Greg Cote

Greg Cote’s Week 16 NFL picks

Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton. The former FIU star criticized the play-calling of Indianapolis this week and wants his team to throw the ball deep more often.
Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton. The former FIU star criticized the play-calling of Indianapolis this week and wants his team to throw the ball deep more often. AP

Merry Christmas! Are malls open on Friday? I’ve been remiss in not starting my holiday shopping yet. The reason is I’ve been spending so much time researching my NFL picks, resulting in last week’s 12-4 record straight-up and 9-6-1 against the spread – my best week in a while. Thank you, Santa. Keep the wins coming. With only two weeks left in the regular season I’m looking for a late surge to slay the evil betting line and finish over .500 ATS. I know that’s low-end on the drama scale, but it’s the best I can offer. Been a tough season. How tough? My overall record, modest as it is, would tie for fifth best on ESPN’s 14-man “experts panel.” (Note: Results below do not include Thursday night game. Pick was Raiders (-5) over Chargers, 27-20).

Cote’s record

Overall

Pct.

Vs. spread

Pct.

Last week

12-4

.750

9-6-1

.600

Season

139-85

.621

106-108-10

.496

Final 2014

167-88-1

.655

129-125-2

.508

Dolphins this week

COLTS (6-8)

at DOLPHINS (5-9)

Line: MIA by 2 ½.

Cote’s pick: MIA 27-17.

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

Wouldn’t it be nice if the Dolphins gave their fans the Christmas gift of a playoff team once in a damned while? It’s coal in the Dolfan stocking for a seventh straight year. I continue to believe that the Dolphins are closer to mediocre than to awful. Sad to say, I guess that makes me an optimist. (Maybe even a homer?) It is the Colts who have been closer to awful lately, with Matt Hasselbeck looking his age (40) in three straight losses. Now creaky Hasselbeck is forced to pitch again Sunday here because Andrew Luck, though close, isn’t fully healthy yet. FIU’s T.Y. Hilton returns to Miami for the first time as a pro. He’s been griping about Indy’s play-calling, but it is the Nags’ defense that’s been putrid lately. Ryan Tannehill could roll a 300 against this pass defense and Lamar Miller should find friendly running lanes. Indy still has a playoff prayer but must win out and hope Houston loses twice to sneak in. Won’t happen. Fins will see to that.

Game of the week

PACKERS (10-4)

at CARDINALS (12-2)

Line: ARI by 4 ½.

Cote’s pick: ARI 30-24.

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

What’s not a Game of the Week about this matchup? We have two NFC powers, both playoff-qualified and fancying themselves as Super Bowl-caliber. We have Arizona gunning to secure a first-round bye with a win. We have Green Bay angling to sew up a division title. We have Aaron Rodgers vs. Carson Palmer. What more do you want!? Cardbirds pass defense is missing injured Tyrann Mathieu but let’s still make it a venue pick. ‘Zona’s offense is really percolating, while Gee Bees’ attack has sputtered as much as dominated. Was anybody but me sort of mildly surprised Rodgers even made the Pro Bowl?

Upset of the week

PATRIOTS (12-2)

at JETS (9-5)

Line: NE by 3.

Cote’s pick: NYJ 25-22.

TV: 1 p.m., CBS.

“AAAWWWK!” carols the Upset Bird. “Merry Christmaawwk! New York Jaawwk!” A deliciously bitter rivalry of genuine dislike finds the Jets needing a victory here more. Patriots already have clinched a first-round bye and must win one of last two games to secure No. 1 playoff seed, while NYJ must win out and hope Pittsburgh or Kansas City lose a game to reach the postseason. (Dolfans should hope NE wins here so Tom Brady might sit out vs.Miami next week). Ryan Fitzpatrick is 1-7 vs. Pats with 17 interceptions but is surrounded now buy a hot team that has won four straight. ”Yes,” concurs U-Bird, tipping a spiked egg nog. “Fitzpatraawwk!”

Dog of the week

49ERS (4-10)

at LIONS (5-9)

Line: DET by 10.

Cote’s pick: DET 23-16.

TV: 1 p.m., Fox.

Mutt game defined: A combined 9-19 record and two teams that will have the same couch-seat as you to watch the playoffs on TV. San Fran has won nine straight over Detroit but things have changed since their last meeting in 2012. Mainly, the Niners have gone rotten. Also, Matthew Stafford is hot and Motown has been decent lately. But good enough to cover 10? I say nah.

REDSKINS (7-7)

at EAGLES (6-8)

Line: PHI by 3.

Cote’s pick: PHI 27-23.

TV: 8:25 p.m. Saturday, NFL (airing in South Florida).

The week’s Saturday night special should be a good one, with Washington needing a win to clinch the NFC East title and Philly needing a win to keep slim playoff hopes alive. ‘Skins won 23-20 in October but Birds should even the score at home despite a defense allowing an average of 35.6 points over the past five games. Come down to Earth, Kirk Cousins. Am I right?

TEXANS (7-7)

at TITANS (3-11)

Line: Off.

Cote’s pick: HOU 20-10.

TV: 1 p.m., CBS.

Houston in solid playoff shape after beating Indy last week but cannot afford a toe-stub vs. lowly Tennessee. Texans were unsure if QB Brian Hoyer would be ready or if it’d be Brandon Weeden. No matter, because, with Marcus Mariota out injured, Titans are deploying Zach Mettenberger, who is 0-8 as an NFL starter.

BROWNS (3-11)

at CHIEFS (9-5)

Line: KC by 11 ½.

Cote’s pick: KC 27-6.

TV: 1 p.m., CBS.

Chiefs clinch a playoff spot with a win if either the Jets or Steelers lose, while Browns continue in their Lost Century. KC in its eight-game win steak has won by an average score of 30-12, while Earthtones defense has allowed 30-plus points in six of past seven games. I could see this as a close game, but my binoculars are not high-powered enough. Would need a Hubble telescope.

COWBOYS (4-10)

at BILLS (6-8)

Line: BUF by 6.

Cote’s pick: BUF 24-16.

TV: 1 p.m., Fox.

A duel of disappointing teams, with Tony Romo’s injury absence plundering Dallas and Buffalo’s playoff drought dragging on despite Rex Ryan’s arrival. QB Kellen Moore makes first NFL start for Cowboys. Maybe Rex’s underperforming defense can dial up something for that? Like the Buffs at home in a venue pick.

BEARS (5-9)

at BUCCANEERS (6-8)

Line: TB by 3.

Cote’s pick: TB 24-20.

TV: 1 p.m., Fox.

It’s the Lovie Smith Bowl as his Bucs endeavor to defeat the Bears who canned him. These are things we talk about when both teams are out of the playoff hunt. Jay Cutler is 3-0 vs. Bucs, but that weak Chitown run defense figures to really struggle here against TB’s Doug Martin as he angles for an NFL rushing title.

PANTHERS (14-0)

at FALCONS (7-7)

Line: CAR by 7.

Cote’s pick: CAR 27-23.

TV: 1 p.m., Fox.

Upset shot? Yes. A home-‘dog shocker delivering Carolina its first defeat would be more a mild surprise than a shock, but I wouldn’t bet on it. I’ve gone to the prognosticating Poor House picking against the Panthers this year and I’m done with that for now. Cats whipped Falcs 38-0 just two weeks ago. Much closer this time, but same outcome.

STEELERS (9-5)

at RAVENS (4-10)

Line: PIT by 10.

Cote’s pick: PIT 27-20.

TV: 1 p.m., CBS.

Baltimore has won three of past four in this rivalry including 23-20 in OT on Oct. 1, and has won nine of past 12 at home in the series. But Pittsburgh counters with 10 straight December wins. Ben Roethlisberger is way-hot and his offense is really blazing. Oppositely, Ravens will struggle behind either Matt Schaub or Jimmy Clausen. Steelers clinch playoffs with a win and a Jets loss. Records aside, betting line seems big for a rivalry game with homies playing for pride.

JAGUARS (5-9)

at SAINTS (5-9)

Line: NO by 3 ½.

Cote’s pick: NO 37-34.

TV: 4:05 p.m., CBS (airing in South Florida).

This pick is complicated by the foot injury that makes Drew Brees questionable. Wsith Luke McCown also out, we could see Matt Flynn deployed. Jags offense could rattle the scoreboard against Nawlins’ awful D, but I’ll roll dice on Brees playing and make it a venue call.

RAMS (6-8)

at SEAHAWKS (9-5)

Line: SEA by 13 ½.

Cote’s pick: SEA 24-16.

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

Seattle has won 10 in a row at home over St. Lou, and that trend is underlined here by the fact Russell Wilson’s crazy-hot Seahawks offense has averaged 34 points in past six games, and Rams limp in 1-5 on the road. Still, bet-line seems fat. Playoff-secured Seattle has little incentive here, while STL has that whole wounded pride thing going on.

GIANTS (6-8)

at VIKINGS (9-5)

Line: MIN by 5.

Cote’s pick: MIN 27-20.

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

Minnesota has lost 18 of its past 21 prime-time games including an 0-5 run on Sunday nighters. But sometimes you gotta ignore the trends, you know? Odell Beckham is suspended from this game by the NFL for basically losing his mind against Caroilina last week, and that’s a big blow for NYG. More than that, Teddy Bridgewater should stay hot vs. a truly bad Biggies pass D. Vikes clinch playoff spot with a win.

BENGALS (11-3)

at BRONCOS (10-4)

Line: DEN by 3 ½.

Cote’s pick: DEN 23-17.

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

The Monday nighter is our Game of the Week runnerup. (Steve Harvey announced it as the Game of the Week, but then quickly corrected himself). Brock Osweiler starts again for injured Peyton Manning for Denver, while it’s A.J. McCarron in place of injured Andy Dalton again for Cincy. Big stakes: Bengals clinch first-round bye with a win; Broncos sew up division title with a win if KC loses. Backup QBs swing the emphasis to defense. And I’ll take Denver’s, especially at Mile High.

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