GREG COTE’S NFL WEEK 7 PICKS
DOLPHINS THIS WEEK
FALCONS (2-3) at DOLPHINS (1-5)
Line: ATL by 2 1/2.
Cote’s pick: MIA, 27-24.
TV: 1 p.m., Fox.
Eventful past week in the Dolphin tank. Team loses a fifth consecutive game, getting embarrassed in London by a squad that had lost 20 in a row — then returns home to the latest avalanche of Deshaun Watson trade rumors as the NFL’s November 2 deal deadline approaches. So: Can an evidently unwanted Tua Tagovailoa (coming off one of the best games of his young career, btw) shake off the distraction and free his team from this loss-filled morass? Tall task, big ask. The good news? It’s the Atlanta Falcons! They aren’t good. Their only wins are over the combined 2-9 Giants and Jets. And there are only two teams allowing more points per game than Miami. One is Atlanta. So why are the Falcons favored? Because Matt Ryan is still really good, gets WR Calvin Ridley back from injury and ... it’s Miami! Underpinning this upset pick: I believe the Fins are better than their record and will begin Sunday to show it. The big variable: Injuries. One downfall of my making these picks Thursday afternoons is that much sometimes remains unknown. If Dolphins WR Devante Parker and CBs Xavien Howard and Byron Jones all come back from injuries and start, I love this pick. If not, I will be more nervous than a cat in a kennel. If Miami gets lucky on injuries, the luck will be mine as well. And I’m an optimist. Sue me.
GAME OF THE WEEK
CHIEFS (3-3) at TITANS (4-2)
Line: KC by 5 1/2.
Cote’s pick: KC, 34-30.
TV: 1 p.m., CBS.
This matchup elevated to GOTW status when Tennessee upset Buffalo last Monday night. Can they do it again? Kansas City’s best road map to victory: Fast start and a lead that forces the ball out of Derrick Henry’s hands and into Ryan Tannehill’s. Tennessee’s most direct path to an upset: A close game that allows the beast Henry, on pace for 2,218 rushing yards, to exploit a Chiefs defense allowing 133 ground yards per game and keep Patrick Mahomes off the field. Likely reality: Mahomes and Henry both go wild against two subpar-leaning-awful defenses in a delightfully high-scoring afternoon. Give me Mahomes and the team more desperate in the division/playoff hunt. But I will hedge with Titans getting this many points at home.
UPSET OF THE WEEK
SAINTS (3-2) at SEAHAWKS (2-4)
Line: NO by 4 1/2.
Cote’s pick: SEA, 23-20.
TV: 8:15 p.m. Monday, ESPN.
“AAAWWWK!” booms the Upset Bird. “Seahaaawwwk!” I get why N’Awlins is favored in this Monday nighter. It obviously starts with Seattle’s steep QB downshift from injured Russell Wilson to Geno Smith. It’s accentuated by Saints coming off a bye while Hawks are on a short week after playing last Sunday night. Our upset pick is pinned on a home-field edge magnified in prime time, on a hunch we will see Bad Jameis Winston show up, and on Pete Carroll finding a way to take advantage of DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett against a Fleur de Lis pass defense allowing 275 yards per game. “Hopes neatly pinned,” nods U-Bird. “Here’s one more and it’s a big one: No turnovers by Geno Smaawwk!”
THE REST OF WEEK 7:
@Packers (5-1, -7 1/2) over Washington (2-4), 30-17: Taylor Heinicke is cooling as Washington’s QB answer, while the relentlessly great Aaron Rodgers and hot Pack face a defense that has given up 30-plus points in four consecutive games. Our one pause: A GeeBees letdown, with this game sandwiched between rival Bears last week and unbeaten Cardinals on deck.
@Patriots (2-4, -7 1/2) over Jets (1-4), 23-13: Pats handled Planes comfortably, 25-6, in Week 2. NYJ has played better lately and is coming off a bye, but they’re still the Jets, and on a 1-10 road skid. New England has nearly beaten Tampa Bay and Dallas and finally wins in Foxborough after an 0-4 home start.
Panthers (3-3, -3) @Giants (1-5), 21-16: Carolina’s defense has been gouged for 91 points in three straight losses but should get well vs. a Biggies attack likely missing Saquon Barkley and Kenny Golladay again. Give NYG a home upset shot, but lean Cats in a points-shy affair.
@Ravens (5-1, -6 1/2) over Bengals (4-2), 27-20: Battle atop the AFC North is our Game of the Week runner-up. Is lil’ brother Cincy ready to assert itself after five consecutive losses to Ravens including two by a combined 65-6 last year? No, it says here. Not yet, though the gap has narrowed. Bengals defense is pretty good but won’t stop Lamar Jackson, while Crows’ D humbled Justin Herbert last week and should do the same to Joe Burrow.
Eagles (2-4, +3) over @Raiders (4-2), 27-23: Upset! Philly’s four losses have been to good teams, and both of its wins have come on the road. Birds also have rest/prep edge after playing last Thursday night (and covering against Tampa Bay). There’s a reason Jalen Hurts is pegged as high as a top-five fantasy QB this week.
@Rams (5-1, -15) over Lions (0-6), 38-10: It’s Matthew Stafford and Jared Goff vs. their former teams, and oh my lord did L.A. get the better of that swap! Stafford has Rams a viable Super Bowl contender. Goff pilots the NFL’s last winless team. Detroit has held Vikings and Ravens to 19 each and will need that defense to show up to keep this from getting ugly. I vote ugly.
@Cardinals (6-0, -17 1/2) over Texans (1-5), 42-13: Arizona is NFL’s last no-loss team. There will be at least four games from here that the Cardbirds could easily lose. This ain’t one of ‘em. The Dolphins’ 1972 Perfectos are waiting to toast the last unbeaten falling, but they can keep the champagne on ice this week. Even the season’s biggest point spread hardly seems daunting.
@Buccaneers (5-1, -12 1/2) over Bears (3-3), 31-16: Tampa Bay aims for its first ever 6-1 start and does so with extra time after playing last Thursday. Champ Bucs also are 3-0 at home, scoring 124 points in those wins. Tampa’s defense is on pace to allow the fewest ground yards per game in the NFL since 1991, and brings a pass rush that will continue the rookie woes of Justin Fields. Chicago’s D is stout, but less so against the pass. You can almost see Tom Brady smiling from here.
@49ers (2-3, -4) over Colts (2-4), 23-20: Sunday night stage gets two teams that have disappointed in what should be a very competitive game. Niners, coming off a bye, expect to have QB Jimmy Garoppolo back from injury. They have lost three straight close games to quality opponents and should end that skid, give Indy a cover and a sizable outright upset shot.
[Note: Betting lines are courtesy Caesars Sportsbook as of mid-afternoon Thursday] .
Bills (4-2; next vs. Dolphins): AFC East rivals meet again Halloween afternoon. The good news? This one can’’t possibly be worse than the Fins’ 35-0 loss to Buffalo in Miami ... can it?
Chargers (4-2; next vs. Patriots): Blowout loss to Baltimore and a mortal performance by Justin Herbert found Bolts humbled and Ravens flexing as AFC power to be reckoned with.
Cowboys (5-1; next @Vikings): Boys have won five straight and Jerry Jones hasn’t been this happy since 1992. Dallas won Super Bowl that season. Also, that was year Johnnie Walker Blue was invented.
Jaguars (1-5; next @Seattle): Jax had lost 20 games in a row before beating the Dolphins in London. Which verifies there are zero gimmies on Miami’s schedule.
Steelers (3-3; next @Browns): Signs of life for Big Ben? Pitt beat Seattle for a second straight win, with statement game vs. division rival Cleveland on deck.
Vikings (3-3; next vs. Cowboys): Just when you doubt Minnesota, Kirk Cousins gets hot and the Purples win two games in a row.
HOW THE DARTS LANDED
There have been 22 games decided in the final minute of regulation or in overtime -- a record number for this point in a season. That helps explain why picking seems tougher than ever. No excuses, though. I’m in a slump and it’s on me to bust out of it. Our Week 6 began and ended great: Had Eagles with points covering vs. Tampa Thursday night, then Monday night had a rare perfect-score ‘Exacto’ on Pittsburgh beating Seattle 23-20. In between, we would rather not get into. Came close on our Pats-over-Cowboys Upset of the Week pick, but “close don’t count” defined our week. Turn the page. Now we bounce back! [Note: Thursday night pick was @Browns (-3) over Broncos, 23-17. Find that prediction capsule here].
Week 6: 7-7, .500 overall; 5-9, .357 vs. spread.
Season: 58-36, .617 overall; 42-51-1, .452 vs. spread.
Final 2020: 166-89-1, .651 overall; 130-120-6, .520 vs. spread.