Greg Cote

Greg Cote’s Week 8 NFL picks

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is having a better season than Broncos signal-caller Peyton Manning, but Denver’s pass-rushers might have the final say Sunday at Mile High.
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is having a better season than Broncos signal-caller Peyton Manning, but Denver’s pass-rushers might have the final say Sunday at Mile High. AP

Broadside, blindside and in between, we endured some serious hits last week, thudding back to Earth a bit after a dreamy start to our 25th season of NFL Friday Page picks. Had a couple of road ’dogs-with-points (Jets, Ravens), but otherwise not much positive worthy of mention. We move on undeterred, however. As some may know, while others shrink from a challenge, we gird our loins. So, then: Ready … set … gird! (Note: Thursday game pick was Patriots (-8) over Dolphins, 28-24).

Cote’s record

Overall

Pct.

Vs. spread

Pct.

Last week

8-6

.571

4-9-1

.308

Season

71-34

.676

54-46-5

.540

Final 2014

167-88-1

.655

129-125-2

.508

GAME OF THE WEEK

UPSET OF THE WEEK

PACKERS (6-0) AT BRONCOS (6-0)

Line: GB by 3.

Cote’s pick: DEN 27-23.

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

“AAAWWWK!” croons a loop-de-looping Upset Bird. “Game of the Centuraaawwwk!” This is weird. Denver is unbeaten, has a great defense, enjoys one of the NFL’s biggest home-field advantages, and yet is a clear home underdog — and the reason is that the Broncos’ quarterback is Peyton Manning. It’s the great Aaron Rodgers vs. a perceived-as-fast-fading Manning that shapes this betting line. But I’m not having it. Gee Bees aren’t as invincible outside Lambeau Field as they are in it, and I believe Denver’s NFL-leading sackers will reach Rodgers enough to bother him. Meantime I’m betting that Manning — 2-7 on TDs/picks in his past three games — will pull a big performance out of the filing cabinet marked “Vintage” and shed a few of the doomsayers cloaking his late career. Both teams are coming off byes, and Mike McCarthy’s Packers are 8-1 after the break, but I’m feeling a massive show by Denver’s defense on a prime-time stage that will only accentuate a palpable home edge. “Mile High Club,” mutters the U-Bird, apropos of nothing. “Do it, old man. Peyton Maaawwwk!”

DOG OF THE WEEK

TITANS (1-5) AT TEXANS (2-5)

Line: HOU by 4.

Cote’s pick: HOU 19-17.

TV: 1 p.m. Sunday, CBS.

These are the two teams that have made the Dolphins look like Super Bowl kings and turned Dan Campbell into a fast-minted Miami legend. If that doesn’t qualify Titans-Texans as the worst matchup of Week 8, I don’t know what would. Houston suffered a blow losing RB Arian Foster for the season but has won three straight at home in this series, while Tenners have lost five in a row overall and 15 of the past 16 dating to last season. It was unclear as I made this pick if QB Marcus Mariota would return from injury for Titans, but I’d still make it a venue call.

LIONS (1-6) VS. CHIEFS (2-5) IN LONDON

Line: KC by 5 ½.

Cote’s pick: KC 24-20.

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

And London gets another mutt matchup for Wembley Stadium’s third and final game of the season. The top-tier franchises with leverage won’t give up a home game; hence the UK gets games like this one. Detroit fired three coaches this week, including offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, replacing him with Jim Bob Cooter. Good move — mainly because “Jim Bob Cooter” has to be one of the greatest names of all time. Major upset shot by Lions.

BUCCANEERS (2-4) AT FALCONS (6-1)

Line: ATL by 7.

Cote’s pick: ATL 31-13.

TV: 1 p.m. Sunday, Fox.

Atlanta has won five in a row and 10 of past 13 in this division series, including a ’14 sweep by a combined 83-31. And Matt Ryan is 6-1 in the home-dome vs. Bucs with a 110.1 passer rating. He has had six turnovers in past three games, though. More of that is about TB’s only hope here.

CHARGERS (2-5)

AT RAVENS (1-6)

Line: BAL by 3.

Cote’s pick: BAL 31-27.

TV: 1 p.m. Sunday, CBS.

The Disappointment Bowl finds both underperforming teams having lost three straight, thanks to a pair of lousy defenses. Yet two QBs unafraid to fling it 50 times, Philip Rivers and Joe Flacco, could make for an entertaining game. All six Ravens losses have been by eight or fewer points. I’m not arguing the Crows are good, just that they aren’t 1-6 bad.

VIKINGS (4-2) AT BEARS (2-4)

Line: MIN by 1.

Cote’s pick: MIN 23-20.

TV: 1 p.m. Sunday, Fox.

This pick is about what you believe: Today, or trends. Today, few would argue Vikings are the better team with the much better defense. But! Jay Cutler is 7-0 starting at home vs. Minny. Purples have lost 13 of past 14 trips to Chitown. I’m putting my saddle on “today” and on the law of averages, but oh so anxiously!

CARDINALS (5-2) AT BROWNS (2-5)

Line: ARI by 4 ½.

Cote’s pick: ARI 27-16.

TV: 1 p.m. Sunday, Fox.

Arizona RB Chris Johnson’s stellar comeback season should continue buoyantly against a really bad Cleveland run defense. I’d also mention that the Cardbirds’ league-leading interceptors (14) figure to make it a rough day for Josh McCown.

GIANTS (4-3) AT SAINTS (3-4)

Line: NO by 3.

Cote’s pick: NO 31-27.

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

Here’s a game I’d watch. Mistakes will be the difference. The oft-mediocre Giants are 4-3 because they’re plus-10 on turnovers. The Saints have bounced back from an 0-3 start because Drew Brees is usually good enough to overcome his team’s errors. Eli Manning is from New Orleans and Biggies have a running back named Orleans (Darkwa), but I doubt that’ll conjure enough gris-gris to overcome Brees.

BENGALS (6-0) AT STEELERS (4-3)

Line: Even.

Cote’s pick: PIT 27-24.

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

Great division rivalry is a rare pick-’em game, and my pick here is entirely predicated on the assumption Big Ben Roethlisberger will play for the first time since spraining a knee Sept. 27. That was hopeful but not yet certain as I wrote this late Friday. Even with Ben I’d give Bengals a big, big chance, but Pitt has won three straight and eight of past 10 in series, and the QB they’re (hopefully) welcoming back is a special force.

49ERS (2-5) AT RAMS (3-3)

Line: STL by 8 ½.

Cote’s pick: STL 17-13.

TV: 1 p.m. Sunday, Fox.

St. Lou is trying to be over .500 in November for first time since 2006. These are NFL’s two lowest-scrong offenses, but one has gotten a real boost as Rams rookie RB Todd Gurley has 433 yards in his first three starts. Like homies, but point spread is too fat, especially for what should be a sleeping-scoreboard kind of game.

JETS (4-2) AT RAIDERS (3-3)

Line: NYJ by 2.

Cote’s pick: NYJ 23-17.

TV: 4:05 p.m. Sunday, CBS.

Raiders fans think I hate their team, and let me know it. As a matter of fact, Oakland is one of most improved teams in the league, and I think Derek Carr has a big future. I just don’t like OAK’s matchup here. Darrelle Revis will neutralize Amari Cooper, and the Planes’ big D will rule.

SEAHAWKS (3-4) AT COWBOYS (2-4)

Line: SEA by 6.

Cote’s pick: SEA 23-14.

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

The hovering Upset Bird wanted this one, and I get it. Cowboys have won five of past six meetings, including last year in Seattle. And ’Hawks have lost their past three trips to Dallas. My pick would be different with Tony Romo and Dez Bryant in there, but ’Boys are 0-4 without Romo, and Matt Cassel reminded last week why he can’t be trusted. Looks like Greg Hardy will be yelling at coaches and teammates again.

COLTS (3-4) AT PANTHERS (6-0)

Line: CAR by 7.

Cote’s pick: CAR 28-20.

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

I keep wanting to see Carolina as a shaky unbeaten and not trust the Cats that much, but they keep playing strong defense and running the ball a league-leading 145 yards per game. Now here comes Indy, whose run defense was gouged for 183 ground yards by N’Awlins. Also see Carolina’s big sackers breezing through a struggling Nags O-line and hectoring Andy Luck.

OFF THIS WEEK

Bills (3-4; next vs. Dolphins): Buffs and humbled Rex Ryan have lost two straight but expect to have QB Tyrod Taylor back from injury against Miami next week. Taylor never seems better than when you’re watching his inept replacement, E.J. Manuel.

Eagles (3-4; next at Cowboys): Resting for rival Dallas after a loss to Carolina, but Birds seem to be coming around and should be a tough host for Miami in two weeks.

Jaguars (2-5; next at Jets): Jacksonville won a wild one over Bills in London last week, but Jags still are wobbling amid an eighth straight non-playoff season.

Redskins (3-4; next at Patriots): Just when you want to write off Washington, the Skins surprise you a little bit. Kirk Cousins, despite being pick-prone, has mostly been solid.

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