Happy Halloween, all! I’m going trick-or-treating dressed up as a guy having a good season on his NFL picks. There’s an echo in here as we delve into Week 9. Went 11-4 straight up and 9-6 against the spread for the second week in a row. No complaints. Bull’s-eyed another Upset of the Week pick with Steelers over Colts (“Aawwk!”), making us 6-2 outright and 7-1 vs. spread on Bird calls. Also had a pair of ’dogs-with-points in Falcons and Panthers. Stay, momentum. I love you. Be mine! (Note: Thursday-game pick was Saints (-21/2) over Panthers, 27-20).
DOLPHINS THIS WEEK
CHARGERS (5-3) at DOLPHINS (4-3)
Line: MIA by 1 1/2
Cote’s pick: SD 24-20
TV: 1 p.m., CBS (airing in South Florida)
Miami has won two games in a row and is one last-second play (vs. Packers) from carrying four consecutive W’s into Sunday’s matinee. Oppositely, two consecutive losses have sort of knocked the bloom off Philip Rivers (erstwhile MVP candidate) and San Diego (erstwhile NFL “it” team). I’m still a bit surprised the Dolphins are favored here. The Chargers defense is as good as Miami’s — actually 18.6 points allowed to Fins’ 21.6 — and Rivers is more reliable than Ryan Tannehill, who has tended to struggle more at home than away this season. Dolphins’ O was really bad in Jacksonville last week, leaving Mike Wallace to complain, “We’re not going to get nowhere like that.” (Tweet! Throw a grammar flag. That’s a double negative!) I just see Bolts as a little less erratic and a little better all-round. Aside to Dolphins defense: Diego TE Antonio Gates is reborn and having a monster year. Cover him, won’t you? Historical note: Fins have won seven consecutive games in this occasional series, with SD’s last win in Miami the famous 41-38 overtime playoff game on Jan.2, 1982. So add the law of averages embodied in the weight of 32 years to the reasons my gut is telling me the Chargers’ return flight will be happier than the home team’s postgame locker room.
GAME OF THE WEEK
UPSET OF THE WEEK
BRONCOS (6-1) at PATRIOTS (6-2)
Line: DEN by 3
Cote’s pick: NE 31-28
TV: 4:25 p.m., CBS (airing in South Florida)
“AAAWWWK!” gushes the Upset Bird. “Manning vs. Brady. Awesome! Aawwksome!” It’s the Game of the Week because it’s an AFC Championship Game rematch and mostly because Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are all-time greats showing no letup, with a combined 40 TDs vs. only five interceptions this season. It’s the Upset of the Week (though admittedly not a huge one) because Brady and Bill Belichick are money at home. Pats have won 13 regular-season dates in a row there, and Denver has lost four in a row in Foxborough. An early lead may be key for the Brady Bunch, as Broncs have leaped to 20-0 and 24-0 leads in teams’ past two meetings. Looking for better defense from the Tri-Cornered Hats. “A reference to the Patriots’ original, pre-stylized logo,” notes U-Bird. “Gino Cappelletti would be proud. Aawwk!”
DOG OF THE WEEK
RAIDERS (0-7) at SEAHAWKS (4-3)
Line: SEA by 15
Cote’s pick: SEA 24-13
TV: 4:25 p.m., CBS
Dog of the Week means worst game, not betting ’dog, and so here’s a clear choice. (The 15-point spread should be a hint.) Over here we have the NFL’s only winless team, one that has lost 13 games in a row and is particularly miserable on the road. And over here we have the defending Super Bowl champs, a team that has won 19 of its past 21 home games. Give me Oaks with points, though. Raiders have been pretty competitive in their three games under interim coach Tony “Corey Hart” Sparano.
JAGUARS (1-7) at BENGALS (4-2-1)
Line: CIN by 11
Cote’s pick: CIN 23-14
TV: 1 p.m., CBS
Cincy is 12-0-1 in its past 13 home games, and Jax simply will not be competitive until Blake Bortles outgrows being an interception machine. I mean, he gave Miami a gift-wrapped win last week. It was as if the Dolphins had a bridal registry at Macy’s and one of the requested items simply read, BORTLES. Jags do have a pass rush that could bother Andy Dalton, though, and he’s iffy to have WR A.J. Green back. Also see a letdown game for ’Gals after last week’s big division win over Ravens. Visitors beat the spread if they can limit the turnovers to, say, one.
BUCCANEERS (1-6) at BROWNS (4-3)
Line: CLE by 6 1/2.
Cote’s pick: CLE 21-17
TV: 1 p.m., Fox
This is first time in seven years the Earthtones bring a winning record into November. Bucs may counter by giving the ball back to QB Josh McCown over Mike Glennon. Hey, what’s a 1-6 team got to lose? Two struggles offenses and the fact I don’t trust Cleveland makes this a dicey pick. Quick aside: Tampa Bay did NOT trade RB Doug Martin to Miami this week, despite rumors and erroneously Tweeted confirmation by Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes’ wife.
CARDINALS (6-1) at COWBOYS (6-2)
Line: DAL by 4
Cote’s pick: DAL 28-23
TV: 1 p.m., Fox
A Game of the Week nominee, this matchup is the Cards’ best shot in awhile to end their 14-game losing streak in Dallas. Medium-large upset shot. That’s especially with questions about Tony Romo’s back, although the pick here assumes he’s fine and starts. Romo would play in a full body cast to get at a Cacti defense giving up 303 pass-yards a game, most in the league. Predicting DeMarco Murray’s run of 100-yard games ends, though.
EAGLES (5-2) at TEXANS (4-4)
Line: PHI by 2
Cote’s pick: HOU 24-21
TV: 1 p.m., Fox.
Arian Foster vs. a heating-up LeSean McCoy should put this game at ground level, although the broader view is a Philly offense laden with weapons vs. a rugged HOU defense led by J.J. Watt. Nick Foles and company have been error-pone this season, and that’s a bad thing to be when facing a Texans defense that is second in league with 17 takeaways. Upset!
JETS (1-7) at CHIEFS (4-3)
Line: KC by 9 1/2
Cote’s pick: KC 27-10
TV: 1 p.m., CBS
Here’s a neat little juxtaposition: Temporary new Jets starting QB Mike Vick facing the former coach, Andy Reid, who rescued Vick’s post-prison career when both were in Philly. A doggone nice story! But not one likely to have happy ending for Vick here. Chiefs have a hot Alex Smith and a strong D, and Rex Ryan keeps finding ways to lose. Kansas City, weeping for its Royals, gets some salve for its civic wounds.
REDSKINS (3-5) at VIKINGS (3-5)
Line: MIN by 2 1/2
Cote’s pick: WAS 19-17
TV: 1 p.m., Fox
This is Sunday’s only game pitting two losing records, yet the matchup could prove entertaining – especially if Robert Griffin III sees first action since Week 2, as is rumored/reported. (Of course that would mean Colt McCoy sits down, which would not please his high-fiving parents). Both teams are coming off overtime wins – a rarity. Minny brings stout defense, but I’m betting on a lift from RG3. Upset!
RAMS (2-5) at 49ERS (4-3)
Line: SF by 10
Cote’s pick: SF 30-13
TV: 4:05 p.m., Fox (airing in South Florida)
Confetti from the Giants’ World Series win still flies across town, but now it’s time for San Fran’s favorite team to get back in action after its bye. Niners whupped Rams 31-17 just three weeks ago, and should again. STL hasn’t won at SF since ’07. Watch for Colin Kaepernick’s ball-handling, though. His new center is a 20-year-old rookie. Quick aside: Do you think Jeff Fisher privately second-guesses turning down the Dolphins job for the Rams? I’d bet yes.
RAVENS (5-3) at STEELERS (5-3)
Cote’s pick: PIT 24-23
TV: 8:30 p.m., NBC (airing in South Florida)
Sunday prime-timer brings a bit of Game of the Week heft – a pulsing rivalry in a league that has too few of those. It’s also a rare pick-‘em game. This division series recently has been all about turnovers. In Baltimore’s 5-2 run the past seven games, Steelers’ have committed 19 turnovers to Ravens’ three. Ben Roethlisberger, fantastic last week, must play a clean game for Pitt to have a shot. BAL dominated 26-6 in Week 2, but I’m hunching a home-field turnabout.
COLTS (5-3) at GIANTS (3-4)
Line: IND by 3 1/2
Cote’s pick: IND 34-31
TV: 8:30 p.m. Monday, ESPN (airing in South Florida)
Indy just got spanked by Pittsburgh, Eli Manning is 2-0 at home on Monday night, and Giants are coming off a bye. This game could be worthy of the stage, after all. It also could be an airborne shootout. Andrew Luck has rolled six straight 300s, and gunslingin’ Eli is facing a Colts pass-D that just saw Big Ben throw for 522. Oy! The cornerbacks in this game are nauseous already.
OFF THIS WEEK
▪ BEARS (3-5; next at Packers): Sunday nighter at Lambeau looms for struggling Bears. Brandon Marshall complains about his offense but Chitown D has allowed third-most points (222) in league.
▪ BILLS (5-3; next vs. Chiefs): Kyle Orton last week became first QB since Bubby Brister in 1990 to throw for four TDs on 10 or fewer completions. Why aren’t there more guys named Bubby!
▪ FALCONS (2-6; next at Buccaneers): That blown lead and late embarrassment in London made it 19 losses in last 25 games for the ATL. Seems about time the hot-seat found coach Mike Smith.
▪ LIONS (6-2; next vs. Dolphins): The rally (and lucky escape) in London made Matthew Stafford only third QB in Super Bowl-era to have three career comeback wins from at least 21 points down.
▪ PACKERS (5-3; next vs. Bears): Always trust Aaron Rodgers. But Gee Bees need to shore up a defense that was scorched for 44 points and four second-half TDs by Saints last week.
▪ TITANS (2-6; next at Ravens): The bad news: Tennessee is headed for a sixth straight year out of the playoffs. The good news? Bye week affords Zach Mettenberger lots of time for selfies.