The tie has been broken. Unfortunately.
Last week, MDS got lucky with the Packers over the Lions and I didn’t get as lucky as I should have with the Saints over the Panthers and I foolishly trusted the Raiders over the Chiefs. He’s now up three with four weeks to go.
The good news is we disagree on three more games this week, which gives me a chance to tie things up. The bad news is that there’s a chance I’ll be down six soon.
For the year, MDS is at 122-70 (63.5 percent), and I’m at 119-73 (61.9 percent).
For this week’s picks, keep reading.
Vikings at Cardinals
MDS’s take: The Vikings are probably going to make the playoffs, but I think they’re trending in the wrong direction. The Cardinals, however, may just be the best team in the NFC, the Panthers’ undefeated record notwithstanding. Arizona should win this one comfortably.
MDS’s pick: Cardinals 31, Vikings 17.
Florio’s take: The Seahawks exposed the Vikings on Sunday. The Cardinals will expose them even more. And it doesn’t help that four starters are missing on defense.
Florio’s pick: Cardinals 41, Vikings 13.
Falcons at Panthers
MDS’s take: A couple months ago, the two late-season Falcons-Panthers games looked like they’d be two of the marquee games of the year. Instead, the Falcons have gone into free-fall, and this looks like a blowout.
MDS’s pick: Panthers 35, Falcons 20.
Florio’s take: This game would have been a lot more compelling if played when both teams were 5-0. Now? Not.
Florio’s pick: Panthers 24, Falcons 14.
Washington at Bears
MDS’s take: Washington has played some ugly football on the road this year (and at home on Monday night) and I see that continuing in Chicago on Sunday. Someone has to win the NFC East, but Washington looks like it’s poised to botch a golden opportunity.
MDS’s pick: Bears 27, Washington 24.
Florio’s take: Washington is 0-5 on the road. Make that 0-6.
Florio’s pick: Bears 24, Washington 17.
Steelers at Bengals
MDS’s take: The Steelers look to me like they’re poised to become the best team that misses the playoffs. A Cincinnati win will make it that much harder for Pittsburgh to reach the postseason.
MDS’s pick: Bengals 24, Steelers 17.
Florio’s take: It’s a key game for both teams, but for reasons unrelated to the AFC North crown. The Steelers’ offense is more diverse than it was when they last met, and the Cincinnati defense is a bit banged up. Since they may not cross paths in the postseason, let’s give the edge to the team that needs the win in order to even qualify for the playoffs.
Florio’s pick: Steelers 24, Bengals 21.
49ers at Browns
MDS’s take: Johnny Manziel vs. Blaine Gabbert. Can you feel the excitement? I think Johnny Football will make a couple big plays with his legs and a couple big plays with his arm, and that should be enough.
MDS’s pick: Browns 21, 49ers 20.
Florio’s take: Eric Mangini returns to Cleveland, with a team that just stole a win in Chicago against a much better Bears team. Johnny Manziel or not, the Browns simply aren’t good enough, and the dysfunction the organization once again is displaying will make it hard to win another game this year. The good news is that they’ll finally be able to screw up another No. 1 overall draft pick.
Florio’s pick: 49ers 20, Browns 13.
Colts at Jaguars
MDS’s take: A 40-year-old backup quarterback isn’t going to keep playing at a high level forever, and the Colts found that out the hard way last week in Pittsburgh. I think it’ll happen again on Sunday in Jacksonville.
MDS’s pick: Jaguars 24, Colts 14.
Florio’s take: The Jaguars have slid out of contention in the AFC South, but they’re not dead yet. And they could be good enough to finish what they started earlier this year, when the Jaguars nearly beat the Colts in Indianapolis.
Florio’s pick: Jaguars 27, Colts 21.
Chargers at Chiefs
MDS’s take: The Chiefs are playing some of the best football in the league right now, and the Chargers are playing some of the worst. This should be easy.
MDS’s pick: Chiefs 42, Chargers 17.
Florio’s take: The Chiefs, winners of six in a row, won’t be losing to a Chargers team that has fallen apart as the season has gone on.
Florio’s pick: Chiefs 30, Chargers 20.
Titans at Jets
MDS’s take: Marcus Mariota’s development has been impressive this season, but the Jets’ defense is going to give him a lot of trouble. The Jets should win this one comfortably.
MDS’s pick: Jets 34, Titans 21.
Florio’s take: It’s a trap game for the Jets, like the one they nearly blew to the Jaguars earlier this year. It would be fitting if the Jets find a way to blow it, but with a playoff berth within their grasp, they should be able to beat a team that is inferior at every position — except perhaps the most important position on the field.
Florio’s pick: Jets 27, Titans 20.
Bills at Eagles
MDS’s take: Are the Eagles the team that got blown out in back-to-back weeks by the Buccaneers and Lions, or the team that won at New England? I’m going to bet that last week’s win was an anomaly, and the Eagles will be back to their losing ways on Sunday.
MDS’s pick: Bills 20, Eagles 17.
Florio’s take: LeSean McCoy returns to Philadelphia, and coach Rex Ryan loves to indulge players with a chip on their shoulders. McCoy undoubtedly will be a captain for the game, and he surely will be a major part of the game plan. If the Eagles can shut him down, the Eagles can win the game.
Florio’s pick: Eagles 27, Bills 23.
Lions at Rams
MDS’s take: Neither of these teams is going anywhere, but the Lions have been showing more fight than the Rams, so I’ll go with Detroit in a game you won’t want to watch.
MDS’s pick: Lions 14, Rams 13.
Florio’s take: The Rams are closing in on a potential departure from St. Louis. The Lions are trying to recover from one of their most deflating regular-season losses in years. Most importantly, Detroit currently is the better team.
Florio’s pick: Lions 24, Rams 20.
Saints at Buccaneers
MDS’s take: It’s mid-December, and the Bucs are right in the thick of the NFC playoff race. That’s a credit to Lovie Smith’s ability to get his defense going, and Jameis Winston’s development. I expect Winston to have a big game against a bad Saints defense.
MDS’s pick: Buccaneers 31, Saints 20.
Florio’s take: The Bucs beat the Saints in New Orleans, and it won’t be easy for the Saints to recover from nearly knocking off the Panthers. Especially with the Bucs looking at a potential playoff berth.
Florio’s pick: Buccaneers 30, Saints 24.
Raiders at Broncos
MDS’s take: The Raiders have the better young quarterback in the Derek Carr vs. Brock Osweiler matchup, but the Broncos have the better defense, and that’s why they’ll win this game.
MDS’s pick: Broncos 20, Raiders 10.
Florio’s take: This will be the only apples-to-apples comparison between Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler. Manning beat the Raiders, but played poorly. Osweiler could move another step toward keeping the job by beating the Raiders, and playing well.
Florio’s pick: Broncos 31, Raiders 21.
Cowboys at Packers
MDS’s take: Give the Cowboys credit for finding a way to win ugly in Washington, but they won’t be able to do it in Green Bay.
MDS’s pick: Packers 28, Cowboys 13.
Florio’s take: The Packers dodged a cannonball last Thursday night, and they should be able to close out the season with another division title, especially against a Cowboys team that lucked into a Monday night win in Washington.
Florio’s pick: Packers 28, Cowboys 17.
Seahawks at Ravens
MDS’s take: The Seahawks’ offense is playing some excellent football with Russell Wilson’s passing and Thomas Rawls’ rushing. They shouldn’t have much trouble beating Baltimore.
MDS’s pick: Seahawks 35, Ravens 14.
Florio’s take: Question . . . Matt Schaub or Jimmy Clausen? Answer . . . Does it matter?
Florio’s pick: Seahawks 27, Ravens 9.
Patriots at Texans
MDS’s take: The injuries to Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman have made Tom Brady look human, but on Sunday Bill Belichick should have a good game plan to stop Brian Hoyer, and the Patriots should win a close one.
MDS’s pick: Patriots 23, Texans 17.
Florio’s take: Whether Bill Belichick was outcoached or simply outcoached himself against the Eagles, Belichick won’t let it happen again — especially against a former Belichick assistant and in prime time.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 27, Texans 20.
Giants at Dolphins
MDS’s take: The Giants have found a way to lose games they should have won so many times this year that I can’t be confident picking them. But I will pick them, in a close game that they somehow don’t throw away late.
MDS’s pick: Giants 17, Dolphins 16.
Florio’s take: Eventually, Tom Coughlin may be retiring in Florida. His retirement (or otherwise) could be hastened in Florida. Assuming they can hold a fourth-quarter lead (which could be a stretch), the Giants should be able to outscore the Dolphins.
Florio’s pick: Giants 23, Dolphins 16.