Miami Dolphins safety Xavien Howard looks forward to match up with Bengals star receiver “A.J.” Green.
GREG COTE’S NFL WEEK 5 PICKS
DOLPHINS THIS WEEK
DOLPHINS (3-1) at BENGALS (3-1)
Line: CIN by 5 1/2.
Cote’s pick: CIN 30-20.
TV: 1 p.m., CBS
The Dolphins haven’t been 4-1 through five games since 2003. Alas, I don’t see them getting there on the road Sunday afternoon in a battle of unlikely division leaders. The Bengals’ uptempo offense is its best and most balanced in years, and the ‘Gals add two key pieces here, getting top defender Vontaze Burfict and expecting to have starting RB Joe Mixon back from injury. This in some ways might be a bigger defensive challenge for Miami then even the Patriots were last week. Andy Dalton to A.J. Green will be a handful, and Mixon and Gio Bernard form one of NFL’s better running back tandems. (Speaking of running backs, look for Dolphins coach Adam Gase to remember that Kenyan Drake is pretty good and start feeding him the ball again. That was the focus of this column by me. Maybe Adam read it). Ball control to limit Cincy’s offensive forays might be Miami’s best upset shot. I do think the Dolphins are a fair bet to cover the point spread. Bengals could be in letdown mode after last week’s last-second 37-36 upset win in Atlanta. But the Fins lost a lot of trust capital with me in that 38-7 collapse in Foxborough, and they are only 1-6 in the past seven road games. That makes this a strong venue call.
GAME OF THE WEEK
JAGUARS (3-1) at CHIEFS (4-0)
Line: KC by 3.
Cote’s pick: KC 24-23.
TV: 1 p.m., CBS.
Patrick Mahomes versus the NFL’s best defense is as good as it gets in Week 5, folks. Mahomes (14 TDs, zero picks) is everybody’s early MVP front-runner, while the Jags lead the league in fewest points, total yards and passing yards allowed. KC’s big-play Tyreek Hill versus CB Jalen Ramsey should be a delight. If any opponent can rip Superman’s cape off the still-inexperienced Mahomes, it’s Jax — which is why I place a high Upset Alert on this game. Chiefs’ defense must play better than it has to avoid that. We’re going to put a lot of stock on the home field to help pull KC through. But with much trepidation.
UPSET OF THE WEEK
CARDINALS (0-4) at 49ERS (1-3)
Line: SF by 4 1/2.
Cote’s pick: ARI 20-17.
TV: 4:25 p.m., Fox.
“AAAWWWK!” screeches the Upset Bird. “Arizaaawwwk!” Cardinals have beaten Niners six straight times, but that trend means less to me than this: San Fran is as injury-wracked as any team in the NFL — especially on offense. That gives Cardbirds’ D a chance to cause some havoc. I also have been impressed with the rookie Cacti QB Josh Rosen. Arizona’s run defense is worrisome. Still, I don’t see ‘Zona being the only winless team much longer. “If the 49ers have one more offensive line injury, Kyle Shanahan will be playing guard,” notes U-Bird. “Shanahaaawwwk!”
THE REST OF WEEK 5
Titans (3-1, -3 1/2) over @Bills (1-3) 23-13: Buffalo winning at Minnesota two weeks ago was the most untrustworthy outlier of this NFL season. Far safer to assume that on any given Sunday, Bills’ offense will stink. Having said that, possible Titans letdown after last week’s home stunner over Philly makes Buffs a decent home-’dog risk.
Ravens (3-1, -3) over @Browns (1-2-1) 38-16: Pssst, Baltimore is really good, as the Steelers were reminded last Sunday night. Ravens have won five in a row and 18 of past 20 over Earthtones, and that trend will continue here as Joe Flacco singes Browns’ depleted secondary and Crows’ big defense harrows and dominates Baker Mayfield.
@Lions (1-3, +1) over Packers (2-1-1), 27-24: Upset! The inclination was to go Gee Bees here, but I flipped on a gut feeling, which I rarely do. Detroit has the home field and the desperation. Plus, Aaron Rodgers very possibly will be missing all of his top three wideouts to injuries in Davante Adams, Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison. That’s a ton for even Mr. Rodgers to overcome.
@Jets (1-3, -1) over Broncos (2-2), 19-17: Denver has won three in a row over Planes, but Case Keenum hasn’t been very good, and Broncos are coming off a short week after playing Monday night. I’d also note Denver has lost 10 of its past 11 on the road. So we ride nervously with NYJ. Aside to Sam Darnold: A decent game, por favor?
@Steelers (1-2-1, -3) over Falcons (1-3), 34-27: Dueling disappointment here as two playoff-thinking teams stagger in a combined 2-5-1. An upset would not surprise, but I cannot see Pittsburgh losing a fourth straight home game. Big Ben should hoist big numbers versus an Atlanta defense allowing 30.5 points per game and beset with injuries in its secondary.
@Panthers (2-1, -7) over Giants (1-3), 27-17: Carolina carries a nifty little seven-game home winning streak, has won three in a row following a bye week and gets a defensive boost from addition of safety Eric Reid. And I really like the matchup of Christian McCaffrey for a huge day vs. Biggies’ subpar run defense.
@Chargers (2-2, -5) over Raiders (1-3), 31-23: The Bolts are really good, by the way. Playoff good, their two losses to the unbeaten Rams and Chiefs. Blossoming star RB Melvin Gordon has made Philip Rivers .a better, more efficient QB. Upset Alert, though. Rivalry game, and Chucky’s Raiders can score in bunches if Derek Carr isn’t throwing dumb picks.
@Eagles (2-2, -3) over Vikings (1-2-1), 24-21: Sluggish first quarter-season for last year’s two NFC Championship Game combatants, but Philly is 11-1 in past 12 home games and is the more well-rounded team right now. Minnesota has an epically bad offensive line, and its supposed great defense has been gouged for 94 points the past three weeks.
Rams (4-0, -7) over @Seahawks (2-2), 23-20: It would not shock me to see Seattle marshal its remaining powers -- sonic home field, Russell Wilson, a still-solid defense -- and bounce LAR from the unbeatens. If the Rams’ offense is due a mortal game, this is it. I won’t quite pull that upset trigger, but I do like this home ‘dog getting seven.
@Texans (1-3, -3 1/2) over Cowboys (2-2), 24-20: Sunday night gets a good one, not record-wise but otherwise in only the fifth-ever Battle of Texas since Houston joined the league in 2002. Win by big-brother Dallas wouldn’t surprise, but Cowboys offense has been tepid, and heating-up Deshaun Watson is averaging almost 360 pass-yards his past three games.
@Saints (3-1, -6) over Redskins (2-1), 38-27: Monday night stage gets a matchup of Game of the Week heft, both for the likelihood of a quality shootout and because history will (almost certainly) be made. Drew Brees needs only 201 passing yards to top Peyton Manning’s all-time record of 71,940. I have N’Awlins covering six with some hesitation, though. Redskins’ D leads league in allowing fewest pass plays of 20-plus yards. Drew typically tops 200 yards by the pregame coin flip, but Washington won’t make it easy.
BYES: Bears (3-1; next @Dolphins) and Buccaneers (2-2; next @Falcons).
HOW THE DARTS LANDED
The rotten stuff out of the way first: Yes I did pick Miami to win at New England last week. That actually happened. And since temporary insanity is not an acceptable plea in the predicting business, I simply jut my chin, absorb the ignominy and move on. This helps: The rest of my Week 4 was pretty fab. We were a season-best 11-4 straight up and a winning 8-5-2 against the spread, with the Raiders and Seahawks wins both pushing on three-point lines. Called Houston’s upset at Indy and also nailed a trio of ‘dogs-with-points in Bengals, Titans and 49ers. In other words, I survived the Dolphins’ Foxborough meltdown quite well, thank you. [Note: Thursday night’s pick was @Patriots (-10 1/2) over Colts, 34-20. Find that prediction capsule here].
Overall; Vs. spread
Week 4 -- 11-4, .733; 8-5-2, .615
Season -- 41-20-2, .672; 35-25-3, .583