HOW THE DARTS LANDED
It was a rough week overall for us – Dolphins, Saints, Buccaneers and Bills all let us down in Week 10 – but we still managed a 10th straight week without a losing record against the spread, a point of pride. (Good thing I’m not superstitious because that sounds like jinx-talk!). Scored a pair of ‘dogs-with-points in Browns and Jets to help us get there. Anomaly: Still no pushes against the spread this year, with seven more chances coming on Sunday and Monday. [Note: Thursday-game pick was Dolphins (-5) over Bills, 23-20].
GAME OF THE WEEK, UPSET OF THE WEEK
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PATRIOTS (7-2) at COLTS (6-3)
Line: IND by 3
Cote’s pick: NE 34-30
TV: 8:30 p.m., NBC (airing in South Florida)
“AAAWWWK!” bellows the Upset Bird. “Bill Belichaawwk!” U-Bird would fire a preemptive strike here by admitting that picking the Patriots to win is hardly going out to the far, creaking end of the limb. Then again, siding against white-hot Andrew Luck at home is not without its risk. Debate over who should win is some of what makes this AFC heavyweight bout the Game of the Week. The GOTW committee had three other worthy Week 11 candidates, but Tom Brady vs. Luck tipped it this way, with both in the thick of the league MVP race. The night air should be filled with fireworks. Touchdowns, too. I like Bill Belichick coming off a bye. I also note that Luck is 0-2 vs. Pats with seven interceptions and a 58.2 rating. English have averaged 40 points in their five-game win streak, and I like Patriots’ pass-D more than I like Indy’s. “One other thing,” adds U-Bird with a smirk and a wink. “Andrew Laawwk may be great, but it’s the other quarterback in this game who has Rob Gronkaaawwwkski.”
DOG OF THE WEEK
FALCONS (3-6) at PANTHERS (3-6-1)
Line: CAR by 1 ½
Cote’s pick: CAR 27-23
TV: 1 p.m., Fox
Our Dog is of course the week’s worst game, not a reference to a betting ‘dog, and it’s hard to argue with Atlanta stumbling in with a 1-4 road record vs. a Carolina squad reeling at 1-6-1 in its past eight games. These two disappointing underachievers are the main reason New Orleans somehow finds itself steering the NFC South at 4-5. I get why Atlanta is a trendy upset pick here, but Cats have won three straight in this series for a reason. Falcons’ bad pass defense and lack of pocket-busting sackers should be good for what’s been ailing Cam Newton.
VIKINGS (4-5) at BEARS (3-6)
Line: CHI by 3
Cote’s pick: CHI 28-20
TV: 1 p.m., CBS
Not sure there’s an NFL coach pounding the Pepto-Bismol harder these days than Chicago’s Marc Trestman, or a QB who could use a win more than Jay Cutler. Three straight losses have included two in a row giving up 51 and 55 points. Last NFL team to allow back-to-back 50s was the 1923 Rochester Jeffersons. (Yes, the Rochester Jeffersons!). Mike Ditka would be livid if he weren’t sleeping on the set. But Bears have won six straight and 12 of past 13 at home in this series, so I’m saddling up that trend and counting on a little Soldier magic.
TEXANS (4-5) at BROWNS (6-3)
Line: CLE by 3
Cote’s pick: CLE 19-17
TV: 1 p.m., CBS
Ryan Mallett takes over at QB for Houston in his first career start after the Texans benched Ryan Fitzpatrick and his creepy beard. Mallett may not have the benefit of Arian Foster, who’s iffy. I still have this game on High Upset Aleert (HUA). Cleveland last led its division entering Week 11 in 1994 and is due a banana-peel Sunday. Earthtones also due a letdown after last week’s emotional division roadie at Cincy.
SEAHAWKS (6-3) at CHIEFS (6-3)
Line: KC by 1 ½
Cote’s pick: SEA 21-20
TV: 1 p.m., Fox
A Game of the Week contender, this figures to be an earthbound matchup swirling around fantasy bulwarks Marshawn Lynch and Jamaal Charles. Here’s the difference. Seattle plays really good run defense. Kansas City really doesn’t, giving up 4.7 yards per carry to rank 30th. Chiefs are hot and tough at home and Seabirds are famously not as strong away. I like the upset anyway.
BENGALS (5-3-1) at SAINTS (4-5)
Line: NO by 7
Cote’s pick: NO 34-23
TV: 1 p.m., CBS
Bengals have been mediocre – at best – since a 3-0 start, and have lost their past two road games by a combined 70-17. Saints haven’t stopped being a fearsome home team just began an overtime loss to San Fran last week ended their 11-game streak on the Bayou. Andy Dalton can’t possibly be as horrid as he was last Thursday vs. Browns, but even at his best, he’s no Drew Brees.
BUCCANEERS (1-8) at REDSKINS (3-6)
Line: WAS by 7 ½
Cote’s pick: WAS 31-13
TV: 1 p.m., Fox
Mutt of a game between self-destructing teams that are a combined minus-16 on turnovers. There reportedly was lockerroom divisiveness over a healthy-again Robert Griffin III replacing Colt McCoy last week, followed by a loss. Tampa Bay is just the team – rather, just the awful defense – to allow RG3 to tamp down the doubts. (You think Lovie Smith is still glad he got back into coaching?)
BRONCOS (7-2) at RAMS (3-6)
Line: DEN by 9 ½
Cote’s pick: DEN 28-21
TV: 1 p.m., CBS (airing in South Florida)
Rams coach Jeff Fisher benches young QB Austin Davis and hands the ball to journeyman Shaun Hill, a curious move by a team effectively out of the playoff chase. Not for that reason do I give the home team a chance to keep this close. Denver has lost four straight in STL, and Rams’ pass rush has come alive the past few weeks. Rams have beaten Seahawks and Niners and played Dallas and Philly close. They compete.
49ERS (5-4) at GIANTS (3-6)
Line: SF by 4
Cote’s pick: SF 23-20
TV: 1 p.m., Fox (airing in South Florida)
Niners’ defense loses Patrick Willis to injury but gets back sack-man Aldon Smith from suspension. That’s a pretty fair trade. NYG has been awful in its four-game losing streak, outscored by an average of 18.5 points, but I see Biggies with a credible home effort here, if only via the law of averages. Eli Manning is 5-1 in his career vs. Frans.
RAIDERS (0-9) at CHARGERS (5-4)
Line: SD by 10
Cote’s pick: SD 27-20
TV: 4:05 p.m., CBS
Time to start a Raiders 0-16 Watch? Oaks have lost seven straight road games. Diego has lost three in a row during which Philip Rivers has rated a weak 71.2. Something’s gotta give, so count on Raiders to do the giving. It’s what bad teams do. Plus Bolts are on a 6-1 run at home. Bet-line seems large, though. SD barely won on Oct. 12, 31-28, and I’d hunch this one competitive, too
EAGLES (7-2) at PACKERS (6-3)
Line: GB by 5 ½
Cote’s pick: GB 34-24
TV: 4:25 p.m., Fox (airing in South Florida)
OK, here’s your real first test, Mark Sanchez. You got to be the hero subbing for injured Nick Foles on Monday night at home vs. bad Carolina. Now let’s see how you do at frigid Lambeau Field having to outscore Aaron Rodgers. Philly won in Green Bay last season, but Rodgers wasn’t playing. Birds’ big hope in this Game of the Week-caliber duel is to get LeSean McCoy going vs. suspect Gee Bees run-D, but even if that happens, Rodgers at home is solid gold. He’s 8-0 with 135.1 rating in past eight home games, and 15-0 on TDs/picks in four Lambeau dates this year.
LIONS (7-2) at CARDINALS (8-1)
Line: ARI by 1 ½
Cote’s pick: ARI 20-17
TV: 4:25 p.m., Fox
Here’s yet another matchup with Game of the Week heft. Arizona has league’s best record this late in a year for first time since 1966, while Motown is off to its best start since ’93. Cacti are 5-0 at home, but Lions have been stout (3-1) on road. Both teams have top-four scoring defenses. The wild-card is QB Drew Stanton replacing injured Carson Palmer for ‘Zona. That’s a dropoff, and really puts the heat on Cards’ O-line to stave off a big-time pass rush. I still make it a venue call.
STEELERS (6-4) at TITANS (2-7)
Line: PIT by 6
Cote’s pick: PIT 31-13
TV: 8:30 p.m., ESPN (airing in South Florida)
A bad Monday matchup means more potential here for talking heads Jon Gruden and Mike Tirico up in the booth pretending to make smoothies again in unplugged blenders. Chuckie Powder on standby! It’s hard to think Pitt, after a loss to the lowly Jets, won’t bounce back to crush lousy Tennessee. ESPN’s hope is that the Steelers (who have lost to Tampa as well as to the Jets) will continue a propensity to play down to the competition. It’s a ‘berger battle: Ben Roethlisberger vs. rookie Zach Mettenberger. I’ll take Big Ben, and Pittsburgh’s 18-2 record vs. rookie QBs under defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.
OFF THIS WEEK
▪ COWBOYS (7-3; next at Giants): Resting after their winning London trip vs. Jax, Jerry Jones’s ‘Boys will bring NFL’s only unbeaten road record (4-0) to next week’s Sunday night test at rival NYG.
▪ JAGUARS (1-9; next at Colts): Visiting Andrew Luck and Indy next week should keep hapless Jacksonville well in contention to back into next spring’s overall No. 1 draft pick.
▪ JETS (2-8; next at Bills): Has last week’s upset of Steelers helped Mike Vick reinvigorate his career? Does Geno Smith still have one? Has Rex Ryan ever NOT had quarterback drama?
▪ RAVENS (6-4; next at Saints): Poor Baltimore. Two games over .500 and a plus-80 points differential but still last in division, and now preparing to face Drew Brees in the Bayou.