GREG COTE’S NFL WEEK 12 PICKS
DOLPHINS THIS WEEK
DOLPHINS (6-4) at JETS (0-10)
Line: MIA by 6 1/2.
Cote’s pick: MIA 31-13.
TV: 1 p.m., CBS.
Let’s get this out of the way quickly because it has been discussed to death: Coach Brian Flores should not have benched Tua Tagovailoa last week. It reeked of panic. Flores should have conveyed faith and given his rookie starting QB a chance to win the game late — just as Tua had done at Arizona only two weeks earlier. OK. Moving on. Last week’s loss in Denver was a useful wakeup slap for those who’d been fooled by five wins in a row into thinking the Dolphins were a fully arrived, full-fledged good team. They are getting there, but the work is in progress (just as Tua’s development is). Miami is not in a position to take any opponent lightly — no, not even the winless New York Jets. Don’t get me wrong. The Jets stink, and Adam Gase still having a job now ranks among the world’s greatest unsolved mysteries. NYJ has scored the fewest points of any team, given up the second most and lost by an average of 15.3 points per game. Still, if Gase and the Planes could get off the schneid versus any team, surely it would be against the division foe Gase once coached. Jets have lost their past two games by one score, and could get QB Sam Darnold back from injury Sunday. If Fins arrive in auto-pilot mode, they can lose. If they arrive having banked the lessons learned in Denver, it shouldn’t be close.
GAME OF THE WEEK
CHIEFS (9-1) at BUCCANEERS (7-4)
Line: KC by 3 1/2.
Cote’s pick: KC 37-30.
TV: 4:25 p.m., CBS.
It’s our GOTW because it’s a reigning Super Bowl champion vs. a playoff-headed opponent. It tops the marquee for the possibility of a scoring spree of 70-plus points. Mostly, of course, this is the Week 12 pinnacle because it’s Old G.O.A.T. vs. New G.O.A.T. — Tom Brady vs. Patrick Mahomes in their fourth head-to-head. Brady leads 2-1 including a 2018 playoff win, but the golden Chief is fixin’ to even that up. These teams don’t play much, but KC is 0-5 vs. Tampa since 1993. That streak’s about to end, too. And the difference may well be at the QB position. Mahomes has 27 TDs and only two interceptions, looking like the MVP. Again. Brady has thrown five picks just in the past three games, looking like, well, like he’s 43 years old. Bucs as home ‘dogs are tempting, yes. Brady has rebounded to prove his doubters wrong plenty in recent years. And might this time. For me, though, in this battle of G.O.A.T.s, I’ll take the kid.
UPSET OF THE WEEK
CARDINALS (6-4) at PATRIOTS (4-6)
Line: ARI By 2 1/2.
Cote’s pick: NE 24-21.
TV: 1 p.m., Fox.
“AAAWWWK!” trills the Upset Bird. “Bill Belichaaawwwk!” New England last missed the playoffs in 2008 and has little margin of error left to still avoid that fate. Bill Belichaaawwwk I mean Belichick is struggling post-Tom Brady, but I believe he has enough defensive weapons and the chops to limit Kyler Murray, who’ll be less than 100 percent with a shoulder issue. Arizona has lost two if its past three; the Cardbirds are beatable. Poor Cam Newton has few weapons at his disposal. Good God do the Pats need Julian Edelman back! But if New England can summon a little bit of old home magic and keep this from becoming a touchdown swap meet, I think I’ll be liking my pick. “Touchdown swap meet. Not bad,” nods U-Bird. “Patrioaawwk!”
THE REST OF WEEK 12:
@Steelers (10-0, -4) over Ravens (6-4), 23-20: [Game originally was set for Thanksgiving night but rescheduled to Sunday afternoon related to Ravens’ COVID outbreak.] Rivalries are one thing college football has over the NFL, but this matchup in its 50th regular-season meeting might be King Sport’s fiercest and best. You know unbeaten Pittsburgh is due to lose. You also figure Baltimore is too good to not snap out of its 1-3 skid. But Ravens’ COVID outbreak will cost them several players including RBs Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins — a lot to overcome when also facing the Steelers. Even so, a far-more-desperate Baltimore team getting five points still feels like a bargain.
Raiders (6-4, -3) over @Falcons (3-7), 37-27: Major upset alert on this one. Falcons have been a credible 3-2 since an 0-5 start, and they could catch the opponent in letdown mode after Raiders’ narrow shootout loss to rival Kansas City on Sunday night. ATL could be missing Julio Jones (hamstring), but two beatable D’s still equal a pointfest.
@Bills (7-3, -5 1/2) over Chargers (3-7), 31-28: Buffs should get back on track at home Sunday after Arizona’s Hail Mary denied Bills a fourth consecutive win before a bye last week. See a Josh Allen-Justin Herbert shootout vs. a pair of very average defenses. Hunch Bolts plus points, with an outright upset possible especially if RB Austin Ekeler, activated this week, plays for first time since Week 4.
Giants (3-7, -6) over @Bengals (2-7-1), 20-16: NYG, off a bye week, has won two in a row and three of past five and should keep it going with Cincy QB Joe Burrow lost for the rest of season to a knee injury and raw Brandon Allen making his fourth career start. Bet-line still feels a bit large, though, for what figures as a low-scoring affair.
@Colts (7-3, -3) over Titans (7-3), 28-21: A duel for the AFC South lead arrives with Game of the Week heft, with both teams coming off big overtime wins. Derrick Henry vs. Colts’ rugged run defense alone makes it must-watch. Indy crushed Titans 34-17 earlier this month and I like the same result, if not the margin. Two even offenses, but big edge on D to Nags in the home corral. Pick presumes Philip Rivers (toe; questionable) plays as expected.
@Vikings (4-6, -3 1/2) over Panthers (4-7), 24-16: Minnesota is only 1-4 at home and is coming off an upset loss to Cowboys, while Carolina is coming off a shutout win and expects QB Teddy Bridgewater back to face his former team. Nevertheless! Liking the Purples to control clock and game behind Dalvin Cook chewing up a Panthers run defense allowing 4.6 yards per carry.
Browns (7-3, -6 1/2) over @Jaguars (1-9), 23-17: Cleveland is the only one of NFL’s 15 winning-record teams with a negative points differential. Browns are not that good and will be missing sackman Myles Garrett to COVID again. But running game will carry Earthtones on road, and JAX’s journeyman QB Mike Gennon can’t be trusted in his first start since 2017. Still see margin inside the betting line, though.
Saints (8-2, -6) over @Broncos (4-6), 24-20: N’Awlins has won seven in a row and should prevail once more with Taysom Hill again subbing for injured Drew Brees. Denver isn’t that bad, though, as the Dolphins found out last week, with five of Broncos’ six losses coming against teams on track to make the playoffs. If Drew Lock avoids turnovers and the defense Miami faced shows up again (two big ifs, granted), I like Stallions to cover.
@Rams (7-3, -7) over 49ers (4-6), 23-18: Niners are coming off a bye and Rams played Monday night. Three of San Fran’s wins have come on the road. SF beat LAR 24-16 in October for a third straight win in series. I like Rams defense to carry the day, but those are all reasons to hunch Niners with the points.
@Packers (7-3, -8 1/2) over Bears (5-5), 20-17: Nick Foles? Mitchell Trubisky? Bears were unsure late in week who’d start at QB in this Sunday night division fight, but it hardly matters. Return of top RB David Montgomery from a concussion is Chitown’s best hope to keep the ball out of Aaron Rodgers hands. Coming off a bye, expect a rested Bears defense to keep score low and close. We’re picking a lot of underdogs to cover this week, and here’s one more.
Seahawks (7-3, -4 1/2) over @Eagles (3-6-1), 41-23: Interesting Monday night matchup as Russell Wilson’s Seattle offense finally gets RBs Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde back from injury and pick-addled Philly QB Carson Wentz fights to hold onto his starting job. Seahawks haven’t been great on road this year (2-3) but have beaten Eagles six times in a row and won six straight trips to Philly. After playing last Thursday, there will be no stopping a rested, healthy-again Seattle offense.
[Point spreads used are courtesy Caesars Sportsbook by Williams Hill as of Thursday afternoon.]
HOW THE DARTS LANDED
Happy Thanksgiving, all! Hope you have or had a wonderful holiday, depending on when you are reading this. Also hope that in this nightmare in 2020, you still found plenty to be thankful for. We came out alive (though breathing laboriously) at 8-6 overall in what I think was a tough Week 11. Better: We were a nifty 9-5 against the spread, making us 20-8 ATS the past two weeks. Last week we failed miserably on our Lions-Panthers Upset of the Week, “Aawwk!” turning to “Aawwful.” But plenty else went right. Called Houston’s mini-upset of New England, and also had a pair of ‘dogs-with-points in covers by Jets and Cowboys. Thank y’all as always for joining us on our 30th season of picks in the Herald!
[Note: Thursday’s two Thanksgiving Day picks were Texans (-2 1/2) over @Lions, 30-20; and Washington (+3) over @Cowboys, 24-23. Find those picks separately HERE. Results are not included below.]
Week 11: 8-6, .571 overall; 9-5, .643 vs. spread.
Season: 101-59-1, .631 overall; 86-73-2, .541 vs. spread.
Final 2019: 169-86-1, .663 overall; 129-120-7, .518 vs. spread.
Final 2018: 179-75-2, .705 overall; 145-104-7, .582 vs. spread.