinx, the Cardinals keep winning. With or without Tony Romo, the Cardinals will be ready to do something they haven’t done since the 1998 playoffs — outscore the Cowboys in Dallas.
Florio’s pick: Cardinals 21, Cowboys 17.
Eagles at Texans
MDS’s take: Interceptions are piling up for Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, which is a major concern in Philadelphia considering that the Texans have a strong pass defense. But I’m not sold on the Texans’ offense putting many points on the board, and I’ll pick the Eagles to win a close, low-scoring game.
MDS’s pick: Eagles 14, Texans 13.
Florio’s take: The Philly offensive line is getting a little healthier, just in time for J.J. Watt and company. After nearly toppling the Cardinals in Arizona, the Eagles go to Houston and drag the Texans under .500, where based on the overall talent of the team they belong.
Florio’s pick: Eagles 27, Texans 17.
Jets at Chiefs
MDS’s take: At this point I’m not sure that it much matters whether Michael Vick or Geno Smith is the Jets’ starter. The Jets aren’t going to win with either quarterback, especially on the road against a solid team like the Chiefs.
MDS’s pick: Chiefs 31, Jets 20.
Florio’s take: How did the Chiefs lose the Titans in Week One? Eventually, we also may be asking how the Jets beat the Raiders that same day.
Florio’s pick: Chiefs 30, Jets 13.
Chargers at Dolphins
MDS’s take: The Dolphins’ defense is a lot better than most people realize, but I still like Philip Rivers to play well enough to earn a hard-fought road win in a game that will have significant implications for the AFC wild card race.
MDS’s pick: Chargers 21, Dolphins 20.
Florio’s take: The Chargers are due to win. The Dolphins are due to lose. Sometimes, it’s just that easy.
Florio’s pick: Chargers 28, Dolphins 21.
Washington at Vikings
MDS’s take: Neither of these teams is very good, but both of them are coming off overtime wins and will be motivated to show that they’re not dead yet in the NFC playoff race. I’m going with the Vikings, who are starting to play defense the way Mike Zimmer wants to see.
MDS’s pick: Vikings 17, Washington 7.
Florio’s take: RGIII returns, but is that a good thing? He looked mediocre before dislocating his ankle, and now he’s rusty. He’ll also be pressing to make fans forget about a couple of critical wins from Colt McCoy. Meanwhile, the Vikings have some winnable games down the stretch; if they can get to 4-5, things can get interesting in December.
Florio’s pick: Vikings 20, Washington 17.
Rams at 49ers
MDS’s take: Looking ahead at the 49ers’ schedule, their path to the playoffs is not an easy one. These are the games the 49ers need to win if they’re going to be a playoff team. They’ll win this one.
MDS’s pick: 49ers 24, Rams 20.
Florio’s take: The 49ers are rested and motivated to keep up with the Cardinals, who are close to running away with the NFC West. The Rams won’t be pushovers, but San Fran needs this one too badly to blow it.
Florio’s pick: 49ers 27, Rams 20.
Broncos at Patriots
MDS’s take: The Patriots have really turned things around recently and are probably the second-best team in the AFC right now. Unfortunately, the best team in the AFC is coming to town. Denver’s offense will put up big numbers and win more easily than most people are expecting.
MDS’s pick: Broncos 34, Patriots 20.
Florio’s take: In fifteen prior Brady-Manning contests, the home team is 10-5. The Broncos would win easily in Denver. The Pats find a way to prevail in Foxboro.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 27, Broncos 24.
Raiders at Seahawks
MDS’s take: I still think there are some questions about the Seahawks on both sides of the ball, but they’ll cruise to an easy win at home over the worst team in the league.
MDS’s pick: Seahawks 33, Raiders 20.
Florio’s take: Nothing helps a dysfunctional team get back on track than facing a way more dysfunctional opponent.
Florio’s pick: Seahawks 34, Raiders 13.
Ravens at Steelers
MDS’s take: This game will be closer than their Week Two meeting, but the Ravens will complete the season sweep of the Steelers.
MDS’s pick: Ravens 24, Steelers 17.
Florio’s take: The Steelers cap a three-game home stand with a win that keeps them very much alive for the division title. A loss would put them, as a practical matter, three games behind the Ravens with seven to play.
Florio’s pick: Steelers 13, Ravens 10.
Colts at Giants
MDS’s take: Ahmad Bradshaw returns to face his old team and should have a big game against a Giants run defense that hasn’t been particularly good this year. The Colts will bounce back from last week’s ugly loss.
MDS’s pick: Colts 30, Giants 20.
Florio’s take: The Giants fully intend to make a run. It’ll have to wait at least a week. After giving up 51 in Pittsburgh, the Colts will be ready to go back to New York (sort of) 56 years after the greatest game ever played and edge the Giants, again.
Florio’s pick: Colts 23, Giants 17.