Greg Cote

Good news, bad news for Miami Dolphins at Carolina Monday night

Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake, shown in action vs. Patriots last season, should see an increased role Monday night, but Miami will find Carolina’s defense a tougher challenge than Oakland’s was last week.
Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake, shown in action vs. Patriots last season, should see an increased role Monday night, but Miami will find Carolina’s defense a tougher challenge than Oakland’s was last week. Al Diaz-Miami Herald/TNS




DOLPHINS (4-4) at PANTHERS (6-3)

LINE: CAR by 10.


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

Miami has lost two in a row, and there are no pity-points for improved effort or barely losing to Oakland 27-24 last week thanks to a comatose Dolphins offense finally showing a pulse. Fins still must prove they can play a complete, complementary game with all cylinders firing, and if they don't do it Monday night in Charlotte that would make it 0-for-3 in consecutive prime-time showcases. I give Miami a big chance here – certainly against the spread, getting 10 points. Dolphins may be a shaky .500, but Panthers' 6-3 mark wobbles a bit, too. Cam Newton's passer rating actually is a fair bit worse than Jay Cutler's (78.4 to 87.4) and the Cats' minus-8 on turnovers is fourth-worst in the NFL. Miami also has the benefit of safety T.J. McDonald's debut after serving an eight-game league suspension for substance abuse. Carolina's defense, though, is really stout – much better than what Cutler picked apart last week vs. Oakland. And the Monday night stage, though diminished, still tends to magnify a home-field advantage. Good news? I'd bet on a close game, and an outright upset would not shock. Bad news? I need to see a solid, four-quarter performance by the offense and defense in synch before the Dolphins earn my trust to conjure another major road upset.


SAINTS (6-2) at BILLS (5-3)

LINE: NO by 3.

COTE'S PICK: NO 27-23.

TV: 1 p.m., Fox.

An unlikely Game of the Week but (sorry, runnerup Cowboys-Falcons) here are two teams that have roared from mediocrity to playoff contention – the Buffs aiming to make it for first time this century. Saints have rolled a six-pack of consecutive W's since an 0-2 start; Bills counter with a shiny 4-0 record at home. Tempting home 'dog here, but I'm seriously buying Drew Brees and N'Awlins with that newfound offensive balance and solid defense (both for a change).


JETS (4-5) at BUCCANEERS (2-6)

LINE: NYJ by 2 ½.

COTE'S PICK: TB, 23-20.

TV: 1 p.m., CBS.

“AAAWWK!” trills the Upset Bird. “Tampa Baaawwwk!” Like many upset picks, this one may strike you as illogical, with NYJ having won eight straight over Bucs, and Tampa missing QB Jameis Winston to a shoulder injury. But I'm playing the law-of-averages-and-a-hunch quiniela. And Winston sub Ryan Fitzpatrick should shine vs. his team of the previous two years. “Indeed, one of the league's better backups,” notes U-Bird. “Fitzpaaawwwk!”


@Bears (3-5, -5 ½) over Packers (4-4), 19-16: Aaron Rodgers' injury changes everything in 196th renewal of a great King Sport rivalry. Brett Hundley's been awful, and Bears' D is pretty strong. Still, bet-line feels fat for what should be a point-shy scrum.

@Lions (4-4, -11) over Browns (0-8), 24-17: Matthew Stafford should hoist fantasy-big stats vs. Earthtones' weak secondary, but Motown has dropped three straight at home.

@Titans (5-3, -4 ½) over Bengals (3-5), 23-14: Tennessee, once woeful at home, has won seven of past eight in Nashville, and I don't trust Andy Dalton's 'Gals offense.

Steelers (6-2, -10) over @Colts (3-6), 34-13: Pitt has lost to Bears and Jags so ought not take Indy lightly, but Big Ben & crew should feast on a really bad Nags defense.

@Redskins (4-4, +1 ½) over Vikings (6-2), 24-21: Upset. “Aawwk!” Like Skins as a home 'dog coming off big win at Seattle. Case Keenum again for Vikes, but Miami-born Teddy Bridgewater activated as backup and could see first action since 2015 season.

@Jaguars (5-3, -3 ½) over Chargers (3-5), 23-17: Jags get RB Leonard Fournette back after 1-game team suspension, and Jax's fearsome pass rush should dominate Philip Rivers' protection.

@Rams (6-2, -11) over Texans (3-5), 27-17: Jared Goff and Todd Gurley spearhead NFL's highest-scoring offense, while Deshaun Watson to Tom Savage has proved a steep, ruinous plunge for Houston. Like Texans D with the points, though.

@Falcons (4-4, -3) over Cowboys (5-3), 31-27: Falcons have lost four of past five while Cowboys have won three in a row, but that only makes the home team more desperate here, which should serve Atlanta well. Dallas also approached the weekend still unsure whether RB Ezekiel Eliiott would play or begin serving his oft-delayed 6-game league suspension.

Giants (1-7, -2 ½) over @49ers (0-9), 20-17: Two bad offenses, two bad defenses and a combined record of 1-16. Time for Niners to hand the ball to Jimmy Garoppolo. But first, time for Eli Manning to catch a break.

Patriots (6-2, -7 ½) over @Broncos (3-5), 27-21: What once seemed a prime-time-worthy Sunday night matchup has withered with four straight Broncos losses and bad quarterbacking. Pats are coming off a bye and have won 11 straight on road. Still, I see Broncs' D keeping it close.

Week 10 byes: Chiefs, Eagles, Raiders, Ravens.


Time to eulogize and ceremonially bury the frst half of my season of NFL picks. The two-word eulogy: “It Sucked.” That would go on the tombstone, except it's an unmarked grave that will go untended and unvisited. At least we showed an upturn against the spread last week at 7-5-2, led by a rare pair of exact-score perfectos in the 23-20 win by Titans and 20-17 win by Panthers. Also had Skins-with-points over Seattle. It was the Dolphins game (Oakland by 3) that pushed for the tie. Time to ramp it up and be the cadaver that suddenly sits bolt upright on the steel table. [Note: Thursday night pick was Seahawks (-5 ½) over Cardinals, 24-16].

Overall Pct. Vs. Spread Pct.

Week 9 6-7 .462 7- 5-1 .583

Season 72-60 .545 53-70-9 .436

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