Greg Cote

Three upsets ahead on NFL schedule. Will Dolphins be one? Here come our Week 5 picks

Getting running back Jay Ajayi untracked and celebrating again will be instrumental if the Dolphins are to upset the Titans in Miami’s home opener Sunday.
Getting running back Jay Ajayi untracked and celebrating again will be instrumental if the Dolphins are to upset the Titans in Miami’s home opener Sunday. Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald




TITANS (2-2) at DOLPHINS (1-2)

LINE: TEN by 3.

COTE'S PICK: MIA, 24-17.

TV: 1 p.m., CBS.

Eureka! Dolphins sleeping offense finally awakens! This easily could have been our Upset of the Week (“Aawwk!”), but it hardly feels like one, especially with the strong possibility that Titans QB Marcus Mariota (hamstring) either won't play or will be limited. The dropoff to lousy Matt Cassel is extreme. But I'd like Miami anyway in the Fins' second-latest home opener in franchise history to one in 1987. Dolphins' offense can't possibly be as bad as it's looked the past two weeks (right?), and this is a Tennessee defense that just gave up 57 points (!) to Houston. Miami needs to recommit to the ground and Jay Ajayi, first, and the O-line must give Jay Cutler a cleaner pocket and another second to throw against a beatable Titans pass defense. Meanwhile the Dolphins run-stopping has been pretty solid; now, if only the pass-D was as stout. Still not sure this will prove to be much beyond an average Dolphins team, or a playoff team, but it is a team that wins this game at home. Or better be.


PACKERS (3-1) at COWBOYS (2-2)

LINE: DAL by 2 ½.

COTE'S PICK: DAL, 30-27.

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

An easy GOTW choice. These are two of NFL's most storied franchises, and when they last met, in the 2016 playoffs, Green Bay won a thriller, 34-31, in Dallas – the second time in three years the Pack had ousted the 'Boys from the postseason. Revenge time? I think so. As much as I always hesitate to pick against Aaron Rodgers, anywhere, I like Dallas at home behind that stout offensive front, which I see finally paving the way to a breakout game from Ezekiel Elliott, who has disappointed with a pedestrian 3.6 rushing average thus far. And Dak Prescott has 109.6 rating in past seven home games. Cowboys D will miss injured linebacker Sean Lee, but 'Boys bring a bit more desperation here as season makes its turn from first quarter to second.


VIKINGS (2-2) at BEARS (1-3)

LINE: MIN by 3.

COTE'S PICK: CHI, 24-21.

TV: 8:30 p.m. Monday, ESPN.

“AAAWWWK!” trills the Upset Bird. “Chicago Baaawwwk!” Chicago adds new starting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, the rookie who could be very good very fast. And Minnesota subtracts running back Dalvin Cook, the dynamic rookie lost for the season. Those are equalizers in what suddenly is an interesting Monday night matchup. Factor the venue – Bears have beaten Vikes eight of past nine at The Soldier – and the upset recipe is all laid out. Minny getting QB Sam Bradford back from injury is a wild-card here, but I'm betting it's Case Keenum again. “Yes, very eager to see the Bears new QB,” notes U-Bird. “Mitchell Trubaaawwwk!”


@Bengals (1-3, -3) over Bills (3-1), 19-17: Andy Dalton has found his touch after a rough start, and 'Gals' defense will stand up at home in a low-scoring game.

@Browns (0-4, even) over Jets (2-2), 21-20: I may be nuts. Browns have lost 27 of past 29. But I hunch Earthones at home with spark from debut of top pick Myles Garrett.

@Lions (3-1, -2 ½) over Panthers (3-1), 24-20: Cam Newton belittled a female reporter. Time for Motown's turnover-inducing defense to befuddle Cam Newton.

@Colts (1-3, -1 ½) over 49ers (0-4), 18-15: Two struggling teams, two struggling quarterbacks, so make it a venue call and hope the least-bad team wins.

@ Giants (0-4, -3 ½) over Chargers (0-4), 27-23: Two of four remaiing winless teams. Somebody gotta win! Eli Manning and Philip Rivers should make it entertaining.

@Eagles (3-1, -6 ½) over Cardinals (2-2), 28-23: The better team is home in this Bird Bowl, but liking Carson Palmer to keep it inside a plump betting line.

@Steelers (3-1, -8 ½) over Jaguars, 27-16: Le'Veon Bell is really, really good and coming off a breakout game. Jax has league's worst run defense. You do the math.

@Raiders (2-2, -2 ½) over Ravens (2-2), 19-16: EJ Manuel in for injured Derek Carr is huge QB dropoff for Raiders, but Joe Flacco's struggles will continue vs. this pass rush.

Seahawks (2-2, even) over @Rams, 27-17: Finally, a home team loses! Jared Goff and Todd Gurley lead NFL's top-scoring offense, but Seattle D will have something to say about that.

@Texans (2-2, +1) over Chiefs (4-0), 24-20: Upset! Break out the champagne, '72 Dolphins. The last unbeaten is about to fall. Sunday nighter finds KC on road after a short week, and facing a huge challenge in scintillating Texans rookie QB Deshaun Watson.

Week 5 byes: Broncos, Falcons, Redskins, Saints.


The Magical Misery Tour continues! We held about even against the betting line (woulda been 8-7-1 if not for that last-second Chiefs debacle Monday night), but that 7-9 outright is embarrassing. Too early in the season to panic, but we're experimenting this week by massaging the methodology a bit. A tad less reliance on research and a tad more faith in just plain gut instinct and feel. Let's see what happens. Like Dolphins fans, I figure my season can't get any worse … can it!? [Note: Thursday night pick was Patriots (-5 ½) over Buccaneers, 34-23].

Overall Pct. Vs. Spread Pct.

Week 4 7-9 .438 7-8-1 .469

Season 33-30 .524 26-34-3 .437

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