NFL WEEK 13
GREG COTE’S NFL PICKS OF THE WEEK
DOLPHINS THIS WEEK
BRONCOS (3-8) at DOLPHINS (4-7)
LINE: DEN by 1 1/2.
COTE’S PICK: MIA 19-17.
TV: 1 p.m., Fox.
The utter lack of public faith in and respect for the Dolphins shows in the fact Miami opened a negligible 1-point favorite but soon became a 1 1/2-point home underdog as bets flooded toward Denver. Um, that would be a Denver team with worse record, on a seven-game losing streak and 0-5 on the road. The Fins’ are on a season-ruining five-game skid of their own. If this matchup were any less watchable it would be banned from television by the FCC. They might not even allow a live audience to watch for fear of mass mental anguish. There are interesting sidelights, though. Dolphins coach Adam Gase was a Denver assistant six years (2009-14) and QB Jay Cutler — starting again after missing one game concussed — began his career a Bronco in 2006-08. Oh, and Denver coach Vance Joseph was Miami’s defensive coordinator last year. But none of these connections are enough to sufficiently hoist this moribund matchup of teams going nowhere and doing very little well. As much as I don’t trust the Dolphins’ offensive line, Miami at home vs. an even-more-dreadful opponent is worth the gamble here. But I still can’t help but think, as I anticipate an epic Trevor Siemien vs. Cutler duel, that this would be a so much more interesting game if the quarterbacks Sunday were John Elway and Dan Marino. I mean them now. At ages 57 and 56. Playing in business suits and wingtips.
GAME OF THE WEEK
PANTHERS (8-3) at SAINTS (8-3)
LINE: NO by 4 1/2.
COTE’S PICK: NO 34-27.
TV: 4:25 p.m., Fox.
Tough GOTW competition for Week 13 but here’s a battle for the NFC South lead in the fiercest three-way division playoff race in football. And Cam Newton vs. Drew Brees? Delish! Panthers bring a shiny 5-1 road record to the Bayou, where N’Awlins is 4-1. And Cats have won four straight, while Saints had won eight in row before last week’s stumble. The Fleur-de-Lis handled Carolina 34-13 in Week 3. Same result here, but closer. Brees is as good as ever, and finally has dynamic balance in RBs Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara.
UPSET OF THE WEEK
EAGLES (10-1) at SEAHAWKS (7-4)
LINE: PHI by 5 1/2.
COTE’S PICK: SEA 27-24.
TV: 8:30 p.m., NBC.
“AAAWWWK!” crows the Upset Bird. “Seahaaawwwk!” Bird Bowl figures as a stage-worthy spectacle for Sunday night as MVP candidate Carson Wentz leads the best-record Eagles into maybe league’s toughest place to play against a Seattle team fighting to get on playoff pace. Philly can be first to clinch playoff berth with win here (or if Dallas loses Thursday night), but Seattle, even with its Legion of Boom defense injury-depleted, is a huge obstacle. ‘Hawks are 21-4-1 in prime-time since 2000, including 13-2 at home under Peter Carroll. “Ready for prime-time players,” notes a nodding U-Bird. “Readyforprimetimeplaaawwwk!”
@Falcons (7-4, -3) over Vikings (9-2), 27-23: Vikes have won seven in a row but Dirty Birds have won four of past five and now get RB Devonta Freeman back from concussion. Atlanta CB injuries a concern, but make it a venue pick.
Patriots (9-2, -8 1/2) over @Bills (6-5), 30-20: Smokin’ Pats are 5-0 on road, but Bison are solid 4-1 at home. Upset Bird is circling but I say nope. Must bow to trends: NE has owned Bills 29-5 since 2000, including five straight road wins.
@Bears (3-8, -3) over 49ers (1-10), 20-16: Interesting QB duel. SF a trendy upset pick because Niners unleash Jimmy Garoppolo, a Chicago kid, for first start since trade. But Mitch Trubisky is facing 49ers who could have drafted him but traded down. Take Bears at The Soldier in point-shy affair.
@Packers (5-6, even) over Buccaneers (4-7), 28-23: Bay Bowl sees Bucs with Jameis Winston back from shoulder injury, but Tampa is only 1-5 on road and Lambeau is still imposing venue even without Aaron Rodgers on field. (He could return as soon as Dec. 17, by the way).
@Titans (7-4, -7) over Texans (4-7), 24-20: Houston clobbered and embarrassed Tennessee 57-14 in Week 4, but Texans had Deshaun Watson then. Now they have Tom Savage, who produces more turnovers than a downtown bakery. Still hunch it close, though.
Chiefs (6-5, -3) over @Jets (4-7), 21-17: Another trendy upset pick among the NFL literati, but I like K-City reminding us it once was 5-0, and why. Sidelight: Washed-up Chiefs CB Darrelle Revis vs. longtime former team.
@Jaguars (7-4, -10) over Colts (3-8), 24-10: Jags whipped Nags 27-0 in October and should pound ‘em again with that top-tier defense. Can’t wait to hear Chuck Pagano’s postgame press conference reach new levels of existential insanity. “I got you, babe!”
@Ravens (6-5, -2 1/2) over Lions (6-5), 20-17: Huge playoff-jockeying game for both teams. I’m starting to really trust Baltimore’s jelling defense, which is good enough, especially at home, to make you (almost) forget how bad Joe Flacco has been.
@Chargers (5-6, -14) over Browns (0-11), 34-13: Suspended WR Josh Gordon returns to Browns for first time since 2014. CLE’s only win last year came vs. Chargers but no repeat here. Earthtones one of three teams out of playoff chase (SF, NYG) and are 1-26 under Hue Jackson. That’s no misprint.
@Raiders (5-6, -9) over Giants (2-9), 21-17: It’s the Disappointment Bowl! NYG made NFL’s biggest news of week by benching QB Eli Manning after 210 consecutive starts — and for Geno Smith!? Give Ben McAdoo a Breathalyzer test. Bet-line feels too big, though.
Rams (8-3, -7) over @Cardinals (5-6), 30-20: Rams spanked Cardbirds 33-0 in Week 7, which should fire up ‘Zona as a home ‘dog in rematch. Still like LAR comfortbaly. Jared Goff is really percolating behind that solid, steady O-line.
Steelers (9-2, -5 1/2) over @Bengals (5-6), 27-20: Hot Pitt beat its bitter rival 29-14 in Week 7 for fifth consecutive win in series; this will be closer, and a good one for Monday night. But I really like this matchup: Le’Veon Bell vs. a shaky ‘Gals run defense.
HOW THE DARTS LANDED
Like the Dolphins and Broncos, my season is waiting on a turnaround, an escape from the abyss, that just isn’t happening. Been a rough year on the picks, folks. Went a decent 10-6 straight-up last week but it’s still quite a hike north for me to reach the Mendoza line of .600 for the year. It’s worse against the spread. Rolled an awful 5-11 ATS last week and it’ll take a small miracle now to avoid my worst season ever (.449, 2006) vs. the evil betting line. But, do I believe in miracles? Oh hell yeah! [Note: Thursday pick was Cowboys (+1 1/2) over Redskins, 24-20].
▪ Week 12: 10-6, .625 (overall); 5-11 .313 (vs. spread).
▪ Season: 101-75, .574 (overall); 68-98-10, .415 (vs. spread).
▪ Final 2016: 159-95-2 ,.626 (overall); 139-109-8, .560 (vs. spread).