Greg Cote

Picking the Dolphins to lose again — you’re welcome

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) passes under pressure from New York Jets linebacker Freddie Bishop (56) as Patriots lineman Marcus Cannon (61) blocks during the second half of an NFL football game, Sat., Dec. 24, 2016, in Foxborough, Mass.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) passes under pressure from New York Jets linebacker Freddie Bishop (56) as Patriots lineman Marcus Cannon (61) blocks during the second half of an NFL football game, Sat., Dec. 24, 2016, in Foxborough, Mass. AP

I accentuate the positive. For me the glass is half full ... of champagne! So I’ll move right past last week’s brutal 8-8 mark straight-up and focus on the 10-6 we rolled against the spread to haul us up to a sparkling 34 games above .500 for the year. That included a quartet of ’dogs-with-points in the Dolphins, Ravens, 49ers and Jaguars. Now, our work is clear. We’ve been doing this for the Miami Herald since 1991, and now we have a chance to break our record of a .574 season percentage vs. the evil betting line. All it’ll take is a strong finish. All 16 games are Sunday this week, just like God and John Facenda intended it. One day, one goal. Time to bring it home!

Overall

Pct.

Vs. spread

Pct.

Last week

8-8

.500

10-6

.625

Season

148-90-2

.622

133-99-8

.573

DOLPHINS THIS WEEK

PATRIOTS (13-2) AT DOLPHINS (10-5)

Line: NE by 10.

Cote’s pick: NE 24-20.

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

[Playoff impact: Medium. Both teams are in, but Patriots can clinch home-field throughout with win or Raiders loss, and Dolphins would move up to more favorable No. 5 seed with win if Chiefs lose.] Many readers have been kind enough to point out that I picked Dolphins to lose past two games, and was wrong both times. Well, as a public service, I’m picking them to lose again. You’re welcome! But this time I mean it. Pats beat Miami early in season with Jimmy Garoppolo. Now I’m supposed to think they won’t with Tom Brady? Yeah, I know, Brady has lost his past three starts in Miami. This I also know: New England’s defense has not allowed a touchdown in more than nine quarters. It is the balance and completeness at Bill Belichick’s command that makes Pats the Super Bowl favorite, not just Brady. Plus, Jay Ajayi has been limited this week by a sore shoulder. The betting line that opened at  7 1/2 and ballooned to double digits — that’s too big. But if you’re looking at this game as the Litmus test for whether Miami finally has caught up to its AFC East nemesis, the answer is, “Not yet.”

GAME OF THE WEEK

PACKERS (9-6) AT LIONS (9-6)

Line: GB by  3 1/2.

Cote’s pick: GB 27-23.

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

[Playoff impact: Extremely high. It’s winner-take-all for NFC North title, and loser would also qualify for playoffs only if Redskins lost earlier in day. If Redskins won, this game would be all-or-nothing for playoff spot.] This was the idea, what the NFL was envisoning in ending its regular season with all division games: a winner-take-all finale. And bonus points that it’s in prime time as the last game before the playoffs. Gee Bees have the momentum of five consecutive wins and the hottest QB in the league in Aaron Rodgers. Motown has won its past six home games, but Matthew Stafford is diminished by that injured middlle finger. Lions last won division title in 1993, and my dough is on Mr. Rodgers to keep it that way.

UPSET OF THE WEEK

CHIEFS (11-4) AT CHARGERS (5-10)

Line: KC by  5 1/2.

Cote’s pick: SD 24-20.

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

[Playoff impact: Medium. Chiefs already are in but can clinch division title and first-round bye with win and loss by Raiders. Chargers are out.] “AAAWWWK!” croons the Upset Bird. “Farewell, San Dieaawwk!” The holidays must bring out the sentimentality in me. I see the Chargers — yes, I know they lost to the winless Browns last week! — mustering a big finish in what could be the franchise’s final game in SD before Bolt-ing to L.A. Also, Philip Rivers has a 13-9 career record vs. Chiefs, whose 10-game division win streak gotta end sooner or later, right? “Yes, as George Harrison put it in 1970, all things must pass,” nods U-Bird in agreement. “All things must paaawwwk!”

DOG OF THE WEEK

BILLS (7-8) AT JETS (4-11)

Line: BUF by 3  1/2.

Cote’s pick: BUF 19-13.

TV: 1 p.m., CBS.

[Playoff impact: Zero. Both out.] Lots of competition for the season-finale Dog collar, as one of six games with no playoff team. Tiebreaker? The chance to make fun of two of Miami’s rivals! Buffs canned Rex Ryan after club’s 17th consecutive season out of playoffs. Planes are going nowhere with zero solution at quarterback. Then again, Bills are flailing there, too, ready to move on from Tyrod Taylor and starting E.J. Manuel here. He’s enough to beat the sad Jets.

RAVENS (8-7) AT BENGALS (5-9-1)

Line: CIN by 1.

Cote’s pick: BAL 21-19.

TV: 1 p.m., CBS.

[Playoff impact: Zero. Both out.] I know Baltimore has lost its past four trips to Paul Brown Stadium, but Ravens have been the better team this season and have publicly emphasized how important it is to them to win and finish above .500. Crows playing starters, whereas ’Gals are shutting down several. That’s when bet-line sank from an opening  2 1/2.

TEXANS (9-6) AT TITANS (8-7)

Line: TEN by 3.

Cote’s pick: TEN 20-16.

TV: 1 p.m., CBS.

[Playoff impact: Low. Texans have already clinched division and are locked in as No. 4 seed. Titans are out.] It’s Tom Savage vs. Matt Cassel, one replacing the benched Brock Osweiler, the other in for the injured Marcus Mariota. That could shift emphasis to the ground game, and hobbled Lamar Miller seemed likely late in week to sit this one out. Texans just aren’t that good, which is why Dolphins would love to get the 5-seed and open playoffs in Houston, not Pittsburgh.

PANTHERS (6-9) AT BUCCANEERS (8-7)

Line: TB by 5.

Cote’s pick: TB 27-23.

TV: 1 p.m., Fox.

[Playoff impact: Next to zero. Panthers are out. Buccaneers are mathematically alive but requiring an all-but-impossibly byzantine parade of six results all falling exactly right.] Tampa suspended RB Doug Martin over PEDs, but still like Jameis Winston at home over disappointing Panthers, who haven’t been very good on road. Vegas number is fat, though. Cam Newton has 107 rating in eight career meetings and will keep it close.

JAGUARS (3-12) AT COLTS (7-8)

Line: IND by  4 1/2.

Cote’s pick: IND 34-13.

TV: 1 p.m., CBS.

[Playoff impact: Zero. Both out.] Sadness all around here as Jags’ playoff drought since 2007 continues, and Colts have missed consecutive seasons for first time since 1997-98. Old Cane Frank Gore needs 36 yards to become oldest back to 1,000 (at age 33) since John Riggins in 1984. And FIU’s T.Y. Hilton seeks to be first Colt to lead NFL in receiving yards since UM’s Reggie Wayne in ’07.

BEARS (3-12) AT VIKINGS (7-8)

Line: MIN by  5 1/2.

Cote’s pick: MIN 23-20.

TV: 1 p.m., Fox.

[Playoff impact: Zero. Both out.] Another of Week 17’s Sadness Bowls as Bears try to avert franchise’s worst season since 1978 advent of 16-game schedules and Vikes try to forget they began this season 5-0. Sam Bradford’s been pretty good at home and Matt Barkley has thrown eight picks in past two games. But still like a Chitown cover.

COWBOYS (13-2) AT EAGLES (6-9)

Line: PHI by  3 1/2.

Cote’s pick: DAL 28-20.

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

[Playoff impact: Low. Cowboys already have clinched home-field throughout NFC playoffs. Eagles are out.] Betting line is shaped by an assumption Dallas, with nothing to gain, might play starters very little. (Tony Romo, anyone?) But, what exactly does Philly have to play for? Carson Wentz has 11 interceptions in his past eight games. And at least ’Boys have the incentive of wishing to enter the postseason with a tailwind, not off a loss.

BROWNS (1-14) AT STEELERS (10-5)

Line: PIT by 6.

Cote’s pick: PIT 27-6.

TV: 1 p.m., CBS.

[Playoff impact: Low. Steelers already have won division and are locked in as No. 3 seed. Browns were mathematically eliminated in 1994.] What little drama this game held evaporated when Cleveland had the temerity to win last week. Pittsburgh — Miami’s likely playoff-opening opponent — has beaten the Earthtones 12 games in a row at home, and the idea that Cody Kessler might outscore Ben Roethlisberger is akin to liking me in a game of one-on-one with LeBron.

SAINTS (7-8) AT FALCONS (10-5)

Line: ATL by  7 1/2.

Cote’s pick: ATL 37-27.

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

[Playoff impact: Medium. Falcons are in but can clinch first-round bye with win or if Seattle and Detroit both lose. Saints are out.] This is the last Falcons game at the Georgia Dome after 25 years, which should give the home team a palpable emotional lift. That shapes this pick, along with the fact Atlanta is a much better team. Over/under on combined Drew Brees/Matt Ryan passing yards gotta be, what, 750?

GIANTS (10-5) AT REDSKINS (8-6-1)

Line: WAS by 7.

Cote’s pick: WAS 24-20.

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

[Playoff impact: High. Giants already are in as No. 5 seed, but it’s all-or-nothing for Redskins, who are out with a loss but will qualify by winning as long as the Green Bay-Detroit game does not end in a tie.] NYG insists its starters will play, but the incentive here rests hugely with Washington, along with the home field, of course. Bonus: We get another chapter of Odell Beckham vs. Josh Norman. Still like Biggies to keep it inside the bet-line.

CARDINALS (6-8-1) AT RAMS (4-11)

Line: ARI by 6.

Cote’s pick: ARI 27-10.

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

[Playoff impact: Zero. Both out.] Another in our series of Sad Bowls. Arizona, thinking Super Bowl after last year’s 13-3, are one of NFL’s biggest busts. And the Rammed fizzled in return to L.A., dragged down by putrid offense. Rammed have won past two over Cacti, but like the Cardbirds big here.

RAIDERS (12-3) AT BRONCOS (8-7)

Line: DEN by 1.

Cote’s pick: DEN 20-17.

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

[Playoff impact: Medium. Raiders are in but can clinch division title and first-round bye with win or if Chiefs lose, and can clinch home-field throughout playoffs with win if Patriots lose. Broncos are out.] When you’re defending Super Bowl champs and you miss playoffs, denying your division rival to end the season is a modicum of consolation, at least. Backup Matt McGloin is OK, but losing QB Derek Carr to a broken leg is a huge blow to Raiders, bigger than Miami losing Ryan Tannehill. That and venue steer this pick.

SEAHAWKS (9-5-1) AT 49ERS (2-13)

Line: SEA by 10.

Cote’s pick: SEA 31-13.

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

[Playoff impact: Medium. Seahawks already are in but can clinch first-round bye with win and loss by Falcons.] Seabirds have won six in a row over Niners, including 37-18 in September, holding Frans to 44 total points in past five meetings. “Farewell, Chip Kelly,” says the NFL. “Been nice to know ya.”

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