Greg Cote

Will Dolphins’ latest season opener since 1977 have happy ending? Here’s the answer

Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler (6) hands the ball off to Jay Ajayi (23) as the Miami Dolphins play the Baltimore Ravens in their second preseason game at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens on Aug. 17, 2017.
Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler (6) hands the ball off to Jay Ajayi (23) as the Miami Dolphins play the Baltimore Ravens in their second preseason game at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens on Aug. 17, 2017. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

DOLPHINS THIS WEEK

DOLPHINS (0-0) at CHARGERS (0-1)

LINE: LAC by 3½

COTE'S PICK: LAC 27-24

TV: 4:05 p.m. Sunday, CBS

Thanks to Hurricane Irma, this is the latest Game 1 on the calendar that Miami will have played since 1977. It also will be the now-it-counts debut for new Dolphins QB Jay Cutler, in for injured Ryan Tannehill. Oh, and of course this will mark the Chargers’ first real game in L.A. since 1960, after 56 years in San Diego. That’s lots of wild cards tossing unsual unpredictability into the mix here. Which is one reason I’m hedging my bet with Bolts winning outright but Fins covering the bet-line. Miami figures to pound the ball with Jay Ajayi vs. a run-D that gave up 140 yards last week. That gives Miami a big, big upset shot. Bottom line, though, for me? Philip Rivers is really good, and I won’t quite trust MIA's pass-stopping until shown why I should. Also, think the Irma-caused time off, distraction and practice-schedule havoc will hurt and find the Fins a step slow as they work through the rust and catch up to real-season pace.

Jay Ajayi, Miami Dolphins running back, talks about his experience in 'concussion protocol'.

GAME OF THE WEEK

PATRIOTS (0-1) at SAINTS (0-1)

LINE: NE by 6

COTE'S PICK: NE 41-27

TV: 1 p.m. Sunday, CBS

Sure, both teams lost their openers. So what? You like lots of points? You dig bombs-away offense? We present two Canton-bound QBs, Drew Brees and Tom Brady, who together have passed for 128,251 career yards and 922 TDs. Cornerbacks in this game will be dizzy by halftime. Brady was lousy by his standards last week, but Saints fans better be sending up prayers for their god-awful pass defense as the Pats strike back.

UPSET OF THE WEEK

PACKERS (1-0) at FALCONS (1-0)

LINE: ATL by 3

COTE'S PICK: GB 31-28

TV: 8:30 p.m. Sunday, NBC

“Aaawwwk!” bellows the Upset Bird. “Green Baawwk!” Prime-time rematch of last year’s NFC Championship Game is our Game of the Week runnerup as Atlanta christens its new stadium. Falcons won that one 44-21 to reach Super Bowl, but Pack’s secondary was pockmarked by injuries. This one’s healthier, and better. And, bottom line: In Aaron Rodgers we trust. “Yes,” nods U-Bird. “Matt Ryan's good, but he's no Aaron Raaawwwk!”

OTHER GAMES

@Ravens (1-0, -8) over Browns (0-1), 23-16: Crows D pitched shutout last week and will be tough on rookie QB DeShone Kizer.

@Panthers (1-0, -7 ½) over Bills (1-0), 24-17: Like Buffs to cover as new coach Sean McDermott faces ex's for first time.

Cardinals (0-1, -7 ½) over @Colts (0-1), 30-13: Redbirds lost star RB David Johnson, but Andrew Luck-less Nags still no match.

Titans (0-1, -1 ½) over @Jaguars (1-0), 19-13: Jags' D impressed last week, but it's time for Blake Bortles to be Blake Bortles again.

@Chiefs (1-0, -5 ½) over Eagles (1-0), 24-20: Andy Reid beats team he coached 14 years, but Birds stay close with LT Jason Peters back.

@Steelers (1-0, -5 ½) over Vikings (1-0), 23-20: Game of the Week candidate swings on venue, but play it closer than the bet-line.

@ Buccaneers (0-0, -7) over Bears (0-1), 20-17: Upset Alert! T-Bay will be rusty in its Irma-delayed opener, and Mike Glennon knows Bucs D.

@Raiders (1-0, -13 ½) over Jets (0-1), 34-6: Marshawn Lynch goes all Beast Mode against a bad team with a bad run defense.

@Broncos (1-0, +2) over Cowboys (1-0), 24-23: “Aawwk!” Upset. Hunch Broncs' big D at home will rise to test of potent Dallas attack.

@Rams (1-0, -3) over Redskins (0-1), 24-20: Upset shot, but Rams expect star DT Aaron Donald back, and Sean McVay knows Kirk Cousins' game.

@Seahawks (0-1, -14) over 49ers, 28-10: 'Hawks' lousy O-line is a problem they'll ovecome vs. Niners, who've lost five straight at SEA.

@Giants (0-1, -3) over Lions (1-0), 21-19: Odell Beckham (ankle) iffy again. Stil like Bigges in MNF home opener, but hedge wth Lions-plus-points.

HOW THE DARTS LANDED

We rolled twin 8-7s last week to launch our 27th season of NFL picks – a won-lost record not so good straight-up but not bad against the point spread. Misfired badly on our Upset of the Week call with 49ers over Panthers (“Aaawwwful!”), but nailed another outright upset with Raiders over Titans and had a trio of 'dogs-with-points in Chiefs, Jaguars and Chargers. [Note: Thursday night pick was Bengals (-6 ½) over Texans, 23-16].

Overall Pct. Vs. Spread Pct.

Week 1 8- 7 .533 8- 7 .533

Final 2016 159-95-2 .626 139-109-8 .560

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