These recent rough weeks are starting to mess with my smooth season. Seahawks, Panthers, Saints and Redskins all let me down last week. I did bull’s-eye another Upset of the Week with Patriots over Colts (“Aawwk!”) and also nailed a trio of ’dogs-with-points in Texans, Rams and Raiders. Enough with this idling and slumming around .500 though. Time to bust out the double-digit wins again. Where have you gone, momentum? I thought we had a thing going. Come back! (Note: Thursday-game pick was Chiefs (-7) over Raiders, 23-20).
DOLPHINS THIS WEEK
DOLPHINS (6-4) at BRONCOS (7-3)
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Line: DEN by 7.
Cote’s pick: DEN 27-23.
TV: 4:25 p.m., CBS (airing in South Florida).
The Rams shockingly laid bare Peyton Manning as mortal last week, but that’s just one more reason to doubt Miami’s chances here. What are the odds Manning is off again and Denver loses two in a row? Especially returning home after three consecutive roadies? Miami has a legit upset shot, though, because it plays Mr. MVP as tough as anyone. Manning in his career is 5-7 vs. MIA with as many interceptions (18) as TDs and a tepid 79.8 passer rating — and this Fins defense is better than most he’s faced. Weather will be a wild card in the Sunshine Boys’ first trip to Denver since 2008, with an expected high there Sunday of 43 dipping to the low 20s by game’s end, and gusty wind. Ryan Tannehill may be on the attack (Patriots threw 53 passes vs. Broncos), but whether he’ll have time is a question. Sackmen Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware will be a lot to handle for Miami’s O-line. Manning also has mucho weapons to push the Dolphins’ very good D, including DeMaryius Thomas seeking a record-tying eighth consecutive 100-yard receiving game. This matchup wins our bronze medal for Game of the Week, and I like Fins to cover. But the venue, elements and Manning will be too much to overcome for an outright upset.
GAME OF THE WEEK
LIONS (7-3) at PATRIOTS (8-2)
Line: NE by 7.
Cote’s pick: NE 27-17.
TV: 1 p.m., Fox (airing in South Florida).
The most contentious Game of the Week committee meeting of the season, after rancorous debate, anointed Lions-Pats in a hair’s-breadth call over Cardinals-Seahawks. It might have come down to the tiebreaker (rock-paper-scissors) had a majority not finally been swayed by this game’s clearer contrast of Detroit’s great D vs. England’s big O. Also, this is the only Week 12 duel between two of the eight NFL teams with .700-plus winning percentages. Make it a venue call. Pats are 5-0 at home and are 43-3 overall at The Razor, including 14 in a row. Plus, Lions just don’t bring enough offensive pop to outscore Tom Brady. Motown ranks 26th in scoring offense with no appreciable running game, and Matthew Stafford hasn’t had a 100-rated game since Week 4.
UPSET OF THE WEEK
CARDINALS (9-1) at SEAHAWKS (6-4)
Line: SEA by 61/2.
Cote’s pick: ARI 20-17.
TV: 4:05 p.m., Fox.
“AAAWWWK!” blurts the Upset Bird. “I personally think this should have been the Game of the Waawwk!” The point spread here verifies that Mr. Betting Public has hardly given up on the Seahawks and still isn’t quite sold on the Cardinals. Seattle has won 21 of past 23 home games, but one of those losses was to Arizona last season, 17-10. I see another D-dominated game with a similar result. ’Zona WR Larry Fitzgerald and RB Andre Ellington both being questionable worries the upset pick a bit, but I think both will play. Also think Cacti run-D will neutralize Seattle’s ground game and Marshawn Lynch, especially with center Max Unger out injured. Bonus fact: Cardbirds are 8-2 against the spread. “Traditionally tough for a visitor to win at Seaaawwk,” notes U-Bird. “But if anybody can, it’s Arizonaaawwwk!”
DOG OF THE WEEK
JAGUARS (1-9) at COLTS (6-4)
Line: IND by 14.
Cote’s pick: IND 41-13.
TV: 1 p.m., CBS.
Our Mutt pick refers to the week’s worst game, not to a betting ’dog, and this is the matchup where I least give the underdog even an iota of a chance. Colts scorched Jags 44-17 in September and should roll again as Andrew Luck soars to a record-tying ninth consecutive 300-yard game. Indy’s defense has been gouged recently by Steelers and Pats, but Jax’s tepid offense doesn’t preset nearly that threat. Colts will miss injured RB Ahmad Bradshaw, but not here. Bonus fact: FIU’s T.Y. Hilton is 39 catch-yards from 1K.
BROWNS (6-4) at FALCONS (4-6)
Line: ATL by 3.
Cote’s pick: ATL 24-20.
TV: 1 p.m., CBS.
It almost feels like Atlanta should be the underdog here, given the records and the fact Cleveland is getting WR Josh Gordon back from suspension. But Falcons have won two in a row, and Earthtones have lost 22 of past 24 as road ’dogs. Plus, Cleveland has some defensive injuries (including Karlos Dansby) that should open things up for Matt Ryan and maybe even Steven Jackson.
TITANS (2-8) at EAGLES (7-3)
Line: PHI by 11.
Cote’s pick: PHI 30-20.
TV: 1 p.m., CBS.
Hey, it’s Zach Mettenberger vs. Mark Sanchez! Eagles have won nine in a row in the home nest and are 15-2 against sub-.500 teams under Chip Kelly. Titans have lost four in a row and are 1-4 on road. A really bad Tennessee run defense — gouged for 569 yards over the past three games — should be a temporary cure for what’s been ailing LeSean McCoy (and his fantasy owners). I’d chance TEN with the points though.
PACKERS (7-3) at VIKINGS (4-6)
Line: GB by 91/2.
Cote’s pick: GB 27-21.
TV: 1 p.m., Fox.
Keeping it close early may be Minny’s best hope, considering Gee Bees have set NFL record with four consecutive games scoring at least 28 points in first half. Pack also first team since 1950 with consecutive games of 53-plus points, so hope Vikes’ defense is rested. Aaron Rodgers and Cheesers walloped Purples 42-10 in October, but hunch this one a lot closer. GB a mortal 2-3 on road.
BENGALS (6-3-1) at TEXANS (5-5)
Line: HOU by 2.
Cote’s pick: HOU 20-17.
TV: 1 p.m., CBS.
This was toughest game to pick for me. Think Cincy is slightly better and carries a chip after being eliminated from playoffs by Houston in 2011 and ’12. But Texans are home and should have Arian Foster back. Also, you know how ’Gals QB Andy Dalton is so maddeningly inconsistent? I imagine J.J. Watt and that defense seeing to it that Bad Andy makes an appearance.
JETS (2-8) at BILLS (5-5)
Line: BUF by 41/2.
Cote’s pick: NYJ 17-13.
TV: Site, day and time TBA because of blizzard that hit Buffalo area this week.
It’s Mike Vick and Kyle Orton, starring in “The Replacements.” Weather permitting. As weekend neared severe snowstorms up there had this game in doubt, with talk it could be moved or postponed until Tuesday. Buffs whipped Planes 43-23 last month as NYJ self-destructed, but I see a turnabout with Jets coming off a bye. Dolphins blitzed Orton into oblivion. Rex Ryan’s gang will do the same.
BUCCANEERS (2-8) at BEARS (4-6)
Line: CHI by 51/2.
Cote’s pick: CHI 27-23.
TV: 1 p.m., Fox.
This game has a name: “The Ex Factor.” Two ex-Bears working for Tampa now, coach Lovie Smith and QB Josh McCown, give this matchup an added layer of flavor. Expect intensity from the visitors that Jay Cutler and erratic Chicago will need to match. See this one close, and not just because Windies are 2-11-1 against the spread in past 14 at home.
RAMS (4-6) at CHARGERS (6-4)
Line: SD by 41/2.
Cote’s pick: SD 23-16.
TV: 4:05 p.m., Fox.
Jeff Fisher is 0-7 in his head coaching career vs. San Diego, yet there is much chatter about a Rams upset here. I get it, considering St. Lou beat Denver last week. But I don’t see it. Bolts have been nothing special the past four weeks, but SD is on a 7-1 run at home and should get by. Key is protecting Philip Rivers and his tender ribs from a Rams pass rush that has 18 sacks since Week 7.
REDSKINS (3-7) at 49ERS (6-4)
Line: SF by 9.
Cote’s pick: SF 27-20.
TV: 4:25 p.m., CBS.
Washington’s Robert Griffin III and coach Jay Gruden swapped inflammatory quotes this week. Internal turmoil certainly is something to which the Niners can relate. Difference is, San Fran overcomes all that with quality team. Skins don’t. Hunch this one close-ish, though, as Frans look ahead to their Thanksgiving Day division battle with Seattle.
COWBOYS (7-3) at GIANTS (3-7)
Line: DAL by 31/2.
Cote’s pick: DAL 34-27.
TV: 8:30 p.m., NBC (airing in South Florida).
Dallas beat its divisionmate 31-21 in October and that sounds about right again. A home team playing for nothing but pride in a rivalry game is always dangerous and a tempting home ’dog, but Cows coming off a bye and 4-0 on the road are the clear pick in this Sunday nighter. Dallas’ D has a takeaway in nine consecutive games, and Eli Manning and the Biggies are too often (as last week) a turnover machine.
RAVENS (6-4) at SAINTS (4-6)
Line: NO by 31/2.
Cote’s pick: NO 30-21.
TV: 8:30 p.m. Monday, ESPN (airing in South Florida).
Monday gets what should be a good one as Ravens need win to keep pace in strong division and Saints need win to stay playoff-hopeful in weak division. N’Awlins has lost two in a row at home, last dropped three in a row on the Bayou in 2005 and won’t here. Drew Brees is 9-1 with a 118.6 passer rating in his past 10 MNF games. Crows’ best bet is to get Justin Forsett going vs. a suspect Saints run-D and keep the pig out of Brees’ paws.
OFF THIS WEEK
▪ PANTHERS (3-7-1; next at Vikings): Celebrate. This is last week with byes. Cats should celebrate, too. Five losses in a row and somehow they’re still alive (one game back) in awful NFC South.
▪ STEELERS (7-4; next vs. Saints): Am already looking forward to next week: Brees at Big Ben.