Seven weeks in, it’s a dead heat. By trusting the Giants to beat the Cowboys, MDS finally closed the one-game gap, giving us an identical record in the picks contest through seven weeks.
This week, we disagree on two of the 14 games. And they’re two of the better games of Sunday.
Scroll down for more. But before you do, I’m required by law (or at least by habit) to point out that MDS was 10-4 last week, and I was 9-5. For the year, we’re knotted at 68-37 (64.7 percent).
Dolphins at Patriots
MDS’s take: The Dolphins look like a totally different team under Dan Campbell than they looked under Joe Philbin. But even this new and improved Dolphins team isn’t good enough to win at New England.
MDS’s pick: Patriots 30, Dolphins 20.
Florio’s take: The Dolphins have dramatically reversed an early-season slide that got its head coach fired. And if they get blown out by the Patriots after wins over the Titans and Texans, the new vibe under Dan Campbell will be tested. So maybe they won’t get blown out, but they’re not ready to shock the Patriots — especially after the league once again poked the bear with its #DeflateGate legal filing.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 27, Dolphins 23.
Lions at Chiefs
MDS’s take: Big surprise, London gets another terrible football game. The Lions’ offense will show some new wrinkles with a new coordinator, but the Chiefs are a better team in all three phases of the game and will pull it out in the fourth quarter. A loss in London and a fall to 1-7 on the season will raise major questions about Jim Caldwell’s job security.
MDS’s pick: Chiefs 28, Lions 20.
Florio’s take: Was it wise for the Lions to change offensive coordinators six days before a game in London? Probably not. Will they beat the Chiefs in London? Probably not. Will the Lions make the sweeping changes needed after the season to finally become consistently relevant? Probably not.
Florio’s pick: Chiefs 27, Lions 20.
Buccaneers at Falcons
MDS’s take: The Falcons may not be a great team, but they keep beating bad teams. They’ll do it again on Sunday.
MDS’s pick: Falcons 24, Buccaneers 20.
Florio’s take: An upset here isn’t out of the question, given that the Falcons have looked sloppy and uninspired over the last few games. But it will be difficult if not impossible for a young team to quickly overcome blowing a 24-0 lead to the Washington You-Like-Thats.
Florio’s pick: Falcons 24, Buccaneers 17.
Chargers at Ravens
MDS’s take: Before the season, this looked like a battle of potential AFC playoff teams. Now it looks like a battle of potential first overall pick teams. One area where the Ravens have a clear advantage is special teams, and I see a special teams play making the difference in a close game here.
MDS’s pick: Ravens 28, Chargers 24.
Florio’s take: Finally, the Ravens play a West Coast team without having to travel to the West Coast. If they can’t win this one against a demoralized Chargers team, the Ravens should just move back to Cleveland.
Florio’s pick: Ravens 30, Chargers 24.
Vikings at Bears
MDS’s take: The Vikings are a bit like the Falcons: Not as good a team as their record suggests, but consistent enough to beat the bad teams. They should do it again in Chicago on Sunday.
MDS’s pick: Vikings 21, Bears 20.
Florio’s take: The Vikings won at Soldier Field only once since 2000. They last won there when Adrian Peterson was a rookie. With the team’s most dynamic offensive rookie since Peterson (Stefon Diggs) stepping up in recent weeks, it could be time for Peterson to get his second career there.
Florio’s pick: Vikings 24, Bears 20.
Cardinals at Browns
MDS’s take: Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald and Chris Johnson are all showing they have more left than a lot of people thought. They’ll keep that going in Cleveland, whose defense just doesn’t have the personnel to keep up with the Cardinals’ big-play offense.
MDS’s pick: Cardinals 31, Browns 17.
Florio’s take: The Cardinals continue to rough up on the mediocre teams on their schedule, as they wait for teams like the Seahawks, Packers, Bengals, and Vikings to bubble up on the slate.
Florio’s pick: Cardinals 30, Browns 20.
Titans at Texans
MDS’s take: This is an ugly game between two bad teams, and yet the winner will have every reason to believe they’re right in the thick of things in the AFC South. I think the Texans will manage to pull out a close win.
MDS’s pick: Texans 17, Titans 16.
Florio’s take: The team that used to be in Houston returns to face the team that currently is in Houston and everyone in Houston likely wishes they both would go away from Houston.
Florio’s pick: Texans 23, Titans 14.
Giants at Saints
MDS’s take: The Saints’ defense is still a mess, but their offense has really played well, and Drew Brees appears to be healthy. I think New Orleans will put enough points on the board to take this one.
MDS’s pick: Saints 31, Giants 27.
Florio’s take: The up-and-down Giants visit the down-and-up Saints, and since the Giants beat the Cowboys after losing to the Eagles, the Giants are due to lose again. The Saints have found their footing post-Jimmy Graham, with an offensive that has suddenly diversified.
Florio’s pick: Saints 30, Giants 21.
Bengals at Steelers
MDS’s take: The return of Ben Roethlisberger makes this one interesting, but the Bengals are playing the best football in the division this season and will win a close one, taking a surprising 3.5-game lead in the AFC North.
MDS’s pick: Bengals 24, Steelers 21.
Florio’s take: The Bengals may be 6-0 in 2015, but the Steelers are 6-2 all time against Andy Dalton. And the Steelers desperately need this one, if they have any hope of repeating as division champs. With Big Ben coming back, it’s time for one of the five remaining undefeated teams to pick up an “L”.
Florio’s pick: Steelers 20, Bengals 17.
49ers at Rams
MDS’s take: I love the young players on the Rams’ defense, and I think their pass rush is going to cause Colin Kaepernick fits. The Rams will take an early lead and then grind it out with Todd Gurley.
MDS’s pick: Rams 21, 49ers 7.
Florio’s take: Last year, the 49ers were good. Which made the Rams focus a little more on beating them. This year, the 49ers aren’t good. Which could made the Rams complacent. Even if the Rams are complacent, they’re good enough to win this one.
Florio’s pick: Rams 24, 49ers 13.
Jets at Raiders
MDS’s take: The Raiders are getting better, and I’m excited to see the matchup of Darrelle Revis on Amari Cooper. But I think Oakland’s offense is going to struggle to move the ball against the excellent Jets’ defense, and as long as Ryan Fitzpatrick doesn’t make too many mental mistakes, the Jets will win.
MDS’s pick: Jets 23, Raiders 20.
Florio’s take: It’s one of the best games of the day, and the winner will be in the thick of the playoff picture. If the Raiders perform like they did against the Chargers, they should win. Besides, a loss to the Patriots tends to stick to the team’s biggest rivals.
Florio’s pick: Raiders 24, Jets 20.
Seahawks at Cowboys
MDS’s take: If Tony Romo were playing, this would be a great game. With Matt Cassel at the helm, it’s hard to see the Cowboys keeping it close. The Seahawks’ defense will shut the Cowboys’ offense down and Seattle will win easily.
MDS’s pick: Seahawks 24, Cowboys 10.
Florio’s take: If the Cowboys weren’t in the NFC East, a fifth loss could doom them. But they can drop yet another and still make a run at the crown once both Dez Bryant and Tony Romo are back. Which is the only good news for Dallas, because the Seahawks have started to turn the corner.
Florio’s pick: Seahawks 21, Cowboys 17.
Packers at Broncos
MDS’s take: Both teams are undefeated, but there’s a big difference between them: The Broncos are winning solely with their defense, while the Packers are playing good football on both sides of the ball. That’s why Green Bay wins this one.
MDS’s pick: Packers 21, Broncos 14.
Florio’s take: The 6-0 Broncos will play three of the other four 6-0 teams, starting with the Packers. Which means the Broncos will play three teams that can take full advantage of offensive flaws that teams like the Chiefs, Raiders, Browns weren’t able to fully exploit.
Florio’s pick: Packers 31, Broncos 20.
Colts at Panthers
MDS’s take: The Colts are heading into a tough stretch in their schedule, which means they’re heading into a long losing streak. The Panthers will put plenty of pressure on Andrew Luck and win this one without much trouble.
MDS’s pick: Panthers 24, Colts 14.
Florio’s take: It feels like it’s time for the Panthers to lose one. But it also feels like the Colts are inching toward a full-blown free fall. Carolina has managed to keep a major chip on its shoulder despite being 6-0, and that chip will serve the Panthers well in their second straight prime-time game.
Florio’s pick: Panthers 27, Colts 17.