Greg Cote

Greg Cote’s Week 14 NFL picks

HOW THE DARTS LANDED

A rough Thanksgiving Day began last week’s prognosticatory indigestion for us. We bounced back for a decent 11-5 mark overall but sloughed in at 7-9 against the spread – despite two sizable outright upset bull’s-eyes with Falcons over Cardinals (“Aawwk!”) and Jaguars over Giants. Now begins the four-week NFL homestretch and, like teams jockeying for playoff position, we angle for a big finish. Don’t be a stranger, Momentum. We were such close friends, once. What happened!? [Note: Thursday night pick was Bears (+3 ½) over Cowboys, 30-27].

Overall

Pct.

vs. Spread

Pct.

Last week

11-5

.688

7-9

.438

Season

125-66-1

.654

102-90

.531

DOLPHINS THIS WEEK

RAVENS (7-5) at DOLPHINS (7-5)

Line: MIA by 3

Cote’s pick: MIA 24-20

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

The Game of the Week panel gave this one a justifiable glance, as very few Week 14 games weigh heavier in the playoff race. Miami presently owns the second AFC wild-card spot via tiebreakers while Baltimore ranks ninth in the scrum for six spots, but those roles can flip-flop fast. Fins would lose their grip and tumble off the playoff grid with a loss here. It’s an interesting matchup beyond the stakes. A Miami run defense that has allowed 200-plus yards in consecutive games for first time since 1990 must find a way to contain the Ravens’ excellent and underrated Justin Forsett. Likewise, though, a struggling BAL pass-D augurs a big day for Ryan Tannehill. (I’ll even boldly predict Miami will complete one or two deep passes). Dolphins also caught a break with this week’s PED suspension of Haloti Ngata, the Crows’ Pro Bowl run-stopper. MIA is coming off a short week after Monday night’s win over Jets, and has lost three straight to Ravens including here last year. But Fins are a better team now and should get a big home boost from what figures to feel like a playoff atmosphere. You think you’re a playoff team, Dolphins? Well Baltimore thinks that, too. One of you is wrong. The other one will prove it and stand up on Sunday.

GAME OF THE WEEK

SEAHAWKS (8-4) at EAGLES (9-3)

Line: PHI by 1

Cote’s pick: SEA 27-23

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

There are six or seven really nice games this week but none offers a better record than this one’s combined 17-7, or a tastier contrast than Seattle’s rugged defense vs. Philadelphia’s big, galloping attack. Both teams are coming off impressive Thanksgiving wins and both are looking to solidify the playoff pace each is on. It’s a coaching reunion of old Pac-10 rivals Pete Carroll and Chip Kelly. We also find Eagles QB Mark Sanchez trying to beat his former Southern Cal coach, Carroll. Philly has won 10 straight regular-season home games but give me ‘Hawks in a small upset. Russell Wilson has hot hand and Seattle’s defense, healthier, is playing the best it has all season. Time for Sanchez to be Sanchez and have the nightmare-game we’ve all been expecting, courtesy Richard Sherman and company.

UPSET OF THE WEEK

STEELERS (7-5) at BENGALS (8-3-1)

Line: CIN by 3

Cote’s pick: PIT 23-17

TV: 1 p.m., CBS

“AAAWWWK!” croons the Upset Bird. “Pittsbaaawwwk!” First of two December meetings for these rivals finds Cincinnati on playoff pace and Pittsburgh trying to get there, and needing this win much more. I like that Steelers have won 11 of past 13 trips to Cincy and six of past eight in series overall; Marvin Lewis is 7-16 all time vs. Pitt. Yes, Steelers offense has been much better at home this season (35-point average) than on the road (18.3). But Ben Roethlisberger has averaged 352 passing yards in past six meetings vs. ‘Gals and I’m hunching he solves their very good secondary. “These two cities are 257 miles apart as the crow flies; that’s me,” notes U-Bird. “Ben Roethlisbaaawwwk!”

DOG OF THE WEEK

GIANTS (3-9) at TITANS (2-10)

Line: Even

Cote’s pick: NYG 30-20

TV: 1 p.m., Fox

Games don’t get much doggier than this one, which presents the stink of a combined 5-19 record, 13 consecutive losses and two teams hopelessly out of playoff range. It’s a rare pick-‘em game with no betting favorite, but that doesn’t mean you’d want to watch it. Titans are 1-4 at home and Biggies 1-5 on road. New York is obsessed with the shaky coaching ground under Jets’ Rex Ryan, but can NYG’s Tom Coughlin be much safer? Titans would be a less risky pick, but I have a feeling Tennessee’s awful pass defense will be an elixir for Eli Manning.

RAMS (5-7) at REDSKINS (3-9)

Line: STL by 2 ½

Cote’s pick: STL 23-20

TV: 1 p.m., Fox

It’s Shaun Hill vs. Colt McCoy in the Backups Bowl. ‘Skins are out of postseason contention; Rams would need the biggest miracle since Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Or at least since the talking donkey spoke to Balaam. I’m going with logic and the better team in this one, although I must tell you: the Upset Bird was haunting this game. St. Lou, after spanking Oakland, 52-0, is ripe for overconfidence here.

PANTHERS (3-8-1) at SAINTS (5-7)

Line: NO by 10

Cote’s pick: NO 34-16

TV: 1 p.m., Fox

Saints whipped Cats 28-10 Oct. 30 and Carolina has only gotten worse since, losing six straight. N’Awlins has lost three in a row at home, but Drew Brees has rated a big 129.8 in past three at home vs. Panthers. Bet-line seems large for a division game; Sean Payton is a modest 8-7 vs. this rival. Nevertheless, Brees in the Bayou is still money, Carolina is that bad, and Saints are still alive to make playoffs by winning The World’s Worst Division.

JETS (2-10) at VIKINGS (5-7)

Line: MIN by 6

Cote’s pick: MIN 20-17

TV: 1 p.m., CBS

Vikes remain faintly alive in playoff chase, akin to you having a shot at this week’s Lotto grand prize. Jets have won seven straight in series but teams haven’t met since 2010, back before NYJ turned entirely putrid. I’d guess Planes cover the line here but a team with an 0-5 road record and Geno Smith at quarterback is never a good bet to, you know, actually win the game.

COLTS (8-4) at BROWNS (7-5)

Line: IND by 3 ½

Cote’s pick: IND 31-20

TV: 1 p.m., Fox

Cleveland is far more needful of this win to keep its beak above water in bidding for its first playoff berth since 2002, and so I’d put the Earthtones’ desperation-fueled upset chances at a solid medium. It takes more than want and need, though, to outscore Andrew Luck and an explosive Nags attack that leads the NFL with 69 plays of 20-plus yards. Stay ready, Johnny Manziel.

BUCCANEERS (2-10) at LIONS (8-4)

Line: DET by 9 ½

Cote’s pick: DET 19-16

TV: 1 p.m., Fox

Detroit now holds the NFC’s No. 6 (last) playoff seed, via a tiebreaker over Dallas, and so a stunning loss to lowly Bucs would be a crushing blow. It won’t happen. Lions’ defense is too good for T-Bay’s not nearly good enough offense. Still, bet-line feels fat in what I see as a points-shy game. Tampa has won five of past six in Motown, and Lovie Smith was 13-5 vs. Lions while coaching Chicago.

TEXANS (6-6) at JAGUARS (2-10)

Line: HOU by 5

Cote’s pick: HOU 24-16

TV: 1 p.m., CBS

Houston must win out for any playoff shot. Two December games vs. Jax would seem to feather that cause, but Texans will need much luck and more of last week’s Ryan Fitzpatrick. Jaguars have won past two in series, but liking road faves here, figuring J.J Watt will frighten Blake Bortles into a miscue or three. Houston (plus-11 on turnovers) doesn’t give away games. Jax does.

BILLS (7-5) at BRONCOS (9-3)

Line: DEN by 10

Cote’s pick: DEN 27-20

TV: 4:05 p.m., CBS

Buffalo sits eighth in hunt for one of six AFC playoff tickets, but Denver (with only a one-game division lead) must keep winning, too. Bills think they have a strong secondary, but Peyton Manning is 6-0 at Mile High this year. Denver also has 415 rushing yards in its past two games. Giving Manning a great ground game is like giving Bill Gates a raise. Having said all that I hunch Buffs keep it close.

CHIEFS (7-5) at CARDINALS (9-3)

Line: ARI by 1

Cote’s pick: KC 20-17

TV: 4:05 p.m., CBS

Arizona still sits atop NFC but two straight losses have winnowed the margin of error and put Cards in a playoff fight. Two straight losses have hit Chiefs harder, knocking KC off the playoff grid into seventh place. Two suddenly desperate teams, in other words. Cacti have won six straight at home and expect to have Larry Fitzgerald back, but my guts says Chiefs in a small upset.

49ERS (7-5) at RAIDERS (1-11)

Line: SF by 8

Cote’s pick: SF 23-6

TV: 4:25 p.m., Fox

San Fran has fallen off playoff pace and can’t afford upset loss here as rumors swirl that Niners may trade rights to coach Jim Harbaugh and that Oakland across the Bay may be among interested buyers. Teams are so close, and yet this is Niners’ first trip to Oakland since 2002. SF’s hiccupping offense has topped 17 points only once in past six games, but playing the Raiders cures all.

PATRIOTS (9-3) at CHARGERS (8-4)

Line: NE by 3 ½

Cote’s pick: NE 30-27

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

A matchup worthy of its prime-time slot finds Pats sitting atop AFC and Bolts holding first of two wild-card tickets. Tom Brady is 5-0 head to head vs. Philip Rivers but give Diego a medium upset shot here. All three NE losses have been on road, and Chargers are 5-1 at home. Brady and Bill Belichick find a way again, although I’ll saddle up Bolts with that half-point on the bet-line.

FALCONS (5-7) at PACKERS (9-3)

Line: GB by 12 ½

Cote’s pick: GB 38-20

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

Green Bay is playing to nail down home-field advantage throughout playoffs, while Atlanta is angling to back into postseason by winning The World’s Worst Division. Falcons are a horrible 10-26 on Monday nights, and no venue is tougher for a dome team than Packerland in December. Aaron Rodgers has 20 TDs and zero picks in Gee Bees’ six home dates (all wins) this season. Logic tells me to take ATL-plus 12 ½ but the gut overrides. Can’t see this close.

  Comments