GREG COTE’S NFL WEEK 10 PICKS
DOLPHINS THIS WEEK
DOLPHINS (1-7) at COLTS (5-3)
Line: IND by 10 1/2.
Cote’s pick: IND 27-18.
Imagine going on a long car trip with a constipated dog that won’t stop barking. OK, the Dolphins travel about as successfully as that. Miami has lost 10 consecutive away games and 15 of the past 16, and it looks like more road-kill on Sunday. The Colts have treated Andrew Luck’s sudden retirement like a small bump in the road, with Jacoby Brissett seeming likely to play despite spraining a knee last week. Even if not, Brian Hoyer is an experienced, seen-everything veteran in the Ryan Fitzpatrick vein. No matter who’s pitching for the Nags, Marlon Mack could put up big numbers vs. Fins’ generous run defense. Nevertheless, I like Miami getting double-digit points. After an embarrassing string of blowout losses to start the season, the Dolphins have been increasingly competitive the past month-plus culminating with last week’s handling of the Jets. And Indy doesn’t blow anybody out. Colts’ eight games have been decided by 35 total points, with no margin greater than seven, or one score. If Fitzpatrick plays as well as he did last week and Miami’s D forces a couple of turnovers, I could even see an outright upset. But let’s not go crazy. Settle for close.
GAME OF THE WEEK
UPSET OF THE WEEK
SEAHAWKS (7-2) at 49ERS (8-0)
Line: SF by 6.
Cote’s pick: SEA 23-20.
“AAAWWWK!” bellows the Upset Bird. “The 1972 Dolphins will be toasting with champagne. Toasting with champaaawwwk!” San Francisco is, improbably, the NFL’s last unbeaten team. But not for long! The Niners’ run ends Monday night. This is a ballsy pick, admittedly. (Even dumb, some might say.) Frans are rested after playing last Thursday, and bring an excellent defense. Seattle’s D, once excellent, is just so-so. So why the upset hunch? 1) Seahawks are really good; their only two losses are to the Saints and Ravens (who are a combined 13-2). 2) SF’s eight wins are against teams that are a combined 22-43-1, with only two current winning records among them. Seattle will be the Niners’ toughest test — by a lot. Did I mention that the Hawks are 4-0 on the road? Or that Russell Wilson is the best quarterback in the league right now? And that he gets the gift of Josh Gordon, who could debut Monday night? “Very sound platform for the upset call,” says a nodding, impressed U-Bird. “Seahaaawwwk!”
THE REST OF WEEK 10:
@Bears (3-5, -2 1/2) over Lions (3-4-1), 20-17: Motown has won nine of past 12 vs. Chitown and Mitch Trubisky is in a funk, but I like Bears anyway, albeit sans much confidence. Lions present a bad defense, and I see Chicago’s own D rising up at The Soldier. Trubisky wants TVs at camp muted so he won’t hear himself criticized. Try this, Mitch: Play well and win.
Ravens (6-2, -10) over @Bengals (0-8), 24-16: Ravens are really good and trying to be first team since 1976 to rush for 150-plus yards in first nine games. Ravens also are first team ever to beat an 8-0 team (Pats) and then face an 0-8 foe, and with Houston on deck, this adds up to a major letdown/look-ahead trap game for Baltimore. Bengals, off a bye, could see a spark from QB Ryan Finley’s first start. Crows have lost six of past seven trips to Cincy and only beat Gals by 23-17 last month. We’re hunching this one is close, too.
@Browns (2-6, -2 1/2) over Bills (6-2), 21-14: Weird. The team with the much better record is the underdog — despite Bills being 3-0 on road and Browns 0-3 at home. But I get it. I buy it. Buffs have won against a lot of bad teams, and Clevers are better than their record and due to show it. Earthtones also get what could be a huge lift from season debut of 2017 NFL rushing champ Kareem Hunt, who returns from an eight-game suspension.
Chiefs (6-3, -6) over @Titans (4-5), 27-17: Bet-line bounced from four to six with expectation QB Patrick Mahomes would return from injury. That stayed iffy into Thursday, but sub Matt Moore (remember him?) has been quite good filling in. KC is 4-0 away from home. Titans will need their best defense (not the one Christian McCaffrey ran over last week) to stay close.
@Saints (7-1, -13) over Falcons (1-7), 38-13: Matt Ryan could return from an ankle injury. It wouldn’t matter much. Drew Brees likely gets Alvin Kamara back, and Michael Thomas (at 394) is about to reach 400 career catches faster than anybody else, ever. N’Awlins is a bona fide Super Bowl contender until it proves otherwise. And you can lose a lot of money constantly expecting colossally disappointing teams like Atlanta to suddenly turn it on.
Giants (2-7, -2 1/2) over @Jets (1-7), 27-20: That black cat skittering across the MetLife Stadium field Monday night was the perfect metaphor for the seasons of both New York teams that call the place home. Went to-and-fro on this pick before deciding to run with Saquon Barkley over the banged-up shell of Le’Veon Bell. NYG’s defense has been really bad in its five-game losing streak. The cure? Sam (Seeing Ghosts) Darnold and that Jets offense.
@Buccaneers (2-6, -4 1/2) over Cardinals (3-5-1), 38-34: There might be 100 passes thrown in this game, and I’ll not be surprised if the point total is north of 70. Take the day off, punters! Zona, rested after playing Thursday, should have RB David Johnson back. Still like Jameis Winston, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin to do serious damage at home. Bet-line feels fat, though, for TB’s defense is as bad as its offense is potent.
@Packers (7-2, -5 1/2) over Panthers (5-3), 27-20: Quality matchup finds Carolina having won four of past five on road but Gee Bees on a 16-3 run straight-up as home favorites at Lambeau. Game also stars two legit league MVP candidates in Aaron Rodgers and fantasy god Christian McCaffrey. Pack took a humble pie in the face in loss to Chargers last week, but good teams with great QBs tend not to lose two in a row.
@Steelers (4-4, +3 1/2) over Rams (5-3), 20-17: Upset! I get why Rams, off a bye, are favored. Still, Steelers getting points at home always tempts me like a bowl of ice cream, and no exception here. Pitt has won four of past five at home over Rams and expects to have RB James Conner back. I’m hunching Steelers’ defense rises to the occasion in what I peg as a touchdowns-shy affair.
@Cowboys (5-3, -3) over Vikings (6-3), 27-23: Sunday night gets a good one with two teams that seem playoff-headed but can ill afford a loss. Call it our Game of the Week first-alternate. Two strong defenses but I like Dallas’ run-stoppers limiting Dalvin Cook more than I see Minnesota stopping a heating-up Ezekiel Elliott. Also, Kirk Cousins (not great in prime time) likely will be missing Adam Thielen again. Solid venue pick.
OFF THIS WEEK
Broncos (3-6; next @Vikings): Nice little home win vs. Browns last week, but Vikes on road a whole different animal.
Eagles (5-4; next vs. Patriots): Birds’ defense is coming around. They’ll need it vs. Pats team coming off rare loss.
Jaguars (4-5; next @Colts): J’ville lost big to Houston and braces for another large AFC South challenge at Indy.
Patriots (8-1; next @Eagles): Smarting from spanking in Baltimore, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady face another legit test.
Redskins (1-8; next vs. Jets): Jockeying for No. 1 draft pick will be in play as two one-win teams face off.
Texans (6-3; next @Ravens): You think you’re all that, Houston? OK, prove it against the team that just beat Pats.
HOW THE DARTS LANDED
Our 2018 season set personal records, and ‘19 is looking pretty good, too, as we take stock at midseason. An 11-3 record overall last week has us within shouting distance of the magic .700 for the year. And our 8-5-1 mark against the spread continued a solid plus-season vs. the Evil Betting Line. We bull’s-eyed Dolphins beating Jets for yet another Upset of the Week hit (“Aawwk!”), called Denver’s upset of Cleveland, and had mini-upset by Steelers vs. Indy, too. Also had Ravens with points over Patriots. The push was Seahawks winning by six. Let’s keep the roll going! [Note: Thursday night pick was Chargers (-1) over @Raiders, 23-20. Find that full pick capsule here].
Overall; Vs. spread
Week 9 — 11-3, .786; 8-5-1, .615
Season — 92-42-1, .687; 72-61-2, .541
Final 2018 — 179-75-2, .705; 145-104-7, .582