It wasn’t as bad a week as some of the weeks we had earlier in the year, but 10-6 from MDS and 9-7 from yours truly was more “meh” than magnificent.
This week, we disagree on a pair of games. And as I cling to a two-game margin, it could go away this weekend, sparking a three-week, dead-heat sprint to the 2014 PFT picks championship.
For the year, I’m at 125-67 (65.1 percent). MDS has moved to 123-69 (64.0 percent). To see our picks for all 16 games for the weekend, start reading. Or keep reading. Or just scroll and look for the scores.
Cowboys at Bears
MDS’s take: Are the Cowboys going into a late-season collapse? Despite their ugly showing on Thanksgiving, I don’t think so. Dallas’s offensive line should control this game against a mediocre Chicago defensive front, and the Cowboys will get back on track.
MDS’s pick: Cowboys 24, Bears 21.
Florio’s take: Last year, the Bears blew out the Cowboys in prime time at Soldier Field. This year, the Bears are having a harder time scoring points — and the Cowboys desperately need to get their ninth win, avoiding yet another possible 8-8 finish to the season. With Tony Romo rested and the Bears simply not very good, it’s time for the Cowboys to ensure a winning season. Finally.
Florio’s pick: Cowboys 30, Bears 20.
Steelers at Bengals
MDS’s take: The Bengals have taken control of the AFC North, but the Steelers still have a chance to surpass them. Pittsburgh is so inconsistent, however, that I think I have to take Cincinnati in this one.
MDS’s pick: Bengals 20, Steelers 16.
Florio’s take: The last time the Bengals were at home, they lost badly to the Browns. Since then, Cincinnati has won three in a row on the road. It’s time for a correction, especially with the Steelers feeling their season slipping away.
Florio’s pick: Steelers 27, Bengals 24.
Colts at Browns
MDS’s take: The choice between Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel is less important than the fact that neither can hold a candle to Andrew Luck. The Colts will put up a lot of points and win comfortably in Cleveland.
MDS’s pick: Colts 35, Browns 20.
Florio’s take: Brian Hoyer, Johnny Manziel, both, or neither, the Browns currently don’t have the defense to keep the high-powered Indy passing attack under control.
Florio’s pick: Colts 30, Browns 23.
Buccaneers at Lions
MDS’s take: Could the Lions collapse again this year like they did last year? I don’t think so. Detroit will make a statement that it’s a real contender with a big win over Tampa Bay.
MDS’s pick: Lions 38, Buccaneers 14.
Florio’s take: The Bucs’ unlikely playoff dream likely died last week when Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis produced his reg flag in the nick of time. The Lions’ playoff dream remains realistic. With Reggie Bush potentially back and Calvin Johnson back to being Megatron, it’s time for Detroit to make their final push.
Florio’s pick: Lions 34, Buccaneers 20.
Texans at Jaguars
MDS’s take: The Jaguars showed a lot of fight in coming back to beat the Giants, and I could see Jacksonville having a bit of a late-season run like it had last season, when the Jaguars played their best football down the stretch. But the Texans’ defensive front is going to be too good for the Jaguars’ shaky offensive line.
MDS’s pick: Texans 20, Jaguars 10.
Florio’s take: The Jags have shown they still have some fight, but the Texans are making one last push for the postseason. They won’t make it, but they’ll make it above .500 this weekend.
Florio’s pick: Texans 27, Jaguars 20.
Ravens at Dolphins
MDS’s take: This is a big game in the AFC playoff race, and it’s a game I like the Dolphins to win on the strength of their pass defense, which is going to force Joe Flacco into a couple of interceptions and win a low-scoring game.
MDS’s pick: Dolphins 16, Ravens 13.
Florio’s take: It’s been easy to doubt the Dolphins this year. But they continue to defy critics, at least when they’re not giving critics more ammunition. This week, the critics will see a more accomplished Ravens team rolling into town and knocking Miami toward playoff oblivion. For a change, I’ll break ranks and rely on the team that blasted the Chargers when it had the chance, against the team that recently found a way to lose to San Diego.
Florio’s pick: Dolphins 27, Ravens 21.
Jets at Vikings
MDS’s take: I liked the Jets’ run-heavy offensive game plan on Monday night, but I don’t think it will work as well the second time around, now that Vikings coach Mike Zimmer has a week to prepare for it. The Jets won’t put many points on the board Sunday.
MDS’s pick: Vikings 13, Jets 6.
Florio’s take: Teddy Bridgewater already is better than Geno Smith will ever be. And the Vikings have shown an ability to win the games they should.
Florio’s pick: Vikings 27, Jets 13.
Panthers at Saints
MDS’s take: The NFC South has turned into a two-horse race, with the Panthers fading down the stretch. The Saints should win at home and end any hope Carolina had of winning the division.
MDS’s pick: Saints 31, Panthers 14.
Florio’s take: The Saints somehow has lost three games in a row at home. None of those opponents, however, were as bad as the Panthers currently are.
Florio’s pick: Saints 33, Panthers 16.
Giants at Titans
MDS’s take: The Giants are really bad, but the Titans are even worse. I’ll take the Giants to win and the fans stuck watching this game to lose.
MDS’s pick: Giants 16, Titans 12.
Florio’s take: The Giants continue their AFC South tour. If they can’t beat the Titans, co-owner Steve Tisch may have to accelerate his timetable for evaluating the coaching staff. Again.
Florio’s pick: Giants 24, Titans 13.
Rams at Washington
MDS’s take: The Rams are playing excellent football right now, while Washington is cratering. I’ll pick the Rams to win another blowout.
MDS’s pick: Rams 27, Washington 10.
Florio’s take: St. Louis has developed an ability to beat non-contenders to go along with its ability to beat contenders. Washington isn’t a contender.
Florio’s pick: Rams 27, Washington 17.
Chiefs at Cardinals
MDS’s take: This is a huge game for both teams. In Arizona, a loss would raise real questions about whether the Cardinals can avoid a downward spiral all the way out of the playoffs. In Kansas City, a loss could be a death blow to their wild card hopes. It’s hard to get a read on this one, but I have a little more faith in Alex Smith than in Drew Stanton, and that’s why I’ll go with the Chiefs.
MDS’s pick: Chiefs 24, Cardinals 21.
Florio’s take: Both teams have lost two in a row. Both teams desperately need to turn things around. Injuries finally have caught up with the Cardinals, and the rest of the league has caught up with Drew Stanton.
Florio’s pick: Chiefs 27, Cardinals 17.
Bills at Broncos
MDS’s take: The thing I like about the way the Broncos are playing right now is that they can win with defense and the running game: Peyton Manning doesn’t need a big game for Denver to win. On Sunday, I expect the Bills’ great front four to pressure Manning all day, but the Broncos to win anyway, thanks to the defense and the running attack.
MDS’s pick: Broncos 28, Bills 20.
Florio’s take: Kyle Orton returns to Denver, after Tebowmania gave way to Peyton Manning. The Broncos are simply better in every phase of the game.
Florio’s pick: Broncos 42, Bills 20.
49ers at Raiders
MDS’s take: Things aren’t looking good for the 49ers right now, but nothing cures a slump like facing the Raiders. The 49ers will cruise to an easy win.
MDS’s pick: 49ers 28, Raiders 7.
Florio’s take: Jim Harbaugh gets an early look at the stadium he could be calling home in 2015. Hopefully he likes raw sewage and dead rats.
Florio’s pick: 49ers 34, Raiders 17.
Seahawks at Eagles
MDS’s take: The Seahawks are finally playing the kind of football we’ve been waiting to see them play, but winning in Philadelphia is a tall order. I like the Eagles to take this one.
MDS’s pick: Eagles 24, Seahawks 20.
Florio’s take: Pete Carroll knows Mark Sanchez well enough to outscore him. Sure, the Eagles looked great in Dallas. But the Seahawks have looked even better in their last two games.
Florio’s pick: Seahawks 30, Eagles 27.
Patriots at Chargers
MDS’s take: This is a great game between a team that earned a hard-fought win last week and a team that suffered a hard-fought loss last week. The Chargers are in control in the AFC wild card race, but their schedule is so tough that I just don’t see them making the playoffs. A loss to the Patriots will be the first loss in what is going to be a disappointing December in San Diego.
MDS’s pick: Patriots 28, Chargers 21.
Florio’s take: The Chargers once went 32 years without beating the Patriots. Currently, it’s been six years. The streak will move to seven as the Pats get past last Sunday’s disappointing loss at Green Bay.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 34, Chargers 21.
Falcons at Packers
MDS’s take: The Falcons had an impressive win over the Cardinals last week, but the way the Packers are rolling right now, I wouldn’t pick anyone to beat them at Lambeau Field.
MDS’s pick: Packers 31, Falcons 17.
Florio’s take: Four years ago, the Packers rolled into the Georgia Dome and blasted the top-seeded Falcons in the playoffs. So this is Atlanta’s chance . . . to endure a similar outcome at Lambeau Field.
Florio’s pick: Packers 48, Falcons 20.