NFL WEEK 14
GREG COTE’S NFL PICKS OF THE WEEK
DOLPHINS THIS WEEK
PATRIOTS (10-2) at DOLPHINS (5-7)
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LINE: NE by 11.
COTE’S PICK: NE 31-23.
TV: 8:30 p.m. Monday, ESPN.
I’m no slave to trends, but some you simply cannot ignore. They are like a car in a ditch. You can’t help but slow down and rubberneck. One is that few teams in recent history are better in prime time than New England, and few are worse than Miami. Patriots are on a 16-3 run under the lights while Dolphins are on a 4-14 stumble — including 0-3 this season by a combined score of 112-40. Fine-tune that trend even more and find Fins are 1-7 in past eight Monday appearances. That, along with these teams’ overall disparity and a guy named Tom Brady, is why Miami is the week’s biggest underdog. And there’s this: Jay Cutler in three career starts vs. NE is 0-3 with five interceptions in losses by 34, 29 and 28 points. These are reasons why the hope borne of last week’s 35-9 Dolphins rout of Denver will prove fleeting. But now here are reasons why some hope still exists. Dolphins have beaten Pats three of the past four meetings in Miami. Brady is below his overall career averages in most every category vs. Miami -- merely quite good, vs. otherworldly. And no Gronk. Wait. One more! Pats visit Steelers next week in a battle for the AFC’s No. 1 seed and may be peeking ahead past the disrespected Dolphins. Bottom line: Do I give Miami much chance to upset New England? Nope. But do I sort of like the Fins getting 11 points? Yep.
GAME OF THE WEEK
EAGLES (10-2) at RAMS (9-3)
LINE: LAR by 2 1/2.
COTE’S PICK: PHI 31-27.
TV: 4:25 p.m., Fox.
This tops handful of terrific Week 14 matchups. National Birds and Male Bighorn Sheep are NFL’s two best teams based on point differential, both are gunning for NFC’s No. 1 seed, and we also get first career meeting of Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, top two picks in 2016 draft. Rare to see a 10-2 team getting 2 1/2 points, making Philly too tempting to pass up, making this one of seven upset picks for us this week (including Thursday), which may be a record. The difference here, to my eye: Eagles’ ground attack is excellent, and L.A.’s run defense is not. By the way, Jay Ajayi, not good enough for the Dolphins, is averaging 7.9 yards per carry for Philadelphia.
UPSET OF THE WEEK
PACKERS (6-6) at BROWNS (0-12)
LINE: GB by 3 1/2.
COTE’S PICK: CLE 23-20.
TV: 1 p.m., Fox.
“AAAWWWK!” screams the Upset Bird. “The Browns win a game! The Browns win a gaaawwwk!” Winless no more after Sunday, the Earthtones avoid joining the 2008 Lions as only team to go 0-16. Cleveland’s run-stopping is good enough to force the game into Brett Hundley’s hands, but some of this is just a hunch that Brownies, who’ve been competitive in four of six home games, are simply due a break and a bounce. “Seven upset picks this week,” marvels U-Bird. “I demand overtime pay. Overtime paaawwwk!”
@Bills (6-6, off board) over Colts (3-9), 20-13: Game was off betting boards because Buffs QB Tyrod Taylor was iffy (knee), and it’s a steep falloff to rookie Nathan Peterman or Joe Webb. Like the Williams in any case, though, with heavy dose of LeSean McCoy vs. Nags squad that is 1-5 on road.
@Bengals (5-7, -6) over Bears (3-9), 21-14: Two struggling offenses, although Andy Dalton is playing better lately. Chitown has lost five straight, is 1-4 away from home, and is mentally heading to the first tee.
@Giants (2-10, +4) over Cowboys (6-6), 24-20: Upset! “Aawwk!” Dallas is injury-wracked, and Biggies will be fired up at home now that interim coach Steve Spagnuolo corrected Ben McAdoo’s colossal mistake and reinstated Eli Manning as starter.
@Chiefs (6-6, -4) over Raiders (6-6), 27-20: Huge AFC West game for playoff jockeying. Like KC in a venue pick especially with WR Amari Cooper (ankle) iffy for OAK. Raiders won 31-30 in Week 7 as time expired. Payback.
@Buccaneers (4-8, off board) over Lions (6-6), 23-17: Was off board because Lions QB Matthew Stafford had his throwing hand stepped on last week and is questionable, with green Jake Rudock in wings. That’s enough to chance Bucs at home.
@Panthers (8-4, +2 1/2) over Vikings (10-2), 21-20: Another upset (“Aawwk!”) in another GOTW-worthy matchup. Like strong home ‘dog vs. a Vikes squad that is overdue a stumble after eight straight wins.
@Texans (4-8, -3) over 49ers (2-10), 24-16: Upside of Jimmy Garoppolo vs. awfulness of Tom Savage gives Niners big upset shot. Still, when the better all-round team also is home team, don’t over-think it.
@Broncos (3-9, +1) over Jets (5-7), 19-17: Mini-upset. (Mini-“Aawwk!”). Yes, Denver has lost eight straight. Yes, Dolfans saw exactly how bad Trevor Siemian can be. But I’m hunching a home bounceback vs. NYJ team that is 1-4 on road.
Titans (8-4, -3) over @Cardinals (5-7), 23-16: Went back and forth like eyes at a tennis match on this one. But Cardbirds are injury-wracked, and Titans’ ground game will own clock.
@Chargers (6-6, -6) over Redskins (5-7), 31-20: Red-hot Philip Rivers has led Bolts neatly back from 0-4 start. Washington is 2-0 out west with impressive wins over Rams and Seahawks, but third time’s not the charm.
Seahawks (8-4, +2 1/2) over @Jaguars (8-4), 20-19: More Game of the Week heft here, and yet another upset. (“Aawwk!”). Jax has supplanted Seattle as NFL’s best defense, but ‘Hawks still bring it. And I trust Russell Wilson more than Blake Bortles by about a mile.
@Steelers (10-2, -5) over Ravens (7-5, +5), 24-20: Great rivalry and two hot teams gift Sunday night stage. In Big Ben I trust, but also like Crows getting five. Joe Flacco is 4-3 his past seven trips to Pitt, and homies are missing two key cogs in Juju Smith-Schuster and Ryan Shazier.
HOW THE DARTS LANDED
Finally! A rare sun-dappled week in a season of gloom for us, with the 13-3 overall mark and 10-6 against the spread both shining brightly. Included was a bull’s-eye on our Upset of the Week with Seahawks over Eagles (“Aawwk!”) as well as two other direct hits on minor upsets by the Cowboys and Dolphins. For the year we are poised to leap up over the Mendoza line of .600 straight-up, but there’s still much work left to avoid our worst season ever ATS, which was .449 in 2006. Time to finish like Lionel Messi in a penalty box. [Note: Thursday night pick was Falcons (+1 1/2) over Saints, 34-30].
Overall Pct. Vs. Spread Pct.
Week 13 13-3 .813 10-6 .625
Season 114-78 .594 78-104-10 .432
Final 2016 159-95-2 .626 139-109-8 .560