As Thanksgiving approaches, I’m quite thankful for my three-game lead through 12 weeks of action.
The three-game lead survived Week 12, because we split the four games on which we disagreed last weekend (I was right on Bengals and Browns, MDS nailed it with the Bears and Seahawks).
This week, with all 32 teams playing for the first time since Week Three, we disagree on only one game. For all picks for Week 13, scroll down.
For the week, we were both 11-4. For the year, I’m at 116-60 (65.9 percent). MDS stands at 113-63 (64.2 percent).
Bears at Lions
MDS’s take: The Lions have gone from first place to on the verge of collapse, just as they did around this time last year. But the difference is that the Lions’ two-game losing streak has gone against two of the best teams in the league. Against the Bears at home, the Lions should be able to get back to their winning ways.
MDS’s pick: Lions 14, Bears 10.
Florio’s take: The Lions can’t afford to stumble again, at a time when they can’t find the end zone. Fortunately, they’ll be facing an opponent far less potent than the Cardinals and Patriots.
Florio’s pick: Lions 31, Bears 20.
Eagles at Cowboys
MDS’s take: First place in the NFC East is up for grabs, and I’m leaning toward the Cowboys mostly because I don’t trust Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez. Although Sanchez is putting up plenty of yardage in Chip Kelly’s offense — three straight 300-yard games — I expect him to throw a couple of interceptions and the Cowboys to capitalize on his mistakes.
MDS’s pick: Cowboys 24, Eagles 21.
Florio’s take: The Eagles won’t be capable of keeping pace with a Cowboys offense that will present a pick-your-poison dilemma for Philly’s defense. The Dallas offense continues to fire on all cylinders, and it’ll be enough to secure the first of two games between these teams in only 17 days.
Florio’s pick: Cowboys 34, Eagles 27.
Seahawks at 49ers
MDS’s take: The way the NFC playoff race is shaping up, it’s very unlikely that both of these teams can make the playoffs. The loser of this game will be on the outside looking in, without much time left to make up ground. The Seahawks made a statement last week against the Cardinals, and I think they’ll make another one on Thanksgiving.
MDS’s pick: Seahawks 20, 49ers 13.
Florio’s take: The Seahawks held serve at home against the Cardinals to keep Seattle’s playoff hopes alive. The Seahawks now have a chance to break serve in Santa Clara — and in turn to deliver a potential death blow to the 49ers’ playoff chances.
Florio’s pick: Seahawks 20, 49ers 17.
Washington at Colts
MDS’s take: Remember when there was actually a debate about who was better, Robert Griffin III or Andrew Luck? That feels so long ago. Luck’s team will whip Griffin’s team on Sunday, while Griffin stands on the sideline watching.
MDS’s pick: Colts 31, Washington 10.
Florio’s take: In April 2012, this would have been one of the most anticipated games for the entire 2014 regular season, pitting the first and second overall picks n the draft against each other. The game now has far less cachet, with Andrew Luck clearly the better quarterback and Robert Griffin III taking a seat on the bench. Again.
Florio’s pick: Colts 34, Washington 20.
Titans at Texans
MDS’s take: The loss of Ryan Mallett is bad news for the Texans in the long term because it prevents them from knowing whether he’s the type of quarterback who could be the face of their franchise. But for this week, Ryan Fitzpatrick is just as capable of helping Houston beat a bad Tennessee team.
MDS’s pick: Texans 31, Titans 17.
Florio’s take: Ryan Fitzpatrick gets another crack at a team that gave up on him, playing quarterback for another team that gave up on him. The latest team that gave up on him is better than the prior team that gave up on him.
Florio’s pick: Texans 27, Titans 13.
Browns at Bills
MDS’s take: The Bills have gone through a long, rough week, and they emerged looking great in a big win over the Jets. I think they’ll keep it going against the Browns.
MDS’s pick: Bills 23, Browns 20.
Florio’s take: The Bills return home after a detour to Detroit, and the Browns roll in with a chance to move to 8-4. Perhaps the toughest game to call given what Buffalo did to the Jets on Monday night and in light of the fact that the Browns are the better team, the Bills have an extra level of motivation in this one, given the snowstorm that turned the region on its head last week.
Florio’s pick: Bills 24, Browns 20.
Chargers at Ravens
MDS’s take: I think we can officially write off the loser of this one. The AFC playoff pool is just too deep for the loser to remain in contention. I like the Ravens’ chances in a must-win game at home.
MDS’s pick: Ravens 28, Chargers 17.
Florio’s take: Baltimore has started to make a push to the postseason with a win at New Orleans; the Chargers have won a pair of home games that they easily could have lost. Baltimore seems to have the better talent on both sides of the ball to get to eight wins before San Diego.
Florio’s pick: Ravens 27, Chargers 20.
Giants at Jaguars
MDS’s take: The Giants’ season is a mess, but they’re still better than the Jaguars. This looks like it’s going to be a lousy, low-scoring game.
MDS’s pick: Giants 15, Jaguars 7.
Florio’s take: Tom Coughlin heads back to Jacksonville. Some may want him to stay, if the Giants decide they want him to go. On the field, always take a Manning against a Bortles.
Florio’s pick: Giants 24, Jaguars 17.
Bengals at Buccaneers
MDS’s take: The Bucs have played competitive football at times, but on balance they’re a pretty terrible team. The Bengals remain the leaders in the AFC North, and they won’t lose their lead in Tampa Bay.
MDS’s pick: Bengals 27, Buccaneers 7.
Florio’s take: Another game not on national TV, another appearance from the Dr. Jekyll version of Andy Dalton. The good news for the Bucs is that they’ll likely still be only two games out of first place after this one ends.
Florio’s pick: Bengals 27, Buccaneers 17.
Raiders at Rams
MDS’s take: I’m impressed with the way the Rams are playing, even though they have no chance of getting to the playoffs in the tough NFC West. Put the Rams in the NFC South, and they’re in the playoffs. Those are the breaks. At least they’ll whip the Raiders in the battle of former Los Angeles teams.
MDS’s pick: Rams 28, Raiders 14.
Florio’s take: The Raiders have their one win for the season. The Rams have fewer than they should. To make this one more interesting, the winner should get dibs on L.A.
Florio’s pick: Rams 27, Raiders 14.
Saints at Steelers
MDS’s take: I have a simple philosophy: I’m not picking the Saints outside, in a cold-weather city, against anybody. The Steelers will take this one and remain in the AFC North race, while the Saints will lose and remain in the NFC South race because the NFC South is terrible.
MDS’s pick: Steelers 27, Saints 17.
Florio’s take: The Saints have lost three games in a row at home. So it would be fitting for them to win one in Pittsburgh. But the Steelers are rested and ready and aware of the importance of getting an eighth win in a division of seven-win teams.
Florio’s pick: Steelers 24, Saints 20.
Panthers at Vikings
MDS’s take: I liked the way the Vikings’ defense played against the Packers last week, and if Teddy Bridgewater can just avoid making too many mistakes, Minnesota can win this one. Against a better defense I wouldn’t have a lot of faith in Bridgewater, but against the Panthers’ defense, the Vikings can win a low-scoring game.
MDS’s pick: Vikings 16, Panthers 10.
Florio’s take: The Vikings win the games they should and lose the games they should. They should beat the Panthers, swarming Cam Newton with a potent pass rush and methodically gaining yards with a running game and passing game that are good enough to move the ball against a struggling franchise. Yes, the Panthers are still pushing for a playoff berth. The Vikings, however, are trying to lay the foundation for long-term success. Winning winnable games is part of the culture change over which Mike Zimmer is presiding.
Florio’s pick: Vikings 20, Panthers 16.
Cardinals at Falcons
MDS’s take: The Cardinals aren’t as good a team with Drew Stanton as they were with Carson Palmer, but they’re still a whole lot better than the Falcons. Bruce Arians will have his guys ready to bounce back from last week’s loss in Seattle.
MDS’s pick: Cardinals 24, Falcons 10.
Florio’s take: Have two division leaders in late November ever had a gap this big in overall quality? The gap will be obvious, with or without poor clock management.
Florio’s pick: Cardinals 23, Falcons 13.
Patriots at Packers
MDS’s take: It’s the best game of the day and one of the best games of the season. The Packers have played excellent football at home, but the Patriots are the best team in the NFL and will show it in Green Bay.
MDS’s pick: Patriots 31, Packers 28.
Florio’s take: I’ve gone back and forth on this one, and I finally need to pick a horse. Given the ability of Patriots coach Bill Belichick to construct a game plan perfectly suited to each and every game, look for the Pats to grind the clock, keep Aaron Rodgers on the sidelines, actually cover Jordy Nelson, and ultimately prevail on the only stat that matters — points scored vs. points allowed.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 27, Packers 24.
Broncos at Chiefs
MDS’s take: If Denver takes this one, the AFC West race is all but over. Although the Broncos have been inconsistent of late, they haven’t had a loss as bad as the Chiefs losing in Oakland last week. I like the Broncos to complete the season sweep of the Chiefs and take control of the division.
MDS’s pick: Broncos 34, Chiefs 20.
Florio’s take: The Broncos have looked vulnerable in recent weeks, and Chiefs continue to be one of the toughest teams to beat at home. Eric Berry’s absence hurts them from a football standpoint, but it will further galvanize a franchise that has overcome plenty of adversity in recent years.
Florio’s pick: Chiefs 27, Broncos 24.
Dolphins at Jets
MDS’s take: Losing to the Broncos on Sunday may have knocked the Dolphins out of realistic playoff contention, but they’re still a much better team than the Jets. Miami takes this one easily.
MDS’s pick: Dolphins 34, Jets 17.
Florio’s take: The Jets were a “zillion ways” better after the bye, and it wasn’t nearly enough to hand with the Bills. The Dolphins are better than the Bills. Not even Jumbo Elliott could make a difference in this one.
Florio’s pick: Dolphins 27, Jets 13.