NFL WEEK 6
GREG COTE’S NFL PICKS OF THE WEEK
DOLPHINS THIS WEEK
DOLPHINS (2-2) at FALCONS (3-1)
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LINE: ATL by 11 ½.
COTE’S PICK: ATL, 28-24.
TV: 1 p.m., CBS.
Miami rarely finds itself the week’s biggest NFL underdog — that’s why the Browns and Jets were invented! — but it does this week, and, alas, with fair reason. The Atlanta Falcons are coming off a bye week and expect to have two key players, receiver Julio Jones and sackman Vic Beasley, back from injury. The Miami Dolphins are coming off a week in which the two biggest topics of distracting conversation (not necessarily in this order) were Jay Cutler’s tepid, barely scoring offense, and the assistant coach forced to resign in shame over a cocaine/stripper scandal. Still, I like Miami with the points and give the Fins a medium shot at an outright upset, believe it or not. Atlanta is not invincible; lost its last game at home to Buffalo 23-17. Falcons’ defense is good but not great; Miami’s is better. Jay Ajayi should find the running easier here than Devonta Freeman will. I cannot bring myself to predict what might be the league’s biggest upset of Week 6. But I do foresee a performance that may encourage Dolfans, even in defeat. Miami will gradually find itself offensively, and there should be signs here, even with DeVante Parker unlikely to play. And I believe this team has the coaching, leadership and locker room mettle to not only overcome this week’s Snortgate scandal, but maybe even to use it as coalescing fuel. We’ll see if I’m anywhere close right. Meantime, I have the Dolphins offense scoring three touchdowns here — itself a shock and minor miracle.
GAME OF THE WEEK UPSET OF THE WEEK
STEELERS (3-2) at CHIEFS (5-0)
LINE: KC by 4.
COTE’S PICK: PIT, 24-21.
TV: 4:25 p.m., CBS.
“AAAWWWK!” blurts the Upset Bird. “Ben Roethlisbaaawwwk!” Champagne chilled and ready, ’72 Perfectos? Chiefs are NFL’s last unbeaten team and flex a better-than-average home field edge, while Steelers are coming off a 30-9 home loss to Jax. So, yes, any notion I have lost my mind might find ammunition with this pick, not an argument. And yet! This is more than a hunch. Steelers ousted Chiefs from last year’s playoffs, 18-16, in KC, and, while the revenge factor may favor the Injuns here, that result was no fluke. Ben Roethlisberger is 5-1 in his career vs. KC, with a fat 118.7 passer rating. Andy Reid is 1-3 vs. Pitt with the Chiefs. And now K-City sees two top weapons iffy to play in TE Travis Kelce and D-stud Justin Houston. Chiefs are due a stumble, and I like Mike Tomlin having his guys uber-ready for a huge bounceback game. “Yes, bouncebaawwk,” agrees a nodding U-Bird. “Get ready to uncork it, Nick Buoniconti and Mercury Morris! Meet you in the driveway at 8. Mercury Maaawwwk!”
@Vikings (3-2, +3) over Packers (4-1), 19-17: “Aawwk!” Purples beat Pack two of past three including ’16 in Minny, and do it again. Venue, big D and belief Stefon Diggs plays steer pick.
@Saints (2-2, -4 ½) over Lions (3-2), 31-23: N’Awlins, coming off bye, gets over .500 for first time since late 2013. Matthew Stafford (ankle) will play, but clearly doesn’t seem himself.
Patriots (3-2, -9 ½ ) over @Jets (3-2), 34-20: Banged-up Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski with nine days to get ready are safe win-bet. Division rival at home a fair bet with points, but just can’t do it.
@Redskins (2-2, -10 ½) over 49ers (0-5), 27-16: SF has lost past four by 11 total points, but Skins off bye get big game from Kirk Cousins vs. Niners who’ve dropped 19 of past 21 roadies.
@Ravens (3-2, -6 ½) over Bears (1-4), 24-13: Crows defense keeps rookie QB Mitch Trubisky in dues-paying mode in his second career start as Bears lose 11th straight road game.
@Texans (2-3, -10) over Browns (0-5), 27-13: Houston defense is injury-ravaged (now without J.J. Watt), but doubt Earthtones’ tepid offense, resorting to Kevin Hogan, can take advantage.
@Cardinals (2-3, +1) over Buccaneers (2-2), 21-20: “Aawwk!” Barely, but like home mini-’dog with spark from newly acquired Adrian Peterson. Don’t see Birds that bad, or Bucs that good.
@Jaguars (3-2, -2 ½) over Rams (3-2), 24-20: Two young, wildly inconsistent teams should distill to rising young RBs Todd Gurley and rookie Leonard Fournette vs. shaky run defenses.
@Raiders (2-3, off board) over Chargers (1-4), 27-23: Game off-board for Derek Carr, but think he’ll be back as the team leaving Oakland for Vegas wins Vagabond Bowl over team team that left San Diego for L.A.
@Broncos (3-1, -11 ½) over Giants (0-5), 31-3: Sunday nighter finds strong-D Denver off a bye and demoralized, shrunken Biggies decimated, with Odell Beckham the latest casualty.
@Titans (2-3, off board) over Colts (2-3), 23-20: Off-board because Marcus Mariota iffy again. But we know Andrew Luck is still out. So Tenners, in first Monday home bow since ’14, end Nags’ 11-game series win streak in sad AFC South.
Week 6 byes: Bengals, Bills, Cowboys, Seahawks.
HOW THE DARTS LANDED
Who had a worse week: Jay Cutler and a Dolphins offense that can’t score and just lost its line coach in disgrace to a cocaine/stripper scandal? Disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein? Or me? Man, close call! Gotta say me. I mean, when you go 6-8 straight-up and 3-10-1 against the spread to watch your season totals sink to all-time embarrassing depths, this is the prognosticating equivalent of a cocaine/stripper scandal also involving a Ponzi scheme conviction. This has to turn around. Has to. Been doing these NFL picks in the Herald since 1991 — yes, 27 years — and this, so far, is my worst season ever. Blatantly, I keep listing my 2016 totals below for the sole purpose of reminding that I’m usually not nearly this awful. [Note: Thursday night pick was Panthers (-3 ½ ) over Eagles, 27-23].
▪ Week 5 6-8 .429 overall; 3-10-1 .250 vs. spread.
▪ Season 39-38 .506 overall; 29-44-4 .403 vs. spread.
▪ Final 2016 159-95-2 .626 overall; 139-109-8 .560 vs. spread.