Drew Brees talks about his team’s makeover since last playoff appearance
GREG COTE’S NFL WEEK 8 PICKS
DOLPHINS THIS WEEK
My pick for Miami at Houston on Thursday night was Texans (-7 1/2), 30-16. Visit Dolphins-Texans for full game analysis/prediction that appeared online Wednesday and in Thursday print edition. Visit Snakebit Adam for preview column centered on coach Adam Gase.
GAME OF THE WEEK
PACKERS (3-2-1) at RAMS (7-0)
Line: LAR by 9 1/2
Cote’s pick: LAR 31-23
TV: 4:25 p.m., Fox
OK the Game of the Week committee voted for Saints-Vikings to grand-marshal Week 8, but I’m the boss and I stole the gavel and overruled. So there. I’m fascinated by what Aaron Rodgers will do as the biggest (point spread) underdog of his entire career. Am also increasingly on the ‘72 Dolphins Watch as the last-unbeaten Rams continue to seem unbeatable (maybe). I have little doubt L.A. stays perfect here; Todd Gurley vs. soft Gee Bees run-D is a mismatch. But Pack, though 0-2 on the road, is coming off a bye that will do Rodgers good, and I trust him, gifted this many points, to keep this inside the betting number.
UPSET OF THE WEEK
SEAHAWKS (3-3) at LIONS (3-3)
Line: DET by 2 1/2
Cote’s pick: SEA 27-21
TV: 1 p.m., Fox
“AAAWWWK!” trumpets the Upset Bird. “Seahaaawwwks!” I get that Seattle is a team notorious for being much tougher at home than when traveling — our only hesitation on this dice-roll, because I think the ‘’Hawks are a better team all-round. Seattle’s defense is jelling, especially against the pass, and its ground game is averaging a stout 157 yards the past four games. Fundamentally, too, I just don’t think Detroit is nearly as impressive as Miami made the Lions seem last week. “Yeah the Fins turned Kerryon Johnson into Barry Sanders,” notes a mocking U-Bird. “Barry Saaawwwk!”
THE REST OF WEEK 8
Eagles (3-4, -3) over Jaguars (3-4), 23-16: For the season’s final Breakfast at Wembley, Londoners get the Disappointment Bowl with reigning Super Bowl champs and last year’s AFC finalists both struggling. Jax has been outscored 57-0 in past three first halves as Blake “Pick” Bortles hangs onto his starting job by the fingertips.
@Bears (3-3, -7 1/2) over Jets (3-4), 27-17: Bet-line leaped two full points as Vegas begged anybody to lay $ on NYJ. The root of the hesitation on that? Perhaps that Chitown D forces a lot of turnovers, and Planes rookie QB Sam Darnold commits a bunch.
@Bengals (4-3, -4) over Buccaneers (3-3), 34-31: Two really bad defenses equal a close, high-scoring game not to be mistaken for a good game. Hunch Bucs with points, and give Tampa a sizable outright upset shot if Jameis Winston avoid turnovers (a rarity).
@Chiefs (6-1, -10) over Broncos (3-4), 37-20: KC has covered spread in all seven games, almost unheard of, and is on 8-0 run at home in division games — while Denver has lost six in a row to Chiefs. Broncos played KC close in 27-23 loss in Week 4, but won’t this time.
@Giants (1-6, -1) over Redskins (4-2), 20-17: Washington was favored by one point most of week before line toggled over to Biggies. Skins the better all-round squad but NYG is just plain due, and coming off encouragingly competitive Monday loss to Atlanta. Oh, and Washers have lost 10 of past 11 trips to the Meadowlands.
@Steelers (3-2-1, -8) over Browns (2-4-1), 31-16: These teams tied in season opener as all of Cleveland celebrated, but Pitt is really coming on. No Le’Veon Bell is increasingly no problem for this offense, and James Conner should shred a bad Earthtones run defense. And this: Browns last won an away game on Oct. 11, 2015, since losing 24 roadies in a row.
Ravens (4-3, -2) over @Panthers (4-2), 19-16: An intriguing matchup, and maybe our hardest call of the week. Carolina, on the wing of an 8-game home winning streak, is a supremely tempting home ‘dog. But! I really love Baltimore’s NFL-best defense. A lot.
Colts (2-5, -3) over @Raiders (1-5), 31-23: Give Oakies fair upset shot, but Andrew Luck has that Nags offense smokin’ hot. And Jon Gruden keeps trading away his best players for draft picks. I think most Raiders fans would take a conditional 6th-rounder for Chuckie about now.
@Cardinals (1-6, +1) over 49ers (1-6), 23-20: Line swung from ‘Zona by one point to Frans by the same negligible digit. Given the woeful records, both teams should be underdogs! Cardbirds went through the Patrick Peterson drama this week, are due some home luck, and match up well here, having beaten SF five straight times including 28-18 in Week 5.
Saints (5-1, +1) over @Vikings (4-2-1), 28-27: Sunday night stage gets a great one as the People’s Game of the Week reprises a 2017 playoff game won dramatically by Vikes in last seconds. Now watch hot Saints exact a dollop of revenge. This is one of three 1-point lines this week, a rarity. Minny’s defense isn’t what it was last year. It has humbled two rookie QBs the past two games but now gets quite the opposite in the great Drew Brees.
Patriots (5-2, -13 1/2) over @Bills (2-5), 41-13: Buffalo is playing in its first Monday night game since 2008. It will not go well. Tom Brady is 28-3 starting against his lapdog rival, including 14-2 (with five straight W’s) in Western New York. With Derek Anderson at QB again, the Bison’s only hope is that New England forgets to pack Brady for the trip.
BYES: Chargers, Cowboys, Falcons, Titans — Chargers 5-2, next @Seahawks; Cowboys 3-4, next vs. Titans; Falcons 3-4, next @Redskins; and Titans 3-4, next @Cowboys -- Epidemic of NFL ordinariness? Eighteen of 32 teams are within one game of .500.
HOW DARTS LANDED
A storm tossed our little boat on a roiling sea last week but did not capsize what continues a strong season. Tweet! I’ve just been penalized 15 yards for torturing a metaphor). The 4-9-1 against the spread (Bucs’ win by 3 pushed) really hurts. Had Houston-with-points at Jax but too little else went my way. Too many ill-advised major risks led by an Upset of the Week call that surmised the Stinkin’ Jets would beat Minnesota. Also had Fins beating Detroit, although that was a gamble I don’t regret. Back in the boat to the siren song of a comeback week! [Note: Thursday night pick was @Texans (-7 1/2) over Dolphins, 30-16. Find the full predix capsule here).
Overall; Vs. spread
Week 7 -- 8-6, .571; 4-9-1, .321
Season -- 72-33-2, .686; 56-47-4, .544