The Colts need nine games to fall their way in order to get to the postseason. In comparison to that, I feel pretty durned good about my chances of overcoming the two-game lead in the picks contest to which MDS clings.
I feel even more durned good about it given that, after two weeks of no disagreements, we differ on five games this weekend.
And so the chips are in to the middle of the table. If I sweep the five games or go 4-1, the season title is mine. If I win 3-2 or if he prevails by any margin, it’s his.
Whatever the outcome, one thing is clear: MDS and I are the only people on the planet who give a durned about it.
With that said, here are our picks for the last weekend of the regular season.
(Before I get to that, here’s the part where I point out that last week we were both a pathetic 8-8. For the year, he’s 153-87 (63.75 percent), and I’m at 151-89 (62.9 percent).)
Saints at Falcons
MDS’s take: Both of these teams showed last week that they’re still playing hard late in a rough season. This should be a fairly entertaining game, as meaningless Week 17 games go, and I’ll take the Falcons to win at home.
MDS’s pick: Falcons 24, Saints 21.
Florio’s take: The Falcons won their bowl game last week against the Panthers. The Saints are committed to finishing strong.
Florio’s pick: Saints 24, Falcons 20.
Jets at Bills
MDS’s take: Can Rex Ryan knock his old team out of the playoffs? I don’t see it. The Jets are playing very well on offense, and Rex’s defense has struggled. The Jets will win and clinch a wild card.
MDS’s pick: Jets 28, Bills 17.
Florio’s take: The Bills are giving off the vibe of a franchise that already has given up on the season, making a victory that could keep the Jets out of the playoffs less likely. New York has continued to improve in recent weeks, and coach Todd Bowles’ calm demeanor will keep the team from getting too freaked out by the unlikely opportunity they now have.
Florio’s pick: Jets 27, Bills 20.
Buccaneers at Panthers
MDS’s take: The Panthers are no longer undefeated, but they are one win from home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. They’ll get that win on Sunday.
MDS’s pick: Panthers 24, Buccaneers 16.
Florio’s take: The Bucs have lost three in a row, and they may as well make it four in order to enhance their draft position. The Panthers are trying to get their swagger back before the postseason, and to ensure that they get the top seed in the NFC.
Florio’s pick: Panthers 31, Buccaneers 21.
Lions at Bears
MDS’s take: In the battle for last place in the NFC North, the Bears’ defense will turn in a good game and win a low-scoring affair.
MDS’s pick: Bears 13, Lions 10.
Florio’s take: Adam Gase makes his closing argument for a head-coaching job. Jim Caldwell makes his closing argument to keep the one he has.
Florio’s pick: Bears 27, Lions 21.
Ravens at Bengals
MDS’s take: The Bengals need to win and get help for a first-round bye. I don’t think they’ll get the help they need, but I do think they’ll win.
MDS’s pick: Bengals 24, Ravens 17.
Florio’s take: Coach John Harbaugh is trying to instill a culture of winning among the various losers who remain available to play. The Bengals are sliding toward another potential one-and-done playoff berth.
Florio’s pick: Ravens 27, Bengals 20.
Steelers at Browns
MDS’s take: Last week’s loss to the Ravens means the Steelers are now a long shot to make the playoffs. They’ll take their frustrations out on the Browns and dominate, winning a game that does nothing more than show Pittsburgh is the best team not to make the playoffs.
MDS’s pick: Steelers 38, Browns 10.
Florio’s take: The Steelers can only blame themselves for missing the playoffs, if the Bills don’t beat the Jets.
Florio’s pick: Steelers 30, Browns 13.
Washington at Cowboys
MDS’s take: It’s a meaningless game for Washington, which is locked into the NFC No. 4 seed, which means they may rest many of their top players. But I still think they should beat a Kellen Moore-led Cowboys team.
MDS’s pick: Washington 20, Cowboys 12.
Florio’s take: The Cowboys beat Washington in their building. Washington now gets a chance to return the favor. It’s a meaningless game for both teams, but it’s one last chance for the Cowboys to do something positive in one of the most negative seasons the team has had in recent years.
Florio’s pick: Cowboys 17, Washington 13.
Jaguars at Texans
MDS’s take: The Texans can clinch the AFC South with a win, and that’s exactly what they’ll do. Although the injury-plagued offense has its problems, the Texans’ defense is pretty good and should force Blake Bortles into some game-changing turnovers.
MDS’s pick: Texans 17, Jaguars 14.
Florio’s take: Houston storms into the postseason with the kind of momentum that should make their first-round playoff game not a blowout loss.
Florio’s pick: Texans 27, Jaguars 17.
Titans at Colts
MDS’s take: The Colts may be starting a quarterback who’s been on the team less than a week. But I just can’t pick a Titans team that is one loss away from the first overall pick. The Colts’ defense will find a way to win this one.
MDS’s pick: Colts 13, Titans 10.
Florio’s take: The Titans only need to lose one more time to get the No. 1 overall pick. Even they can’t screw that up, right? Right?
Florio’s pick: Colts 17, Titans 6.
Raiders at Chiefs
MDS’s take: The Chiefs are playing as well as anyone in the AFC right now and will keep their winning ways going with a big regular-season finale.
MDS’s pick: Chiefs 35, Raiders 20.
Florio’s take: The Chiefs have won nine games in a row. The Raiders stand in their way of finishing the season with 10. And the Raiders are good enough to do it. It’s Oakland’s bowl game, with a chance to send Charles Woodson into retirement with a win, to end the season 8-8, and to lay the foundation for a run at the postseason in 2016.
Florio’s pick: Raiders 27, Chiefs 24.
Patriots at Dolphins
MDS’s take: The Patriots are a win away from home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, and they should get that win against a Dolphins team that looks beaten up and ready to pack it in.
MDS’s pick: Patriots 34, Dolphins 14.
Florio’s take: The Patriots are vulnerable, but the Dolphins gave up on this season a while ago.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 30, Dolphins 17.
Eagles at Giants
MDS’s take: There’s nothing to play for but pride on Sunday, and I think the Giants’ players will be playing to show they haven’t quit on Tom Coughlin, against a team that quit on its coach long ago.
MDS’s pick: Giants 31, Eagles 10.
Florio’s take: Giants coach Tom Coughlin still has a sliver of hope. The Eagles are turned upside down. Advantage, team that hasn’t gotten its coach fired yet.
Florio’s pick: Giants 23, Eagles 16.
Seahawks at Cardinals
MDS’s take: There’s no team in the NFL I’d pick to win at Arizona right now. The Cardinals are a dangerous team heading into January.
MDS’s pick: Cardinals 30, Seahawks 20.
Florio’s take: Arizona treats every game like a playoff game, and this one could give them the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.
Florio’s pick: Cardinals 27, Seahawks 24.
Chargers at Broncos
MDS’s take: The Broncos can secure the division and a bye with a win, and that’s exactly what they’ll do against an overmatched Chargers team.
MDS’s pick: Broncos 28, Chargers 17.
Florio’s take: The Broncos are on a short week after an emotional, overtime win that clinched a playoff berth. The Chargers had four extra days to get ready for this one. And Peyton Manning will be looming over Brock Osweiler’s shoulder. But the importance of a bye will be enough to help the Broncos overcome what should be a stiffer challenge than expected.
Florio’s pick: Broncos 23, Chargers 17.
Rams at 49ers
MDS’s take: In a meaningless game to end the season, Jeff Fisher will get the Rams to eight wins for the first time since 2006.
MDS’s pick: Rams 21, 49ers 20.
Florio’s take: The climb to 8-8 is complete for the most up-and-down team in the league.
Florio’s pick: Rams 27, 49ers 13.
Vikings at Packers
MDS’s take: The Packers have been an inconsistent and at times disappointing team this year, but they played well in their previous game against the Vikings and should wrap up the NFC North with a win at home.
MDS’s pick: Packers 28, Vikings 21.
Florio’s take: The Vikings lose by winning, with an NFC North crown giving them the right to host the Seahawks again. But the Vikings desperately need the burst of confidence that comes from beating the Packers at Lambeau Field. If the Lions and Bears can do it, so can the Vikings.
Florio’s pick: Vikings 27, Packers 20.