Tough sledding last week at 8-7 overall, but we salvaged a decent 9-6 mark against the spread — our fourth consecutive winning record vs. the betting line. Our Upset of the Week was looking sweet until Niners blew that 14-0 lead. Even so, we nailed another outright upset with Bears over Lions, and had a trio of ’dogs-with-points in the Raiders, Rams and Saints. With four of 17 weeks in the books we’re not thrilled with our straight-up record but that ATS mark makes us want to rent a billboard so we can brag … while we still can. [Note:Thursday night pick was Cardinals (-4) over 49ers, 24-13].
DOLPHINS THIS WEEK
TITANS (1-3) at DOLPHINS (1-3)
Line: MIA by 3 1/2.
Cote’s pick: MIA 24-20.
TV: 1 p.m., CBS (airing in South Florida).
As South Florida prepared for Hurricane Matthew and hoped to feel just a glancing blow, the Dolphins prepped for yet another losable game. (For Miami, aren’t they all!?) Fins have not put a very good “product on the field,” as coach Adam Gase said this week, and should be 0-4. Tennessee isn’t horrible — its three losses are to teams that are a combined 10-2. The NFL has an epidemic of 1-3 teams. Thirteeen of the 32 clubs are 1-3, including this pair. Ryan Tannehill and Marcus Mariota both have five interceptions, so whichever mistake-prone QB plays the cleanest game likely will win. Mariota has been solid away, with 12 TDs and a 98.5 rating in eight career road starts. Miami also must beware Delanie Walker. Tight ends give this D problems, and Walker is a good one. Miami has had extra time to prepare after playing last Thursay night, only increasing the onus on Gase to see a sharper “product” Sunday as Dolphins begin a crucial four-game homestand that had better rescue a flagging season. Word to Gase: Commit to the run!
GAME OF THE WEEK
FALCONS (3-1) at BRONCOS (4-0)
Line: DEN by 5 1/2.
Cote’s pick: DEN 27-23.
TV: 4:05 p.m., Fox (airing in South Florida).
A delicious matchup that drew acclaims from the GOTW committee. We have a humming Falcons pass offense that just torched Carolina against an elite Broncos pass defense. Within that we have Julio Jones, off a 300-yard receiving game, defended by top corner Aqib Talib. Sweet! Denver is one of only three unbeatens left and is first team since 2000 to be 4-0 with a QB who’d not previously started an NFL game. That guy, Trevor Siemian, should play despite a sore non-throwing shoulder, but it’ll be Denver’s D that swings this game. With Atlanta making its first trip to Mile High since 2004, the home field also figures majorly in this pick.
UPSET OF THE WEEK
BILLS (2-2) at RAMS (3-1)
Line: L.A. by 2 1/2.
Cote’s pick: BUF 19-17.
TV: 4:25 p.m., CBS.
“Aaawwwk!” croons the Upset Bird. “Buffalaawwk!” A surprisingly interesting matchup of surging teams whose strong defenses make up for sputtering O’s. Rams have won three games in a row, while Bills have won two in a row — and impressively, over Arizona and New England. There also is an erratic quality to both squads, so admittedly our confidence in this pick isn’t great. “Speak for yourself. Your confidence might not be great but my confidence is graawwk,” notes U-Bird. “Bills will intercept Case Keenum three times. Three taaawwwk!”
DOG OF THE WEEK
BEARS (1-3) at COLTS (1-3)
Line: IND by 4 1/2.
Cote’s pick: IND 27-20.
TV: 1 p.m., Fox.
Two disappointing teams and more of the NFL’s epidemic of 1-3 records as a bad Chicago offense seeks life against a bad Indy defense. Brian Hoyer expected to make third consecutive QB start for Chicago, but he’s sans WR Kevin White now. Colts are 18-7 following a loss under embattled Chuck Pagano, and Andrew Luck has seven TDs and a 104.4 rating in his past three home games, so let’s make it a venue pick.
PATRIOTS (3-1) at BROWNS (0-4)
Line: NE by 10 1/2.
Cote’s pick: NE 24-17.
TV: 1 p.m., CBS.
Tom Brady. Tom Brady! The return of New England’s superstar QB following a four-game Deflategate suspension is the overarching Week 5 headline in the NFL. Will he be rusty? I doubt it. Also think Rob Gronkowski will bust out of his blocker/decoy role with a day to reward the patience of his fantasy owners. Cleveland is league’s only remaining winless team, but, at home, is capable of a competitive, point-spread-beating game here, especially if RB Isaiah Crowell (332 yards in past three games) keeps on the hotfoot.
EAGLES (3-0) at LIONS (1-3)
Line: PHI by 3.
Cote’s pick: PHI 31-21.
TV: 1 p.m., Fox.
The Upset Bird circled this game intently, lusting for it. Lions beat Philly in Detroit last Thanksgiving, 45-14. And aren’t upstart Eagles due a loss? Isn’t perfect rookie Carson Wentz due a mistake? Maybe on both. But I still have to like Philly, coming off a bye, especially with Birds welcoming back key offensive pieces in RB Ryan Mathews and TE Zach Ertz. Matthew Stafford will get his numbers as usual, but he has little run support or defensive help.
REDSKINS (2-2) at RAVENS (3-1)
Line: BAL by 4.
Cote’s pick: BAL 23-20.
TV: 1 p.m., Fox.
NFL’s closest neighbors have stadiums only 32 miles apart, but Redskins are making the bus ride for first time since 2008. Both teams on the periphery of playoff-worthy, but only one has a stout defense (Baltimore), while the other is shaky there, especially against the run. See game as tighter than the betting line, though.
TEXANS (3-1) at VIKINGS (4-0)
Line: MIN by 6 1/2.
Cote’s pick: MIN 21-17.
TV: 1 p.m., CBS.
Vikes lose Teddy Bridgewater and Adrian Peterson, Texans lose J.J. Watt, and yet here they sit, a combined 7-1. Impressive! ’Sota is 4-0 for first time since 2009 thanks to a big-time defense with 11 takeaways. But Houston’s pass defense could be a challenge to Sam Bradford. I’d watch this game. Make it a venue pick, but the bet line feels fat for what should be a points-shy game.
JETS (1-3) at STEELERS (3-1)
Line: PIT by 7.
Cote’s pick: PIT 41-17.
TV: 1 p.m., CBS.
You don’t want to be a Jets defensive coach this week. Big Ben Roethlisberger has 18 TD passes in past five home games. Antonio Brown has 59 catches for 833 yards and eight scores in past six at home. And Le’Veon Bell burst off suspension with a rust-free 144 yards last week. Did I mention NYJ has a disappointing pass defense and that Darrelle Revis is iffy to play?
BENGALS (2-2) at COWBOYS (3-1)
Line: CIN by 1.
Cote’s pick: DAL 24-23.
TV: 4:25 p.m., CBS (airing in South Florida).
Cincy could get a sizable boost with season debut of tight end Tyer Eifert, but it seems less likely as the week goes on. And ’Gals’ stout defensive front could pose a serious challenge to Dallas’ workhorse rookie back Ezekiel Elliott. And yet! Just a hunch, but Cowboys are too good a team to be getting points at home here, even a single point. Upset!
CHARGERS (1-3) at RAIDERS (3-1)
Line: OAK by 3 1/2.
Cote’s pick: OAK 34-31.
TV: 4:25 p.m., CBS.
One of only three division games this week, and a tough call. Philip Rivers is 14-6 in career against Oakland, but Raiders swept last year. Chargers blow leads as if that’s the point, while Raiders are finally learning how to win. SD’s top draftee Joey Bosa (from St. Thomas Aquinas) set for season debut. Difference here? Derek Carr and Amari Cooper vs. Bolts secondary beset by CB injuries. Still, give me Chargers with that dangling half point on the bet line.
GIANTS (2-2) at PACKERS (2-1)
Line: GB by 7 1/2.
Cote’s pick: GB 28-20.
TV: 8:30 p.m., NBC (airing in South Florida).
Aaron Rodgers against Eli Manning will fill a marquee pretty good. Eli is two TD passes shy of being the eighth ever to reach 300. (Aside to Eli: Aim one at Odell Beckham to keep him happy.) But little in the NFL is closer to a sure thing than Rodgers at Lambeau, his 110.4 the best home passer rating of anybody. Packers coming off a bye, too, while NYG is off a short week. One hesitation, though: Biggies won last meeting in 2013, and won a playoff game at Gee Bees in ’11.
BUCCANEERS (1-3) at PANTHERS (1-3)
Cote’s pick: CAR 30-20.
TV: 8:30 p.m. Monday, ESPN (airing in South Florida).
Game stayed off betting boards deep into Thursday because Cats QB Cam Newton was in the NFL’s concussion protocol and it appeared increasingly likely Derek Anderson would start. That’s a huge drop-off. (Carolina would have been favored by six points.) Still like Cats at home. Carolina has been huge disappointment and its defense was embarrassed by Falcons last week, but see a prideful bounce-back effort here.
OFF THIS WEEK
▪ Chiefs (2-2; next at Raiders): Is Kansas City the team that dominated Jets or team that got spanked last week by Steelers? Here’s hint: Chiefs are 2-0 at home, 0-2 on road.
▪ Jaguars (1-3; next at Bears): Jax got off the schneid by beating Colts last week but still has a ways to go to justify that “it team” status as a program poised to make a move.
▪ Saints (1-3; next vs. Panthers): Saints beat San Diego last week, but, with Carolina, at Chiefs, then Seahawks on deck, season is at risk of slipping away from N’Awlins fast.
▪ Seahawks (3-1; next vs. Falcons): Seattle is now third betting fave to win Super Bowl (after Patriots and Packers), with Russell Wilson heating up and defense as good as ever.