Finally figured out my purpose in life. It is apparently to raise the self-esteem of others by doing so poorly on my NFL predictions that readers making their own picks at home may say, “Looky here. I know more about football than this so-called expert. I won’t kill myself, after all. Thank you, Mr. Cote. You saved my life!” Last week actually was a step up for me, which tells you how far the nadir of my recent slump had sunk. I called the Steelers upset at Jets, and rightly had ’dog Bills, Jaguars and Titans with the points. I see this as the start of a massive resurgence. I only hope the reader will forgive me. [Note: Thursday-game pick was Seahawks (-6 1/2) over Cardinals, 24-13].
This feels like one of those “intersection games” for Miami, a point at which the season turns and heads in one direction or the other. Dolphins must shake two straight losses and win this AFC East opener to refuel the playoff bandwagon. It isn’t a sexy game nationally — CBS sends its D Team in Bill Macatee and Steve Tasker — but it’s a big one here. I like Miami, home and healthier coming off a bye, over a Buffs squad bound to a six-game road losing streak, although the betting line seems way fat. Two keys for the Dolphins: 1). Block Mario Williams, please. Somebody. Anybody. Miami’s sieve of an offensive line must man up against a Bison defense that pounds the pocket pretty good. 2). Limit C.J. Spiller, who is expected to play despite an ankle issue. He’s been a recent Dolphin-killer, with 320 yards rushing and a 5.7 average in past three meetings. Aside to Joe Philbin: Billies giving up the fifth-most ground yards in league. Radical idea, but it might be a good day to commit to the running game for a change. If you wouldn’t mind, that is!
Such an easy call that the GOTW committeemen slammed the gavel after five minutes and repaired to the Quill & Swilll Pub to toast their decision. I mean, NFL Favorite Son Peyton Manning’s first return to Indianapolis? It’s a no-brainer! It’s why prime time was invented. The stage was further decorated when Colts owner Jim Irsay this week lamented that Manning’s 11 playoff appearances with Indy resulted in seven first-round ousters and only one Super Bowl win — a vague slam that Denver coach John Fox called “unprofessional.” Manning stayed about the fray, but clearly has a frosty relationship with Irsay even though Indy will honor Manning in a pregame ceremony. Denver’s awful pass defense should keep Andrew Luck’s Colts in the game and make it a shootout. But give me Manning here. He’ll want to plainly stick it to Irsay. Plus, his defense gets Von Miller back from suspension.
“AAAWWWK!” bellows the Upset Bird (who has taken to calling himself the Upset Beard this week in honor of the Red Sox). “Houstaawwk!” I know. I get it. Am I crazy? Perfect Chiefs flying high and home. Texans reeling and socked by QB issues. This is a genius-or-idiot gamble, and I’d admit the chances of a blowout by KC are probably as great as the likelihood of an upset by Houston. But, like the Black Eyed Peas, I got a feeling. Hometown hero Case Keenum from the U-Houston gets his first NFL start in search of a spark in place of injured (and struggling) Matt Schaub, but what matters most is turnovers. My upset recipe: Houston has zero of those (maybe one at most!) and leaves it to its very good defense to dominate an ordinary Chiefs offense. “Sounds good in theory,” notes U-Bird. “But then, again, so did the fail-safe nature of the Watergate break-in. I am not a craaawwwk!”
This is the Monday night game!? This game is more fit for an untelevised 4 a.m. kickoff at an undisclosed location. A combined 1-10 record makes most any matchup kennel-worthy, although there is a perverse quality and watchability to this game. Watching the Giants is like slowing to rubberneck a derailed train. The conductor, Eli Manning, has an NFL-high 15 interceptions, but luckily for the Lilliputians the Vikes (minus-12 on turnovers) are almost as sloppy with the ball. Josh Freeman starts at QB for Minny. Is that a good thing?
Our Week 7 mutt game runner-up finds two teams staggering in with a combined eight consecutive losses, and with Atlanta’s once-vaunted home dome advantage dented by buckshot. ATL is wracked by injuries but still like Birds, who’ve won seven of past nine in series and are coming off a bye.
Always hesitate to saddle up a team as inconsistent as Detroit over a team with an upside like Cincy, which is in sole possession of its division lead for first time since 2009. But here I must. Make it a venue call founded on this: Lions are a chaos-producing defense with 13 takeaways, and Andy Dalton was absent the day God doled out advice on taking care of the football.
The Upset Bird was on this game like a vulture on carrion, but I just can’t do it. Even depleted and decimated, the Pats just know how to win, witness last week. And NE’s 13-10 escape over NYJ in Week 2. Now Jerod Mayo is out, and Rob Gronkowski isn’t back yet, and still they’ll win. Jets DT Sheldon Richardson this week called Tom Brady the “complete opposite” of Superman. Which begs the question, “Who on Earth is Sheldon Richardson?”
This battle for first place in the diminished NFC East is also the toughest call of the week for me. Dallas is a better all-round team, and Philly has lost eight straight at home, its worst streak since 1936-37. (There’s a “but” coming. Can’t you feel it?) But I think Dallas will be missing both its top runner (DeMarco Murray) and best defender (DeMarcus Ware).
Upset! (Although barely. And it doesn’t feel like one at all). Jay Cutler to Brandon Marshall, en fuego, send the Unmentionable Nicknames to their first 0-3 home mark since 1998. Also, look for a Devin Hester return score (he’s due) against an awful Washington special teams.
Duel of former No. 1 overall draft picks (Sam Bradford, Cam Newton) finds both teams coming in off impressive wins. I make this is a venue call but think the betting line disrespects St. Lou. Expect Rams to keep it close, and an outright upset wouldn’t surprise even a little.
Jacksonville is the first team since the 1984 Houston Oilers to be 0-6 with all six losses by double digits, but the Jags showed a bit of spine in Denver last week., and San Diego is infamously inconsistent. Am I hinting at an upset shot? Yes. I can’t not take Philip Rivers against this pass defense, but I see it scrappy close.
Not big on interconference trends, but I’d pass along that Tennessee has won 10 of past 13 at home vs. NFC teams. Doubt that continues. Niners have averaged 182 yards on ground the past three games, and Titans run-stopping is mediocre. Also, Ryan Fitzpatrick has been lousy and Chris Johnson is running in quicksand. Vegas lines aren’t way off often, but this feels like an easy cover for Niners.
Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers has won 21 of past 22 home games, with 59 TD passes and a 116.1 passer rating. Frustrated Cleveland fans are advertising Brandon Weeden’s job on Craigslist. Any questions? Cheesheads are on a 10-0 run at Lambeau by an average margin of 14.6 points.
This feels like an upset pick even though it isn’t, especially considering the Crows have won their past three straight trips to Ketchup Field. But Ray Rice has really struggled, and I like Ben Roethlisberger vs. Baltimore’s pass D a little more then I like Joe Flacco against Pitt’s. Biggest certainty is a close game. Teams split a year ago, each winning by three.