Greg Cote

Greg Cote’s Week 8 NFL picks

HOW THE DARTS LANDED

A very solid season for us so far picked up more steam last week, including another bull’s-eye on our Upset of the Week call (“Aawwk!”) with Jaguars over Browns. That makes us 5-2 straight up and 6-1 against the spread on Bird calls entering NFL Week 8. We also nailed four other ’dogs-with-points last week with Titans, Rams, Dolphins and Saints all covering. Stay, momentum. Be mine! (Note: Our Thursday game pick was Broncos (-7 ½) over Chargers, 31-27).

Overall

Pct.

vs. Spread

Pct.

Last week

11-4

.733

9-6

.600

Season

71-34-1

.676

59-47

.557

DOLPHINS THIS WEEK

DOLPHINS (3-3) at JAGUARS (1-6)

Line: MIA by 6

Cote’s pick: MIA 24-16

TV: 1 p.m. Sunday, CBS (airing in South Florida)

Start with this truism: The Dolphins have not proven themselves good enough to have a “trap” game or to take any opponent lightly, even this one. Jacksonville’s defense has allowed only 17, 16 and 6 points the past three games, and, yes the Jags are capable of a home-’dog upset here. Jax has the sack-power to bother the Fins’ improved offensive line. Also, Miami’s inconsistency and recent history of letting fans down means that the big win in Chicago last week does nothing to lessen Dolfans’ dread that this week may see a pratfall. Having said all of that, I don’t see an upset. Miami’s strong defense has the potential to dominate a limited Jax offense and make it a tough day for rookie QB Blake Bortles, whose league-leading 10 interceptions is a total likely to grow. Ryan Tannehill should stay hot against a generous J-Ville pass D, and the injury-loss of LB Paul Posluszny will hurt the Jags’ run stopping and enable Lamar Miller. The biggest threat to Miami here isn’t the opponent, but rather any overconfidence that might have crept into the team’s mindset. We’ll see Sunday how well Joe Philbin did in shooing that away.

GAME OF THE WEEK

EAGLES (5-1) at CARDINALS (5-1)

Line: ARI by 2 ½

Cote’s pick: ARI 30-27

TV: 4:05 p.m. Sunday, Fox (airing in South Florida)

There are other GOTW contenders on the week’s card, like the Pack-Saints shootout, or maybe even Indy-Pitt, but a duel of 5-1 teams tends to get your attention and keep it. Philly is coming off a bye and I fancy the team slightly better overall, but make it a venue call. Arizona is 3-0 at home and has won seven of its past eight games in the desert, and the return of QB Carson Palmer has really goosed that offense. Cardbirds also put a very good run defense up against LeSean McCoy, and Nick Foles isn’t finding the hero clothes fitting him nearly as well this season. Also, Cacti are a plus-seven on turnovers to Phils’ minus-five. This is a low-confidence pick, but I’m tired of underestimating Arizona and wishing I hadn’t.

UPSET OF THE WEEK

COLTS (5-2) at STEELERS (4-3)

Line: IND by 3

Cote’s pick: PIT 27-24

TV: 4:25 p.m. Sunday, CBS (airing in South Florida)

“AAAWWWK!” bellows the Upset Bird. “Finally, a loss for Indianapolis and Andrew Laawwk!” Andrew Laawwk I mean Luck and the Colts have won five in a row, he’s putting up MVP-quality numbers and Indy’s defense also has been mostly very good. Can you say law of averages? It’s just a hunch, but I think Colts and Super Andy are due a toe stub, that’s all. Pittsburgh, though coming off a short week after playing Monday night, has won eight of past 10 in series, and I have pretty strong trust in Ben Roethlisberger at home. Colts’ proneness to mistakes (13 turnovers) also could come into play on the hard road. “Good stat,” notes U-Bird. “Roethlisbaawwk!”

DOG OF THE WEEK

VIKINGS (2-5) at BUCCANEERS (1-5)

Line: TB by 3

Cote’s pick: TB 23-17

TV: 1 p.m. Sunday, Fox

As you know our Dog of the Week refers to lousiest game, not a betting ’dog, and two division cellar-dwellers with a combined 3-10 record made it quick work for the Mutt committee (despite a brief filibuster for Raiders-Browns). It is hard to say which is worse: Vikes’ flaccid offense or Bucs’ dreadful D. At least Tampa had a bye week to do more fixing. TB is 0-3 at home but, trumping that, Minnesota is on an 0-6 skid at Tampa by an average loss-margin of 14.2 points. Fast start may be key for Bucs; they’ve allowed most first-quarter points in league (72) by a lot.

LIONS (5-2) vs. FALCONS (2-5) IN LONDON

Line: DET by 4

Cote’s pick: DET 24-21

TV: 9:30 a.m. Sunday, Fox (airing in South Florida)

Breakfast at Wembley, anyone? Strawberries ’n crumpets? The season’s second of three London games is a rare 9:30 a.m. start in the Eastern U.S., and the matchup is hardly an excellent export. It’s Detroit’s sputtering offense vs. Atlanta’s abysmal defense. And with a combined 13 interceptions from Matthew Stafford and Matt Ryan, chances are a mistake will tip the result. WR Calvin Johnson remains very iffy for Lions. Falcons have lost six straight and 11 of past 12 away from the Georgia Dome, and ATL’s injury-wracked O-line is no match for Motown’s rugged defense. Still, hunch it close.

RAMS (2-4) at CHIEFS (3-3)

Line: KC by 7

Cote’s pick: KC 27-16

TV: 1 p.m. Sunday, Fox

St. Lou got awfully lucky to beat Seattle last week, but I wonder if KC will suffer a letdown here after upsetting San Diego in a big division game last week. So tempted to like Rams getting big points, but cannot. Alex Smith has a 110.4 rating over past four games, and Jamaal Charles should have his fantasy owners dancing against an STL run defense allowing 145 yards a game and 4.8 per carry.

TEXANS (3-4) at TITANS (2-5)

Line: HOU by 1 ½

Cote’s pick: HOU 21-10

TV: 1 p.m. Sunday, Fox

Tennessee reportedly is turning to rookie QB Zach Mettenberger. Someday Zach will tell his grandkids his coach mustn’t have liked him to make his NFL debut be against J.J. Watt on the day Jadeveon Clowney also returned to the Texans lineup. Quick aside: I can’t decide if that bizarre beard makes Houston QB Ryan Fitzpatrick look like a homeless man, a baseball player or a 19th century U.S. president.

SEAHAWKS (3-3) at PANTHERS (3-3-1)

Line: SEA by 5

Cote’s pick: SEA 24-20

TV: 1 p.m. Sunday, CBS

Dynamic dual-threat QBs Russell Wilson and Cam Newton go head to head. The difference is, only one of them is backed by a good defense. Carolina is allowing 34.8 points over its past five games. Seattle wins unless its special teams explodes again, but don’t discount Newton, who has won nine of his past 10 home starts and has the resourcefulness to keep this close.

RAVENS (5-2) at BENGALS (3-2-1)

Line: CIN by 1

Cote’s pick: BAL 27-20

TV: 1 p.m. Sunday, CBS

Cincy beat its divisional rival in the season opener 23-16 but the teams have gone in opposite directions lately. Baltimore’s defense has been really good, vintage, while the stumbling Bengals have been outscored 107-54 in an 0-2-1 stretch. And it looks like WR A.J. Green will miss another game. Cincy is 11-0-1 in past dozen at home, but still like visiting Crows in slight upset.

BEARS (3-4) at PATRIOTS (5-2)

Line: NE by 6

Cote’s pick: NE 34-23

TV: 1 p.m. Sunday, Fox

New England has won 12 straight home games and Bill Belichick has had extra time to prepare after playing last Thursday. Oh, and did I mention that supposedly washed-up Tom Brady is now 13-2 on TDs/picks and has hauled his passer rating up to 96.4? I do like Matt Forte matching up vs. a susceptible Pats’ run defense, but still like the Tri-Cornered Hats home-winning with some comfort.

BILLS (4-3) at JETS (1-6)

Line: NYJ by 3

Cote’s pick: NYJ 19-13

TV: 1 p.m. Sunday, CBS

Dastardly Rex Ryan, error-prone Geno Smith and the low-flying Jets are due some luck, a bounce, a win. Adding Percy Harvin in his NYJ debut can’t but help Planes’ moribund offense, while subtracting RBs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson with injuries can’t but hurt the Bills. Also simply a venue call here: Jets have won four straight and 12 of past 16 at home in this AFC East series.

RAIDERS (0-6) at BROWNS (3-3)

Line: CLE by 7

Cote’s pick: CLE 21-18

TV: 4:25 p.m. Sunday, CBS

It’s the Shovel Bowl. OAK interim coach Tony Sparano buried a football to symbolize a fresh start. CLE coach Mike Pettine said last week’s loss to Jax was “going in a box and getting buried in the backyard.” Brian Hoyer should get the win he needs to stave off Johnny Manziel. Miserable Raiders have lost 12 in a row, and 16 of their past 18 road games. Closer than the bet-line, though.

PACKERS (5-2) at SAINTS (2-4)

Line: NO by 1 ½

Cote’s pick: NO 37-34

TV: 8:30 p.m. Sunday, NBC (airing in South Florida)

Aaron Rodgers vs. Drew Brees gives this prime-time matchup Game of the Week heft, but Saints’ record doesn’t justify the top of the marquee. Rodgers is having MVP-level year and in 23 career starts in domes has a 117 rating with 56 TDs vs. eight picks. Brees rates 110 in five career games vs. Gee Bees, with 300-plus yards in all five. Saints pass-D is shaky, and Jimmy Graham is bothered by a shoulder injury – a Pack win would hardly even seem an upset. But N’Awlins and Brees are money-in-the-bank as home favorites (not to mention much more desperate for this victory).

REDSKINS (2-5) at COWBOYS (6-1)

Line: DAL by 9 ½

Cote’s pick: DAL 34-16

TV: 8:30 p.m. Monday, ESPN (airing in South Florida)

Monday stage sets up as the coronation for symbolic return of America’s Team. This is 16th MNF meeting for Cowboys-Skins; only Broncos-Raiders (17) have taken this stage more. Washington can pull a huge upset if Colt McCoy has a heroic first start in three years and if a decent Skins run-D ends DeMarco Murray’s 100-yard streak – but those are big ifs. (Rumors of an RG3 return from injury are doubtful). I’d sooner see a Dallas rout. Washers are 0-3 on road and have lost eight straight division games.

OFF THIS WEEK

▪ 49ERS (4-3; next vs. Rams): Well-timed bye for Niners and grouchy Jim Harbaugh after 42-17 spanking by Denver. SF’s 23.6 points allowed is its worst defensive scoring average since 2008.

▪ GIANTS (3-4; next vs. Colts): Biggies will be in season-saving mode hosting Indy next Monday night, when Giants’ D puts its league-leading 11 interceptions up against flourishing Andrew Luck.

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