The bad news is that I’m now nine games behind MDS through 10 weeks. (Pointing out that it’s through 10 weeks makes it sound a little less lame.) The good news is that it can’t get much worse this week.
We disagree on only one game. And it’s one of the biggest games of the week.
Scroll down to see our takes and picks for all of the 14 games to be played this weekend, starting tonight with the Titans visiting the Steelers in Pittsburgh.
Titans at Steelers
MDS’s take: The Steelers have a tendency to play down to the level of their opponents in games against bad teams like the Colts (whom the Steelers barely beat) and the Bears (who beat the Steelers). But against a pretty good team like the Titans, the Steelers will come to play.
MDS’s pick: Steelers 30, Titans 20.
Florio’s take: It’s often a crapshoot when it comes to the Steelers, but they tend to be focused and prepared when playing in prime time, where they’re 31-16 under Mike Tomlin. The twist in this case comes from Titans assistant Dick LeBeau knowing the team’s offense and personnel incredibly well. Under the lights at Heinz Field, that probably won’t be enough to make the difference — as long as the Steelers truly show up.
Florio’s pick: Steelers 27, Titans 23.
Lions at Bears
MDS’s take: This won’t be an easy game for the Lions, who may struggle to put many points on the board on a cold day in Chicago. But the Lions’ defense should hold Mitchell Trubisky in check well enough to win a close game.
MDS’s pick: Lions 14, Bears 10.
Florio’s take: The Bears are dangerous, especially at home. But the Lions are finding their stride by racking up wins and not taking anyone for granted. They’ll check another box as they move toward a Thanksgiving showdown with the Vikings.
Florio’s pick: Lions 24, Bears 13.
Jaguars at Browns
MDS’s take: DeShone Kizer had his best game last week in Detroit, but this week against an excellent Jaguars pass defense, he’s going to have a tough time. The Jaguars should win handily.
MDS’s pick: Jaguars 21, Browns 6.
Florio’s take: A pair of franchises mired in years of difficulty are moving in very different directions. And the Jaguars will show Browns fans what the Browns could be if they ever find a way to make good decisions about young players over a period of several years.
Florio’s pick: Jaguars 20, Browns 9.
Ravens at Packers
MDS’s take: Brett Hundley showed some signs of improvement last week against the Bears, but the Packers are still going to have a tough time putting many points on the board on Sunday, and the Ravens should win a low-scoring game.
MDS’s pick: Ravens 17, Packers 13.
Florio’s take: The Ravens have had two weeks to get ready for a showdown in a place where the Packers suddenly are having a hard time winning games, primarily because they don’t have Aaron Rodgers. Baltimore is capable of a periodically impressive performance, and if one doesn’t happen on Sunday, their chances of getting to the playoffs could sink close to zero.
Florio’s pick: Ravens 24, Packers 20.
Cardinals at Texans
MDS’s take: In a battle of two teams with backup quarterbacks, I see the Cardinals’ defense forcing Tom Savage into a few turnovers to win an ugly game.
MDS’s pick: Cardinals 16, Texans 13.
Florio’s take: Drew Stanton or Blaine Gabbert will be facing Tom Savage, while Colin Kaepernick continues to wait for a call that may never come. The difference maker will be Adrian Peterson, who will have an easier time finding running lanes than when he faced the Seahawks.
Florio’s pick: Cardinals 23, Texans 17.
Buccaneers at Dolphins
MDS’s pick: Dolphins 14, Buccaneers 10.
Florio’s take: The Week One game that was delayed due to a hurricane comes at a time when both teams seems to be mired in quicksand. After three straight losses, the Dolphins get a chance to start to turn things around.
Florio’s pick: Dolphins 27, Buccaneers 17.
Rams at Vikings
MDS’s take: Jared Goff takes on Case Keenum in a matchup of two quarterbacks who look great this year after looking terrible as teammates with the Rams last year. This game feels like a coin flip to me, but I’ll take the home team.
MDS’s pick: Vikings 23, Rams 20.
Florio’s take: Game of the week. A rematch of some classic playoff contests, between a pair of teams that may be destined to meet again in the elimination round. Minnesota’s defense is the difference-maker, especially at home.
Florio’s pick: Vikings 17, Rams 13.
Chiefs at Giants
MDS’s take: This is the easiest game on the board to pick. The Giants have quit on Ben McAdoo, and the Chiefs will roll.
MDS’s pick: Chiefs 35, Giants 10.
Florio’s take: Andy Reid rarely loses after the bye, in any year. The Giants in 2017 rarely win.
Florio’s pick: Chiefs 37, Giants 17.
Washington at Saints
MDS’s take: The Saints are playing as well as anyone in the NFL right now, and they’ll keep their march to the playoffs going.
MDS’s pick: Saints 30, Washington 17.
Florio’s take: Washington has shown that it can win a big game on the road, and this is a big game on the road. But it may be bigger than what Washington can handle, given the dramatic improvement of the Saints, on both sides of the ball.
Florio’s pick: Saints 27, Washington 23.
Bills at Chargers
MDS’s take: Nathan Peterman gets his first career start, while the Chargers don’t know who their quarterback will be, as Philip Rivers is in the concussion protocol. That makes this a tough game to pick but I’ll go with the Chargers.
MDS’s pick: Chargers 20, Bills 17.
Florio’s take: Nathan Peterman could eventually become a very good quarterback for the Bills. For now, a baptism by lightning bolt may be too much to handle.
Florio’s pick: Chargers 28, Bills 17.
Bengals at Broncos
MDS’s take: The Broncos have gone into the tank in recent weeks, but the Bengals’ offense probably won’t put many points on the board in Denver. I’ll pick the home team in a close and low-scoring game.
MDS’s pick: Broncos 14, Bengals 13.
Florio’s take: Two years ago, a late-season showdown between these two teams had a postseason bye on the line. This season, both teams have had their playoff hopes go farewell long ago.
Florio’s pick: Broncos 17, Bengals 12.
Patriots vs. Raiders
MDS’s take: The altitude of Mexico City will make this game an interesting one in the kicking game, and a 70-yard field goal isn’t out of the question. Look for Tom Brady to complete some deep passes against the Raiders’ secondary and win a high-scoring game.
MDS’s pick: Patriots 35, Raiders 31.
Florio’s take: Whether Massachusetts, California, or Mexico, the Raiders simply aren’t ready to keep pace with the Patriots.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 34, Raiders 20.
Eagles at Cowboys
MDS’s take: The Cowboys are reeling, and the Eagles coming to town isn’t going to make life any easier.
MDS’s pick: Eagles 24, Cowboys 17.
Florio’s take: It’s desperation time for Dallas, and sometimes desperation is the difference. The Cowboys find a higher gear and secure a hard-fought win, delaying (but not preventing) the inevitable clinching of the division by the Eagles.
Florio’s pick: Cowboys 27, Eagles 24.
Falcons at Seahawks
MDS’s take: The Falcons played one of their best games of the season on Sunday and the Seahawks are struggling with injuries, but I still like Seattle to take this one.
MDS’s pick: Seahawks 20, Falcons 17.
Florio’s take: Russell Wilson’s one-man band continues to find a way to make something close enough to actual music in Seattle.
Florio’s pick: Seahawks 20, Falcons 13.