GREG COTE’S NFL WEEK 6 PICKS
DOLPHINS THIS WEEK
BEARS (3-1) at DOLPHINS (3-2)
Line: CHI by 3
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Cote’s pick: CHI 23-16
TV: 1 p.m., Fox
Our NFL predictions get from conception to delivery in myriad ways. Here, the gut feeling out the gate was to go with Miami — one of seven home ‘dogs in Week 6 — in a pretty big upset. The gut is usually enough. I’m a bit superstitious about thinking one thing and then changing my mind. But I did on this. Yes, the Dolphins (2-0 at home) have a reasonable upset shot, although I’d feel better about that if I was sure left tackle Laremy Tunsil (concussion protocol) would play. I mean, Bears sackstar Khalil Mack will wreak havoc regardless, but the likelihood of a Ryan Tannehill nightmare spikes sharply without Tunsil. This game arrives as a rare treat; it is only these teams’ fifth meeting since 2002 realignment. But the meeting finds Miami coming off two straight dispiriting losses and hot Chicago having won three in a row and coming off a bye. That’s why the betting line opened dead-even but moved strongly as money poured onto the Bears. Tannehill must outperform (not to mention outscore) Mitch Trubisky, but that’s a bigger ask of Tanny versus a Bears defense I’d judge among the league’s top three. For a Dolphins squad trying to heal from consecutive road meltdowns, the home game is well-timed. If only the opponent were as well..
GAME OF THE WEEK
CHIEFS (5-0) at PATRIOTS (3-2)
Line: NE by 3 1/2
Cote’s pick: NE 45-37
TV: 8:20 p.m., NBC
The Sunday primetime stage delights to welcome a very possible AFC Championship Game preview, while the 1972 Dolphins delight to toast the fall of one of only two remaining unbeaten teams. The Chiefs have a very strong offense but a defense that makes their ‘D’ sound like a letter grade. New England is better positioned to limit wunderkind Patrick Mahomes than KC is to thwart Tom Brady. (Quick aside: Mahomes was 6 when Brady won the first of his five Super Bowl rings). Locale underlines this pick. NE is an awesome home team, and Bill Belichiick with extra time to prepare (after playing last Thursday) is like Usain Bolt with a head start. Chiefs are outscoring foes 59-9 in first quarter, so Pats scoring first could shape this game early. NE will have payback in mind after KC won in Foxborough 42-27 to open the 2017 season. Chiefs secondary is beatable, and Brady (seeking career regular-season win No. 200) has Gronk getting healthier, Josh Gordon fitting in, Julian Edelman back and Sony Michel emerging. The scoreboard might explode.
UPSET OF THE WEEK
STEELERS (2-2-1) at BENGALS (4-1)
Line: CIN by 2 1/2
Cote’s pick: PIT 28-24
TV: 1 p.m., CBS
“AAAWWWK!” bellows the Upset Bird. “Pittsbaaawwwk!” The trends: Steelers have won six straight in this division series, Bengals are 1-7 at home under Andy Dalton, and Big Ben is 14-2 at Cincy. Those are nemesis numbers. IN-your-head stuff. The way it’ll play out: Pittsburgh will pound James Conner (Le’Veon Who?) against a ‘Gals defense subpar at sopping the run. And, while Ryan Tannhill couldn’t take advantage of holes in this pass defense, Roethlisbergerr will have no such problem. “Look for two TD passes to Antonio Braawwk,” predicts U-Bird. “Ben Roethlisbaaawwwk!”
THE REST OF WEEK 6
@Falcons (1-4, -3 1/2) over Buccaneers (2-2), 38-23: No more desperate team than Atlanta enters Week 6 as Jameis Winston makes his first post-suspension start for Tampa. The Falcons might have the worst defense in the NFL — except that the Bucs do! Mitch Trubisky threw six TD passes vs. Tampa. In the first half. Ready, set, go Matt Ryan.
Chargers (3-2, -1) over @Browns (2-2-1), 24-20: The Dawg Pound is howling again because the Browns, for a change, don’t suck. But don’t sleep on the Chargers being playoff-good. Going team over venue in a coin-flip game. Earthtones lead league with 15 defensive takeaways, so key will be Philip Rivers staying pick-free.
Seahawks (2-3, -3) vs. Raiders (1-4), 23-16: The Wembley crowd should like this matchup because Londoners casually following American football think Seattle is still great, think the Raiders mystique still lives, plus they’ve heard of Jon Gruden. Bonus: Marshawn Lynch’s first game vs. his longtime former team.
Cardinals (1-4, +10 1/2) @Vikings (2-2-1), 37-13: Last time Vikes thought they had a really easy home game, Buffalo won easily. Lesson learned. Minnesiota is better all over the field, Kirk Cousins has been great, and Cardbirds have lost nine straight at Minny.
@Jets (2-3, -2 1/2) over Colts (1-4), 23-20: There are tighter point spreads this week, but for me this was the closest pick. Make it a home-field call, with a nod to Planes’ pretty solid pass-D picking Andy Luck once or twice.
Panthers (3-1, +1) over @Redskins (2-2), 24-17: Upset! (Sort of). Washington attack has sputtered under Alex Smith, and stout Carolina D get big lift with Pro Bowl LB Thomas Davis coming off suspension. Also trust Cats’ league-leading ground game.
Bills (2-3, +10) @Texans (2-3), 20-17: Point spread is silly-big and Buffs cover like a coat of good paint. Deshaun Watson is playing with tender ribs and Bills’ D has forced eight turnovers in past three games and leads NFL in sacks.
Rams (5-0, -7) over @Broncos (2-3), 30-20: Rams are NFL’s most complete team. Denver is 4-13 in its last 17 games and Vance Joseph should be on anybody’s coaching hot seat. Broncos are much better at home, though, so the bet-line gives us pause.
@Cowboys (2-3, +3) over Jaguars (3-2), 19-17: Upset! Both teams with with defense — Jax’s more celebrated but Dallas’ underrated-good. Cowboys also are a decidedly better team at home than on the road, and Jaguars are far more prone to beating themselves with turnovers and penalties.
@Titans (3-2, +2 1/2) over Ravens (3-2), 23-20: Upset! Two teams that win with defense, running and ball control in what could be our Game of the Week runnerup. I make it a venue call as Tenners have created one of NFL’s better home-field edges. Also, Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees did same job for Crows and knows all about Joe Flacco.
@Packers (2-2-1, -9 1/2) over 49ers (1-4), 31-16: The fact Aaron Rodgers and his Pack offense have been pretty good but not fantastic will be a theme Al and Cris will pound from the booth on Monday night. (Over/under on shots of Danica Patrick in a suite: 2 1/2). Niners are 5-14 in their last 19 road games, Lambeau is still a scarier-than-most home edge, and C.J. Beathard is a certified turnover machine.
BYES: Lions and Saints. Detroit is 2-3; next @Dolphins. Second straight week Miami will face team coming off bye. New Orleans is 4-1; next at Ravens. Drew Brees needs the week off. Throwing for 72,103 yards is tiring.
HOW THE DARTS LANDED
I’m bangin’ pots and pans like Miami Heat fans celebrating a playoff win on Biscayne Boulevard. Why? Because in 28 seasons picking NFL games I’ve seen plenty of down years, so when I’m on a roll like this one — yes, I don’t mind bragging. We rolled a 12-3 straight-up last week to get near .700 for the season — better than all 11 on ESPN’s NFL Experts Panel. Also went 10-5 against the spread last week to rise to an even .600 for the year. That’s rarefied air, folks. We bull’s-eyed another Upset of the Week pick with Cardinals winning at San Fran (“Aawwk!”), called the mini-upset by Detroit over Pack, had Seahawks-with-points over Rams, and hit Cincy’s 10-point margin over Dolphins on the nose. Our bubble may burst. Just not this week, OK? [Note: Thursday night pick was @Giants (+3) over Eagles, 31-28. Find the full predix capsule here].
Overall; Vs. spread
Week 5 -- 12-3, .800; 10-5, .667
Season -- 53-23-2, .697; 45-30-3, .600