All I wanted was a chance to catch MDS. And I suddenly have it.
After going 3-1 in our head-to-head disagreements last week, I’m now five games back. And we disagree on five games this week. If I can pull off the unlikely-but-not-unpossible five-game sweep, we’ll be tied with four weeks left.
For all our picks for Thanksgiving weekend, scroll baby, scroll.
I was 8-6 last week, MDS was 6-8, and for the year he still leads at 113-63. I’m 108-68.
Packers at Lions
MDS’s take: Does anyone want to win the NFC North? None of the contenders are playing like it. Two weeks ago, the Lions were in great shape to run away with the division, and now they’ve lost back-to-back games to teams with losing records. Still, I don’t trust the Packers’ defense to rein in a Lions offense with Calvin Johnson (who missed the previous Lions-Packers game with a knee injury) and I don’t trust the Packers’ offense to score much without Aaron Rodgers.
MDS’s pick: Lions 24, Packers 14.
Florio’s take: Detroit needs to end its recent free fall. So do the Packers. With Aaron Rodgers most likely out, the Lions have more talent and more incentive to win. They’ll still have four games after that to screw things up and miss the playoffs.
Florio’s pick: Lions 27, Packers 20.
Raiders at Cowboys
MDS’s take: Dallas is neck-and-neck in an NFC East race that seems destined to be determined in Week 17. The Cowboys know they can’t afford any slip-ups, and they’ll avoid one against an overmatched Raiders team.
MDS’s pick: Cowboys 27, Raiders 13.
Florio’s take: A letdown is entirely possible for the home team, with the erratic and underachieving Raiders coming to town only four days after the Cowboys scored an emotional and physical win over the Giants. And I’m tempted to pick the upset, because losing in this spot would be the ultimate Cowboys maneuver. But this could be the year that chances perceptions in Dallas -- at least until the Panthers or Cardinals roll into town for the wild-card round of the playoffs.
Florio’s pick: Cowboys 34, Raiders 21.
Steelers at Ravens
MDS’s take: It says something about how bad the AFC is that the winner of this game will (for at least three days) take the lead for the sixth and final playoff spot. If one of these teams has a playoff run in them, I think it’s Baltimore.
MDS’s pick: Ravens 17, Steelers 14.
Florio’s take: Ben Roethlisberger has a 7-2 record against Joe Flacco, and a 3-1 mark in Baltimore since Flacco and John Harbaugh arrived. More importantly, the Steelers have become the Steelers again.
Florio’s pick: Steelers 13, Ravens 10.
Buccaneers at Panthers
MDS’s take: The Bucs are playing surprisingly good football on their current three-game winning streak (and in an overtime loss at Seattle before that). But Tampa Bay isn’t on the same level as Carolina, which is playing far too well to get tripped up at home.
MDS’s pick: Panthers 28, Buccaneers 21.
Florio’s take: It’s another potential letdown for a Panthers team poised to challenge the Saints for the division title. The Bucs will give Carolina a tough fight and possibly win the game -- but these Panthers know how to overcome adversity with a potent defense and a maturing quarterback who soon will be in the MVP discussion.
Florio’s pick: Panthers 27, Buccaneers 23.
Jaguars at Browns
MDS’s take: This is a tough one. Can I pick a Brandon Weeden-led Browns team to win a game? I don’t feel like I can. But can I pick the Jaguars to win their third consecutive road game? I don’t feel like I can. I suppose I could pick this game to end in a tie, but I’ll say the Browns find a way to win.
MDS’s pick: Browns 12, Jaguars 10.
Florio’s take: The Factory of Sadness hosts a perpetually sad team that has been a little less sad lately. I feel sad for anyone who bought tickets for this one.
Florio’s pick: Browns 24, Jaguars 13.
Titans at Colts
MDS’s take: If the Titans win this one, they can make the AFC South race interesting. But I have a feeling Andrew Luck is going to put the Colts on his back over the final month of the season and drag them to the playoffs.
MDS’s pick: Colts 33, Titans 21.
Florio’s take: Outscored 93-12 in the first halves of the last four games, the Colts can essentially nail down the AFC South with a win over Tennessee. It won’t be easy -- and they may not go far in the playoffs -- but the Colts reclaim the division, even if by default.
Florio’s pick: Colts 30, Titans 24.
Broncos at Chiefs
MDS’s take: After giving up a 24-0 halftime lead in New England, the pressure is on the Broncos. Lose in Kansas City, and there’s a good chance that they’ll be on the road throughout the playoffs. But I think Peyton Manning will turn things around and win a big one against the Chiefs.
MDS’s pick: Broncos 28, Chiefs 20.
Florio’s take: The stakes are high for this one, with the winner on track to secure the top seed and the loser relegated at best to No. 5. Lost in Kansas City’s defensive collapse is that the Chiefs had their best offensive output of the year against the Chargers.
Florio’s pick: Chiefs 30, Broncos 27.
Bears at Vikings
MDS’s take: Minnesota is a bad matchup for Chicago. The thing the Bears do worst is stop the run, and the thing the Vikings do best is hand the ball off to Adrian Peterson. The Bears will hurt their own playoff hopes and drop a game in the division.
MDS’s pick: Vikings 24, Bears 23.
Florio’s take: Josh McCown gets another crack at the Vikings, nearly a decade after he knocked Minnesota out of the playoffs in a Week 17 thriller at Arizona. At least McCown can’t impact the Vikings’ playoff position this time around.
Florio’s pick: Bears 24, Vikings 21.
Dolphins at Jets
MDS’s take: The Jets had a nice run, but they look like they’re on the verge of collapse. Miami is still playing competitive football.
MDS’s pick: Dolphins 20, Jets 10.
Florio’s take: It’s an elimination game, as a practical matter, between a pair of AFC East teams that seem to be trying to get eliminated. The Dolphins get eliminated on Sunday.
Florio’s pick: Jets 24, Dolphins 16.
Cardinals at Eagles
MDS’s take: This is a surprisingly great game. The Cardinals’ defense is playing tough, physical football, while Nick Foles and Chip Kelly have the Eagles’ offense rolling. In a close game with playoff implications for both teams, I’ll take the Eagles at home.
MDS’s pick: Eagles 28, Cardinals 24.
Florio’s take: Former Eagles defensive coordinator Todd Bowles comes home with a much better defense, and one of the hottest teams in the league. Chip Kelly never saw an Arizona team like this when he was at Oregon.
Florio’s pick: Cardinals 27, Eagles 20.
Falcons at Bills
MDS’s take: The CFL season is over, and now the Canadian fans get to see two of the NFL’s worst teams square off in Toronto. I’m not sure if I’d pick the Falcons to beat anyone right now.
MDS’s pick: Bills 17, Falcons 14.
Florio’s take: It’s fitting that the Falcons will be playing in Toronto. They’ve imploded almost as quickly and completely as the mayor. The implosion continues.
Florio’s pick: Bills 20, Falcons 17.
Rams at 49ers
MDS’s take: I love the way the Rams are playing tough, physical football, and I also love the way they’re finally making use of Tavon Austin’s game-changing speed. Unfortunately, they’re catching a 49ers team that looks like it’s getting all the pieces in place for a late-season run.
MDS’s pick: 49ers 31, Rams 17.
Florio’s take: Before Niners fans get too giddy about Monday night, keep in mind that the victory came against the Redskins. This next one will be a lot harder. Throw in the short week and the cross-country flight, and it could be time for an upset. And I was going to take the upset And then I remembered that Kellen Clemens is the St. Louis quarterback, and that the 49ers can actually defend against the run.
Florio’s pick: 49ers 20, Rams 10.
Patriots at Texans
MDS’s take: New England beat Houston easily last year, when the Texans were good. The Patriots will surely beat the Texans easily now that they’re bad.
MDS’s pick: Patriots 38, Texans 14.
Florio’s take: It was nearly a year ago that the Patriots brought the 11-1 Texans back to reality with a 42-14 drubbing in New England. Since then, the Texans are 4-13. The letterman jackets are in mothballs, and the coaching staff is about to get exterminated.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 42, Texans 13.
Bengals at Chargers
MDS’s take: With Geno Atkins and Leon Hall out for the seaosn, I think the Bengals’ defense is going to be a major liability down the stretch. Look for the Chargers’ offense to put a lot of points on the board as San Diego keeps up its run toward the final AFC wild-card berth.
MDS’s pick: Chargers 34, Bengals 28.
Florio’s take: The Bengals aren’t the same team on the road as they are at home. The Chargers weren’t the same team at Kansas City that they’ve been most of the year. Give the advantage to the home team.
Florio’s pick: Chargers 30, Bengals 21.
Giants at Redskins
MDS’s take: In the race for last place in the NFC East, I think Washington will get to the bottom with another poor showing from Robert Griffin III, who turns the ball over far too often and will do so a couple times against the Giants.
MDS’s pick: Giants 21, Redskins 10.
Florio’s take: The spotlight of the national stage remains in D.C., and things are getting more and more dysfunctional. From winning their final seven after starting 3-6 last year, these Redskins could do the opposite, starting at 3-6 and ending at 3-13.
Florio’s pick: Giants 24, Redsins 13.
Saints at Seahawks
MDS’s take: The best game of the week, between the two best teams in the NFC, will come down to home-field advantage and will all but clinch home field throughout the playoffs for the Seahawks. Seattle is such a tough place to play that it’s hard for me to see the Saints winning there -- and hard for me to see the Seahawks losing at home in the playoffs.
MDS’s pick: Seahawks 27, Saints 20.
Florio’s take: The race for the No. 1 seed ends Monday night, if the Seahawks win. It becomes a bigger “if” without Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond. But the 12th Man can fill the avoid, and the 13th Man (i.e., the weatherman) could be the difference, with freezing temperatures and the possibility of rain/snow in the extended forecast.
Florio’s pick: Seahawks 24, Saints 17.