One-third into our 32nd season of NFL picks in the Miami Herald, I can rarely remember a tougher one. Staying above the Mendoza line (.500) straight-up is even a challenge some weeks, and getting there against the spread is even harder. Not ready to research what was our worst season ever, though. Too early for that -- and bad luck! We were an encouraging 8-6 vs. the betting line last week.
Misfired on seeing an upset by the Dolphins, but nailed Patriots’ upset win at Cleveland and had three other dogs-with-points on covers by the Falcons, Giants and Broncos. Time to build on that upswing, get on a doggone roll and turn this thing around!
Week 6: 7-7, .500 overall; 8-6, .571 vs. spread.
Season: 50-43-1, .538 overall; 43-50-1, .462 vs. spread.
Final 2021: 172-99-1, .635 overall; 140-130-2, .519 vs. spread.
Final 2020: 166-89-1, .651 overall; 130-120-6, .520 vs. spread.
GREG COTE’S NFL WEEK 6 PICKS
GAME OF THE WEEK
COLTS (3-2-1) at TITANS (3-2)
Line: TEN by 2.
Cote’s pick: TEN, 23-20.
TV: 1 p.m., CBS.
Not a scintillating Game of the Week, we admit, but slim pickings, and it is for the AFC South lead. Also, because of NFL parity’s epidemic spawn of .500 teams (there are 10), this is the only Week 7 matchup in which both teams have a winning record. Not sure I can ever recall that occurring before. Trends conflict, with Tenners on a 9-1 run in division games but Indy winning eight of past 10 trips to Nashville. Colts unstuck their offense with uptempo/no-huddle to beat Jaguars last week so let’s see if that sticks. Nags could get RB Jonathan Taylor back, but if it’s a ground war I’d fancy Derrick Henry vs. Indy’s run defense in this matchup. And Tennessee is coming off a bye, with a defense getting better and healthier, and with a clutch offense that has cashed 12 TDs in 13 red-zone opps, best such stat in the NFL.
UPSET OF THE WEEK
GIANTS (5-1) at JAGUARS (2-4)
Line: JAC by 3.
Cote’s pick: NYG, 21-17. Upset!
TV: 1 p.m., Fox.
“AAAWWWK!” chants the Upset Bird. “New Yaaawwwk!” I know, the Giants are 5-1 and it’s hard to wrap the mind around. It’s like our entire belief system has been rocked. You can claim there is no Santa Claus, but do not try to tell me the G-Men are good! Right? Well, they are. NYG has a top-10 defense already with seven fumble recoveries, Daniel Jones has elevated to acceptably OK and Saquon Barkley has been great. The offense isn’t great, but good enough to have overcome 10-point deficits in three of the five wins. Giants have won four in a row outright as underdogs, and Jax is in a 1-7 rut straight up as the home favorite. The sharps who set the betting lines are often spot on, but I don’t get this one. “Two picks by Trevor Lawrence,” adds U-Bird by way of forecast. “Trevor Laawwk!”
THE REST OF WEEK 7:
Saints (2-4) at Cardinals (2-4) Thursday night: We had Arizona (-2) beating New Orleans and covering, 27-20. Find that full separate prediction capsule here.
@Bengals (3-3, -6 1/2) over Falcons (3-3), 27-20: Both have won three of four after 0-2 starts — Atlanta’s the more surprising rally on the wing of an unexpected renaissance season for Marcus Mariota. Falcons’ D also has shown unforeseen competence, as 49ers learned. An outright upset would not shock. Still, ATL is not good on road and, at 6-0 against spread, is due a slide there, too. Joe Burrow will find lots of passing lanes.
@Cowboys (4-2, -7) over Lions (1-4), 31-16: The return of Dallas QB Dak Prescott is highly expected, though team was still being coy late into week. He hasn’t played since injuring his thumb in Week 1. Detroit is coming off a bye and should have offensive weapons Amon-Ra St. Brown and D’Andre Swift back, but Dak in his comeback enjoys a favorable soft-landing against a horrific Lions defense.
Packers (3-3, -5) over @Commanders (2-4), 23-20: “Aaron Rodgers’ struggling offense” is not a phrase oft-written or said, but it applies. Likewise Washington is no points machine — although Taylor Heinicke starting for injured Carson Wentz might be a spark and prove a good thing. Pack on a 13-2 run vs. sub-.500 teams and should get by, but lean Comms with the points.
Buccaneers (3-3, -11) over @Panthers (1-5), 27-6: Tampa is sputtering and Tom Brady is raging on the sideline but here comes everybody’s antidote in awful Carolina, where interim coach Steve Wllks inherits a mess. With Baker Mayfield out injured and Sam Darnold’s ankle not quite ready the Cats turn to QB3 P.J. Walker. Good luck to him. If Bucs lose this game Brady’s head is liable to turn beet red and then explode.
@Ravens (3-3, -6 1/2) over Browns (2-4), 30-20: Baltimore could be 6-0 but for somehow managing to blow 10-point leads in all three losses. Crows on a 4-1 series run over Earthtones and have won 12 of past 14 at home in rivalry. Cleveland’s defense is not good and neither is Jacoby Brissett. BAL’s run-D will limit Nick Chubb, and Lamar Jackson will romp by air and by land.
@Broncos (2-4, -1) over Jets (4-2), 19-17: Near pick-’em game a difficult call because Denver QB Russell Wilson (hamstring) is iffy to start and, as bad as he’s been, it still would be a sizable dropoff to backup Brett Rypien and his one career start. Surprising Jets are 3-0 on road but face a letdown game after shocking Green Bay at Lambeau. Pinning this pick on Denver’s defense.
@Raiders (1-4, -7) over Texans (1-3-1), 27-17: Game features 50 percent of NFL’s remaining one-win teams, both coming off a needed bye to reconnoiter for answers. Home team brings a bunch more offense, especially with RB Josh Jacobs on a hot foot. And Derek Carr still as Davante Adams, who has yet to be suspended by league for pushing that cameraman.
@Chargers (4-2, -6) over Seahawks (3-3), 27-23: Bolts RB Austin Ekeler is first in NFL since Lenny Moore in 1956-61 to score 25 TDs running and 25 by air in first six seasons. But it’s the hoped-for return of WR Keenan Allen for first time since a Week 1 hamstring injury that should unlock the offense for Justin Herbert. (LAC could go cautious on Allen, though, with a bye next week.) Still like ‘Hawks to keep it inside the bet-line.
Chiefs (4-2, -2 1/2) over @49ers (3-3), 28-20: Rematch of 2019 Super Bowl has revenge factor in San Fran’s pocket in a duel of KC’s great offense vs. Niners’ stellar defense. Patrick Mahomes is after his 55th victory in his 70th career start; only Otto Graham, from the 1940s and ‘50s, had more with 56. If Marcus Mariota and Atlanta can figure out SF’s D, so will Mahomes.
@Dolphins (3-3) over Steelers (2-4), 27-17. Gave this one a brief thought for Game of the Week, with the Sunday night stage illuminating the return of Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa from his concussion, and Steelers showing life after a stunning upset over Tom Brady’s Bucs. Need a little bad-blood drama? Got that, too, with ex-Miami coach Brian Flores returning as a Pittsburgh defensive assistant after being fired and filing that big racism lawsuit against Fins owner Stephen Ross.
@Patriots (3-3, -8) over Bears (2-4), 23-10: Monday night stage may see history as a Pats win would be Bill Belichick’s 325th and move him past George Halas into second all time behind Don Shula. New England QB Mac Jones is very close to returning from an ankle injury, and could here, but team is 2-0 under the guy with the comic book name, Bailey Zappe. Chicago is on an 0-9 skid in prime time, and its tepid offense won’t get much going against Pats’ D.
[Note: Betting lines are courtesy Caesars Sportsbook as of Thursday afternoon.]
OFF THIS WEEK
Bills (5-1, next vs. Packers) — With a marquee matchup vs. Aaron Rodgers on deck, Josh Allen’s Buffs have done nothing but enhance their standing as Super Bowl favorites -- last week’s win at Chiefs underlining that.
Eagles (6-0, next vs. Steelers) — Big win over rival Dallas kept Philly the NFL’s lone unbeaten team, and a fairly soft stretch of schedule awaits. Are the ‘72 Perfect Season Dolphins getting worried yet, or still too soon?
Rams (3-3, next vs. 49ers) — Perfunctory win over Carolina last week but still a tough start for reigning league champions, and a back-to-back challenge up next with rival Niners and then a visit to Tom Brady in Tampa.
Vikings (5-1, next vs. Cardinals) — Win in Miami last week gave Minnesota its best start since 2016, with Vikes’ only loss coming at unbeaten Eagles. It is real? Can it last? Not a whole lot of all-in believers yet.