The inevitable finally occurred. After six consecutive winning weeks against the spread we had a lil’ toe-stub last week. Not too bad, though. Not a blindside punch. Just a lovetap. We bull’s-eyed yet another Upset of the Week call with Dolphins over Bills (“Aawwk!”), nailed a second outright upset with Colts winning at Titans and also had a ’dog-with-points in Saints. Best thing about a slight off week? Now we get to rebound like Hassan Whiteside. [Note: Thursday night pick was Titans (-3 1/2) over Jaguars, 23-16].
GAME OF THE WEEK
AT COWBOYS (5-1)
Line: DAL by 4 1/2.
Cote’s pick: DAL 27-20.
TV: 8:30 p.m., NBC (airing in South Florida).
NFL Week 8’s truncated 13-game schedule (on account of six byes, including Miami’s) hits its payday with this Sunday nighter worthy of prime time. Rivalry is for the NFC East lead and also will shape league’s offensive rookie of the year race — with Birds’ Carson Wentz and ’Boys’ Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott all in play. Those are the big three almost to the exclusion of a fourth at this point. I like Dallas, at home, on a league-best five-game winning streak and with added preparation coming off a bye week. Cowboys’ surprisingly stout defense has yet to allow an opposing 100-yard rusher or receiver. On the other side, Philly’s banged-up secondary could open things up for Prescott (who has a 100-plus passer rating in five games in a row) and, in turn, Elliott.
UPSET OF THE WEEK DOG OF THE WEEK
AT BROWNS (0-7)
Line: NYJ by 3.
Cote’s pick: CLE 23-17.
TV: 1 p.m., CBS.
“AAAWWWK!” crows the Upset Bird. “First Cavaliers, then Indians and now the Braaawk!” Dog-lousy matchup produces interesting result as Browns, league’s last winless team, finally get off the schneid. Some of this pick is simply a hunch in the “They’re Due” division, with Cleveland having lost 10 in a row and 17 of past 18 dating to last year. But more of it is that I expect Josh McCown to return at QB for the Earthtones, lending a psychological as well as literal lift. Josh ain’t great, no. But alongside Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan, Charlie Whitehurst and the ghost of Robert Griffin III, he’s Joe Montana. Browns’ D has been really bad, but doubt Ryan Fitzpatrick and NYJ’s tepid O will take advantage. “Good point about Fitzpaawwk,” agrees U-Bird. “Clevelaaawwwk!”
VS. BENGALS (3-4),
Line: CIN by 3.
Cote’s pick: CIN 27-23.
TV: 9:30 a.m., Fox (airing in South Florida).
We’re back with breakfast at Wembley for, mercifully, the last of three London games this season. Brits actually get two decent teams this time and a pair of hot QBs in Kirk Cousins (99.2 rating over past five games) and Andy Dalton (four in a row at 100-plus with zero picks). But neither run-D is great, so it’s ground games that could tip this. Side note: This pick sure would appreciate it if Josh Norman (questionable with concussion) took the day off rather than covered A.J. Green.
AT COLTS (3-4)
Line: KC by 2 1/2.
Cote’s pick: IND 25-23.
TV: 1 p.m., CBS.
Upset! I judge K.C. a slightly better all-round squad here but place extra weight on the venue. I like Indianapolis so much more at home than on road. Andrew Luck, in fact, has a 100.5 rating and five 300s in his past six home games. Contrarily, Chiefs are 1-6 at Indy, including that 2013 playoff meltown in which a 28-point second-half lead ended up as a 45-44 Colts win. Revenge might be on side of Chiefs, but give me Luck at home.
AT BUCCANEERS (3-3)
Line: TB by 1 1/2.
Cote’s pick: TB 31-24.
TV: 1 p.m., CBS.
Oakland is 4-0 on the road. Tampa is 0-2 at home and has lost 15 of its past 18 off Dale Mabry Blvd. Yet I am oddly serene in liking the Buccaneers here. Derek Carr pilots a solid offense but Oakies’ defense is bad — especially against the deep ball, already with nine passes of 40-plus yards allowed. See a big day from Jameis Winston. And smile, Mike Evans fantasy owners! Side note: OAK coach Jack del Rio will be in Jackcosnville on Saturday watching his son, the Gators QB, play Georgia. I like Luke’s chances of winning better than Dad’s.
AT SAINTS (2-4)
Line: SEA by 2 1/2.
Cote’s pick: SEA 27-20.
TV: 1 p.m., Fox (airing in South Florida).
Epic duel: Drew Brees, averaging 403 passing yards his past five home games, vs. a top-tier, good-as-ever Seattle defense. Sidebar: Seahawks TE Jimmy Graham’s first game vs. his former team. Upset Bird was circling here, but SEA defense is good enough to turn Brees somewhat mortal, and N’Awlins’ lousy D should be an elixir for Russell Wilson’s struggling attack.
AT TEXANS (4-3)
Line: HOU by 2 1/2.
Cote’s pick: HOU 19-17.
TV: 1 p.m., Fox.
Houston has won five in a row at home, four of them with Brock Osweiler, whose struggles have mostly been on roadies. And Motown’s subpar pass defense should keep those streaks alive. Matthew Stafford has been hot, knocking on the elusive door marked Elite, but Texans’ stout secondary should cool him a bit. Venue call, but I’ll hedge with Lions and the points.
AT BILLS (4-3)
Line: NE by 6 1/2.
Cote’s pick: NE 27-23.
TV: 1 p.m., CBS (airing in South Florida).
Buffalo beat New England 16-0 on Oct. 2, the Patriots’ first shutout loss in Foxborough since 1993. The Pats’ starting QB that day was rookie Jacoby Brissett. The Pats’ starting QB Sunday will be Tom Brady. Any questions? Bills have not swept NE since 1999, and it won’t happen here. Buffs expect DT Marcell Dareus back but, offsetting that, might be without RB LeSean McCoy. Brady has looked as great as ever in his three games back; even so, betting number feels fat.
AT PANTHERS (1-5)
Line: CAR by 3.
Cote’s pick: ARI 24-21.
TV: 1 p.m., Fox.
How the mighty have fallen since these two met in last season’s NFC Championship Game, the Panthers winning, 49-15. Well, Carolina has fallen. Arizona has sort of stumbled. Panthers are home, coming off a bye and more desperate here — yet I like ’Zona. Carson Palmer has won 13 of his past 15 road starts, and Cacti defense has not allowed an opponent TD in two games in a row and will force one or two Cats turnovers. Upset! Sort of.
AT BRONCOS (5-2)
Line: DEN by 5 1/2.
Cote’s pick: DEN 27-16.
TV: 4:05 p.m., CBS.
Bolts upset Broncos 21-13 only three weeks ago but won’t replicate the feat in Denver. Side note: St. Thomas Aquinas’ Joey Bosa drew ire for his rookie holdout but now has four sacks in his first three games for Chargers. San Diego has not won a division road game since October 2014 and hasn’t swept Broncos since 2010. Denver will be missing RB C.J. Anderson, but its NFL-leading sackers figure to make it tough on Philip Rivers.
AT FALCONS (4-3)
Line: ATL by 3.
Cote’s pick: ATL 30-24.
TV: 4:25 p.m., Fox (airing in South Florida).
I’m not totally trusting Atlanta. I think I tend to trust Aaron Rodgers and the Gee Bees too much. So this pick is a leap of faith for me. A Pack win would not surprise even an iota, but Falcons offense has been NFL’s best this season by a fair amount, so I need to trust that unit at home. Side note: You want consistency? Matt Ryan last week had his 46th game in a row passing for at least 200 yards, breaking Dan Fouts’ long-held league record.
AT BEARS (1-6)
Line: MIN by 5 1/2.
Cote’s pick: MIN 20-6.
TV: 8:30 p.m. Monday, ESPN (airing in South Florida).
Monday night’s Halloween game gains a layer of intrigue because it marks Jay Cutler’s return to action for first time since Week 2. That’s partly because Jay’s healthy and partly because Brian Hoyer went on IR. Asked if he has the supprt of coach John Fox, Cutler said this week: “Um, he doesn’t have a choice I guess at this point.” Oy! Minnesota sackers will make it a rough comeback game for Cutler.
OFF THIS WEEK
▪ Dolphins (3-4; next vs. Jets) — Two consecutive impressive wins over quality opponents have Miami and its happily flabbergasted fans at least on the periphery of playoff contention as midseason nears. Question: What is the impact of Jay Ajayi plus a healthy offensive line? Answer: A team that averaged 72 yards rushing the first five games and has averaged 239 the past two.
▪ 49ers (1-6; next vs. Saints) — Frans are first team ever to lose six games in a row and allow the opponent an individual 100-yard rusher in every game. Epic-bad run D.
▪ Giants (4-3; next vs. Eagles) — Two wins in a row have Biggies back in the running in tough NFC East, thus far the NFL’s most competitive division, top to bottom.
▪ Rams (3-4; next vs. Panthers) — L.A. started out 3-1 and Jeff Fisher’s mustache was standing tall. Three losses in a row later it’s looking disconsolately droopy.
▪ Ravens (3-4; next vs. Steelers) — No sugarcoating. Four losses in a row, Joe Flacco hasn’t been very good, and Crows approach midseason with playoff hopes teetering.
▪ Steelers (4-3; next at Ravens) — Two losses in a row, Landry Jones at QB for awhile longer, and a rival on the road up next. Suddenly, anxious times in Steeltown.