Greg Cote

Greg Cote’s Week 1 NFL picks

HOW THE DARTS LANDED

Welcome back, pro football fans and Upset Bird flock, as we begin — hard to believe — our 25th season of Friday Page NFL predictions in the Miami Herald. Silver Anniversary! Imagine that? It was 1991 when the then-destitute Upset Bird and myself set out on this career-spanning journey. Miami had no Marlins or hockey team back then, and the Heat still was searching for its first winning season. The Hurricanes were national powers, Dan Marino was in his prime, and I had no beer gut. What a long, strange trip it has been. Our personal-best seasons have been a .705 winning percentage overall and .574 against the spread, and our career averages are .634 and .505. You know we aren’t lying, or else those numbers would be much more impressive. Hopefully, turning 25 will make us smarter. Let’s find out. (Note: Thursday-game pick was Patriots (-7) over Steelers, 30-24).

Final 2014

Overall Pct.

Vs. Spread

Pct.

167-88-1

.655

129-125-2

.508

DOLPHINS THIS WEEK

DOLPHINS (0-0) at REDSKINS (0-0)

Line: MIA by 3.

Cote’s pick: MIA 34-13.

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

Miami’s season of Moderately Great Expectations begins with the Dolphins’ first trip to the Nation’s Capital (well, actually to Landover, Maryland) since 2007. I expect big things, certainly a playoff year, as Miami uncork its 50th franchise season. I think the Dolphins could be really good, and I haven’t thought that in a long while. Washington fans, on the other hand, have more concerns than just a racist team nickname. They have a bad team, too. They have no idea what to do with Robert Griffin III, so Kirk Cousins, who is 2-7 as a starting QB, gets the call here. That’s too bad for him, because Miami’s Ndamukong Suh-infused pass rush will crush him. Cousins’ opposite, Ryan Tannehill, should have a big afternoon, especially with LT Branden Albert and top-pick rookie WR DeVante Parker both looking good to go. This game has the distinctive markings of a mismatch. It also happens to be NFL Week 1’s only Super Bowl rematch (SBs 7 and 17), one that finds the road back there looking a lot shorter for the Fins than for the Skins.

GAME OF THE WEEK

UPSET OF THE WEEK

RAVENS (0-0) at BRONCOS (0-0)

Line: DEN by 4.

Cote’s pick: BAL 27-24.

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

“AAAWWWK!” booms the Upset Bird, never one for subtle entrances. “Baltimaaawwwk!” Yes, I know it: Denver is a really good home team and is 41-13-1 (.759) in home openers, best in the league. That alone makes this a risky upset call, one that has me wondering if the Upset Bird has been in the Old Crow bourbon again. But Ravens also rise up strong in big road games under John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco, and Gary Kubiak is 1-5 as a head coach vs. Baltimore. Call it a gut-level hunch. Peyton Manning (309 passing yards shy of a career 70,000) sputtered with zero TDs in nine preseason series, and Ravens are under-regarded, to me a quiet Super Bowl contender. “Yes I agree Harbaaawwwk has a solid squad,” says a nodding U-Bird. “And just the right quarterback to lead it in Flaaawwwco.”

DOG OF THE WEEK

PANTHERS (0-0) at JAGUARS (0-0)

Line: CAR by 3.

Cote’s pick: CAR 21-16.

TV: 1 p.m., Fox.

Our Dog of the Week refers not to a betting underdog, but to the one game on the schedule we’d work hardest to avoid watching. These teams haven’t met since 2011, providing an added layer of unpredictability, at least. Cam Newton doesn’t have a lot of weapons to work with, but his defense will keep him out of a lot of shootouts. Jacksonville is piling up a fair amount of young talent but still is a ways from being competitive.

PACKERS (0-0) at BEARS (0-0)

Line: GB by 6.

Cote’s pick: GB 31-20.

TV: 1 p.m., Fox.

Chicago is one of seven teams with a new coach, but I wouldn’t want to be John Fox in this opener. Jay Cutler is 1-10 in his career vs. Aaron Rodgers, and the Cheeseheads’ defense seems to bring out all the pick-proneness in Cutler. Rodgers will miss Jordy Nelson but has mucho weapons left. Bears’ new leadership will present a different challenge for Rodgers, but he’s up to it.

CHIEF (0-0) at TEXANS (0-0)

Line: HOU by 1.

Cote’s pick: KC 19-17.

TV: 1 p.m., CBS.

Like Chiefs in a small upset here. They were NFL’s only unbeaten team in preseason, Jeremy Maclin adds needed pop to K.C.’s offense, and Andy Reid is 5-0 vs. Texans. Houston still has J.J. Watt and that big defense. But it also has a missing Arian Foster (groin) and Brian Hoyer at quarterback.

BROWNS (0-0) at JETS (0-0)

Line: NYJ by 3.

Cote’s pick: NYJ 17-13.

TV: 1 p.m., CBS.

Todd Bowles makes his Jets’ coaching debut in a game that should be short on points — not via great defense but courtesy of two weak offenses piloted by Earthtones QB Josh McCown and Planes journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick. At least Johnny Manziel vs. Geno Smith would have added a dash of flavor, if not quality.

COLTS (0-0) at BILLS (0-0)

Line: IND by 2.

Cote’s pick: IND 24-20.

TV: 1 p.m., CBS.

Buffalo is a trendy upset pick as a new coach, blowhard Rex Ryan, and a new running back, LeSean McCoy, take on the Bills’ NFL-worst 15-year playoff drought. I get the logic. Buffs’ big defense makes for a tempting home ’dog here. But I keep getting back to this: A fully blossomed Andrew Luck vs. the first career start of Tyrod Taylor.

SEAHAWKS (0-0) at RAMS (0-0)

Line: SEA by 4.

Cote’s pick: SEA 24-16.

TV: 1 p.m., Fox.

Seattle has won four of the past five in this division series, though teams split last year. Hawks’ Legion of Boom defense will miss safety Kam Chancellor as he holds out but am not sure Nick Foles’ Rams are the offense to fully capitalize. A winless St. Lou preseason did not inspire upset hopes.

SAINTS (0-0) at CARDINALS (0-0)

Line: ARI by 2 1/2.

Cote’s pick: ARI 27-23.

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

The Upset Bird (still a big Drew Brees fan) was cooing and cawing around this one, liking Saints. But Carson Palmer is 10-2 in home starts for ’Zona, and N’Awlins gave up 121 points in an 0-4 preseason, its defensive problems obviously not fixed. The Cardinals’ D is much more sound. Venue pick.

LIONS (0-0) at CHARGERS (0-0)

Line: SD by 3.

Cote’s pick: SD 24-20.

TV: 4:05 p.m., Fox.

Chargers recommitted to QB Philip Rivers amid speculation they could uproot and move to L.A. Rivers’ bigger concern in the short-term is that rookie Melvin Gordon gives him the ground complement he recently has lacked. Detroit will suffer the loss of Ndamukong Suh. Rivers will take advantage.

TITANS (0-0) at BUCCANEERS (0-0)

Line: TB by 3.

Cote’s pick: TB 21-17.

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

This would be a classic Dog of the Week — two teams coming off 2-14 seasons — except the rookie QB duel of Jameis Winston vs. Marcus Mariota alone makes it compelling. I’d watch. The draft’s Nos. 1-2 picks and past two Heisman winners will be compared all their careers, and it starts here. Mariota had the more encouraging preseason, but Winston has the slight edge in surrounding talent, and he’s home.

BENGALS (0-0) at RAIDERS (0-0)

Line: CIN by 3.

Cote’s pick: CIN 28-21.

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

I give new Raiders coach Jack Del Rio a fair upset shot as a home ’dog here. Remember, though, Cincy is a solid regular-season team (four consecutive playoff trips) that doesn’t start its choking until the playoffs. I still don’t trust Andy Dalton, but Oakies start ’15 as maybe worst team in NFL.

GIANTS (0-0) at COWBOYS (0-0)

Line: DAL by 6.

Cote’s pick: DAL 30-27.

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

Sunday prime-timer was a Game of the Week contender; you don’t get many better division rivalries in Week 1. 51. Dallas won NFC East last year, and no team has repeated in that division since 2004. ’Boys have beaten Biggies in four in a row, but both were competitive last year. Prospect of a TV-pleasing shootout favors Tony Romo at home.

EAGLES (0-0) at FALCONS (0-0)

Line: PHI by 3.

Cote’s pick: PHI 34-27.

TV: 7:10 p.m., ESPN (airing in South Florida).

The 46th season of “Monday Night Football” opens with this first half of a doubleheader, and it might break the Georgia Dome scoreboard. Chip Kelly’s goosed-up Philly offense, now run by Sam Bradford and DeMarco Murray, scored 133 points in four exhibition games. Meanwhile, the Falcons again figure to be better with the ball than they are stopping it as they debut under new coach Dan Quinn.

VIKINGS (0-0) at 49ERS (0-0)

Line: MIN by 2.

Cote’s pick: SF 23-20.

TV: 10:20 p.m., ESPN (airing in South Florida).

I get the betting line. Minnesota looked good in August and has Adrian Peterson back. And San Fran has lightweight coach Jim Tomsula replacing Jim Harbaugh (Michigan) after a chaotic offseason wrought with unexpected retirements and legal calamities. But I have a strong hunch that a Monday home opener will be the perfect stage for Colin Kaepernick and crew to declare they ain’t done yet.

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