I know what a terrible week feels like. “Tell me about it,” Hillary Clinton said. OK, fair enough. Unfortunately, there are no do-overs on elections but I get a fresh restart every week. So we enjoyed a solid little bounce-back last week following our worst week of the season. Our 7-5-1 mark against the spread (Panthers game pushed) included a pair of ’dogs-with-points in Lions (over Vikings) and Bills (over Seahawks). We’re now a bullish 23 games above .500 ATS and have not given up on the holy grail of prognosticating: a season mark above .600 vs. the evil betting line. [Note: Thursday night pick was Ravens (-10) over Browns, 27-20].
DOLPHINS THIS WEEK
DOLPHINS (4-4) at CHARGERS (4-5)
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Line: SD by 4.
Cote’s pick: SD 31-23.
TV: 4:05 p.m., CBS (airing in South Florida).
San Diego voters this week didn’t believe in the Chargers enough to approve a new-stadium referendum that would have assured the team’s long-term future there. But I believe in you, Bolts! To beat Miami on Sunday, at least. Sorry, Dolfans. The three-game winning streak was fun. So was the NFL post-merger record of 44 consecutive days at home between road games. But this is a tall task in a coaching matchup between former Broncos staff-mates in Adam Gase and Mike McCoy. Chargers have won three of past four and Miami is 0-3 on road. It isn’t that SD’s is a daunting venue; it’s that the Chargers present big challenges. Prolific Philip Rivers (two TD throws from being the ninth to reach 300) and hot Melvin Gordon front a high-powered offense that will be a ton to handle for the Fins defense. And San Diego, though not a great defense overall, produced two defensive TDs last week and have an impact rookie sacker in St. Thomas Aquinas’ Joey Bosa. Bolts also play the run very solidly and will make it tough for Jay Ajayi to continue his surreal run of 529 yards in past three games. I could end up as wrong here as the polls were about Trump. But, sorry, I doubt it.
GAME OF THE WEEK
COWBOYS (7-1) at STEELERS (4-4)
Line: PIT by 2 1/2.
Cote’s pick: PIT 30-27.
TV: 4:25 p.m., Fox (airing in South Florida).
Our brawling Game of the Week committee came to blows this week, with this game ultimately edging Seahawks at Patriots on the fourth tiebreaker, which is rock-paper-scissors. Naw, the real difference? Really strong idea on Pats winning, but not at all sure on this one. Dallas is the real deal and better all-round. But there is something special about Big Ben at home, where Steelers have won seven of past eight by average margin of 14 points. Also gotta like the GOTW mettle of two franchises that have combined to play in 16 Super Bowls and win eight. Cowoys are only team yet to allow an opposing 100-yard rusher or receiver, but Le’Veon Bell or Antonio Brown (or both) should change that. Steelers have dropped three in row. Enough of that.
UPSET OF THE WEEK
VIKINGS (5-3) at REDSKINS (4-3-1)
Line: WAS by 3.
Cote’s pick: MIN 23-20.
TV: 1 p.m., Fox.
“AAAWWWK!” booms the Upset Bird. “Bad week for Washington. No, that isn’t an editorial comment on the election, wiseguy. I mean the Redskaaawwwk!” Minnesota, once the league darling at 5-0, is too good to lose a fourth consecutive game. Vikes’ sputtering offense should perk up against a Washers D that has struggled on third downs. And it says here Minnesota sackers will make it a hectic pocket and tough afternoon for Kirk Cousins — especially with him missing suspended left tackle Trent Williams. “Yes, but the key to the Vikes winning,” adds U-Bird, “may well be a big game by QB Sam Braawwkford.”
DOG OF THE WEEK
RAMS (3-5) at JETS (3-6)
Line: NYJ by 1 1/2.
Cote’s pick: NYJ 19-13.
TV: 1 p.m., Fox.
Bears-Bucs was raising its hand to wear the dubious Dog collar this week, but we had to go with a Rams squad that has lost four in a row against a Jets crew pinned in the AFC East cellar. NYJ has been big disappointment defensively, especially against the pass, but Case Keenum is not well-arned to take advantage. Meanwhile, maligned Ryan Fitzpatrick has topped a 100 rating in four of past six home games.
PACKERS (4-4) at TITANS (4-5)
Line: GB by 2 1/2.
Cote’s pick: GB 34-17.
TV: 1 p.m., Fox.
Pack coach Mike McCarthy and QB Aaron Rodgers both blasted Green Bay’s effort and “energy” after last week’s loss to Indy. Expect a big bounce-game from Gee Bees. Despite lack of a running game Rodgers has been heating up the past three games (10 TDs, 106.4 rating). And a strong Pack run D should limit DeMarco Murray and shrink a huge element of Titans offense.
BEARS (2-6) at BUCCANEERS (3-5)
Line: CHI by 1 1/2.
Cote’s pick: TB 27-21.
TV: 1 p.m., Fox.
Upset! Sort of. Bears have won five of past six over Bucs including last season and Chitown is coming off a bye; still, I’m liking Tampa at home — especially if Tee Bees get RB Doug Martin (questionable) back for first time since Week 2. And a weak Bears offense should be timely tonic for Buccaneers’ recent defensive woes.
CHIEFS (6-2) at PANTHERS (3-5)
Line: CAR by 3.
Cote’s pick: CAR 24-20.
TV: 1 p.m., CBS.
Intriguing matchup and a tough call. Chiefs have won four in a row, but Panthers, with back-to-back wins, finally are starting to show signs of recovery from their awful start. KC gets Alex Smith back but he’ll face a Carolina D that is among league sack leaders. Cam Newton has averaged 275 passing yards and produced 21 TDs his past seven home games.
FALCONS (6-3) at EAGLES (4-4)
Cote’s pick: ATL 31-24.
TV: 1 p.m., Fox (airing in South Florida).
This Bird Bowl is a rare pick ’em game and why not? Atlanta has won past three meetings including last year and is 4-1 on the road. Philly is 3-0 at home by combined score of 84-23. But Eagles have made a cottage industry of losing close games ever since they jumped out to a 3-0 record, while Falcons and Matt Ryan have been finding ways to win. Philly’s pass defense is pretty stout, but, until somebody stops Ryan and Julio Jones, I’ll doubt anyone can.
BRONCOS (6-3) at SAINTS (4-4)
Line: NO by 2 1/2.
Cote’s pick: NO 30-27.
TV: 1 p.m., CBS.
Drew Brees has averaged 355 passing yards with 11 TDs and 114.7 rating his past four games. Seeing him face a very good Broncos air defense will be fun. But it is Denver’s not-very-good-lately run defense, the one Oakland ran over for 218 yards last week, that could tip this game. Brees, with run support, will be be tough for Trevor Siemian to outscore.
TEXANS (5-3) at JAGUARS (2-6)
Line: HOU by 1.
Cote’s pick: HOU 17-14.
TV: 1 p.m., CBS.
Houston is 0-3 on the road but is coming off a bye and should handle a disappointing Jax squad that has lost three games in a row and four of the past five in this AFC South series. Two pick-prone QBs (Brock Osweiler and Blake Bortles together have 19 INTs) piloting two struggling offenses could make for a brutal game to watch. Fewest turnovers wins?
49ERS (1-7) at CARDINALS (3-4-1)
Line: ARI by 13 1/2.
Cote’s pick: ARI 41-13.
TV: 4:25 p.m., Fox.
San Fran’s run defense is monumentally horrible, allowing an average of 193 yards per game and 5.3 per carry. And now it is facing, in ’Zona’s David Johnson, perhaps the NFL’s most productive all-around, dual-threat running back. Oh, and Colin Kaepernick in his last start in the desert threw four picks in a 47-7 loss. This could be ugly. With all due disrespect to winless Cleveland, the 49ers could be the worst team in the league.
SEAHAWKS (5-2-1) at PATRIOTS (7-1)
Line: NE by 7 1/2.
Cote’s pick: NE 27-23.
TV: 8:30 p.m., NBC (airing in South Florida).
So it turns out Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are both Donald Trump guys. Yeah, like half the country needed one more reason to hate the Patriots, right? Give this team its props, though. Brady has been better than ever and NE is firing on more cylinders than most teams even have under the hood. But Seattle’s defense is good as ever, too. These teams’ first meeting since the 2014-season Super Bowl will be worth the prime-time stage, but, for me, Belichick coming off a bye and Brady at home are close to unbeatable.
BENGALS (3-4-1) at GIANTS (5-3)
Line: NYG by 2 1/2.
Cote’s pick: NYG 28-24.
TV: 8:30 p.m. Monday, ESPN (airing in South Florida).
Could be a pretty entertaining Monday nighter for fans of the forward pass. The league’s worst run offense has turned Eli Manning into a bombardier. And Andy Dalton and A.J. Green can’t wait to attack a Giants secondary prone to giving up large plays at inopportune times. NYG has won three in a row and is 3-0 at home, so make it a venue call for Biggies.
OFF THIS WEEK
▪ Bills (4-5; next at Bengals): Monday’s loss in Seattle was third in a row for Buffs, during which team has allowed 100 points. Coach Rex Ryan might not be on hot seat (yet), but maybe his defensive coordinator bro Rob should be.
▪ Colts (4-5; next vs. Titans): Indy hoping for year’s first two-game win streak after big victory at Green Bay. Andrew Luck’s biggest challenge is overcoming his own team’s bad defense. Colts rank 27th in most points allowed and 29th in yards allowed.
▪ Lions (5-4; next at Jaguars): Surging Motown has won four of past five. Nice victory in Minnesota on 58-yard field goal as time expired made Matt Prater him 23-for-23 on game-tying or go-ahead FGs in fourth quarter or OT.
▪ Raiders (7-2; next vs. Texans): Oakland, one of NFL’s big surprises and gunning for first playoffs since 2002, returns from bye on Monday night at home, and, for certain, this Derek Carr-led team has earned the stage.