DOLPHINS THIS WEEK
DOLPHINS (4-6) at PATRIOTS (8-2)
LINE: NE by 16 1/2.
COTE’S PICK: NE 31-17.
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TV: 1 p.m., CBS.
This is close to about as big as NFL point spreads get, but it isn’t Alabama hosting Font of Tears Bible College. This is King Sport, where anybody (except the Browns, of course) can beat anybody. Not saying will. But can. And more so in division rivalries. Both of New England’s 2017 losses have been in not-impenetrable Foxborough, and Tom Brady has been intercepted more times by Miami in his career (21) than anybody else. Pats swept Fins last season, but Miami beat NE at least once each of the three previous years. Also, Patriots’ pass defense is average, and their run defense might be the worst in the league. The point: Miami, a team that won in Atlanta, is capable of shaking off four consecutive losses with its performance of the year Sunday. And that is whether Jay Cutler (concussion protocol) starts or whether Matt Moore does. This belief is why I like the Dolphins with the points, if not quite outright. I think Miami will show some spine and compete hard Sunday. But there is too much talent shortfall — especially between Brady and Cutler/Moore — to think Miami will win outright at this venue for the first since 2008. The temperature Sunday up there is forecast for the low 30s. So is the Patriots’ point total, alas.
GAME OF THE WEEK
SAINTS (8-2) at RAMS (7-3)
LINE: LAR by 2 1/2.
COTE’S PICK: NO 37-31.
TV: 4:25 p.m., CBS.
There is a sameness to the Patriots always being good, but when the Saints are good again and the Rams are good for a change — that’s good for the NFL. Refreshing. N’Awlins and LAR both can score behind Drew Brees and Jared Goff, who’ll make this a very likely shootout. Both teams have stout defenses, too, something way different from the usual down on the Bayou. But the matchup I like that swings this pick for me is Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara vs. the Rams’ run defense, which is about as close to an Achilles heel as L.A. has. So I like the Saints … and the ‘over’ even more.
UPSET OF THE WEEK
TITANS (6-4) at COLTS (3-7)
LINE: TEN by 3.
COTE’S PICK: IND 24-20.
TV: 1 p.m., Fox.
“AAAWWWK!” carols the Upset Bird. “Indianapolaaawwwk!” Colts had beaten Titans 11 times in a row in this AFC South series before Tenners finally won last meeting. Titans are NFL’s only winning-record team with a negative point differential (minus-31); they just aren’t that good. Neither are Colts, but they’re home, and I’m hunching T.Y. Hilton makes his fantasy owners smile. “Miami Springs’ and FIU’s own,” notes U-Bird. “T.Y. Haaawwwk!”
@Falcons (6-4, -10) over Buccaneers (4-6), 28-20: Tampa is 1-4 on road and without Jameis Winston again, but has won three of past four in division series and should keep it inside the betting line.
@Bengals (4-6, -8) over Browns (0-10), 24-13: Poor Ohio. The good news? Winless Browns are not yet mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. The bad news? Their odds are 1 in 19 quintillion.
@Chiefs (6-4, -10) over Bills (5-5), 27-20: Buffs haven’t been a good road team, but Tyrod Taylor starting again as he should at least gives them a shot. K-City banged out the gate 5-0 but has been nothing special since.
Panthers (7-3, -4) over @Jets (4-6), 20-17: Up-and-down Planes a tempting but unreliable home ‘dog. Cats are 4-1 away, and could have TE Greg Olsen and C Ryan Kalil back from injuries.
@Eagles (9-1, -13 1/2) over Bears (3-7), 34-17: Doesn’t get any easier for Mitch Trubisky. Best Chi-town hope is that Philly’s in letdown mode, with this game sandwiched between @Cowboys last week and @Seahawks in prime-time on deck.
Seahawks (6-4, -6 1/2) over @49ers (1-9), 23-13: ‘Hawks have beaten Niners eight consecutive times. Seattle D isn’t the powerhouse it has been, but SF can’t take advantage. Jimmy Garoppolo, please.
@Raiders (4-6, -5) over Broncos (3-7), 24-21: Trendy upset pick. Denver has won past two meetings with defense and could get a spark from Paxton Lynch starting. Bulletin, though: Broncos’ once-vaunted D isn’t very good right now.
Jaguars (7-3, -5 1/2) over @Cardinals (4-6), 19-13: Longtime Cardinals pass rusher Calais Campbell (the ex-Cane) makes his return to ‘Zona, and brings a really strong Jax defense with him. It’s why they’re winning — even with Blake Bortles.
@Steelers (8-2, -14) over Packers (5-5), 34-16: Sunday nighter might have been our Game of the Week if it had Aaron Rodgers in it. But Brett Hundley ain’t-a-gonna outscore Big Ben in Steeltown.
@Ravens (5-5, -7 1/2) over Texans (4-6), 24-21: Monday night gets a host Baltimore team that has won nine consecutive prime-time games, and is playing really good defense lately.
HOW THE DARTS LANDED
Our tough 2017 continued last week with a mediocre 8-6 mark straight-up and a sad 5-8-1 (Lions game pushed) against the spread. We did have Giants-with-points over Chiefs, that one highlight as alone as a man clinging to a life preserver in the middle of the ocean. Still trying to avoid our worst season in 27 years doing this. I remain confident we can climb over our low-water mark straight-up (.573 in 2008), but we’ve got serious work ahead of us to get up over our worst mark vs. the spread (.449 in 2006). For NFL teams, Thanksgiving Day coinciding with no more byes signals the start of the stretch run that determines everything. For me and my season, too. [Note: Thursday’s three Thanksgiving Day picks Lions (+3) over Vikings, 24-20; Cowboys (Even) over Chargers, 27-23; and Redskins (-7 1/2) over Giants, 30-17].
▪ Week 11: 8-6 (.571) overall; 5-8-1 (.393) vs. the spread.
▪ Season: 91-69 (.569) overall; 63-87-10 (.425) vs. the spread
▪ Final 2016: 159-95-2 (.626) overall; 139-109-8 (.560) vs. the spread.