Greg Cote

Greg Cote’s NFL picks for Week 9

Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi is coming off back-to-back 200-yard games but will face a Jets run defense ranked No. 1 in the NFL, yielding 74 yards per game and 3.3 yards per carry.
Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi is coming off back-to-back 200-yard games but will face a Jets run defense ranked No. 1 in the NFL, yielding 74 yards per game and 3.3 yards per carry. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

It had to happen. After a really nice run we endured our first truly miserable week of the season last week, both straight-up and against the spread. See what happens? The Dolphins take the week off on a bye and I go straight to hell! The details of our fall are too painful to regurgitate, so we move on, licking wounds and taking solace in the fact we’re still a big 21 games over .500 and hitting close to 60 percent vs. the evil betting line. Time to find that misplaced mojo and get this big wheel moving again! [Note: Thursday night pick was Falcons (-4) over Buccaneers, 30-17].

Overall

Pct.

Vs. spread

Pct.

Last week

6-6-1

.500

3-9-1

.250

Season

75-43-2

.636

69-48-3

.590

DOLPHINS THIS WEEK

JETS (3-5)

AT DOLPHINS (3-4)

Line: MIA by  3 1/2.

Cote’s pick: MIA 27-17.

TV: 1 p.m., CBS (airing in South Florida).

The 102nd all-time meeting in this grudge rivalry is neatly defined: The Dolphins’ macho new mind-set is, “We’re going to run the ball straight down your neck and you can’t stop us.” And the Stinkin’ Jets counter with a chuckle and, “Oh, that’s so cute you think that!” Miami’s healthy offensive line and Jay Ajayi have been unstoppable the past two games. But here comes an NYJ run defense ranked No. 1 in the NFL with an average yield of 74 yards per game and 3.3 per carry. Delicioso! But here’s the thing. If the Planes pile up to limit Ajayi, then Ryan Tannehill will put up big numbers vs. a shaky New York secondary that includes a fast-fading, now thoroughly overrated Darrelle Revis. In fact, I see a big day by Tanny as likelier than another great one by Ajayi. Quick aside: Jets WR Brandon Marshall says Fins CB Byron Maxwell holds on every play. Ooo, them’s fightin’ words, albeit in the world’s lamest fight. Brandon should worry less about Byron and more about Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing too many passes to the wrong team. Dolphins put a bow on their four-game homestand with a third win in a row, meaning Jets “L-O-S-E!”

GAME OF THE WEEK

BRONCOS (6-2)

AT RAIDERS (6-2)

Line: Even.

Cote’s pick: DEN 23-20

TV: 8:30 p.m., NBC (airing in South Florida).

Our Game of the Week committee anointed this one as the Week 9 gem by unanimous acclaim before repairing to the Sword ’N Swill Pub for libations. Denver has been AFC West’s Big Daddy for a while now. Oakland and its cartoon-character fans see this as a statement opportunity to signal a change. It’s a pick-’em game on a prime-time stage. It’s Derek Carr and Amari Cooper vs. Von Miller and that great defense. What more do y’all want!? Broncos had won seven in a row in series before teams split last season, both games close, both low scoring. Difference in the teams, for me, is that Raiders’ defense still is subpar, while Denver’s D has the sackers and corners to put the brakes on a very hot Carr.

UPSET OF THE WEEK

EAGLES (4-3)

AT GIANTS (4-3)

Line: NYG by  2 1/2.

Cote’s pick: PHI 20-17

TV: 1 p.m., Fox

AAAWWWK!” cackles the Upset Bird. “Philadelphiaawwk!” Eagles have won four of past five in this NFC East duel. Eli Manning always gets his stats and yet the Birds find a way. See that playing out again. Eli has averaged 334 yards in his past five home games, but other issues always seem to lay in wait for the Biggies. Eagles deal with this week’s distraction of WR Josh Huff, cut Thursday after a gun-related arrest, but Philly remains the better all-round squad — second-best in NFL, in fact, in plus/minus points differential. “Yeah and the Giants cut kicker Josh Brown after that domestic violence thing,” notes U-Bird. “What’s with guys named Josh? Seriously. I'm not kidding. Jaaawwwk!”

DOG OF THE WEEK

SAINTS (3-4)

AT 49ERS (1-6)

Line: NO by  3 1/2.

Cote’s pick: NO 34-16.

TV: 4:05 p.m., Fox.

No clear-cut Mutt game this week, so let’s go with the one featuring the fewest combined wins. Erratic Saints at least display occasional competence, as in beating Seattle last week, while Frans have been pretty hopeless every week since winning their season opener. The upset meter does wiggle a bit here, with SF coming off a bye and hoping to have RB Carlos Hyde back. But I can’t see a bad Niners defense stopping the gale force of that Drew Brees attack.

STEELERS (4-3)

AT RAVENS (3-4)

Line: BAL by 1.

Cote’s pick: PIT 19-17.

TV: 1 p.m., CBS.

Surprised this rivalry wasn’t kept off betting boards on account of the legitimate iffiness of Ben Roethlisberger. He had minor knee surgery Oct. 17 but could be back Sunday. Or, not. Ravens expect him to play. I’m not sure. Therefore, this is a low-confidence pick, with PIT 9-8 vs BAL with Big Ben but only 1-6 without him. Ravens have won four of past five in series, so Steelers are due, and I’m gambling on No. 7 being ready to go.

COWBOYS (6-1)

AT BROWNS (0-8)

Line: DAL by 7.

Cote’s pick: DAL 28-20.

TV: 1 p.m., Fox.

Cowboys have won six in a row since a Week 1 loss and have risen to second Super Bowl favorites, after only New England. Browns are league’s last remaining winless squad — as if Clevelanders weren’t depressed enough mourning the Indians’ Game 7 loss. Should be a rout, yet I sense a fight from Earthtones. Quick aside: Imagine being LB Jamie Collins, traded this week from Pats to Browns? From best team to worst? He must be dizzy from the fall.

JAGUARS (2-5)

AT CHIEFS (5-2)

Line: KC by  7 1/2.

Cote’s pick: KC 24-13.

TV: 1 p.m., CBS.

Chiefs QB Alex Smith doesn’t have a conciussion but is being held out as a precaution, with Nick Foles starting. Weird. Shouldn’t be a problem here. Supposedly improved Jags have been a big, turnover-prone disappointment and just fired their offensive coordinator, while solid KC guns for a 10th consecutive home win.

LIONS (4-4)

AT VIKINGS (5-2)

Line: MIN by  5 1/2.

Cote’s pick: MIN 21-19.

TV: 1 p.m., Fox.

Vikings were sailing along at 5-0 but two losses later (with only 10 points scored in each), offensive coordinator Norv Turner abruptly and mysteriously resigned. Minnesota has that, an awful offensive line and a hot Matthew Stafford to overcome. I see it happening. In a game that will see Stafford and Sam Bradford both sacked a lot, make it a venue call, and close.

PANTHERS (2-5)

AT RAMS (3-4)

Line: CAR by 3.

Cote’s pick: CAR 21-14.

TV: 4:05 p.m., Fox (airing in South Florida).

Carolina finally resembled the 2015 Panthers in beating Arizona last week, while L.A. has lost three games in a row with what for me is NFL’s most tepid offense. Jared Goff, anyone? Or how about an appearance by the 2015-model Todd Gurley? Upset meter is jumping, but I’m not buying it. Aside to Cam “I Don’t Feel Safe Out There” Newton: Quit complaining. It’s unbecoming.

TITANS (4-4)

AT CHARGERS (3-5)

Line: SD by  4 1/2.

Cote’s pick: SD 27-20.

TV: 4:25 p.m., CBS.

Hot Marcus Mariota (10-1 on TDs/picks with 120.7 rating in past four games) has Titans dreaming of first playoff ticket since 2008. But Diego is getting better and isn’t that bad, with all five of its losses by one score. Tennessee packed a mediocre pass defense for this trip, which, against Philip Rivers, at home, won’t be enough.

COLTS (3-5)

AT PACKERS (4-3)

Line: GB by  7 1/2.

Cote’s pick: GB 34-20.

TV: 4:25 p.m., CBS (airing in South Florida).

Aaron Rodgers and the Gee Bees skew much better at home. Andrew Luck and Indy are not particularly good on the road. So this starts as a venue call. Packers are injury-ravaged, including in secondary, so Luck could be big. But I really like Rodgers eating up a Colts secondary that is being knocked around for 288 yards per game and a 103.1 opponent passer rating.

BILLS (4-4)

AT SEAHAWKS (4-2-1)

Line: SEA by 7.

Cote’s pick: SEA 23-20.

TV: 8:30 p.m. Monday, ESPN (airing in South Florida).

“Monday Night Football” has suffered some bad matchups and lopsided results leading to a 24 percent dive in ratings. This game could be a small remedy. Buffalo is 3-0 vs. NFC West this year entering its first trip to Seattle since 2004, and I give Bills a legit upset shot — especially if iffy RB LeSean McCoy is good to go. But I also see a rebound by a struggling Seahawks offense that has scored only one offensive TD in past nine quarters. And two things haven’t changed: Seattle has a really good defense and is really good at home.

OFF THIS WEEK

▪ Bears (2-6; next at Buccaneers) — Jay Cutler is back and Chitown is coming off a big Monday win over Vikings, so there’s hope yet for a rise to mediocrity!

▪ Bengals (3-4-1; next at Giants) — Disappointing Cincy is coming off a London tie vs. Washington and facing the Monday night stage at NYG.

▪ Cardinals (3-4-1; next vs. 49ers) — That loss to Carolina last week put the wobble back in Arizona’s tenuous playoff outlook.

▪ Patriots (7-1; next vs. Seahawks) — Tom Brady’s 26th career victory over Buffalo last week tied Brett Favre (vs. Detroit) for most wins by a QB over one opponent.

▪ Redskins (4-3-1; next vs. Vikings) — They settled for a London draw with Cincy last week, but ’Skins have been pretty solid in shaking off that 0-2 start.

▪ Texans (5-3; next at Jaguars) — Since starting 2-0 Houston has gone loss-win-loss-win-loss-win, a pattern suggesting hope for Jax next week.

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