We mourn the loss of a dear friend: Our streak against the spread. We’d not had a sub-.500 record ATS all season until last week, when a really bad Upset of the Week pick (Cards winning at Seattle; seriously!?) grand-marshaled our doom. Not even four ‘dogs-with-points (Dolphins, Raiders, Vikings and Redskins) were enough to save us. Come back, momentum! Please? (Note: Thursday’s Thanksgiving Day picks were Lions (-7) over Bears, 24-20; Cowboys (-3) over Eagles, 34-30; and 49ers (-1) over Seahawks, 20-17.)
DOLPHINS THIS WEEK
DOLPHINS (6-5) at JETS (2-9)
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
Line: MIA by 5 ½
Cote’s pick: MIA 24-16
TV: 8:30 p.m. Monday, ESPN (airing in South Florida)
At this point Jets coach Rex Ryan, in full job-saving mode, has little better to fight for this season than playing spoiler to rival Miami’s playoff hopes. Dolphins have lost (and failed to cover the bet-line) in five straight Monday night appearances, but as trends go that doesn’t get my attention as much as Miami’s 5-1 series run at NYJ. In other words “at Jets” isn’t the scary place the now-toothless “J-E-T-S!” crowd would have to believe. The inherent ineptitude that is 2-9 outweighs Rex’s cartoon bluster every time. Where’s Fireman Ed when you need him? Better question: Where’s a decent quarterback when you need him? Desperate Rex is going back to Geno Smith over Mike Vick. Is that a good thing? Personally I think they’d be better off with 71-year-old Joe Namath in a full-length mink. At first blush you like a home ‘dog getting 5 ½ in a bitter division rivalry – and I’ll admit the Upset Bird is circling around this game, thinking an outright Planes win possible. But at second blush, sober, you think, “If Miami isn’t a touchdown better than this sorry excuse for a Jets team, mustn’t we then also rethink sunrise, death and taxes as certainties?”
GAME OF THE WEEK
PATRIOTS (9-2) at PACKERS (8-3)
Line: GB by 3
Cote’s pick: GB 34-30
TV: 4:25 p.m., CBS (airing in South Florida)
This isn’t the Game of the Week. It’s the Game of the Month, Season, Millennium and Beyond. Are you kidding? Pats and Pack are the current betting favorites to meet again in the Super Bowl. The marquee-busting duel of Tom Brady vs. Aaron Rodgers is merely a bonus. This game could only be better if there was free beer and brats. The idea of me siding against the Patriots on a seven-game winning streak and getting points is all but unheard of – and still makes me a bit nauseous, frankly – but I am enamored of Aaron at Lambeau, a magical thing. Rodgers in a 9-0 home run has 29 TD passes and zero interceptions. Seriously. Fathom that. New England is hot as can be, but Gee Bees at home are an inferno. By the way, this game’s betting over/under of 58.5 total points made a noble run at what is thought to be the modern NFL record: 61.5 for Rams-49ers in 2000. Over, please.
UPSET OF THE WEEK
CARDINALS (9-2) at FALCONS (4-7)
Line: ARI by 2 ½
Cote’s pick: ATL 27-20
TV: 4:05 p.m., Fox
“AAWWK!” blurts the Upset Bird, breath smelling of masticated turkey. “Atlantaaawwwk!” Sometimes it isn’t logic but a raw hunch that steers the ship. The night is black. You have no satellite or compass. Something in your head just says, “Sharp left.” So it is. Atlanta has lost three straight home games, and Matt Ryan has thrown nine picks in his past two games against Arizona. Picking Falcons in this Bird Bowl isn’t real defensible, and yet here we are! Arizona’s stalling offense has zero TDs in its past seven quarters, Cardbirds have lost six straight trips to the ATL, and Falcs are more win-needy in the playoff hunt. Ryan says Falcons are still in “driver’s seat” in sad NFC South. It’s a really bad car, but still. Dice roll, baby! “Ice, ice baby,” notes U-Bird, in a nonsensical homage to Vanilla Ice. “Matt Ryan! Ryaaawwwk!”
DOG OF THE WEEK
GIANTS (3-8) at JAGUARS (1-10)
Line: NYG by 2 ½
Cote’s pick: JAC 23-20
TV: 1 p.m., Fox (airing in South Florida)
Original Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin (1995-2002) returns with the Giants in a game wrapped in sadness. A combined 4-18 record always will earn the eye of the Dog of the Week panel scouting the week’s worst game. So will two teams’ combined 10 straight losses. So will Jacksonville’s hallmark 40th consecutive game as an underdog. The basis of this upset call: Jags sackers bedeviling Biggies’ battered O-line and troubling pick-prone Eli Manning.
REDSKINS (3-8) at COLTS (7-4)
Line: IND by 9 ½
Cote’s pick: IND 41-17
TV: 1 p.m., Fox
A tale of two QBs, at the extremes: Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III enter the NFL 1-2 overall in the 2012 draft, but look at ‘em now. Colts’ Luck is flying high, pushing for the top tier, while Skins’ RG3 is benched this week, his future in doubt, as Colt McCoy takes over. I like Alfred Morris against Indy’s bad run D, but not as much as I like Luck vs. Washers’ abysmal secondary.
TITANS (2-9) at TEXANS (5-6)
Line: HOU by 6 ½
Cote’s pick: HOU 24-10
TV: 1 p.m., CBS
Careful on the pregame selfies, Zach Mettenberger; J.J. Watt will be watching. Texans are back to Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB for injured Ryan Mallet, but, no matter. Houston’s defense and (likely) return of Arian Foster will carry the day. Tenners have lost five in a row and nine of past 10. Texans are on a 4-1 roll in series including a comfy, Foster-fueled win in October.
BROWNS (7-4) at BILLS (6-5)
Line: BUF by 2 ½
Cote’s pick: BUF 23-20
TV: 1 p.m., CBS
It’s the Tease Bowl, featuring two teams whose long-suffering fans are nervously hopeful of a playoff berth, unaware they are both careening to ultimate disappointment. Neither team is to be trusted, but I make it a venue pick with Bison back in Buffalo are after last week’s snow displacement. Bills’ defensive front should write the Joy of Sacks against Earthtones QB Brian Hoyer.
CHARGERS (7-4) at RAVENS (7-4)
Line: BAL by 5 ½
Cote’s pick: BAL 27-20
TV: 1 p.m., CBS (airing in South Florida)
Interesting matchup but we must ride the hot hand with Ravens at home and RB Justin Forsett, who has turned Ray Rice’s first name to, “Who!?” Crows have won four straight at home, allowing opponents 30 points total. They’re defense is lately getting back up to old Ray Lewis-era standards. Huge game in AFC playoff race. (No, Dolfans, wish as you might, they can’t BOTH lose).
BENGALS (7-3-1) at BUCCANEERS (2-9)
Line: CIN by 4
Cote’s pick: CIN 23-16
TV: 1 p.m., CBS
Tampa Bay has won six in a row in this occasional series, but the last was in 2010, and things have changed. Cincy has since become a playoff threat, while the Buccaneers have settled, like sediment, to the dregs of the league. Tampa is 0-5 at home, way-due to make their fans happy and thus a tempting home ‘dog, but I don’t think it’ll happen here.
RAIDERS (1-10) at RAMS (4-7)
Line: STL by 7
Cote’s pick: STL 27-23
TV: 1 p.m., CBS
Tony Sparano’s Raiders snapped Oakland’s 16-game losing streak last week and you have to give ‘em a real shot here, if only because few teams are as erratic (unpredictable) as St. Lou, which has beaten very good teams but also bowed to bad ones. Which Rams show up? Not even Jeff Fisher can know. Take STL at home, but Tony Sunglasses has turned OAK competitive.
SAINTS (4-7) at STEELERS (7-4)
Line: PIT by 3 ½
Cote’s pick: PIT 31-27
TV: 1 p.m., Fox
Pittsburgh is 4-1 at home and coming off a bye, and Ben Roethlisberger in those five games has 18 TDs, one pick and a 130.5 rating. N’Awlins is 1-4 on the road, and Pitt is a harder road than most. Also, Steelers’ defense has gotten healthier, and Le’Veon Bell should make his fantasy owners thankful against a sad Saints run-D. (So why does this pick make me so nervous?)
PANTHERS (3-7-1) at VIKINGS (4-7)
Line: MIN by 3
Cote’s pick: CAR 20-17
TV: 1 p.m., Fox
The Upset Bird flies, hovering over this game like a vulture floating over roadside carrion. Sure, Panthers have lost five straight, but they won in Minny last year 35-10, they’re coming off a bye, and Cam Newton has a 128.6 rating in two starts vs. Vikes. Also, the return from injury of fullback Mike Tolbert quietly will be big boost to Cats’ offense. Upset!
BRONCOS (8-3) at CHIEFS (7-4)
Line: DEN by 1 ½
Cote’s pick: DEN 28-24
TV: 8:30 p.m., NBC (airing in South Florida)
A prime-time worthy Sunday nighter as division rivals collide. Denver has won five straight in this series including 24-17 in Week 2. K-City parries with a four-game home winning streak by a combined 123-51. Chiefs are capable of dominating at Arrowhead. It’s just that I don’t believe Peyton Manning can be dominated, anywhere, by anyone. His off-games are good.