Enjoyed a modestly slump-busting 8-7 mark against the spread last week, highlighted by Texans-with-points in my Upset of the Week call (Aawwk!) and a rare exact score bulls-eye in Packers 31-13 win. Make no mistake, though. Im still trying to crawl up out of the commode for the season. I dont kid myself. This isnt just a rough start; not with the NFL bearing down on midseason. This is just plainly an off-year so far. My .561 winning percentage overall and my .397 vs. the betting line both are on pace to be my worst ever across 23 seasons doing this. Avoiding the shame of that double ignominy is what drives me now. It may be time to consider steroids. [Note: Thursday-game pick was Panthers (-6) over Buccaneers, 24-16].
Line: NE by 7
Cotes pick: NE 24-20
TV: 1 p.m., CBS (airing in South Florida)
First things first. The Patriots arent scary. Games at New England used to be, but no more. Not with Tom Bradys passer rating sputtering at a mediocre 75.3. Not with injuries disheveling Bill Belichicks defense to the point even the Jets rang up 30 on em last week. Three of the Pats wins have been by a combined eight points. Yes, this is a beatable team, even up there, and Miami will keep it close and has a medium-to-large outright upset shot. (Get ready. Here comes the but). But having Rob Gronkowski back will drag Brady back into sync, a process that could accelerate Sunday against a Miami defense not renowned for defending tight ends very well. The Pats havent stopped being a strong home team, either. Theyre 3-0 at The Fox this year, and on a 13-0 home run in AFC East games. Also, Team Hoodie has won six straight in this series, three straight losses have staggered the visitors confidence, and now error-prone Ryan Tannehill seven INTs, four lost fumbles is playing with his right shoulder at less than 100 percent. Pats may be far from a juggernaut, but theyre still playoff-strong, and Foxborough remains a tough place for teams still trying to figure things out to get well.
Line: DET by 3
Cotes pick: DAL 31-27
TV: 1 p.m., FOX
I know. What a lame Game of the Week! youre thinking. Hey, I cant help that Week 8 is light on heavyweight bouts. Is it my fault this is one of only two games (Jets-Bengals) in which both teams have winning records? Give this game its props. Tony Romo and Matthew Stafford make an entertaining shootout likely, and we have a neat little subplot in Dez Bryant saying this week, of Calvin Johnson, I can do whatever he can do. Ill like Dezs chances better if Calvin is out injured, which I sort of prefer, given my pick here. Upset! Cowboys a nifty 6-1 against the spread this year, and Romo has 300-plus yards in three straight wins over Motown. Make it four, please.
Line: ARI by 2.5
Cotes pick: ATL 23-20
TV: 4:25 p.m., FOX
AAWWK! booms the Upset Bird, soaring over the landscape dressed as a businessman, his Halloween outfit. Bird Bowl! Atlantaaawwwk! I am not sure the Falcons, traveled across country, will beat Arizona. Im MORE sure that Cardinals QB Carson Palmer, of the 11 interceptions in his past five games, will beat Arizona. Two erratic teams make this a dicey call, but I like Steven Jackson, likely back from injury, vs. a Cacti run-D that has struggled lately. Need some INTs from Palmer, agrees a nodding U-Bird. Carson Pickmore. Paaawwwk!