With three weeks left, MDS now has to make up four games. With only one disagreement this week, it won’t be easy for him to do it.
Last week, I swept our two disagreements (thanks, Steelers and Seahawks) en route to a 12-4 mark. MDS went 10-6.
For the year, I’m now at 137-71 (65.8 percent). MDS comes in at 133-75 (63.9 percent).
For all picks in this weekend’s games, keep scrolling.
Cardinals at Rams
MDS’s take: The Rams’ defense is playing great football lately, with two straight shutouts. Granted, Oakland and Washington aren’t exactly the NFL’s hottest offenses, but I don’t care who you’re playing — it’s hard to hold other teams scoreless for eight straight quarters in today’s NFL. The Cardinals’ offense has struggled with Drew Stanton at the helm, and I think they’ll continue to struggle in St. Louis.
MDS’s pick: Rams 17, Cardinals 10.
Florio’s take: The Rams have pitched a pair of shutouts. The Cardinals are hoping not to get shut out of the playoffs. I used to the captain of the Arizona bandwagon. I’ve now bought stock in the once and future L.A. Rams.
Florio’s pick: Rams 20, Cardinals 17.
MDS’s take: If Julio Jones is healthy enough to play, he’ll have a big game against the Steelers’ bad secondary. But the Steelers’ offense is rolling right now, and the Falcons’ defense is a mess. I like Pittsburgh to win a high-scoring game.
MDS’s pick: Steelers 38, Falcons 28.
Florio’s take: The last three times these teams have played, the games have gone to overtime. Once, it was a tie. Once, the Falcons won. Once, the Steelers won. This one also will be tied. At the opening kickoff. After that, a Steelers team that won by 21 in Cincinnati will finally start to show real consistency with the playoffs looming.
Florio’s pick: Steelers 27, Falcons 20.
Jaguars at Ravens
MDS’s take: The Ravens just need to win out to make the playoffs. Facing the Jaguars is a good way to start. Baltimore will roll in this one.
MDS’s pick: Ravens 33, Jaguars 16.
Florio’s take: The Ravens have finally begun finding their way out of the weeds. The Jags have gotten comfortable snoozing in them.
Florio’s pick: Ravens 24, Jaguars 10.
Packers at Bills
MDS’s take: The Bills’ pass rush might be able to rattle Aaron Rodgers and make this a closer game than most people would think. In the end, however, I think the Packers manage to win a competitive game.
MDS’s pick: Packers 20, Bills 17.
Florio’s take: Kyle Orton vs. Aaron Rodgers. Kyle Orton. Versus Aaron Rodgers.
Florio’s pick: Packers 37, Bills 17.
Buccaneers at Panthers
MDS’s take: The Panthers have beaten the Bucs without Cam Newton once this season, and they can do it again. Carolina remains in contention in the NFC South while Tampa Bay remains in contention for the first overall pick in the draft.
MDS’s pick: Panthers 20, Buccaneers 13.
Florio’s take: The Bucs didn’t think it was funny the last time they saw Derek Anderson, and they won’t think it’s funny again. Panthers get a step closer to an unlikely division title, and the Bucs get a step closer to an unexpected top-three draft pick.
Florio’s pick: Panthers 23, Buccaneers 17.
Bengals at Browns
MDS’s take: Can Johnny Manziel provide the Browns’ offense with a spark? That’s the big question for this game, and I think the answer is yes. Manziel will make enough plays with his arm and his feet, and the Browns’ defense will do well enough against Andy Dalton, that Cleveland’s playoff hopes will stay alive.
MDS’s pick: Browns 21, Bengals 14.
Florio’s take: Last month, the Browns beat the Bengals by 21, with Brian Hoyer under center. This month, it would be fitting if it goes the other way. But Johnny Football will make his debut as an NFL starter only once. Throw in the extra motivation that Manziel may have from the remarks of Marvin Lewis, and the 2014 Browns may not be done just yet.
Florio’s pick: Browns 24, Bengals 21.
Texans at Colts
MDS’s take: If the Colts win, they clinch the AFC South, and that’s exactly what I expect to see. I have some doubts about how well Indianapolis will do in January because I’m not sold the Colts have a good enough defense or running game, but there’s no doubt that Indianapolis will be playing a home game in January.
MDS’s pick: Colts 34, Texans 20.
Florio’s take: The Texans have never won at Indianapolis. Next year, we’ll be saying the same thing. Even if it’s not pretty for the Colts to get to where they need to be at the end of the game, they’ll find a way.
Florio’s pick: Colts 30, Texans 21.
Raiders at Chiefs
MDS’s take: Could the Raiders do the unthinkable and sweep the Chiefs this season? I’m not seeing it. Kansas City is still fighting for a playoff spot and should beat Oakland easily.
MDS’s pick: Chiefs 28, Raiders 10.
Florio’s take: A loss at Oakland sparked a three-game losing streak that threatens to keep Kansas City out of the postseason. A loss to Oakland at home would clinch it. Surely, the Chiefs won’t let it happen.
Florio’s pick: Chiefs 27, Raiders 17.
Dolphins at Patriots
MDS’s take: The Patriots clinch the AFC East with a win, and they’ll get it against the Dolphins, who are a good team but have a tough road to the playoffs.
MDS’s pick: Patriots 21, Dolphins 20.
Florio’s take: This year, the Dolphins commenced their late-season, playoff-missing slide a little earlier than last year. It continues against a Patriots team that needs only to sweep its division rivals to nail down home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 31, Dolphins 20.
Washington at Giants
MDS’s take: The Giants have already blown out Washington once this season, and I think they’ll do it again. The way Washington is playing, I might not pick them on the road against anyone.
MDS’s pick: Giants 34, Washington 10.
Florio’s take: A late-season winning streak for the Giants could have been enough to save some jobs. If it had started sooner. Instead, the end is coming in New York.
Florio’s pick: Giants 27, Washington 13.
Broncos at Chargers
MDS’s take: The Broncos clinch the AFC West with a win, and I think they’ll get it. What’s so impressive about Denver right now is that it’s winning not with big games from Peyton Manning, but with a good running attack and a good run defense. That’s going to make the Broncos a tough team to beat in January.
MDS’s pick: Broncos 23, Chargers 14.
Florio’s take: The Broncos need to find a higher gear on offense if they hope to go deep into the postseason. On Sunday, they will. The running game has blossomed and the passing game is ready to flourish again, especially with tight end Julius Thomas ready to return after three weeks off with an ankle injury.
Florio’s pick: Broncos 30, Chargers 23.
Jets at Titans
MDS’s take: This game matters only in that both teams are still in the hunt for the first overall pick in the draft, and both teams are sure to be interested in Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston. If you’re a fan of either the Jets or the Titans, you should probably root for your team to lose on Sunday so that it can win a higher draft pick. I think the Titans’ fans will go away happy because the Jets will win.
MDS’s pick: Jets 13, Titans 10.
Florio’s take: The loser wins on draft day. The winner loses. So everyone wins. And everyone loses. And no one cares.
Florio’s pick: Jets 13, Titans 9.
Vikings at Lions
MDS’s take: The Lions conclude their season with three straight divisional opponents, and they have a simple path to the playoffs: Win two games and they’re a wild card, win three and they win the NFC North. They should get it started with a big win on Sunday, as Teddy Bridgewater will struggle against a tough Detroit defense at Ford Field.
MDS’s pick: Lions 24, Vikings 10.
Florio’s take: The Vikings continue an unlikely push to .500, but the Lions aren’t the Lions the Vikings had dominated not that long ago. And the Lions know they don’t have much of a margin for error if they hope to get to the playoffs.
Florio’s pick: Lions 30, Vikings 21.
49ers at Seahawks
MDS’s take: I think the Seahawks are going to be motivated not just to win this game, but to embarrass the 49ers. This one could get ugly, as the Seahawks are peaking and the 49ers are collapsing.
MDS’s pick: Seahawks 31, 49ers 3.
Florio’s take: In this crazy year of upside-down outcomes, it would be fitting for the 49ers to chase a loss to the woeful Raiders with a win over the defending Super Bowl champions who are peaking once again. But even in a season of surprises, the Seahawks slipping up against a sliding San Francisco team still goes beyond any plausible outcome.
Florio’s pick: Seahawks 23, 49ers 10.
Cowboys at Eagles
MDS’s take: Philadelphia can’t actually clinch the NFC East on Sunday night, but it can come pretty close by taking a one-game lead and completing the season sweep over Dallas. That’s what I’m expecting to see, as Chip Kelly will get his offense straightened out and the Eagles will score plenty on the Cowboys.
MDS’s pick: Eagles 35, Cowboys 21.
Florio’s take: Last time around, the Cowboys weren’t ready to be competitive after only three days off — especially with a quarterback who never practices on the third day after playing. This time, the Cowboys have had extra rest and the Eagles have to be wondering whether they can compete with the best teams in the conference. Last week’s loss to the Seahawks suggests they can’t, which could make it harder for them to match the intensity that the Cowboys will bring to Philly while chasing their elusive 10th win.
Florio’s pick: Cowboys 30, Eagles 27.
Saints at Bears
MDS’s take: Both of these teams have been major disappointments, but the difference is the Saints still have something to play for in their lousy division. I like New Orleans to take this one.
MDS’s pick: Saints 20, Bears 13.
Florio’s take: The up and down Saints can’t win at home, can’t lose on the road. But they’re still tied for first place, and they’ll either be trying to keep pace with the Falcons or to move ahead of them with a win against the team for which coach Sean Payton played quarterback during the 1987 strike. Eventually, the Bears may need a replacement for their current quarterback.
Florio’s pick: Saints 27, Bears 24.