We were dead-on with another Upset of the Week call (Cowboys over Eagles; “Aawwk!”) and also had three ’dogs-with-points in Cardinals, Bills and Vikings last week — and yet our recent struggles against the spread continued. Note to self: The Bears hate you; quit picking them! Our once-bright season vs. the betting number has hit a malaise, a winter wall. Sound familiar, Dolfans? Time for a big finish! [Note: Thursday night pick was Jaguars (-3) over Titans, 20-13.]
DOLPHINS THIS WEEK
VIKINGS (6-8) at DOLPHINS (7-7)
Line: MIA by 61/2.
Cote’s pick: MIA 23-20.
TV: 1 p.m., FOX (airing in South Florida).
Minnesota is eliminated from postseason contention, and Miami is all but mathematically out with a playoff likelihood estimated at 0.7 percent, according to makenflplayoffs.com, whose computer projections we’re using in all our picks today. In other words, the Dolphins must win their last two games and pretty much hope a handful of other AFC franchises with better records suddenly disband. Viking upset shot is sizable here. Purples bring a stout defense to face a struggling Miami team that has been outscored 69-26 the past two weeks in a December swoon that likely will have coach Joe Philbin looking for work come January. And Miami-born QB Teddy Bridgewater rates 103.3 across his past three starts. Visitors aren’t great on road (2-5), so we’ll stick with Fins, although Miami hasn’t done much right ever since blowing that game at Denver a month ago. I wonder how much fight the demoralized Dolphins have left in them. And how’s this for strange, by the way: Outbound 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh might have his choice of the Dolphins or U-Michigan jobs, and Fins owner Stephen Ross is a Michigan alum and major donor. The bright side: At least one of Ross’ two favorite teams might get the man it wants.
GAME OF THE WEEK
SEAHAWKS (10-4) at CARDINALS (11-3)
Line: SEA by 8.
Cote’s pick: SEA 20-16.
TV: 8:30 p.m., NBC (airing in South Florida).
This matchup and Falcons-Saints drew rancorous debate from the GOTW committee, but these teams’ far-better records made this a clear call. The prime-time stage is merited. Cardinals already are playoff-clinched but would take NFC West title and playoff home-field advantage by winning. Seahawks have a 95 percent playoff likelihood and will clinch playoff spot with a win here if Eagles, Lions or Packers lose. Arizona is 7-0 at home, but I doubt that helps much here. Seattle won first meeting 19-3, and I don’t imagine the Cacti offense will be much better with injuries putting fourth-string QB Ryan Lindley in charge. He’s 0-7 on TDs-picks in four career starts, and now he’s facing the league’s best defense. Ouch. Line is too big, though. ’Zona consistently gets too little respect.
UPSET OF THE WEEK
BILLS (8-6) at RAIDERS (2-12)
Line: BUF by 51/2.
Cote’s pick: OAK 19-17.
TV: 4:25 p.m., CBS.
“AAWWK!” carols the Upset Bird. “Jingle bells, jingle bawwk, jingle all the waaawwwk!” Disclaimer: This pick presumes Oakland, jockeying for the No.1 overall draft pick, will have an interest in winning. Meanwhile, Buffalo is given an 8 percent playoff shot and knows winning here won’t be enough. The basis of our risky hunch: Two weeks ago, the Bills played Peyton Manning tough in Denver, last week they upset Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay, and next week the Buffs close at Tom Brady’s New England. Human nature tells me they’ll suffer a letdown and overlook Oakland, big-time.
DOG OF THE WEEK
GIANTS (5-9) at RAMS (6-8)
Line: STL by 5.
Cote’s pick: NYG 24-20.
TV: 4:05 p.m., FOX.
Of course, Week 16’s real Mutt game was the Thursday night battle of the 2-12 Titans and Jags, a purebred Dog in the worst sense. But for Friday Page purposes Giants-Rams qualifies as the only game left between teams that both have been mathematically, scientifically and theologically eliminated from playoff contention. St. Lou’s D has not allowed a TD for three games in a row, a streak ripe to end at the hands of Eli Manning and phenom Odell Beckham.
EAGLES (9-5) at REDSKINS (3-11)
Line: PHI by 71/2.
Cote’s pick: PHI 30-24.
TV: 4:30 p.m. Saturday, NFLN (airing in South Florida).
Skins were ousted from playoff contention during Carter Administration while still-breathing Eagles are given 35 percent shot to make it. They must win in this opener of Saturday doubleheader and hope for other results to fall right. Washers have upset shot if Robert Griffin III outpitches Mark Sanchez. Skins have lost 19 of past 22 games, but Philly — leading league with 34 turnovers — has a way of being generous to a fault.
CHARGERS (8-6) at 49ERS (7-7)
Line: SF by 1.
Cote’s pick: SF 21-17.
TV: 8:25 p.m. Saturday, CBS/NFLN (airing in South Florida).
We should call our Saturday nightcap the Calamity Bowl. Niners are out of the playoff hunt and fending off swirling Jim Harbaugh speculation. Also they just cut DE Ray McDonald and may be missing RB Frank Gore. Chargers are given a 27 percent playoff shot (win and pray). Let’s see how much pride SF has left.
RAVENS (9-5) at TEXANS (7-7)
Line: BAL by 51/2.
Cote’s pick: BAL 23-20.
TV: 1 p.m., CBS.
Baltimore is given a 65 percent playoff shot, has control, and clinches with a win here if a couple of other results align. Houston’s likelihood is put at 7 percent; that’s miracle territory. Titans are down to recently signed Thad Lewis or more likely Case Keenum for a fourth-string QB choice, but J.J. Watt and that Houston defense should keep this game close.
LIONS (10-4) at BEARS (5-9)
Line: DET by 7.
Cote’s pick: DET 30-20.
TV: 1 p.m., FOX.
Detroit, given a 95 percent playoff likelihood, clinches with a win, sews up division with a ‘W’ if Packers also lose, and would have first-round bye with win if both Pack and Cowboys lose. Chicago is out of it and faces a housecleaning that seems to have started with Jay Cutler’s reported benching this week in favor of Jimmy Clausen. Lion minds better not drift, though, to next week’s finale at Lambeau Field.
BROWNS (7-7) at PANTHERS (5-8-1)
Cote’s pick: CAR 20-17.
TV: 1 p.m., CBS.
Carolina still is given win-and-pray 25 percent playoff shot thanks to NFC South being so awful. Cleveland is technically alive, but you have a better chance to be struck by lightning on the way to cashing your Lotto ticket. Game was off the bet-boards because of QB Cam Newton’s status, but by Thursday he appeared ready to return after missing last week because of an auto accident. Cats safer bet than Johnny Manziel.
FALCONS (5-9) at SAINTS (6-8)
Line: NO by 6.
Cote’s pick: NO 34-27.
TV: 1 p.m., FOX.
Saints, given a 49 percent playoff likelihood, would clinch NFC South with a win if Carolina also loses. Falcons, with a 24 percent shot, can wrest division crown by winning here and next week. N’Awlins CB Keenan Lewis made headlines saying team would give Falcons “their funeral.” Here’s why I think he’s right: Drew Brees — 7-1 with a 103.8 rating in home starts vs. ATL — facing a pass defense that ranks dead last, giving up 292.5 yards per game.
PACKERS (10-4) at BUCCANEERS (2-12)
Line: GB by 101/2.
Cote’s pick: GB 24-17.
TV: 1 p.m., FOX.
While T-Bay is in the bog of four bottom-dwellers sniffing out the No.1 draft pick, G-Bay is given an 88 percent playoff shot and would clinch here with a win if Eagles or Cowboys lose. Packers this week named their postseason captains before even qualifying. Bad omen? Doubt it. Like TB with points, though.
CHIEFS (8-6) at STEELERS (9-5)
Line: PIT by 3.
Cote’s pick: PIT 24-20.
TV: 1 p.m., CBS.
Pittsburgh, earmarked with a 74 percent playoff likelihood, clinches with a win here. Kansas City is at 28 percent and needs outside help. Chiefs have not been a great road team (3-4), and Steelers — in Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell — have a pass/catch/run trio as good as just about anybody in the league.
PATRIOTS (11-3) at JETS (3-11)
Line: NE by 10.
Cote’s pick: NE 27-20.
TV: 1 p.m., CBS.
As Jets fans dream of No.1 draft pick for Rex Ryan’s replacement, the Patriots already have clinched their sixth consecutive AFC East title, NFL’s longest division streak since L.A. Rams’ seven in a row in 1973-79. Win here clinches first-round bye for Pats; win and Broncos loss earns home field throughout. Four of past five in series have been decided by three points or fewer.
COLTS (10-4) at COWBOYS (10-4)
Line: DAL by 3.
Cote’s pick: DAL 31-23.
TV: 4:25 p.m., CBS (airing in South Florida).
Dallas’ playoff shot is put at 85 percent. ’Boys clinch with a win if Packers and Lions lose, and sew up division with a win if Eagles lose. Indy already has won its division, cannot improve its seeding and could limit its starters here.
BRONCOS (11-3) at BENGALS (9-4-1)
Line: DEN by 3.
Cote’s pick: DEN 27-23.
TV: 8:30 p.m. Monday, ESPN (airing in South Florida).
Denver has won its division but clinches first-round bye with a win here. Cincy’s playoff shot is put at 87 percent. Bengals clinch playoffs with a win and take division with a win if Steelers and Ravens both lose. Three reason to like the road faves: Denver on a 13-2 series run. Peyton Manning 8-0 all-time vs. Cincy. And Broncs 4-0 in prime-time this season while ’Gals are 0-2 by a combined 67-20.