A starving man does not hold out for a ribeye, he says thanks for the pig’s foot. And so my week just past makes me smile, even though a 9-4 record overall and 7-6 against the spread are not cause for ticker-tape. Had some nice hits including underdog Cowboys, Giants and Rams with points. I sense an upturn. Would not call myself “hot” by any means, but would say I have shaken off the season-long veneer of ice and am approaching “tepid.” Pig’s feet are not bad, by the way. Have had them in a Hawaiian-style soup, but prefer them pickled and vinegary, the way Southern general stores used to sell them right out of that large jar on the front counter. Mmm! [Note: Thursday-game pick was Dolphins (+2) over Bengals, 24-20].
BEARS (4-3) AT PACKERS (5-2)
Line: GB by 11.
Cote’s pick: GB 31-17.
TV: 8:40 p.m. Monday, ESPN (airing in South Florida).
For the second week in a row no clear-cut Game of the Week is offered by the NFL, but this one rests on two pretty sturdy legs. First, Bears-Packers oddly enough is the only Week 9 duel in which both teams have a winning record. Second, this 185th all-time meeting makes Chicago-Green Bay the league’s most-played rivalry and arguably its best. Alas, the Bears downshifting from injured QB Jay Cutler to shaky Josh McCown severely decreases the likelihood the Monday stage will be filled with a close game. Chitown is also missing LB Lance Briggs, so Eddie Lacy and the Pack’s suddenly fearsome ground game could run wild. Gee Bees have won 11 straight at Lambeau and six straight in this series. Pandas getting 11 tempts, but I’d resist. I did mention Josh McCown is starting, didn’t I?
COLTS (5-2) AT TEXANS (2-5)
Line: IND by 2 1/2.
Cote’s pick: HOU 23-20.
TV: 8:30 p.m., NBC (airing in South Florida).
“AAWWK! Happy Hallowaawwk!” warbles the Upset Bird. “Will I never learn? My stubborn faith in the Texans keeps kicking me in the aaawwwk!” Sunday night’s matchup looks like a good one, with both teams coming off a bye and the home team urgently desperate after a Dolphinesque tailspin of five straight losses. Arian Foster’s questionable status (hamstring) gives me pause here, but Indy definitely will be missing a big chunk of offense in injured Reggie Wayne. Former Houston Cougar QB Case Keenum’s first home start could spark a Texans offense that needs a jump. I’m more sure J.J. Watt and that Texans D will keep it close enough for an upset to occur. “Yes, J.J. Waawwk,” concurs a nodding U-Bird. “Prepare to be sacked repeatedly, Andrew Laaawwwk!”
Line: SEA by 16 1/2.
Cote’s pick: SEA 24-10.
TV: 4:05 p.m., FOX
Sheer Buccaneers putridity and a Saturday point spread suggesting lopsidedness earn the Doggy points here. Russell Wilson does not lose at home, literally (11-0, 117 rating, 22-4 on TDs/picks), and Percy Harvin seems ready to return from injury just in time to replace sidelined Sidney Rice. Seabirds are giving up an awful lot of points here, though, after struggling to beat St. Lou last week. So with some trepidation I like T-Bay with the head start in a low-scoring affair.
CHIEFS (8-0) AT BILLS (3-5)
Line: KC by 3.
Cote’s pick: KC 21-17.
TV: 1 p.m., CBS (airing in South Florida).
Buffalo has won five of past six in series and has a large upset shot here. Chiefs are SO due to lose, and I came SO close to picking it but, ultimately, I just can’t see young Thad Lewis putting up many points against a really, really good KC defense, especially with C.J. Spiller (ankle) gimpy and questionable. Chiefs don’t bring much on the attack outside of Jamaal Charles, but oh that D!
VIKINGS (1-6) AT COWBOYS (4-4)
Line: DAL by 10 1/2.
Cote’s pick: DAL 34-20.
TV: 1 p.m., FOX.
I wonder. Does Dez Bryant’s game preparation during the week involve yelling at people? Vikes were weighing whether to start Christian Ponder or Josh Freeman, but I doubt it matters unless Adrian Peterson — with only 150 yards during the past three games — gets untracked. Cows should get RB DeMarco Murray back and keep Purples winless on the road. Tony Romo has best November record of any QB in Super Bowl era (21-4) and should be fantasy-big against a weak secondary.
TITANS (3-4) AT RAMS (3-5)
Line: TEN by 3.
Cote’s pick: STL 21-20.
TV: 1 p.m., CBS.
Reenactment of the 1999 Super Bowl finds neither team super but both competitive. Game marks Jeff Fisher’s first time facing the Titans he coached for 17 seasons, 1994-2010. No big deal? But it is. Curly Lambeau is the only other man to face a former team he coached for that long. St. Lou gets the home upset if Fisher and his luxurious mustache can coax the same effort his Rams showed Seattle last week.
SAINTS (6-1) AT JETS (4-4)
Line: NO by 6.
Cote’s pick: NO 31-19.
TV: 1 p.m., FOX (airing in South Florida).
Game of the Week panel gave this one a look for The Ryan Factor alone. It’s Jets coach Rex Ryan vs. Saints defensive chief Rob Ryan in the Battle of Unlikable Brothers. My money’s on long-haired Rob; I think he’ll dial up a rough afternoon for Planes QB Geno Smith. Meanwhile, Rex’s guys gave up 49 points to Cincy last week and now face a much better offense in Drew Brees’ Cajuns.
CHARGERS (4-3) AT REDSKINS (2-5)
Line: SD by 1.
Cote’s pick: SD 28-24.
TV: 1 p.m., CBS.
Diego is always a dice roll playing on the East Coast, and the Washington Unmentionables are among the most unpredictable teams for me, so this is a crapshoot all the way. Chargers are coming off a bye, Philip Rivers is red-hot, and Bolts’ D has not allowed a TD in 11 straight quarters. Three pretty good reasons to like the visitors here. So why am I so nervous?
FALCONS (2-5) AT PANTHERS (4-3)
Line: CAR by 7 1/2.
Cote’s pick: CAR 24-20.
TV: 1 p.m., FOX.
Carolina is over .500 this deep into a season for first time since 2008 and Atlanta has been a major disappointment and yet I give Birds a big upset shot here. They’ve won five of past six in series and I don’t quite trust Cam Newton to stay hot. Falcons run-D has been awful the past month, though. Taking Cats at home. But anxiously. And barely.
EAGLES (3-5) AT RAIDERS (3-4)
Line: OAK by 2 1/2.
Cote’s pick: OAK 27-24.
TV: 4:05 p.m., FOX
The gut feeling here was to pick Philly in an upset but I talked myself out of it. That always makes the stomach queasy, like I’ll be kicking myself come 7 o’clock Sunday. Nick Foles is back pitching again and he’s been pretty good; then again, Terrelle Pryor is 3-0 at home this season. Raiders never a safe pick but here goes nuthin’!
RAVENS (3-4) AT BROWNS (3-5)
Line: BAL by 2 1/2.
Cote’s pick: BAL 20-16.
TV: 4:25 p.m., CBS.
Baltimore has won 11 in a row in this bitter rivalry but only by 14-6 in September, and I give Earthtones another big upset shot here. Cleveland offense has really struggled, though, in losing the past three games, and Jason Campbell is rarely anybody’s remedy. Like Crows, coming off a bye, to get by again.
STEELERS (2-5) AT PATRIOTS (6-2)
Line: NE by 7.
Cote’s pick: NE 27-23.
TV: 4:25, CBS (airing in South Florida).
Intriguing matchup with likelihood of a great game. New England’s 6-2 record is put together with Scotch tape and bailing wire. I don’t know how they keep winning with so many injuries and with Tom Brady so suddenly mediocre. On the opposite side, the Steelers are a shell of themselves but Ben Roethlisberger always gives them a chance. Pats in a venue pick (they’re on a 34-3 run at the Fox), but Pitt with points.
OFF THIS WEEK
BRONCOS (7-1; next at Chargers): Well-timed bye for Denver, with hobbling Peyton Manning needing to mend not one but two sprained ankles.
CARDINALS (4-4; next vs. Houston): Redbirds are on the periphery of playoff hunt but must find way to win in their own division; they’re 0-3 in NFC West.
49ERS (6-2; next vs. Panthers): Fresh from their London trip, Niners’ five-game winning streak quietly is second-best in league after unbeaten Chiefs.
GIANTS (2-6; next vs. Raiders): Biggies have won two straight and have a winnable game on deck in search of respectability, but then schedule turns hard fast.
JAGUARS (0-8; next at Titans): Hapless Jags are only one of six Week 9 bye teams to have lost last week. (Of course they are!) This week, the bye is favored by 11 1/2.
LIONS (5-3; next at Bears): Dallas gifting them a 31-30 win last week made the Lions one of two teams (Chiefs) to already surpass their 2012 victory total.