GREG COTE’S NFL WEEK 12 PICKS
DOLPHINS THIS WEEK
DOLPHINS (5-5) at COLTS (5-5)
Line: IND by 7 1/2.
Cote’s pick: IND 30-23.
TV: 4:25 p.m., CBS.
Ryan Tannehill’s much-awaited comeback after five games out comes in a matchup between two of five Fortune .500 teams currently jockeying for the sixth and last AFC playoff ticket. (Second billing to No. 17’s return: Frank Gore facing the team he ran for before coming to Miami). The betting line skied to 10 before settling down to sanity. The high point paid homage to Indy’s four-game win streak during which Andrew Luck has looked better than ever — adding pressure on Tannehill to outduel the QB drafted No. 1 overall in 2012, the same year Tanny went eighth to the Fins. Miami has won six of its past eight trips to Indy, but there are other reasons to not like the Dolphins’ upset chances. Luck has not been sacked in five straight games, and Fins are 1-4 away this year and 1-9 in past 10 roadies. And Tannehill may need to top 30 points to hang with a Colts’ offense fifth in NFL in scoring. But won’t he be rusty? And is his shoulder fully healed? (Really?) For me, the home field, Luck playing great and Miami’s notorious tendency to wither on the road make this a clear pick. I do like Miami,. coming off a bye, getting 7-plus points, but an outright upset seems a longshot. Tannehill coming back from (another) injury, and his team on the unsteady road, leave Miami with much to prove here.
GAME OF THE WEEK
PACKERS (4-5-1) at VIKINGS (5-4-1)
Line: MIN by 3 1/2
Cote’s pick: MIN 27-24
TV: 8:20 p.m., NBC
This may be a tepid GOTW — anything is next to last week’s Rams-Chiefs and 54-51 — but it’s a potentially great game between erstwhile NFC North powers now desperately trying to be relevant in playoff chase. Teams tied 29-29 in Week 2, and I think Sunday night gabbers Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth will like what they get in the rematch. I give Pack a sizable upset shot because, well, because Aaron Rodgers. And Rodgers vs. Kirk Cousins, who’s 4-12 in his career in night games. But otherwise the trends smile upon Minny. Gee Bees have lost seven straight road games. Yikes. And Vikings are 4-1-1 in past six series meetings, and on 9-2 run at home overall. But I still like Rodgers getting points to keep it inside the bet-line.
UPSET OF THE WEEK
JAGUARS (3-7) at BILLS (3-7)
Line: JAC by 3
Cote’s pick: BUF 17-16
TV: 1 p.m., CBS
“AAAWWWK!” bellows the Upset Bird. “Happy Thanksgaaawwwk!” The line opened at five points before a consensus of bettors had an epiphany and said, “Um, just realized. This ain’t last year’s Jags.” Jacksonville has lost six in a row, while Buffalo is coming off a bye and gets QB Josh Allen back after four games out with an elbow injury. Two generally struggling offenses and occasionally good defenses sank the over/under to 37, and even that feels high. “Home field swings the pick. That and Blake Bortles,” notes U-Bird. “Be bad, Blake. Be baaawwwk!”
THE REST OF WEEK 12
@Bengals (5-5, -3) over Browns (3-6-1), 24-20): Battle of Woehio finds Earthtones 0-4 on road and ‘Gals on two-game skid. —Cleveland bad as usual, Cincy hanging by thread at edge of playoff hope. (Side note: Fired Browns coach Hue Jackson is now a Bengals assistant). Bad Cincy D gives Brownies upset shot, but homies expect A.J. Green back from injury, which swings the pick.
Patriots (7-3, -9 1/2) over @Jets (3-7), 31-13: All three Pats losses have been on road, and Tom Brady is a mere 6-4 in past 10 games at Jets. That gives us a second’s pause on the betting line, but not the outcome. Bill Belichick rarely loses consecutive games, and Pats are aching to get rid of the taste of that aberrant blowout loss Titans. Off a bye, NE rolls like we’re used to.
@Eagles (4-6, -5 1/2) over Giants (3-7), 20-17: You’d have a lively debate arguing which of these NFC East teams is the bigger disappointment. I like the fizzling defending Super Bowl champs at home here, but am hunching Biggies keep it inside betting line. NYG has been competitive on road, and division games with rancor tend to be close.
@Buccaneers (3-7, -3 1/2) over 49ers (2-8), 31-27: Jameis Winston is back starting for Tampa. Um, is that a good thing? Nick Mullens is still taking snaps for San Fran. But will it be Good Nick or Bad Nick? Two spectacularly bad defenses make this a risky pick (beyond, perhaps, the ‘over’). Niners are 0-5 on road, so make it a venue call.
@Panthers (6-4, -3 1/2) over Seahawks (5-5), 24-23: Clark Kent turns Superman in Charlotte. Carolina has two lost straight but finds its remedy at home, where Cats have won 10 in a row including 5-0 this year. But I’ll hedge by taking Seattle against the line with that extra half-point. If I’m right on ‘Hawks losing, L.A. Rams (on a bye) will win NFC West and clinch first playoff ticket.
@Ravens (5-5, -11) over Raiders (2-8), 19-10: Crows’ Joe Flacco (shoulder) remains iffy, so it may be Lamar Jackson again. No matter. Not at home against this opponent. And not with BAL on a 16-3 run at home vs. West Coast clubs. .But QB question is one more reason to like Oakies on the bet-line. Eleven is a ton to get n what I peg as a low-scoring game.
@Chargers (7-3, -13) over Cardinals (2-8), 27-13: Look for a big Bolts rebound by Philip Rivers and crew after last week’s hiccup. Arizona’s offense is very close to terrible and Cacti tend to shrivel on the road — 5-25 straight-up in past 30 vs. teams with winning records, according to our friends at Oddsshark.
Steelers (7-2-1, -3) over @Broncos (4-6), 27-17: Denver tempts as a home ‘dog, coming off a nice win at Chargers and on a 7-2 run at home vs. Pittsburgh. I’d hesitate on that temptation, though. Steelers are 4-0-1 away from home this season and 15-1-1 in past 17 away, and Big Ben should enjoy himself against a middling Broncos defense.
@Texans (7-3, -6) over Titans (5-5), 31-17: Houston’s seven-game win streak includes victory vs. Tennessee, and Texans are on 5-0 run at home in this division series. Neck issue making Marcus Mariota questionable is one more reason to like home team here. ESPN’s Monday night ratings are hoping Tennessee packed the team that beat Patriots 34-10 for the trip. Don’t count on it.
BYES (2): Chiefs (9-2, next @Raiders) and Rams (10-1, next @Lions). They needed a break. These two teams combined Monday night for 105 points, 14 touchdowns and 1,001 yards of offense. They’re tired!
HOW THE DARTS LANDED
In predicting NFL games one cannot eliminate losses. The key is to limit them. That was our last week. We were due an off week and got one — at 7-6 overall and 5-7-1 against the spread — but not so awful as to make a major dent in what continues a strong season for us both ways. Our week began perfectly with a rare exact-score bull’s-eye on Thursday night and ended with a great Monday night with Rams winning and Chiefs covering. But in-between not enough went right, though we did have Raiders-with-polnts at Arizona. (Bengals-Ravens stayed off the board for the tie). Here’s how tough this can be: Houston beat Washington 23-21. We had Houston winning 24-20. That’s two points from an exact score — but we lost it against the spread. No complaints. Bounce-back time!
[Note: Thanksgiving Day picks were @Lions (+4) over Bears, 24-21; @Cowboys (-7 1/2) over Redskins, 23-13; and @Saints (-13) over Falcons, 48-20. Visit Thursday Gems for the complete prediction capsules on each].
Overall; Vs. spread
Week 11 — 7-6, .538; 5-7-1, .423
Season — 109-50-2, .686; 89-66-6, .574