GREG COTE’S NFL WEEK 3 PICKS
DOLPHINS THIS WEEK
BRONCOS (0-2) at DOLPHINS (2-0)
Line: MIA by 6 1/2.
Cote’s pick: MIA, 30-17.
TV: 1 p.m., CBS.
After big road victories against Justin Herbert’s Chargers and Bill Belichick’s Patriots the Dolphins sail 2-0 into Sunday’s home opener — the first time since 2013 Miami has begun a season with consecutive road wins.. And with 0-2 Denver visiting the Fins are the biggest favorite they have been. Anybody nervous? Or have the Dolphins won you over as they have me? The caution here is that Miami is confronting its first risk of overconfidence and ought not be against a Broncos side that is early desperate. Denver paid big to get name coach Sean Payton (a guy Fins owner Stephen Ross was infatuated with), but two games in he’s struggling to reignite Russell Wilson and make everything immediately better. Another caution: Tyreek Hill (ankle) was limited this week and Jaylen Waddle was sidelined into Thursday in concussion protocol, so Miami’s two top WR targets for Tua Tagovailoa are questionable to some degree. Too bad, because Denver’s pass defense is capital-V vulnerable, foretelling a game of big air numbers for Tagovailoa, who is an early season league MVP front-runner in at least one betting house. Miami looks healthier on defense, and should get pass rusher Jaelan Phillips back to join ex-Bronco Bradley Chubb is causing a rough afternoon for Wilson ... and for Payton.
GAME OF THE WEEK
EAGLES (2-0) at BUCCANEERS (2-0)
Line: PHI by 5.
Cote’s pick: PHI, 27-20.
TV: 7:15 p.m. Monday, ABC and ESPN+.
Slim Week 3 pickin’s for the Game of the Week committee, so by default let’s crown the only matchup of 2-0 teams, each bringing its own intrigue into this earlier of two Monday night games.. We are still waiting for Philly to play like the reigning NFC champ it is, and for Jalen Hurts-to-A.J. Brown to start percolating. And on the Tampa side? Baker Mayfield has been great — and what were the odds those five words would ever go together when not meant facetiously? Can Mayfield do it again vs. what has been a suspect Eagles pass defense? Or will he fall back to Earth with a thud? Give us rested Birds after playing last Thursday, but see a medium upset shot by the Bucs.
UPSET OF THE WEEK
TITANS (1-1) at BROWNS (1-1)
Line: CLE by 3 1/2.
Cote’s pick: TEN, 20-17.
TV: 1 p.m., CBS.
“AAWWK!” peals the Upset Bird with a Nashville twang. ”Tennessaaawwwk!” A rare NFL matchup you looked forward to at ground level: Derrick Henry vs. Nick Chubb. Now Chubb is lost for the season, while Henry is bothered by a toe injury but expected to play. Browns brought back Kareem Hunt, but there is no replacing Chubb, and an already struggling Deshaun Watson will be the worse for it. Earthtones enter on a short week after playing Monday night, and have lost six of past eight at home to Tennessee. “Sounds like an upset win for you-know-who,” says a grinning U-Bird. “That’s right. Our old friend Ryan Tannehaaawwwk!”
THE REST OF WEEK 3:
Thursday night: @49ers (-10) over Giants, 27-13: Find that full prediction capsule separately here.
@Lions (1-1, -3) over Falcons (2-0), 24-20: Went back and forth on this one, not a comfy place to be. Trouble with picking every game every week is that not all evoke a strong feeling. So we will take the safe harbor of a venue call here, especially with Atlanta packing an 0-6 road skid for this trip.
@Packers (1-1, -1 1/2) over Saints (2-0), 20-17: Another tough call, this one likely pivoting on injuries. (No excuses, but making our plcks by Wednesday each week can be a problem on that front.) Will Pack have RB Aaron Jones and WR Christian Watson back from hamstring hurts? Our pick is counting on that -- and also on a Lambeau bump in Gee Bees’ home opener.
@Vikings (0-2, -1) over Chargers (0-2), 29-26: Parity defined: Entering Week 3 this is the only matchup of 0-2 teams — and unexpectedly so for each, which adds compelling flavor, the early scent of desperation. Vikes have been own worst enemy with seven turnovers, six of them lost fumbles. They’ve had extra time to fix that after playing last Thursday, and added Cam Akers. Bolts may be missing RB Austin Ekeler (ankle ) and sackman Joey Bosa (hamstring), and that’d be huge.
Patriots (0-2, -2 1/2) over @Jets (1-1), 19-13: New England has won 14 in a row (!) over its AFC East rivals, and some of those recent ones have been because Bill Belichick’s pass defense has owned Zach Wilson. Not sure if Sad Zach has done anything to suggest much will be different in what should be a rugged defensive scrum.
Bills (1-1, -6) over @Commanders (2-0), 27-16: Buffalo has won eight of past nine vs. Washington. The only upset avenue will be if Allen’s Bakery is open for business and Josh is giving away turnovers. Otherwise the Comms must hope for big defense and small score because Sam Howell cannot hang in a shootout with the Bills if Allen in on his game.
@Jaguars (1-1, -8 1/2) over Texans (0-2), 24-16: Jax has lost five straight at home to Houston, and had lost nine in a row overall to the Texans before ending last season with a 31-3 road win. But some trends you just can’t trust. C.J. Stroud is nursing a hurt shoulder, and Trevor Lawrence figures for a big day against a banged-up HOU secondary. Still, given Texans’ nemesis status in this series, the bet-line feels fat.
@Ravens (2-0, -8) over Colts (1-1), 24-13: Indy’s dynamic rookie QB Anthony Richardson remained in concussion protocol into Wednesday, putting the much-less mobile Gardner Minshew on call to face Baltimore’s fearsome defense behind a banged-up Nags O-line. Ravens D is a notch better at home, and has the under-45 feeling pretty good.
@Seahawks (1-1, -6 1/2) over Panthers (0-2), 27-10: Seattle is riding a 9-2 series streak over Carolina, and the Panthers are on a 2-11 skid on the road. Don’ trust Hawks defense, but Cats counter with a meek offense, especially with struggling rookie QB Bryce Young iffy on a tender ankle. (Although vet backup Andy Dalton may be a short-term plus.) Panthers need RB Miles Sanders to be the difference-maker they paid to get.
@Chiefs (1-1, -13) over Bears (0-2), 34-0: Chicago’s football team is swallowed by turmoil. Losing streak at 12 games. Defensive coordinator abruptly resigns for health reasons. QB Justin Fields blames coaches for his “robotic” play. Turmoil! And at-Chiefs is the opposite of a remedy, especially with Patrick Mahomes et al still trying to find their sync and play like the reigning champs they are.
Cowboys (2-0, -12 1/2) over @Cardinals (0-2), 28-7: Arizona’s losing streak is at nine games but how’s this for weird/funny: Cards have won six of past seven meetings with Dallas. Inexplicably the Cardbirds are nemesis-ish to the Cowboys. Go figure. And then forget that. Zona’s defense is injury-wracked, and Joshua Dobbs will melt into a puddle under heat from Dallas’ excellent defense.
@Raiders (1-1, -2 1/2) over Steelers (1-1, 19-17: Sunday night stage finds two storied franchises in vague rebuild mode and with struggling offenses. Not quite trusting either squad but counting on a home-opener bump from Vegas. Also a good night for Raiders RB Josh Jacobs to extricate himself from the quicksand and get back to ‘22 form against what has been a horrid Steelers run defense.
@Bengals (0-2, -3) over Rams (1-1), 26-21: Hard to believe these two teams met in the Super Bowl two seasons ago. Cincy has been a major early disappointment -- and now Joe Burrow’s calf injury makes him iffy to play in the second Monday night game. Matthew Stafford’s L.A. Rams have been competitive but still not what they were. The big Q on Burrow makes him a likely game-time call and makes this pick tough, but we’ll roll with the more-desperate Bengals at home.
[Note: Betting lines are courtesy Caesars Sportsbook as of mid-afternoon Thursday].
HOW THE DARTS LANDED
Our Week 2 was buoyant, faith and spirits lifting like helium balloons. The 11-5 record straight-up is solid; the 10-5-1 mark against the spread (Saints’ 3-point win pushed) is even more satisfying. And two of those ATS losses were on the half-point. We nailed our Upset of the Week pick with Steelers over Browns (“Aawwk!”), and had four other ‘dogs-with-points in covers by the Ravens, Rams, Cardinals and Commanders. Also had the Dolphins winning and covering at New England -- the one game each week that we simply must get right. Let’s keep the heater lit! [Note: Our Thursday night pick was @49ers (-10) over Giants, 27-13. Find that full prediction capsule separately here.]
Week 2: 11-5, .688 overall; 10-5-1, .667 vs. spread.
Season: 20-12, .625 overall; 18-13-1, . 581 vs. spread.