NFL WEEK 1
GREG COTE’S NFL PICKS OF THE WEEK
DOLPHINS THIS WEEK
TITANS (0-0) at DOLPHINS (0-0)
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Line: TEN by 1
Cote’s pick: MIA, 20-17
TV: 1 p.m., Fox
One year ago, Miami’s season-opening home game was postponed by a hurricane. One year later, the only strong winds affecting this game are emanating from blowhard football media insisting how lousy the Dolphins are. That Miami is a slight home underdog here on Sunday says much about the low outside expectations. Tennessee, after all, is a team the Fins’ own size, a middling bunch despite somehow getting into the playoffs last season, a mirage unlikely to be repeated under first-year coach Mike Vrabel. Mistake-prone Titans QB Marcus Mariota is in a new Rams-like offense, except notably without anything close to the Rams’ talent. This, plainly, is one of those teetering, winnable games Miami must win if it is to surprise the many skeptics and hang in as a playoff contender. I’m not claiming the Fins enjoy a home-field advantage that’s anything special — the cheapest aftermarket tickets for this game are priced second-lowest ($26) in the league in Week 1 -- but there will be some home bounce. More than that, I think Ryan Tannehill, beginning his comeback season for real, is better than Mariota. I think Kenyan Drake and a judiciously deployed Frank Gore could be a very interesting, successful running back tandem. And I believe the Dolphins in general are better than the doomsaying I have been hearing so much of the offseason. So, technically, if barely: Upset!
GAME OF THE WEEK
JAGUARS (0-0) at GIANTS (0-0)
Line: JAX by 3
Cote’s pick: JAX, 21-17
TV: 1 p.m., Fox
It’s an oddball Game of the Week. I know. But the matchup that tops King Sport’s Kickoff Weekend marquee undoubtedly is Jaguar Jalen (Mouth of the South) Ramsey defending the Giants’ healthy-again Odell Beckham Jr. As Ramsey said, with customary modesty: “It’s going to be a show. He’s the best wide receiver, I’m the best corner.” Beyond that 1-on-1, we’re curious if Jax can sustain the progress it made last season, and if NYG can have that progress with a boost from top pick RB Saquon Barkley. Give me the Jags’ D and Ramsey, whose postgame interviews could be epic.
UPSET OF THE WEEK
BENGALS (0-0) at COLTS (0-0)
Line: IND by 2 1/2
Cote’s pick: CIN, 30-20
TV: 1 p.m., CBS
“AAAWWWK!” trumpets the Upset Bird. “I’m baaawwwk!” The inscrutable, erudite talking raven returns to help steer us on our upset picks this season, and begins with a repudiation of the idea Andrew Luck has stored up all this magic during his 19 months’ injury absence. I’ve always thought Luck to be overrated. He gets a top-tier rep with an 87. 3 career passer rating; Tannehill gets maligned with an 86.5. Cincy has won three of past four over Indy, and Gals D will be after Luck hard. “The irony of an injury-addled man named Luck is not lost on us,” notes U-Bird. “Andrew Luuaawwk!”
The rest of Week 1:
Steelers (-4) over @Browns, 28-23: Le’Veon Bell, Le’Veon Bell, Le’Veon Bell. Guess what. Pitt’s good even without. Cleveland is legit improved and has a medium outright upset shot, but give me Big Ben and his 21-2 career record versus Earthtones.
@Vikings (-6 1/2) over 49ers, 38-16: All eyes on the arms as pricey Kirk Cousins debuts for Vikes and Jimmy Garoppolo begins his first fuil season piloting the Niners. Watch Jimmy (7-0) take his first career L vs. a scary excellent Purple D that returns 10 starters.
@Patriots (-6) over Texans, 27-20: Upset Alert! Won’t pull the trigger. Going with Tom Brady at home is a pretty hard/fast rule of mine. But Deshaun Watson and J.J. Watt both healthy again makes Houston a whole ‘nuther team.
@Saints (-9 1/2) over Buccaneers, 31-17: With Saints RB Mark Ingram and Bucs QB Jameis Winston both suspended, give me Drew Brees over Ryan Fitzpatrick, please. Alvin Kamara’s a fantasy beast and Michael Thomas will eat up Brent Grimes and spit out his bones.
@Ravens (-7 1/2) over Bills, 21-3: Buffs are starting Nathan Peterman at QB. No I am not kidding. Josh Allen waits in wings, as does Lamar Jackson behind Joe Flacco. The backup QBs here are more interesting. Bills’ offense might be worst in league.
@Chargers (-3 1/2) over Chiefs, 27-20: Patrick Mahomes has nice weapons in Kareem Hunt, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. Gives visitors a real upset shot here. But I see Philip Rivers feasting on a (very) suspect and beatable K.C. secondary.
@Broncos (-3) over Seahawks, 23-19: Denver is hoping it bought the 2017 Case Keenum, not the journeyman who preceded him. Bad sign if he doesn’t fare well versus a ravaged Seattle D that is the Legion of Boom no more. Russell Wilson gives Hawks a shot, though.
@Cardinals (-1) over Redskins, 19-17: Washington is 0-4 in season openers under Jay Gruden. Let’s keep it that way. It’s Alex Smith versus Sam Bradford in duel of new QBs. But bigger difference is healthy David Johnson over ghost of Adrian Peterson at RB.
@Panthers (-3) over Cowboys, 27-23: Young Cowboys don’t have a lot of firepower after Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, but Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey are working behind an injury-wracked O-line. Home field tips the pick.
@Packers (-7 1/2) over Bears, 27-21: Sunday prime-time stage anoints the comeback of Aaron Rodgers and Bears debut of high-priced sackman Khalil Mack. Like Chitown with points but Rodgers’ 15-4 series dominance (42 TDs, 9 picks) overall.
@Lions (-6 1/2) over Jets, 24-20: Early of two Monday games introduces new Motown coach Matt Patricia — and Jets’ top pick Sam Darnold, 21, as the youngest season-opening starting QB in NFL history. Venue call, but watch Darnold keep it close and raise hopes.
Rams (-4) over @Raiders, 34-17: Monday nightcap might find Jon Gruden scrambling to get back in the TV booth again. Rams’ league-leading offense should be formidable again, and Oak’s D was shaky even before Gruden let big dog Khalil Mack get away.
HOW THE DARTS LANDED
Ryan Tannehill was a 2-year-old toddling around Lubbock, Texas. Tom Brady was an NFL rookie, if memory serves. It was September 1991. That is when this experiment began. Now, 28 years later, we’re back at it with another season of NFL predictions. Oddly, there is little more unpredictable than trying to predict this sport. I proved that last year with a personal-worst against-the-spread record (.432) just one year after an especially good 2016 ATS mark (.560). We’re aiming to get back to sweet ‘16, and invite you to join us for the ride. [Note: Thursday night’s pick was Falcons (+1 1/2) over Eagles, 24-20. Find the full predix capsule here]..
Overall; Vs. spread
2017 156-100 .609; 102-137-17 .432
2016 159-95-2 .626; 139-109-8 .560