Greg Cote

Dolphins are challenged to shed awfulness, get back to being average in Week 11

Greg Cote predicts the Dolphins will beat Tampa Bay on Sunday, and that a redeeming game by Cam Wake’s recently embarrassed defense will be a big reason why.
Greg Cote predicts the Dolphins will beat Tampa Bay on Sunday, and that a redeeming game by Cam Wake’s recently embarrassed defense will be a big reason why. Lynne Sladky-AP

NFL WEEK 11

GREG COTE'S NFL PICKS OF THE WEEK

DOLPHINS THIS WEEK

BUCCANEERS (3-6) at DOLPHINS (4-5)

LINE: Even.

COTE'S PICK: MIA 21-20.

TV: 1 p.m., Fox.

This is the season opener Hurricane Irma blew away and postponed 'til now – what should have been a bye week for both teams. Instead the delayed meeting finds Fins and Bucs each slogging through disappointing seasons. Tampa just extricated from a five-game losing streak and now is without injured QB Jameis Winston. Miami was sailing along at 4-2 despite bad offense, but then came that 0-3 skid by a combined 112-45 score in consecutive prime-time pratfalls. Dolphins are only one game off playoff pace in the weak AFC but it feels worse, leading coach Adam Gase this week to say of his team: “It's not a total disaster everywhere.” How's that for a positive spin! Such a rallying cry! It's hard to decide which team is worse right now, so this is a rare pick-'em game, though Miami opened a 2 1/2-point favorite before money flooded onto Tampa. Not sure I get why. Jay Cutler vs. Ryan Fitzpatrick may be a push, but I anticipate a big bounceback performance at home by Miami's defense, which was embarrassed in that 40-0 loss at Baltimore and maybe even moreso in the 45-21 shellacking in Carolina Monday night. Against a Bucs squad that is 0-4 on the road, look for the Dolphins to shake their lapse into awfulness and get back to being average.

GAME OF THE WEEK

EAGLES (8-1) at COWBOYS (5-4)

LINE: PHI by 3 ½.

COTE'S PICK: PHI 30-27.

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

Week 11 offers a handful of legit GOTW candidates, but it's hard to top two playoff-strong teams in a great division rivalry on the Sunday night stage. One has the best record in the NFL. The other is a marquee franchise. And if the game itself isn't delicious enough, can't wait to hear Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth chew over the Jerry Jones-Roger Goodell acrimony. Cowboys a very tempting home 'dog but are seriously diminished by absence of RB Ezekiel Elliott and LB Sean Lee. Take Philly, but hedge on home-'Boys with that added half-point on the line.

UPSET OF THE WEEK

RAMS (7-2) at VIKINGS (7-2)

LINE: MIN by 2 ½.

COTE'S PICK: LAR 28-23.

TV: 1 p.m., Fox.

“AAAWWWK!” bellows the Upset Bird. “In Goff We Trust! Jared Gaaawwwk!” It's Jared Gaawwk-I-mean-Goff vs. his old teammate Case Keenum in a matchup that also could have been our Game of the Week. Teams have won nine games in a row between them. These are two comparably solid defenses, but on offense, while the Vikes are pretty good, the Rams are great – highest-scoring team in the league, and with the leading points differential by a lot. “I would also note that the Rams are 4-0 on the road,” adds U-Bird. “On the raaawwwk!”

OTHER GAMES

Lions (5-4, -3) over @Bears (3-6), 24-20: Rivals' 175th meeting will be another close one, but Motown is 3-1 on road and Matthew Stafford has his offense humming while Chitown's sputters.

Jaguars (6-3, -7 ½) over @Browns (0-9), 21-13: Jax safety Tashaun Gipson, ex-Brown, angered and likely inspired Cleveland by predicting they'd go 0-16. But he may be right. Jags' big-sacking D will be big problem for Browns' O-line in expected sleety weather.

@Packers (5-4, +2) over Ravens (4-5), 19-17: Upset. (“Aawwk!”) Crows arrive off a bye and their pass defense will be big test for Brett Hundley, but the gut says Cheesers at Lambeau.

@Saints (7-2, -7 ½) over Redskins, 34-24: Should be entertaining pointfest. Real-deal N'Awlins has won seven straight but Skins, though injury-wracked, are 4-1 vs. Sean Payton-coached Saints.

Chiefs (6-3, -10 ½) over @Giants (1-8), 27-23: Andy Reid teams are 16-2 following bye and KC catches Giants unraveling. Hunch a competitive game anyway. Chiefs have been nothing special since 5-0 start, and Biggies will respond to Ben McAdoo's call-out team meeting.

@Texans (3-6, -1) over Cardinals (4-5), 20-17: Tom Savage has been awful at QB for HOU but 'Zona likely be down to third-string arm Blaine Gabbert. Defense carries Texans at home.

@Chargers (3-6, -4 ½) over Bills, 23-20: Bolts sackers will make it a tough first start for rookie QB Nathan Peterman, in for benched Tyrod Taylor. But still give Buffs a big upset shot, especially with LAC down to Kellen Clemens if concussion ends Philip Rivers' streak of 194 straight starts.

@Broncos (3-6, -2 ½) over Bengals (3-6), 24-20: Denver has lost five straight and its once-stout defense has sagged, but Broncos are much better at home, and Cincy's O-line is a shambles.

Patriots (7-2, -7) over Raiders (4-5), 38-23: Ole'! NFL visits high-altitude Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. Tom Brady could play wearing a sombrero and he'd still throw for 350 yards against a Raiders defense that's worst in NFL in opponent passer rating and completion percentage.

@Seahawks (6-3, -3) over Falcons, 24-20: Monday night gets a good show from Russell Wilson and Matt Ryan. CB Richard Sherman's Achilles injury lessens the Legion of Boom, but that's offset by ATL missing RB Devonta Freeman to a concussion. Venue tips the call.

Week 11 byes: Colts, 49ers, Jets, Panthers.

HOW THE DARTS LANDED

Disparate week in a dispiriting season for me with a nifty 11-3 mark straight-up last week but a miserable 5-9 against the spread – despite a bull's-eye on Buccaneers over Jets in our Upset of the Week call (“Aawwk!”). If this keeps up much longer I'd need to start robbing convenience stores to make up the shortfall on my record vs. the evil betting line. In fact I am in jeopardy of having my worst winning percentage both ways in 27 years of NFL picks. The existing season lows I'm fighting to top are .573 straight-up (in 2008) and .449 ATS (2006). I remain confident. Which may or may not be a lie. [Note: Thursday night pick was Steelers (-7) over Titans, 28-20].

Overall Pct. Vs. Spread Pct.

Week 10 11-3 .786 5-9 .357

Season 83-63 .568 58-79-9 .428

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

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