Greg Cote

Greg Cote’s Week 17 NFL picks

We were solid overall last week — including a nice bounce-back against the spread. Bull’s-eyed another Upset of the Week pick (“Aawwk!”) with Raiders over Bills. Hit a second outright upset with Giants over Rams, and also had four other ’dogs-with-points in Redskins, Vikings, Texans and Jets. With one week left we are on line to have our best season against the spread since 2011 and best overall since 2009. Wait. What’s that? Oh, thank you! Stephen Ross just told me I’d be back next season.

Overall

Pct.

Vs. spread

Pct.

Last week

11-5

.688

10-6

.625

Season

157-82-1

.657

124-114-2

.521

DOLPHINS THIS WEEK

JETS (3-12) at DOLPHINS (8-7)

Line: MIA by 51/2.

Cote’s pick: MIA 24-16.

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

This is one of only four Week 17 games in which both teams are out of playoff contention, so it’s tough to fake much excitement beyond it being an oft-bitter division rivalry. Even the drama of two coaches fighting for their jobs was cut in half when Dolphins owner Stephen Ross announced last week — to the surprise and disappointment of most Dolfans — that Joe Philbin would be back next season. Well, at least we can delight in what figures to be Rex Ryan’s Jets finale. Also of note, Ryan Tannehill figures to become the only Dolphins QB not named Dan Marino to throw for 4,000 yards in a season (he is 214 yards shy). My gut tells me this game will be closer than the betting line (Miami won 16-13 on Dec. 1), but the logical mind insists Fins at home are at least a touchdown better. Quick aside: Sunday’s crowd will include a loud, fat, boorish Jets fan wearing a Mark Gastineau jersey. Watch for him. He’s always out there somewhere.

GAME OF THE WEEK

PANTHERS (6-8-1) at FALCONS (6-9)

Line: ATL by 31/2.

Cote’s pick: ATL 27-24.

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

This may be a Friday Page first: a Game of the Week between teams with losing records. But hear me out. Three other matchups this week had the GOTW committee’s rapt attention — Chargers-Chiefs, Lions-Packers and Bengals-Steelers — but only this game is 100 percent winner-take-all, in or out, division champion or bust. Granted, the NFC South crown will be made of cardboard and worn askew. But still. Falcons clinch with a win, Panthers with a win or tie. Carolina has won its past three games and 11 of past 12 in December, and the Upset Bird is hovering over this game like a small black drone. I’ll trust Matt Ryan, who is on a 5-1 run at home in this series, but I’ll hedge with Cats getting that extra half point.

UPSET OF THE WEEK

DOG OF THE WEEK

SAINTS (6-9) at BUCCANEERS (2-13)

Line: NO by 4.

Cote’s pick: TB 20-17.

TV: 1 p.m., FOX.

“AAWWK!” carols the Upset Bird. “If this game were a present it would be a $5 gift card to a store you don’t like. Store you don’t laaawwwk!” The Mutt-iest game had to be one of the four with both teams neither in the playoffs nor contending. This was the clear choice for us because one team (Saints) is the NFL’s most under-achieving disappointment (along with San Fran) and the other team (Bucs) is mud wrestling for the overall No. 1 draft pick. Saints players are already on the first tee. Bucs took it to overtime in N’Awlins back in October and will be in playing-for-pride mode at home. “Reasonable premise, but still a risky upset pick,” notes U-Bird. “Merry Christmaaawwwk!”

BROWNS (7-8) at RAVENS (9-6)

Line: BAL by 9.

Cote’s pick: BAL 23-17.

TV: 1 p.m., CBS.

While Browns swooned out of contention with four consecutive losses, Ravens are one of four teams fighting Sunday for the final AFC playoff ticket — but need help. Baltimore must win and hope San Diego loses (at Kansas City) in a concurrent game. Chances of that aren’t bad, actually. Crows edged Earthtones 23-21 in September and are now 12-1 over CLE under John Harbaugh/Joe Flacco. Line seems fat, though.

COWBOYS (11-4) at REDSKINS (4-11)

Line: DAL by 61/2.

Cote’s pick: DAL 27-23.

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

Dallas is division champ and can clinch a first-round playoff bye with a win — but only if Seattle and Arizona also lose. That’s unlikely. Far likelier: DeMarco Murray getting the 29 yards he needs to break Emmitt Smith’s 1995 club rushing record. Washington won first meeting 20-17 in overtime in October and I’d bet this one is close, too.

COLTS (10-5) at TITANS (2-13)

Line: IND by 7.

Cote’s pick: IND 24-20.

TV: 1 p.m., CBS.

This is a tough game to pick. Tennessee has lost nine in a row and is abysmal, but, with Indy already playoff-secured and with little to play for here, I wonder how much Andrew Luck and other front-liners will play. Colts have won six in a row in series — including 41-17 in first meeting but will be on autopilot here.

JAGUARS (3-12) at TEXANS (8-7)

Line: HOU by 10.

Cote’s pick: HOU 28-10.

TV: 1 p.m., FOX.

Houston has a problem. It’s still alive in playoff chase but needs much help. It must win here and then hope Baltimore and San Diego both lose, a moderate to severe improbability. Texans will do their part, anyway. Houston thumped Jax 27-13 earlier this month and should romp again.

CHARGERS (9-6) at CHIEFS (8-7)

Line: KC by 21/2.

Cote’s pick: SD 23-20.

TV: 1 p.m., CBS.

This could easily have been our Game of the Week (and maybe should have been), as these are two of the four teams vying for the final AFC playoff ticket. The Chargers are in charge — if they win, they’re in. More complicated for the Chiefs, who must win and then luck to see losses by both Baltimore and Houston, an unlikely confluence. KC beat Bolts 23-20 in October but give me Philip Rivers on the rebound.

BEARS (5-10) at VIKINGS (6-9)

Line: MIN by 61/2.

Cote’s pick: MIN 27-20.

TV: 1 p.m., FOX.

Jay Cutler is back starting for Chitown. Um, is that a good thing? Could be; he has won seven of his past eight starts against Vikes. At least it’s something to watch in a game that playoff hope forgot. Bears won 21-13 in November but Purples have been the better team since.

BILLS (8-7) at PATRIOTS (12-3)

Line: NE by 31/2.

Cote’s pick: NE 24-20.

TV: 1 p.m., CBS.

The bet line in this game plunged from an opening 101/2 to 31/2, almost unheard of. Why? Because when Denver lost Monday, it meant Patriots clinched a first-round bye and home field throughout the AFC playoffs. Meaning they have nothing to play for here. Meaning Tom Brady and other stars may play very little. Meaning Buffalo, though out of the hunt, has a big upset shot even though New England has won 21 of past 22 in this series.

EAGLES (9-6) at GIANTS (6-9)

Line: NYG by 21/2.

Cote’s pick: NYG 31-27.

TV: 1 p.m., FOX.

An intersection of opposites, with Biggies having won (too late) three games in a row and Birds having blown what seemed a certain playoff spot with three consecutive losses. Philly spanked NYG 27-0 in October but much has changed. Mostly, Eli Manning got hot and Odell Beckham got hotter.

LIONS (11-4) at PACKERS (11-4)

Line: GB by 71/2.

Cote’s pick: GB 30-20.

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

Another GOTW candidate, with both teams already playoff-clinched but the stakes still high as the winner here claims both the division title and a first-round bye. Detroit has won past two in series — including 19-7 early in season, but here are two reasons to love Pack: 1) Detroit has lost 23 games in a row at Lambeau Field. Twenty-three! And 2) Gee Bees are 7-0 at home this year by a combined score of 288-143. That half-point on the betting line tempts, but Aaron Rodgers in Cheeseland is money.

RAIDERS (3-12) at BRONCOS (11-4)

Line: DEN by 141/2.

Cote’s pick: DEN 34-13.

TV: 4:25 p.m., CBS.

Denver has motivation to both move past a bad Monday loss to Cincy and to sew up a first-round bye. A win here would do that (so would a loss by Bengals Sunday night). Broncos have beaten OAK six consecutive times and Peyton Manning launched five TD passes in a 41-17 November spank. I see a similar rout here.

CARDINALS (11-4) at 49ERS (7-8)

Line: SF by 51/2.

Cote’s pick: SF 21-14.

TV: 4:25 p.m., FOX.

Arizona has its playoff ticket but clinches division title and first-round bye with a win if Seattle loses. But San Fran, home, might be the toughest non-playoff team to face Sunday in Jim Harbaugh’s (likely) 49ers swan song. It’s hard to imagine the Niners defense not dominating rookie QB Logan Thomas in his first NFL start. ’Zona won 23-14 in September. Payback will be small consolation, but that’s better than none.

RAMS (6-9) at SEAHAWKS (11-4)

Line: SEA by 13.

Cote’s pick: SEA 24-16.

TV: 4:25 p.m., FOX.

Seattle clinches division title, first-round bye and home field throughout by winning. St. Lou will not stand in the way. Rams won first meeting 28-26 but ’Hawks have won 23 of past 25 at home. As impressive as SEA looked last week in downsizing Arizona 35-6, though, the bet-line still feels way big.

BENGALS (10-4-1) at STEELERS (10-5)

Line: PIT by 3.

Cote’s pick: PIT 27-20.

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

Prime-time feast is NFL’s 256th and last game of regular season, and it was on the Game of the Week radar. Both teams already are playoff-clinched, but this is winner-take-all for the division championship. Pittsburgh has won seven of past nine over Cincy including 42-21 three weeks ago. Give me Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell (235 scrimmage yards in first meeting) and Antonio Brown at home.

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