In my opinion

Greg Cote’s Week 15 NFL picks


How the darts landed

The law of averages — the law I’d been breaking with incessant woe — finally turned in my favor last week. Our 13-3 record overall tied our best of the season, and our 8-6-2 against the spread marked only our fifth winning week over the betting line. Now that we have proved the law of averages really does exist, we take on another unreliable concept: Momentum. Late-season rally! (Thursday-game pick was Broncos (-10) over Chargers, 31-23).

OverallPct.vs. spreadPct.
Last week13-3.8138-6-2.571
Final 2012166-89-1.651114-120-22.488

PATRIOTS (10-3) at DOLPHINS (7-6)

Line: NE by 21/2.

Cote’s pick: MIA 27-23.

TV: 1 p.m.; CBS (airing in South Florida).

What!? Dolphins involved in a Game of the Week? Yes, and unabashedly. It’s a division rivalry, playoff stakes are high, and it also happens to be the Week 15 matchup with the best combined record. (In fact, oddly, Ravens-Lions on Monday night is the only other game in which both teams have a winning record.) Patriots clinch AFC East crown with a win, but they’re playoff-bound either way. It’s Miami that truly needs to win to keep hopes alive. By the way, what were the odds that the Dolphins would have lost two offensive linemen to a bullying scandal while a third (Mike Pouncey) missed practice this week to testify in a murder investigation? New England has won seven in a row in this series, including Oct. 27, but I like Dolphins in an upset. All three NE losses have been on the road, and Tom Brady is missing his pacifier again in injured-again Rob Gronkowski. Besides, Pats have exceeded their dumb-luck quota after being first team since the 2000 Chiefs to win three games in a row after trailing in each by double digits. That includes last week’s gift win over the ref-robbed Browns. Ryan Tannehill passes for more yards than Tom Brady. Watch and see.

BENGALS (9-4) at STEELERS (5-8)

Line: CIN by 3.

Cote’s pick: PIT 21-20.

TV: 8:30 p.m.; NBC (airing in South Florida).

“AAWWK!” carols the Upset Bird. “Deck the halls with Big Ben. Baaawwwk!!” No matter the result here, Cincinnati is likely headed for a third consecutive playoff appearance for first time in club’s 46 seasons, and Steelers almost certainly are not. Cincy’s defense had its way in teams’ first meeting, 20-10, but I still like Pitt as a home ’dog here. Ben Roethlisberger is 14-6 in his career vs. Bengals and 11-0 on TDs/picks in his past four games. Did I mention all four Cincy losses have been on the road? Sunday nighter should be a physical grudge on the frozen tundra. Where’s John Facenda’s voice when you need it? “Indeed,” concurs U-Bird, donning a Lombardi-esque fedora to augment the picture of wintry football. “Pittsbaaawwwk!”

REDSKINS (3-10) at FALCONS (3-10)

Line: ATL by 61/2.

Cote’s pick: ATL 31-26.

TV: 1 p.m.; Fox.

Quick call for the Dog panel, as this is the week’s only game in which both teams are mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. Also scientifically, philosophically and theologically eliminated. Two teams that won their divisions in 2012 but now share the NFC’s worst record — that is sadness, friend. The Unmentionable Nicknames are 1-5 on road and now benching Robert Griffin III the rest of the way in favor of Kirk Cousins to proect RG3’s health. Still think bet-line feels fat.

BEARS (7-6) at BROWNS (4-9)

Line: CLE by 1.

Cote’s pick: CHI 34-20.

TV: 1 p.m.; Fox.

Jay Cutler returns from injury to lead Chicago’s late scramble for a playoff spot — a risk, considering Josh McCown had been playing very well. Easing Jay’s return: Browns on a four-game skid and a Cleveland pass defense that has allowed at least two opponent TD passes in eight consecutive games. Chitown fans should be more worried about their defense. Aside to Bears: Somebody wanna mind Josh Gordon? He has 774 receiving yards the past four games.

TEXANS (2-11) at COLTS (8-5)

Line: IND by 51/2.

Cote’s pick: IND 24-17.

TV: 1 p.m.; CBS.

Houston coach Wade Phillips takes over for fired Gary Kubiak and confronts the Colts’ 11-0 all-time home record in this series, and by an average margin of 13.9 points. Still, an interesting matchup. Indy has clinched a playoff spot and has little to play for; Texans play to rid themselves of the stench of 11 consecutive losses. Colts only won first meeting 27-24 and haven’t played well lately, with Andrew Luck severely missing Reggie Wayne.

EAGLES (8-5) at VIKINGS (3-9-1)

Line: PHI by 41/2.

Cote’s pick: PHI 30-24.

TV: 1 p.m.; Fox.

Eagles are well in the playoff hunt on the wing of five wins in a row led by QB “Saint” Nick Foles, and they’ve averaged 31.6 points since Week 9. Minny has nothing to play for but wounded pride and could be missing Adrian Peterson. So why does this pick make me nervous?

SEAHAWKS (11-2) at GIANTS (5-8)

Line: SEA by 7.

Cote’s pick: SEA 24-20.

TV: 1 p.m.; Fox.

Seattle risks a letdown after facing 49ers last week, but ’Hawks still gun for division title and first-round bye. And they’re better than you think (5-2) on the road. Marshawn Lynch should bust his recent slump against Biggies’ generous run defense, and NYG’s league-worst 34 turnovers seem a bad match for Seattle’s takeaway-oriented defense. But still hunch it’s close.

49ERS (9-4) at BUCCANEERS (4-9)

Line: SF by 51/2.

Cote’s pick: SF 20-17.

TV: 1 p.m.; Fox.

Frans are in great shape for playoffs and coming off an emotional win over Seattle. Bucs are eliminated but have been pretty good ever since that 0-8 start. T-Bay is plus-13 on turnovers and has an upset shot if it avoids giveaways. See it low-scoring and close.

BILLS (4-9) at JAGUARS (4-9)

Line: BUF by 2.

Cote’s pick: JAC 23-21.

TV: 1 p.m.; CBS.

Our Dog of the Week runner-up begs the question: How on Earth are these two teams still (technically) alive in the playoff chase? Maurice Jones-Drew’s iffy status gives us pause, but these are two teams headed oppositely. Jax has won four of its past five. Buffs have lost three consecutive roadies by a combined 85-33.

CHIEFS (10-3) at RAIDERS (4-9)

Line: KC by 41/2.

Cote’s pick: KC 21-13.

TV: 4:05 p.m.; CBS.

Kansas City, after its first series sweep since ’06, clinches playoff spot with win and should get it. Chiefs are 5-1 on road and have won eight of past 10 trips to Oakland. More specifically, a very hot Jamaal Charles — 359 yards and 6.9 per in past three games — should stay en fuego vs. an Oaks run-D clubbed for 287 yards the past two games.

JETS (6-7) at PANTHERS (9-4)

Line: CAR by 11.

Cote’s pick: CAR 24-6.

TV: 4:05 p.m.; CBS.

Carolina hasn’t clinched a playoff spot yet and should be in big rebound mode at home after being humbled by Saints last week. Rex Ryan’s erratic Jets are a road wreck (1-5) and have fizzled to a 13.2 scoring average away from Planeville.

PACKERS (6-6-1) at COWBOYS (7-6)

Line: OFF.

Cote’s pick: DAL 31-27.

TV: 4:25 p.m.; Fox (airing in South Florida).

Game was off betting boards into Thursday because of the questionable status of Pack QB Aaron Rodgers, who seemed more and more likely to sit out once again, meaning more Matt Flynn in a game with large playoff ramifications on both sides. Give Cheesers a big chance with the way Dallas’ defense has played lately, but make it a venue pick. Cows are 5-1 at home; Gee Bees 2-4 away. Pack’s only other game in Dallas’ new stadium was a Super Bowl win Feb. 6, 2011. They won’t leave as happy this time.

CARDINALS (8-5) at TITANS (5-8)

Line: ARI by 21/2.

Cote’s pick: ARI 24-16.

TV: 4:25 p.m.; Fox.

Arizona risks being the best team to not make the playoffs and needs this one badly. Cardbirds have won five of their past six — fueled by Carson Palmer’s 106.8 passer rating in that stretch — but still have some climbing to do. Tenners’ D has given up 116 points in a four-game home losing streak.

SAINTS (10-3) at RAMS (5-8)

Line: NO by 6.

Cote’s pick: NO 27-23.

TV: 4:25 p.m.; Fox.

N’Awlins clinches a playoff spot with a win and brings a pass rush that should make it very tough on Kellen Clemens. The numbers don’t lie though. Drew Brees’ Saints offense averages 32.9 points at home and a mortal 18.8 on the road. Rams won last meeting in 2011 and should stay close again.

RAVENS (7-6) at LIONS (7-6)

Line: DET by 6.

Cote’s pick: DET 31-23.

TV: 8:40 p.m. Monday; ESPN (airing in South Florida).

Week 15 wraps Monday with our Game of the Week first-alternate — a result that will weigh big in both the AFC and NFC playoff pictures. Dolfans, for sure, will be willing a Ravens loss. Baltimore has won three in a row while Motown has dropped three of four, but I see Lions getting right at home, especially if gimpy Reggie Bush plays as I expect. Ravens are only 1-5 traveling, but key will be Lions avoiding turnovers after having 20 over the past six games. Did you hear that BAL safety Matt Elam referred to Calvin Johnson, 28, as “pretty old?” You went and done it, Matt. You tugged on Superman’s cape. Calvin’s fantasy owners may commence celebrating.

Read more Greg Cote stories from the Miami Herald

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