GREG COTE’S NFL WEEK 7 PICKS
DOLPHINS THIS WEEK
DOLPHINS (0-5) at BILLS (4-1)
Line: BUF by 16 1/2.
Cote’s pick: BUF 23-10.
Cannot confirm but I hear the Dolphins won’t be taking a plane to Buffalo — they’ll be driving a tank. But, seriously: Winless tanking-suspect Miami switching from Josh Rosen back to Ryan Fitzpatrick is an indication that rookie coach Brian Flores is A) wishy-washy, or B) actually trying to win. (Maybe both?) Thing is, for Miami this year, trying to win and winning seem a world apart. Fitzbeardrick gives Miami a better shot Sunday, but it’s slight. Buffalo, off a bye, presents really strong defense to a Fins offense averaging fewer points per game (8.4) than any NFL team has averaged over a full season since 1977. The Beard will be under sack-attack all day. The upset hope — more likely the beating-point-spread hope — is that Miami’s D won’t be overwhelmed by a mediocre Buffs offense. Or that Bills QB Josh Allen (seven INTs, two lost fumbles) will charitably continue his proneness to turnovers. Dolphins have lost 17 of last 19 road games to teams with winning record, and that won’t change in Billsville. But I do lean to Miami covering a very big point spread for what should be a score-shy game.
GAME OF THE WEEK
EAGLES (3-3) at COWBOYS (3-3)
Line: DAL by 3.
Cote’s pick: DAL 27-23.
Rarely has a matchup without a winning record been our Game of the Week, but this is not your average .500 game. It’s a top-tier rivalry for NFC East lead in prime time, with both teams desperate but the heat really on Dallas at home after three consecutive losses. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett’s pants are smoldering from that hot seat. (Over/under on TV shots of Jerry Jones in his suite: 3 1/2). Although Birds getting three points tempts here, I like the Boys vs. an injury-racked Philly defense — with a big caveat. WRs Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb all are fighting injuries, and Dak Prescott better hope to have at least two of them available. Dallas also needs more from Ezekiel Elliott than he has given the past few weeks. Sorry on that guaranteed win, Doug Pederson, but Boys have W’d six consecutive division games and three in a row over your Eagles, and those streaks play on.
UPSET OF THE WEEK
RAMS (3-3) at FALCONS (1-5)
Line: LAR by 3.
Cote’s pick: ATL 34-31.
“AAAWWWK!” bellows the Upset Bird. “Spell it ‘Loss’ Angeles. Angelaawwk!” Desperate after three consecutive losses, Rams shipped two first-round picks to Jacksonville for star CB Jalen Ramsey this week. He may or may not play Sunday and they need him, with Aqib Talib injured and Marcus Peters traded. A defense whipped for 105 points the past three games isn’t L.A.’s only issue, though. Jared Goff has been bad, the O-line can’t spring a running game, and Todd Gurley is questionable. Adds up to a strong hunch on home underdog Falcons. ATL has beaten Rams five games in a row and is due a prideful showing in a down year. “Give me Matt Ryan over Goff in a shootout,” adds U-Bird. “Matty Ice. Matty Iaawwk!”
THE REST OF WEEK 7:
Jaguars (2-4, -4) over @Bengals (0-6), 23-20: A.J. Green is close to back but not counting on him here. Miami would love a Cincy win to further clear Fins’ draft path to Tua, and that upset shot is very high. Came thisclose to calling it and do like Gals-with-points. But Leonard Fournette should feast on NFL’s worst run defense.
Vikings (4-2, -1) over @Lions (2-2-1), 27-24: Minny is better on both sides of ball, but venue makes it near pick-’em game. Go with team, not stadium. Vikes have beaten Lions three in a row, Motown is on 1-5 skid vs. division, and Kirk Cousins has fended off critics by playing better lately.
@Packers (5-1, -5 1/2) over Raiders (3-2), 30-20: Oakland has cashed consecutive upset wins over Colts and Bears, but Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau is a step up. Raiders coming off bye and Gee Bees off Monday game, but still like Pack as a touchdown better — especially if Rodgers gets Davante Adams back.
Texans (4-2, +1) over @Colts (3-2), 27-20: Upset! Well, technically, sort of. Quality test for AFC South lead finds Houston having won two in a row, with Deshaun Watson getting good run support. Texans also on 7-2 road streak. Indy comes in off bye having won four of past five in series, but give us Watson’s hot hand.
@Giants (2-4, -3) over Cardinals (2-3-1), 34-28: The expected return from injury of Giants star RB Saquon Barkley bumps the Daniel Jones-Kyler Murray rookie QB duel from top of marquee here. Jones also should have TE Evan Engram back for what could be a shower of points in both directions.
49ers (5-0, -10) over @Redskins (1-5), 28-0: If you put stock in such things, you’d worry that Niners — coming off big division statement win at Rams — face a letdown here. Forget it. SF’s record is no fluke. This Nick Bosa-led defense is the real deal and will send Skins to an eighth consecutive home loss.
@Titans (2-4, -2) over Chargers (2-4), 17-16: Ryan Tannehill replaces Marcus Mariota at QB, a possibility I’ve been touting since August, but Tennessee’s stout defense will steer this one. Confidence in this pick is low, though. Bolts have won eight of past 10 on road and have the better QB.
@Bears (3-2, -3 1/2) over Saints (5-1), 20-17: Mitchell Trubisky appears on track to resume piloting the Bears. (Is that a good thing?) Chitown, home and off a bye, will ride its defense, not Trubisky. N’Awlins could be missing Alvin Kamara, iffy with knee/ankle issues, but still like Fleur-de-lis with the points.
@Seahawks (5-1, -3 1/2) over Ravens (4-2), 34-27: We’re going to find out who’s legit-good and who’s pretending in this must-see matchup. Seattle’s five wins have been over teams currently a combined 9-20-1. Baltimore ‘s four W’s are over opponents now 4-18-1. They can beat bad teams. Can they beat a good one? Dynamic marquee QB duel in Russell Wilson vs. Lamar Jackson. Give me Russ vs. Crows defense that doesn’t bring much pressure and has banged-up secondary.
Patriots (6-0, -10) @Jets (1-4), 24-16: Call me crazy (been called worse), but I give Adam Gase’s low-flying Planes a fair upset shot as huge home underdogs. They’ve dropped seven in a row to Patriots, but Sam Darnold’s return has brought spark and — maybe as important — NYJ hopes to have defensive linchpin C.J. Mosley back for first time since Week 1. New England counts on defense as injuries mount on Tom Brady’s side of ball. Pats rolled over Jets 30-14 a month ago, but Monday’s rematch will be a dogfight.
OFF THIS WEEK
Browns (2-4; next @Patriots): The Browns are still the Browns. Two losses in a row with 63 combined points allowed, and now a trip to Foxborough on deck.
Buccaneers (2-4; next @Titans): Jameis Winston and Bucs are wildly unpredictable. As someone who picks games each week, unfortunately I mean that literally.
Panthers (4-2; next @49ers): Kyle Allen has led Cats to four consecutive wins. Cam Newton is to resume practice after bye, but it might be awhile before he’s ready (wink, wink).
Steelers (2-4; next vs. Dolphins): Pitt will be rested for Miami’s only prime-time game next Monday, and Steelers fill-in QB Mason Rudolph (concussion) should be back.
HOW THE DARTS LANDED
Douse me with a bucket o’ water. I’m on fire! We’re approaching the lofty standard of our record-setting 2018 season against the spread, where the butter meets the bread. Rolled a supreme 11-3 ATS last week to rise to .571 for the year. Bull’s-eyed yet another Upset of the Week (“Aawwk!”) with 49ers winning at Rams, had a second outright upset with Cardinals over Falcons, and a third (albeit a 1-point line) with Saints winning at Jags. Also had a trio of ‘dogs-with-points in Dolphins, Bengals and Steelers. Bandwagon has pulled up to the station. All aboooaaarrrd! (Note: Thursday night pick was @Broncos (+3) over Chiefs, 24-20. Find that full pick capsule here).
Overall; Vs. spread
Week 6 — 10-4, .714; 11-3, .786
Season — 58-33-1, .637; 52-39-1, .571
Final 2018 — 179-75-2, .705; 145-104-7, .582