Greg Cote

Can Miami’s D stand up to cool Brees? Week 4 picks for Dolphins-Saints, rest of NFL

The Dolphins’ shaky pass defense vs. prolific Saint Drew Brees is a Dolfan’s first concern entering Sunday’s game in London.
The Dolphins’ shaky pass defense vs. prolific Saint Drew Brees is a Dolfan’s first concern entering Sunday’s game in London. AP

DOLPHINS THIS WEEK

DOLPHINS (1-1) vs. SAINTS (1-2) in London

LINE: NO by 3.

COTE’S PICK: NO 27-23.

TV: 9:30 a.m., Fox.

How good the Dolphins are — whether they’re any good — was cast in serious doubt with that display of public flatulence at the Jets. I do not believe (yet) that Miami is that bad. I also do not believe that Sunday’s “Breakfast at Wembley” matchup with the Saints is a favorable one that will be an instant cure. Main reason: Drew Brees, even pushing 39, is still really, really good, while Miami’s pass defense really, really isn’t. And that includes failings underneath due to thin linebacking, even with the return from AWOL suspension of Lawrence Timmons, who undoubtedly still would be in the penalty box if the Jets loss didn’t turn things so dire. N’Awlins defense of course is famously bad, so Fins have an upset shot if Double Jays Cutler and Ajayi (running on a babied knee) are a lot better than they were last week. So tally ho, Londoners, you could be in for a bloody shootout! Bottom line, though? Dolphins pass defense made Josh McCown look like a superstar. Now here comes Brees. Uh oh.

GAME OF THE WEEK

RAIDERS (2-1) at BRONCOS (2-1)

LINE: DEN by 3.

COTE’S PICK: DEN 28-24.

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

A vibrant division rivalry between teams both thinking playoffs, and a game featuring two of the most exciting edge rushers in the sport in Oakland’s Khalil Mack and Denver’s Von Miller. Yeah, I’d watch that. That each team is coming off a loss further torques up the stakes. For me, Broncos are slightly better outright and with a home-field edge stronger than most. And Raiders’ pass defense has been a blinking-neon weakness thus far.

UPSET OF THE WEEK

GIANTS (0-3) at BUCCANEERS (1-1)

LINE: TB by 3.

COTE’S PICK: NYG 24-20.

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

“Aaawwwk!” yodels the Upset Bird. “New Yaaawwwk!” Giants trying to do what nobody has done since 2002 NFL realignment: Be an 0-3 team that went on to make playoffs. They start here with a road upset as Eli Manning shreds Bucs secondary and last season’s really good Biggies run-D remembers how to tackle. “Giants points might even outnumber players taking a knee during the anthem,” predicts U-Bird. “Playerstakingaknaawwk!”

OTHER GAMES

@Falcons (3-0, -8) over Bills (2-1), 27-20: Buffs' O won't outscore Matt Ryan and Devonta Freeman, but like Bison D to beat the betting line.

@Browns (0-3, +3) over Bengals (0-3), 19-17: “Aawwk!” Upset! Entire state of Ohio has paper bag over its head. Dicey, but gut feeling for Earthtones at home.

@Cowboys (2-1, -6) over Rams (2-1), 24-17: Really liking 'Boys' Demarcus Lawrence-led pass rush to make things tough for Jared Goff.

@Vikings (2-1, off board) over Lions (2-1), 23-20: Sam Bradford doubtful, but Case Keenum keeps Vikes' attack explosive, so lean Purples at home.

@Patriots (2-1, -9) over Panthers (2-1), 37-20: Two years ago Cats beat Pats when late interference on Gronk was missed. Tom Brady gets his payback.

Jaguars (2-1, -3) over @Jets (1-2), 17-13: Both coming off nice upset wins and Jax a road fave for first time since 2011. This Jaguars pass rush is for real.

Steelers (2-1, -3) over @Ravens (2-1), 24-20: Pitt has lost four in a row at Crows, but like Steelers' D vs. Joe Flacco and a struggling offense.

Titans (2-1, -1 ½) over @Texans (1-2), 23-20: Upset Alert for home 'dogs, but I'm sold on Titans as really good until they give me a reason to disbelieve.

@Cardinals (1-2, -6 ½) over 49ers (0-3), 20-17: Frans more rested here but Cardbirds still the better squad despite really missing injured star RB David Johnson.

@Chargers (0-3, -2 ½) over Eagles (2-1), 27-23: Bolts bring big pass rush vs. Carson Wentz and due some luck in only Birds' second trip to Cali since at 1989.

@Seahawks (1-2, -13) over Colts (1-2), 21-13: No Andrew Luck, no Marshawn Lynch and disappointing (so far) SEA defense makes for diminished Sunday nighter.

@Chiefs (3-0, -7) over Redskins (2-1), 30-24: Sizzlin' MNF matchup. Chiefs have scored a TD of 50-plus yards in NFL-record nine straight games, but 'Skins looking playoff-good, too.

HOW THE DARTS LANDED

If this season’s NFL picks were a legal document, I’d want my Week 3 results redacted. It was nearly on a Dolphins at Jets scale of embarrassment! The two ties against the spread were a push and a game off the board. Highlights: Called Colts’ upset of Browns and had ’dogs Giants and Saints with points. Lowlights: Everything else. Yes, space devoted to my picks is a bit trunctaed this year and I have less schedule time for them, but that’s no excuse. Although, by my mentioning it, I certainly am nominating it as such. Anyway, still early. Let the rally begin! [Note: Thursday night pick was Packers (-7 ½) over Bears, 30-20].

Overall Pct. Vs. Spread Pct.

▪ Week 3: 7-9 (.438) overall; 4-10-2 (.313) vs. spread.

▪ Season: 26-21 (.553) overall; 19-26-2 9.426) vs. spread

▪ Final 2016: (159-95-2 .626) overall; 139-109-8 (.560) vs. spread

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