We had our best showing of the season last week, with 12-2 records and a lingering tie through eight frames of a 17-round fight.
This week, MDS and yours truly disagree on two games of the 13-contest slate. All picks, along with the reasoning for them, appear below.
For the year, we’re tied at 80-39, a 67.2-percent success rate.
Browns at Bengals
MDS’s take: Johnny Manziel on the road against a tough Bengals defense? I think I know how this game is going — toward a blowout that people will turn off at halftime and go to bed.
MDS’s pick: Bengals 30, Browns 10.
Florio’s take: The last time Johnny Manziel started against the Bengals, the Browns lost by 30. In Cleveland. This time, the game is in Cincinnati. Which is bad news for the Browns.
Florio’s pick: Bengals 37, Browns 13.
Dolphins at Bills
MDS’s take: When these teams met in the Joe Philbin era, the Bills won 41-14. Dan Campbell may be a better coach than Philbin, but he’s not that much better. The Bills are still the superior team.
MDS’s pick: Bills 27, Dolphins 17.
Florio’s take: The Bills helped get Joe Philbin fired by embarrassing Miami in their home opener. The Dolphins could return the favor by extending Buffalo’s home losing streak to four. The Bills, rested and healthier, can’t let that happen.
Florio’s pick: Bills 23, Dolphins 20.
Packers at Panthers
MDS’s take: This is a tough one. Aaron Rodgers looked like a mere mortal on the road against a good Broncos defense, and now he has to face a good Panthers defense on the road a week later. But I think Rodgers will bounce back and have a big game, and the Packers will win a good game.
MDS’s pick: Packers 24, Panthers 21.
Florio’s take: Green Bay emerged from Sunday night’s game humbled. Carolina emerged from Monday night’s game exhausted. Advantage Packers.
Florio’s pick: Packers 27, Panthers 24.
Rams at Vikings
MDS’s take: This is a very intriguing game in the NFC playoff race. It’s also going to be one of the few times in Adrian Peterson’s career that he hasn’t been the best running back on the field. Todd Gurley will have a huge game and the Rams will establish themselves as playoff contenders.
MDS’s pick: Rams 28, Vikings 20.
Florio’s take: In five wins, the Vikings have beaten teams with a combined record of 9-30. The Rams’ victories include wins over the Seahawks and Cardinals, who have won 10 games between them. As the Vikings enter a six-game stretch that will show the world whether they’re for real, the run begins with a loss to a team better than anyone Minnesota has beaten.
Florio’s pick: Rams 20, Vikings 17.
Washington at Patriots
MDS’s take: The easiest pick on the board. The Patriots are the best team in the NFL right now, and although Washington is trending upward, they’re not ready to win at New England.
MDS’s pick: Patriots 38, Washington 17.
Florio’s take: Eight years ago, the Patriots beat Washington 52-7. This year, it could be just as bad.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 42, Washington 10.
Titans at Saints
MDS’s take: Ken Whisenhunt went 3-20 as the head coach of the Titans. Now they’ve fired him and hired Mike Mularkey . . . who went 3-20 in his last 23 games as a head coach, in Jacksonville and Buffalo. The coaching change won’t make the Titans any better.
MDS’s pick: Saints 33, Titans 20.
Florio’s take: The streaking Saints got a gift this week — a visit from a one-win team that fired its coach on Tuesday.
Florio’s pick: Saints 34, Titans 14.
Jaguars at Jets
MDS’s take: I picked the Jets last week and immediately regretted it when Ryan Fitzpatrick went down on the first series. This week Fitzpatrick will be back, but I think the Jets can beat the Jaguars no matter who’s playing quarterback.
MDS’s pick: Jets 24, Jaguars 17.
Florio’s take: The Jets are reeling, but quarterbackRyan Fitzpatrick is playing. Which will give the Jets a chance to turn things around against a Jaguars team that may be rested but ultimately isn’t ready to pull off a road win in New Jersey.
Florio’s pick: Jets 26, Jaguars 15.
Raiders at Steelers
MDS’s take: The Raiders are a better team than they’ve been given credit for, and I regretted picking against them last week. And yet I think the Steelers’ passing game will make enough big plays against the Raiders’ secondary that they should be able to win a high-scoring, back-and-forth contest.
MDS’s pick: Steelers 35, Raiders 31.
Florio’s take: A ‘70s-era AFC rivalry is renewed, with major postseason implications. The Steelers don’t have Le’Veon Bell — but they do have Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown and enough pieces to avoid losing back-to-back home games.
Florio’s pick: Steelers 23, Raiders 20.
Falcons at 49ers
MDS’s take: Colin Kaepernick was playing poorly enough that his benching is justifiable, but if you think Blaine Gabbert is the answer to the 49ers’ problems, please contact me directly for any bets you’d like to place. The Falcons will hammer Gabbert & Co.
MDS’s pick: Falcons 28, 49ers 10.
Florio’s take: The 49ers reportedly hand-picked the Falcons as the team against which Blaine Gabbert should debut. That should go over well with the Falcons.
Florio’s pick: Falcons 27, 49ers 13.
Giants at Buccaneers
MDS’s take: The Buccaneers are starting to come around and play better football, but I don’t think their secondary is quite good enough to stop Eli Manning and Odell Beckham. The Giants will win a close game.
MDS’s pick: Giants 28, Buccaneers 24.
Florio’s take: The up-and-down Giants are due to win, assuming they can hold the Buccaneers to fewer than 50 points. The Bucs have scored plenty of points in recent weeks, before allowing the other team to come back.
Florio’s pick: Giants 30, Buccaneers 23.
Broncos at Colts
MDS’s take: Peyton Manning’s return to Indianapolis comes as the Broncos are coming off their most impressive win of the season, and the Colts are reeling from an ugly loss. The Broncos’ defense will make life miserable for Andrew Luck.
MDS’s pick: Broncos 20, Colts 10.
Florio’s take: Peyton Manning returns to his adopted home with a defense that could win games even if Jim Sorgi or Curtis Painter were taking the snaps. The only question is whether it’s a big enough embarrassment to spark a coaching change.
Florio’s pick: Broncos 42, Colts 20.
Eagles at Cowboys
MDS’s take: If Tony Romo were playing, I’d pick the Cowboys. I might even pick the Cowboys if Brandon Weeden were playing, given that Weeden played pretty well against the Eagles after Romo went down in Philadelphia. But with Matt Cassel at the helm? The Eagles will take this one.
MDS’s pick: Eagles 17, Cowboys 6.
Florio’s take: The Cowboys handled the Eagles in Week Two on their own field. Dallas hasn’t won since. With Dez Bryant a little healthier and the defense showing it knows how to slow down the Eagles, it’s time for the home team’s long-overdue Win No. 3.
Florio’s pick: Cowboys 27, Eagles 20.
Bears at Chargers
MDS’s take: This looks like one of the worst prime time games of the season, as the Chargers are in terrible injury shape and the Bears are just terrible. Philip Rivers is playing well enough that I’ll take the Chargers.
MDS’s pick: Chargers 23, Bears 21.
Florio’s take: The perils of making a full-season Monday Night Football schedule in April will be on full display as the 2-5 Bears take on the 2-6 Chargers. Chicago isn’t as bad as its record reflects; the Chargers may be worse.
Florio’s pick: Bears 27, Chargers 20.