Last week, I managed to claw a chunk out of the three-game lead MDS developed the prior weekend. This week, there’s no way I can gain ground.
In picking the outcomes of the 16 games coming up in Week 15, MDS and I agree on each and every game.
Yes, I was tempted to change a couple of my picks while loading them in. But it’s critical to maintain the integrity of and public confidence in this contest. Given our performance this year, it’s pretty much all we have going for us.
For the week, I was 11-5 and MDS was 10-6. For the year, he’s 132-76 (63.4 percent), and I’m at 130-78 (62.5 percent).
Buccaneers at Rams
MDS’s take: Both of these teams have some good young players who have shown flashes of promise this season. On Thursday night, I think the best young players on the field will be Aaron Donald and Todd Gurley, both of the Rams, and St. Louis will win a close, low-scoring game.
MDS’s pick: Rams 17, Buccaneers 14.
Florio’s take: It could be the last game ever played in St. Louis, at least until the next time they pilfer a team from another city. The uniforms look like ketchup and mustard; the outcome could be be something that no one relishes. (Try the veal. With relish.)
Florio’s pick: Rams 24, Buccaneers 20.
Jets at Cowboys
MDS’s take: The Jets’ pass defense is good. The Cowboys’ pass offense is not. Dallas will be shut down offensively.
MDS’s pick: Jets 20, Cowboys 6.
Florio’s take: When the schedule came out, it seemed likely that this late-season prime-time game would have postseason implications for one of the two teams involved. We just thought it would be the other team.
Florio’s pick: Jets 23, Cowboys 13.
Chiefs at Ravens
MDS’s take: The Chiefs are playing some of the best football in the league right now, and the Ravens are playing some of the worst. Kansas City should win this one easily.
MDS’s pick: Chiefs 35, Ravens 14.
Florio’s take: For a trap game to be a trap game, the trap has to be sufficiently potent to operate as a trap. The Ravens are missing the spring, and the cheese has gone rancid.
Florio’s pick: Chiefs 30, Ravens 13.
Texans at Colts
MDS’s take: Neither of these teams is any good, but someone has to win the AFC South, and I think it’s going to be Houston.
MDS’s pick: Texans 21, Colts 20.
Florio’s take: The Texans have never won in Indianapolis. Ever. Then again, the Texans have never played the Colts on their home field after Indy gave up 96 points in back-to-back games. Even with T.J. Yates at quarterback, it’s time for the Texans to do what they’ve never done before.
Florio’s pick: Texans 20, Colts 17.
Falcons at Jaguars
MDS’s take: The Falcons are cratering, and the Jaguars are improving. This would have seemed crazy a couple months ago, but the Jaguars are the better team right now and should win at home.
MDS’s pick: Jaguars 24, Falcons 17.
Florio’s take: It’s battle of former Seahawks defensive coordinators, and essentially a playoff elimination game. With the Jaguars winning by 35 and the Falcons losing by 38, how can I pick Atlanta? (And now Atlanta will win.)
Florio’s pick: Jaguars 30, Falcons 23.
Bears at Vikings
MDS’s take: If the Vikings win out, they win the NFC North. I’m not sure if they’re going to do that, but they’re at least going to stay in contention with a win over the Bears.
MDS’s pick: Vikings 24, Bears 23.
Florio’s take: Not a great opponent? Check. Not a prime-time game? Check. It’s looking like 150 yards or more for Adrian Peterson, a ninth win, and a big step closer to the No. 6 seed.
Florio’s pick: Vikings 27, Bears 20.
Titans at Patriots
MDS’s take: The easiest game on the board to pick. Even with the Patriots struggling through several injuries, they shouldn’t have any trouble with an overmatched Titans team.
MDS’s pick: Patriots 31, Titans 20.
Florio’s take: In 2009, the Patriots beat the Titans 59-0. Could this be worse? Maybe, but I’ll play it a little more safely.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 45, Titans 10.
Panthers at Giants
MDS’s take: The Giants desperately need this win. The Giants have a history of beating undefeated teams in big games. Could they do it? Well, they could . . . but I don’t think they will. The Panthers will survive in a close game.
MDS’s pick: Panthers 20, Giants 17.
Florio’s take: The Giants could beat the Panthers, and it wouldn’t be a shock. But Carolina seems to be firing on all cylinders, the Giants are too inconsistent, and the Panthers likely will be able to take New York’s best shot, if the Giants are able to apply it.
Florio’s pick: Panthers 34, Giants 20.
Bills at Washington
MDS’s take: Does anyone want to win the NFC East? Someone has to, but I have a feeling that there will be a three-way tie for first at 6-8 after Washington loses on Sunday.
MDS’s pick: Bills 21, Washington 20.
Florio’s take: They have the same record, but the Bills are the better team on both sides of the ball. If they uncharacteristically play with discipline, they should be able to pull back to .500.
Florio’s pick: Bills 23, Washington 20.
Packers at Raiders
MDS’s take: The Raiders turned in an impressive second-half comeback win over the Broncos on Sunday, but I don’t think they can do it two weeks in a row. The Packers’ offense is going to be too much for the Raiders’ defense.
MDS’s pick: Packers 28, Raiders 21.
Florio’s take: Oakland stole one last week despite having a pathetic offensive output in the first half. The Packers, fully emerged from their November slumber, should be able to avoid letting the Raiders steal one like they did in Denver.
Florio’s pick: Packers 27, Raiders 16.
Browns at Seahawks
MDS’s take: The Seahawks may be playing the best football of any team in the NFL right now. They’re going to destroy the Browns.
MDS’s pick: Seahawks 41, Browns 10.
Florio’s take: Yes, Johnny Manziel has played in more hostile environments. But not with a talent gap like this one.
Florio’s pick: Seahawks 44, Browns 20.
Broncos at Steelers
MDS’s take: Brock Osweiler got more credit than he deserved when Denver won a few games after he took over for Peyton Manning. The Broncos will lose their second straight game on Sunday, and we’ll start hearing calls for Manning to return.
MDS’s pick: Steelers 28, Broncos 17.
Florio’s take: Brock Osweiler or Peyton Manning, it doesn’t matter. The Steelers offense has found its groove, making it good enough to outscore a Denver team that relies on its defense to support a so-so offense.
Florio’s pick: Steelers 34, Broncos 21.
Dolphins at Chargers
MDS’s take: There’s very little reason for anyone to care about this game, but I figure Philip Rivers will play pretty well and San Diego will win.
MDS’s pick: Chargers 23, Dolphins 20.
Florio’s take: If the Chargers can’t find a way to make it work for what could be the last game they ever play in San Diego, maybe they should fold, not move.
Florio’s pick: Chargers 27, Dolphins 21.
Bengals at 49ers
MDS’s take: If Andy Dalton were healthy, I’d say Cincinnati wins this one easily. With Dalton injured, however, I think Cincinnati will struggle for four quarters before pulling out a late, close win.
MDS’s pick: Bengals 20, 49ers 17.
Florio’s take: A week after losing a trap game to the Browns, the 49ers are reminded that they are the trap game. The Bengals are good enough, even with A.J. McCarron, to avoid stepping in it.
Florio’s pick: Bengals 20, 49ers 13.
Cardinals at Eagles
MDS’s take: The Eagles have played much better on defense and special teams the last couple weeks, but their offense remains problematic. I don’t think they can score enough to keep up with the excellent Cardinals offense.
MDS’s pick: Cardinals 31, Eagles 21.
Florio’s take: The Cardinals are the new America’s Team, with five prime-time games this year. They’re 4-0 so far. Make it five.
Florio’s pick: Cardinals 30, Eagles 26.
Lions at Saints
MDS’s take: The NFL schedule makers probably thought this would be a Monday night matchup of two teams fighting for NFC playoff spots, but they thought wrong. It’s a game that there isn’t much reason to watch, but one the Saints should win.
MDS’s pick: Saints 28, Lions 24.
Florio’s take: Tanks fer nuttin’, April schedule release.
Florio’s pick: Saints 24, Lions 17.