Two weeks ago, MDS enjoyed a five-game lead in the annual PFT picks contest. Now? Not.
In Week Eight, I swept the two games on which we differed. In Week Nine, the Cardinals, Patriots, and Steelers each came through, knocking the margin down to no margin at all.
To his credit, MDS got a hole in one on the Bucs-Browns game, picking Cleveland to win by the unusual score of 22-17. Fortunately for me — and unfortunately for him — there’s no bonus point for guessing an exact score.
The tie will remain, at least for a week. For the first time ever, we disagree on none of the games to be played.
Last week, I nailed 11 of 13 games. MDS was right on eight, wrong on five. For the year, we’re deadlocked at 86-48 (64.1 percent).
Browns at Bengals
MDS’s take: It’s a credit to Mike Pettine that winning this game would move the Browns into a tie for first place in the AFC North, at least temporarily. Cleveland has played much better than anyone expected. But the Bengals are a (slightly) better team on both sides of the ball, and I like Cincinnati to win a close game at home.
MDS’s pick: Bengals 23, Browns 20.
Florio’s take: The Browns inspired plenty of confidence four weeks ago, with a 31-10 win over the Steelers. The Browns didn’t inspire much confidence by losing to the previously winless Jaguars and then by beating in non-convincing fashion the still-winless Raiders and the one-win Bucs. Cincinnati has A.J. Green back and Jeremy Hill emerging and a defense that should be good enough to continue what ultimately could be the end of the road for Brian Hoyer as the Cleveland starter.
Florio’s pick: Bengals 27, Browns 17.
Titans at Ravens
MDS’s take: Baltimore needs to shake off a rough loss to Pittsburgh, and there’s no better way to shake off a rough loss than having the Titans come to town. The Ravens should win this one easily.
MDS’s pick: Ravens 35, Titans 17.
Florio’s take: Michael Oher returns to Baltimore. And that’s about the only thing that makes this specific game mildly interesting.
Florio’s pick: Ravens 37, Titans 13.
Chiefs at Bills
MDS’s take: Who expected this game to have real AFC playoff implications? The winner will be in great shape in the wild card race, and I think the winner will be Kansas City, which will rely on its conservative, efficient offense to win a close, low-scoring game.
MDS’s pick: Chiefs 14, Bills 10.
Florio’s take: The last time Buffalo played, the Bills found motivation in the “experts” who picked the Jets to win. The Bills may find motivation this time around, too, but the opponent is a lot better than the Jets.
Florio’s pick: Chiefs 20, Bills 16.
Dolphins at Lions
MDS’s take: The Dolphins played perhaps the most impressive game any team has played all season when they blew out the Chargers on Sunday. But the Lions are coming off a week’s rest and are now a healthier team than they were before their bye week. Detroit will win in a game that has playoff implications in both conferences.
MDS’s pick: Lions 24, Dolphins 21.
Florio’s take: Few believe the Lions can sustain their 6-2 start. Even fewer believe the Dolphins are a legitimate 5-3. Give the edge to the team that’s playing at home and getting Calvin Johnson back.
Florio’s pick: Lions 24, Dolphins 21.
Cowboys at Jaguars
MDS’s take: The Cowboys need to turn things around after dropping two straight, and the Jaguars are just the opponents to help them do it. This game won’t be close.
MDS’s pick: Cowboys 28, Jaguars 13.
Florio’s take: Romo or no Romo, the Cowboys are good enough to beat the Jaguars. And if the Cowboys aren’t, maybe yet another 8-8 finish is looming.
Florio’s pick: Cowboys 24, Jaguars 10.
49ers at Saints
MDS’s take: The 49ers are getting dangerously close to seeing their season spiral out of control, and it won’t get any easier with a road trip to New Orleans. San Francisco’s offense won’t keep up with Drew Brees and Co.
MDS’s pick: Saints 28, 49ers 17.
Florio’s take: Colin Kaepernick cemented the starting job with a win in New Orleans two years ago. In 2014, the 49ers’ once-budding dynasty is crumbling.
Florio’s pick: Saints 27, 49ers 20.
Steelers at Jets
MDS’s take: I keep thinking the Jets are going to show that they’re a better team than their record suggests, and the Jets keep showing that they’re every bit as bad as their record suggests. Even without Troy Polamalu and Ryan Shazier, the Steelers’ defense should be fine against the Jets’ offense, and the Jets just don’t have the talent in the secondary to deal with the Steelers’ passing game.
MDS’s pick: Steelers 34, Jets 14.
Florio’s take: The Jets have beaten the Steelers only four times in 21 tries. They’ll keep waiting for the fifth, as their fans find solace in one.
Florio’s pick: Steelers 30, Jets 10.
Falcons at Buccaneers
MDS’s take: The Falcons’ heartbreaking loss in London two weeks ago was a disaster from which it would be hard to recover. But considering what the Falcons did to the Buccaneers last time the played, I just can’t pick Tampa to win this one.
MDS’s pick: Falcons 21, Buccaneers 20.
Florio’s take: The Falcons haven’t won since hanging 56 on the Bucs. The Bucs have given the ball back to the guy who started that game. The Falcons are better than 2-6 would indicate, and Sunday gives them a chance to prove it.
Florio’s pick: Falcons 28, Buccaneers 17.
Broncos at Raiders
MDS’s take: Denver will bounce back nicely from their big loss in New England. This is the easiest pick of the week.
MDS’s pick: Broncos 42, Raiders 17.
Florio’s take: The Raiders’ crippling schedule continues with a visit from the defending AFC champions. And then there will be only seven chances left to avoid going 0-16.
Florio’s pick: Broncos 34, Raiders 13.
Rams at Cardinals
MDS’s take: The Rams have played good football at times and already beaten the Seahawks and 49ers, but they won’t get their third division win on Sunday. The Cardinals will take this one.
MDS’s pick: Cardinals 27, Rams 24.
Florio’s take: The Rams have upset the Seahawks and 49ers, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if they knock the team that used to be in St. Louis down a peg. But 2012 and potential 2014 coach of the year Bruce Arians won’t let his guys get complacent, not with so much riding on their ability to keep doing what they’ve done all year.
Florio’s pick: Cardinals 27, Rams 14.
Giants at Seahawks
MDS’s take: Seattle is starting to turn things around, while the Giants are going in the wrong direction. The Seahawks won’t give the Giants the kind of ugly 23-0 beating like last year’s game between these two teams, but Seattle will win comfortably.
MDS’s pick: Seahawks 21, Giants 10.
Florio’s take: New York heads across the country on a short week to face a team that played at home last Sunday. Throw in the talent gap between the two teams and this one could end up being a rout. Which would drop the Giants to 3-6 and move them closer to a fifth failure to make it to the playoffs in six seasons.
Florio’s pick: Seahawks 27, Giants 20.
Bears at Packers
MDS’s take: As bad as the Bears were during the first half of the season, they’ll be right back in the NFC North race if they can win in Green Bay. Unfortunately for Chicago, that’s not going to happen. The Packers will win, and the NFC North will be a two-team race between the Packers and Lions down the stretch.
MDS’s pick: Packers 24, Bears 17.
Florio’s take: Green Bay launched its climb out of an early-season 1-2 hole by blasting the Bears in their own building. The dominance continues on Sunday night as the Bears, who suddenly can’t win either at home or on the road, continue to disintegrate.
Florio’s pick: Packers 37, Bears 20.
Panthers at Eagles
MDS’s take: It’s tough to say what kind of team the Eagles will be with Mark Sanchez running the show, but considering that they started the season 6-2 despite Nick Foles not playing very well, I expect Philadelphia to do just fine.
MDS’s pick: Eagles 27, Panthers 20.
Florio’s take: Mark Sanchez returns to prime time, nearly two years after the Thanksgiving night butt fumble. His team is better than the Jets, his opponent is worse than the Patriots, and Sanchez will commence the process of resurrecting his career against a former No. 1 pick whose career could be inching toward a crossroads.
Florio’s pick: Eagles 26, Panthers 17.