In my opinion

Greg Cote’s Week 17 NFL picks

How the darts landed

Channeling “better late than never,” we gave ourselves the holiday gift of a golden 12-3-1 record against the spread last week. That included six ’dogs-with-points and tied our all-time record for most wins ATS in a week. That means we have a strong chance now to still avoid having our worst season ever (.449, 2006). We also have a shot to still get up over the Mendoza line of .600 overall. These are modest little delights, sure. But after the season we’ve had, we’ll take what we can get.

OverallPctvs. spreadPct
Last week8-8.50012-3-1.800
Final 2012166-89-1.651114-120-22.488

JETS (7-8) at DOLPHINS (8-7)

Line: MIA by 61/2.

Cote’s pick: MIA 24-20.

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

OK you know the drill by now. Discounting the infinitesimal factor of tie games, the Dolphins must beat the Stinkin’ Jets on Sunday and then get either a Ravens loss (at Cincinnati) or a Chargers win (vs. Kansas City) to sneak into the playoffs. I like all three to happen, which means I like Miami’s odds. Of course a million Dolfans, beaten down by recent history, are waiting on Murphy’s Law to club them over the head Sunday. Let’s stay positive, though. It all starts with Miami shoving Rex Ryan onto the firing line and denying the Jets their spoiler’s role. Series trends are a wash, with MIA winning seven of past 10 overall but NYJ taking six of past eight here, a.k.a. Jersey South. So what tips it? Ryan Tannehill strafed the Planes for 331 passing yards in that 23-3 win on Dec. 1, and Jets bring a 1-6 road record here. (Tanny needs 291 Sunday to hit 4,000. Brian Hartline [22 yards shy] and Mike Wallace [95] also could reach 1,000). Optimism also is rooted in the notion that Miami embarrassed itself last week in that 19-0 lay-down in Buffalo and now — with only everything to play for — will summon an inspired effort. That’s the theory, anyway. To paraphrase the Clint Eastwood quote from Dirty Harry: “Are you feeling lucky, Dolfan?”

PACKERS (7-7-1) at BEARS (8-7)

Line: OFF.

Cote’s pick: GB 31-27.

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

With bylaws prohibiting a GOTW tie, the selection committee was bitterly torn between this game and Week 17’s other winner-take-all (Eagles-Cowboys) but erupted in applause, and a verdict, when it was announced Thursday that Aaron Rodgers would make his long-anticipated return for Green Bay after seven games out. The indecision on that was why the game had stayed off the bet-boards. Now we get the ultimate stakes — winner wins division and makes playoffs, loser is out and done — and also the bonus of a star QB’s dramatic comeback. I like Green Bay only partly because of Rodgers. Chitown won 27-20 in November and hasn’t swept GB since 2007. Jay Cutler is 1-8 in his career vs. Pack. And Gee Bees’ defense, even sans Clay Matthews, is better. Bears, in fact, may have one of the worst run defenses ever. Their 5.4 yards allowed per carry is highest such figure since 1961. Big running plus Mr. Rodgers will have ’em cheering in Cheesetown.

EAGLES (9-6) at COWBOYS (8-7)

Line: PHI by 61/2.

Cote’s pick: DAL 34-27.

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

“AAWWK!” trills the Upset Bird. “Winner take aaawwwk!” It isn’t the spiked egg nog talking. I am picking a Dallas upset sober and knowing full well that Tony Romo will probably miss the Sunday prime-time duel that will end the NFL regular season — and this losing team’s playoff hopes. Winner in, loser done. And why should Romo’s status bother anybody? Backup Kyle Orton is seasoned (69 career starts) and Romo is 1-6 in elimination games, including 0-3 in finales with a division title on the line. Nick Foles struggled in teams’ first meeting, DeMarco Murray is hot-hot, and I’m counting on some vintage old America’s Team home magic. “You and Jerry Jones,” nods U-Bird, who substitutes Jerry’s name as he begins singing Billy Paul’s Me And Mrs. Jones. “We got a thing going aaawwwk!”

LIONS (7-8) at VIKINGS (4-10-1)

Line: MIN by 3.

Cote’s pick: MIN 27-23.

TV: 1 p.m.; Fox.

This is one of only three wrapup games with both teams playing cadavers in the playoff picture (Texans-Titans, Redskins-Giants), but the Dog panel liked that Detroit has lost three in a row to absolutely choke itself out of contention and that both coaches might get canned. Bonus: Calvin Johnson and Adrian Peterson — the only two reasons to watch — might sit out hurting. Lions have lost 14 of past 15 trips to Metrodome, which has its last hurrah. Make it a fond farewell.

PANTHERS (11-4) at FALCONS (4-11)

Line: CAR by 61/2.

Cote’s pick: CAR 24-21.

TV: 1 p.m.; Fox.

Carolina is playoff-clinched but can win its division and a first-round bye with a win here, and also still has a slim shot at the home-field throughout. So visitors will put up a fight as disappointing Falcons try to play spoiler. Beware an upset, though. WR Steve Smith may be out for Cats, and Matt Ryan is 5-0 vs. Carolina in his home dome in what could be career finale for Falcs’ Tony Gonzalez.

RAVENS (8-7) at BENGALS (10-5)

Line: CIN by 6.

Cote’s pick: CIN 27-17.

TV: 1 p.m.; CBS.

Ravens make playoffs with a win and a loss by either Miami or San Diego. Bengals are in but have incentive; they secure a first-round bye with a win if Pats lose. Defending champions are on 5-1 run in series but are only 2-5 on road this year vs. Cincy’s shiny 7-0 home mark. ’Gals also have topped 40 points in four in a row at home, first since 2000 Rams to do that.

TEXANS (2-13) at TITANS (6-9)

Line: TEN by 7.

Cote’s pick: TEN 24-20.

TV: 1 p.m.; CBS.

Houston beat Tennessee 30-24 in September and has since lost 13 in a row and changed coaches. Titans, once in playoff chase, have lost five home games in a row to put Mike Munchak’s job in peril. Here’s a game I would watch only at gun-point.

JAGUARS (4-11) at COLTS (10-5)

Line: IND by 111/2.

Cote’s pick: IND 38-16.

TV: 1 p.m.; CBS.

Indianapolis has won its division but can improve its playoff seeding and even sneak a first-round bye if it wins and Pats and Bengals both lose. Jacksonville has won past three on road and past two at Indy, but Colts’ improved ground game should gouge a Jags run-D whipped for 380 yards the past two weeks. (Bonus fact: FIU’s T.Y. Hilton needs 72 yards for 1,000. He’ll get it.)

REDSKINS (3-12) at GIANTS (6-9)

Line: NYG by 31/2.

Cote’s pick: NYG 27-24.

TV: 1 p.m.; Fox.

Washington has lost seven in a row; NYG careens to its first losing season since 2004. This is last game at MetLife Stadium before Super Bowl. Suggest they fumigate the place after this one. Unmentionable Nicknames are 1-6 on road but still bet they keep this close.

BROWNS (4-11) at STEELERS (7-8)

Line: PIT by 7.

Cote’s pick: PIT 28-17.

TV: 1 p.m.; CBS.

Pittsburgh is still in the playoff hunt with about the same chance I have of twerking with Miley Cyrus. Steelers must win and then have Dolphins, Ravens and Chargers all lose. Terrible Towels about to be lowered to half mast. Earthtones are 1-6 on the road, and Big Ben Roethlisberger is 16-1 vs. this opponent, and perfect at home.

BRONCOS (12-3) at RAIDERS (4-11)

Line: DEN by 121/2.

Cote’s pick: DEN 34-23.

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

Denver has sewn up a first-round bye but must win here — or see Pats lose; unlikely — to clinch home-field throughout. So this will be Broncos’ A-team, especially with Peyton Manning needing 266 passing yards to break Drew Brees’ 2011 season record of 5,476. That record will look nice on the mantel next to his newly minted TD-pass record. Terrelle Pryor back starting for Oakland. Like it matters?

BILLS (6-9) at PATRIOTS (11-4)

Line: NE by 91/2.

Cote’s pick: NE 28-20.

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

Patriots have the division but can grab a first-round bye with a win or with losses by Colts and Bengals. They can claim home-field throughout with a win if Denver loses. New England is 7-0 in Foxboro this year and has won 12 in a row at home in this series.

BUCCANEERS (4-11) at SAINTS (10-5)

Line: NO by 121/2.

Cote’s pick: NO 35-17.

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

Saints are still marching for a playoff spot. Need a win here, or an Arizona loss, to secure one. Also can still win the division and a first-round bye with a win here, if Carolina loses. Bucs are 1-6 on road and N’Awlins 7-0 at home. Saints have lost two in a row but find their remedy by the Bayou.

49ERS (11-4) at CARDINALS (10-5)

Line: Even.

Cote’s pick: ARI 23-20.

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

A rare pick-’em contest, this might be the real Game of the Week. Niners are in but need a win and a Seattle loss for a first-round bye. Arizona, even if it wins, needs a Saints loss to make the playoffs. Poor Cardbirds could be only second 11-5 team (Pats, 2008) to miss the playoffs. Watch the fired-up Cacti treat this like their playoff game.

CHIEFS (11-4) at CHARGERS (8-7)

Line: SD by 91/2.

Cote’s pick: SD 24-21.

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

Chargers make the playoffs only if they win and if Dolphins and Ravens both lose. Chiefs are in but are locked into the No. 5 seed — the only qualified team with zero to play for. That’s why K.C. starters may play little if at all. Hence, the point spread. Still like K-City to stay close.

RAMS (7-8) at SEAHAWKS (12-3)

Line: SEA by 101/2.

Cote’s pick: SEA 23-17.

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

Seahawks are in but need a win here, or a 49ers loss, to secure the division and home-field throughout. Seattle has won eight in a row at home vs. St. Lou. Warning, though: Rams’ pass rush gave Russell Wilson fits (seven sacks) in teams’ first meeting.

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Miami Herald

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