Greg Cote's Week 5 NFL picks
Coming off a tough week for us, so I’d like to accentuate the positive. It won’t take long. We bulls-eyed Seattle’s outright win as a road ‘dog at San Fran to make us 4-0 this season on Upset of the Week picks! (Cue applause). And hit on a second upset pick with Ravens winning in Denver. The problem? I made five upset picks in all — which is a tad crazy — meaning I missed on three. The point spreads were beating me up even on a few games I got right. The good news? I had a much better week than the Dolphins. And Urban Meyer. OK, deep breath. Exhale. Move on. Rally time! [Note: Thursday night pick was @Seahawks (+2 1/2) over Rams, 30-27.]
Week 4: 9-7, .563 overall; 6-10, .375 vs. spread.
Season: 40-24, .625 overall; 32-32, .500 vs. spread.
Final 2020: 166-89-1, .651 overall; 130-120-6, .520 vs. spread.
GREG COTE’S NFL WEEK 5 PICKS
GAME OF THE WEEK
BILLS (3-1) at CHIEFS (2-2)
Line: KC by 2 1/2.
Cote’s pick: BUF 34-30.
TV: 8:20 p.m., NBC.
Upset! Yes, Josh Allen and the Bills exact their revenge on the Sunday night stage in this rematch of last season’s AFC Championship Game won by Patrick Mahomes and KC, 38-24. For me it’s clearly the Game of the Week, although there was rancorous debate within the GOTW committee, with a vocal minority pushing hard for Browns-Chargers, later claiming voter fraud and now in the courts demanding a recount. But I digress. Here’s what I see in this matchup: Mahomes and Allen with equally high-powered offenses. But only one great defense on the field. Chiefs’ D has yet to allow fewer than 29 points in any game so far, giving up the second-most points and yards in the NFL. The Bills have given up the fewest points, and yards. By a lot. Granted, Buffs have faced a fairly soft schedule thus far. That and last year’s playoff loss to Mahomes leaves Bills with the motivation here, but also the pressure. You think it’s finally your time, Buffalo? Prove it.
UPSET OF THE WEEK
PACKERS (3-1) at BENGALS (3-1)
Line: GB by 3.
Cote’s pick: CIN 26-23.
“AAAWWWK!” bellows the Upset Bird. “Cincinnaaawwwk!” I feel dirty. Aaron Rodgers is my guy. Rarely pick him to lose. But I’m putting my perfect 4-0 Upset of the Week record on the line to say he will this time. Cincy’s 3-1 record is on the backs of opponents who are a combined 4-12, so Gals have their shot here to make statement. Joe Burrow has been really good; his QB rating is better than Aaron’s right now. Cincy is scoring about as much as Green Bay is. But here’s the thing: Quietly, the Bengals defense got pretty good. Better than the Packers’ D. That and the home field, with extra time to prepare after playing last Thursday, are enough for me to chance Cincy. “No risk, no reward,” philosophizes the U-Bird. “Joe Burraawwk!”
THE REST OF WEEK 5:
@Falcons (1-3, -3) over Jets (1-3), 24-20: Well, it’s @Falcons technically, although Atlanta and London are 4,200 miles and an eight-hour flight apart. Breakfast with the NFL and a 9:30 a.m. ET kickoff offers a tepid matchup so it rates Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, not Wembley. Jets coming off a rare win and Falcs are wildly erratic thanks to shaky D, so give NYJ a sizable upset shot. But give us Matt Ryan outscoring Zach Wilson.
@Buccaneers (3-1, -10) over Dolphins (1-3), 27-20: Tom Brady and Tampa Bay, after last week’s emotionally draining trip to face Bill Belichick in Foxborough, suffer a palpable letdown Sunday against a reeling opponent they take lightly. There. That’s it. The map to an upset (or at least covering the spread!) is Jacoby Brissett being really good, the defense being even better, and an effort and performance the opposite of last week’s bumbling calamity. And here’s what’s crazy: It could actually happen.
@Vikings (1-3, -9 1/2) over Lions (0-4), 30-16: Dan Campbell’s kneecap-biting has borne little fruit, with Detroit joining Jax as the only winless teams left. And now Lions have lost their Pro Bowl center to injury. Minny has faced a brutal schedule, isn’t that bad and is on a 7-0 run vs. Lions. Motown tempts getting this many points, but Vikings should roll.
Broncos (3-1, +1) over @Steelers (1-3), 19-17: I would like this mini-upset pick a bunch more if I was sure QB Teddy Bridgewater would clear concussion protocol and play, because it’s a steep drop to backup Drew Lock. Teddy playing was not certain as of Thursday afternoon when I do my pickin’, but I’m rolling the dice anyway, albeit nervously. Ben Roethlisberger is fading fast and will find no remedy in Denver’s excellent defense.
Saints (2-2, -2) over @Washington (2-2), 24-20: This might have been the toughest pick of the week for me, largely because Jameis Winston and N’Awlins are so unpredictably erratic. May be time for Sean Payton to cross fingers and take the handcuffs off Winston. This could be the week, because Washington’s defense has been a huge disappointment and is giving up 300 (well 299) passing yards per game.
@Panthers (3-1, -3 1/2) over Eagles (1-3), 27-23: Upset alert! Wild card here is Christian McCaffrey (hamstring) being legit-iffy to play Sunday, with his potential absence hurting Carolina as it hurts a million fantasy teams. Like Panthers’ defense to be the difference either way, but I’d feel better if The Magic Christian plays. (Kids, “The Magic Christian” was a 1969 comedy film starring Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr).
Titans (2-2, -4 1/2) over @Jaguars (0-4), 28-20: And hell week comes to a fitting end for Urban Meyer. Began with a viral video of the Jags coach in a bar with a woman not his wife, earning a rebuke from the team owner and Meyer’s apology to the team. Ends with Jax staying winless as Titans ache to get past the stench of last week’s loss to Jets. Home dogs tempt getting 4 1/2, though, especially with Ryan Tannehill’s top WRs (A.J. Brown, Julio Jones) both iffy to play.
Patriots (1-3, -9) over @Texans (1-3), 26-9: Houston’s best hope? That Patriots have a huge letdown performance after spending so much emotion and want in last week’s ballyhooed visit by Tom Brady. But ask yourself this: How is Texans rookie QB Davis Mills going to fare against a New England defense that just held Brady to 19 points? Exactly!
@Raiders (3-1, -5 1/2) over Bears (2-2), 27-16: Chitown is better than Vegas on D (though not appreciably), while Raiders’ pack a ton more more wallop than Bears with the ball. Cannot see Justin Fields outscoring Derek Carr, and now Chicago is without injured RB David Montgomery, a major blow to an already weak offense.
@Chargers (3-1, -2) over Browns (3-1), 27-24: Our Game of the Week runner-up is a great AFC matchup, with two noisy, talented offenses overshadowing two solid, talented defenses. Feels like a coin-flip call, so I’ll tip the cap to the home-field edge, and the fact Justin Herbert is in better current form than Baker Mayfield, who is playing through an injury to his nonthrowing shoulder. Also, Bolts on a 6-0 run at home in series.
@Cowboys (3-1, -7) over Giants (1-3), 30-24: Just when Jerry Jones is starting to dream this is finally the Boys’ year, Dallas loses a game like this, right? It could happen. But it will take Daniel Jones hanging with Dak Prescott in a shootout. NYG defense faces its biggest test of season thus far. Dallas is on a 7-1 roll against this NFC East rival, but Biggies are on an 11-1 run covering the spread as road ‘dogs. Hunch they do it again.
@Cardinals (4-0, -5) over 49ers (2-2), 24-20: Is Sunday the day the Dolphins’ old ‘72 Perfectos toast the defeat of the NFL’s last remaining unbeaten team? And who on Earth had Arizona as that last unbeaten? With Frans QB Jimmy Garoppolo (calf) questionable and rookie Trey Lance on call, feels risky to see a Niners outright upset. But SF has held Zona to 26 or fewer points in past five straight meetings. I’m gambling that Jimmy G plays and Niners keep it inside the bet line.
@Ravens (3-1, -7) over Colts (1-3), 28-14: The Colts were made to look pretty good last week by Miami’s ineptitude. Baltimore won’t be as charitable. Or as inept. This Monday nighter is Ravens’ third prime-time game already this season, and they will live up to the lights. BAL has won 15 of past 16 games vs. teams with a losing record, and you can saddle up that trend and giddy-up, baby!
[Note: Betting lines are courtesy Caesars Sportsbook as of mid-afternoon Thursday.]