I have been writing these Friday Page NFL predictions for 23 seasons now, since 1991, and last week continued the worst three-week slump of my career. Somehow, I have turned into the Jacksonville Jaguars. Last weeks records both straight-up and against the spread were so bad I cannot bring myself to say them aloud. I did nail my Upset of the Week Colts over Seahawks, Aawwk! and had Cowboys-with-points over Denver, but that was it, friends. Everything else was a freefall on a defective bungee cord. But Ill bounce back like Wile E. Coyote. Smashed in the ravine one minute, good as new the next. [Note: Thursday-game pick was Bears (-8) over Giants, 34-23].
Line: NE by 2 1/2.
Cotes pick: NE 28-24.
TV: 4:25 p.m., FOX (airing in South Florida).
Not a lot of matchups fill an NFL marquee better than two teams thinking Super Bowl, Drew Brees vs. Tom Brady, Sean Payton vs. Bill Belichick and the possible long-awaited season debut of Pats TE Rob Gronkowski. Saints a very fashionable upset pick; I get that. But Im done overanalyzing as I try to hoist myself out of the deep well Ive fallen into with my recent Friday Page slump. Time to rely on instincts again and on my ample gut, and those things tell me Pats will bounce back big from last weeks offensive fizzle in Cincy. Homies have won 32 of past 35 in the Foxborough foxhole, and Brady (0-3 vs. Brees) is due to one-up his fellow Canton-bound quarterback. Ill feel a lot better about this pick, admittedly, if Gronkowski plays and gives Brady the same weapon Brees has in Jimmy Graham. Perhaps the football gods would consider my recent won-lost record and benevolently grant me that. (Please?)
Line: GB by 2.
Cotes pick: BAL 27-24.
TV: 1 p.m., FOX (airing in South Florida).
AAAWWWK! bellows the Upset Bird, preening in unabashed fellowship with his aviary cousin, the Raven. Baltimaawwk! There are bigger point spreads among my four upset picks this week, but why be a slave to numbers? Crows are 35-7 at home under John Harbaugh, and Gee Bees cant help but suffer from the injury of top defender Clay Matthews, whose absence should make Joe Flaccos afternoon a bit less chaotic. Quoth the Raven: Nevermore shall Aaron Rodgers strafe me for 300 yards, recites the U-Bird, slightly adapting Poe. Nevermaaawwwk!
Line: DEN by 27.
Cotes pick: DEN 34-10.
TV: 4:05 p.m., CBS.
The opening 28-point line (in some sports books) tied the all-time NFL mark for largest betting spread, a suggestion of lopsidedness that made easy work for the Dog panel. There has even been media chatter that Peyton Manning should sit this one out, so foregone is the conclusion. That wont happen, of course, although I could see a heavy dose of backup Brock Osweiler if the score gets too silly. Jax has lost its past three by 76 combined points, and Denver is on a record scoring pace, but Ill take anybody getting this many points.
BENGALS (3-2) AT BILLS (2-3)