GREG COTE’S NFL WEEK 9 PICKS
DOLPHINS THIS WEEK
GAME OF THE WEEK
DOLPHINS (6-2) vs. CHIEFS (6-2) in Germany
Line: KC by 1 1/2.
Cote’s pick: MIA, 30-27.
TV: 9:30 a.m. ET, NFL
You may not have noticed, but the NFL has gotten a bit dull. Fewest touchdowns scored league-wide in 20 years. Lowest average yards per completion since the 1970s. A weekly plague of over/unders in the 38 1/2 range. Well, call this game The Antidote. Germans might be accustomed to 3-2 scores in the Bundesliga, but if America wanted to impress them with the excitement of American football, Dolphins-Chiefs is the perfect export. Shootout: Expected. First team to five touchdowns wins? It’s breakfast in Frankfurt with a 9:30 a.m. ET kickoff so may we suggest a traditional German breakfast of eggs in mustard sauce with a side of kartoffelpuffer and perhaps a cup of zartbitter heisse schokolade? Mmm! To the game itself: It’s Tyreek Hill vs. his former team and Patrick Mahomes dueling Tua Tagovailoa in a result that could shape both Super Bowl betting odds and the NFL MVP race. These are two of the four teams bunched at 6-2 atop the AFC, and the winner will have every right to think itself on the inside lane to a Super Bowl. Kansas City has beaten Miami three straight times. More pertinent, Chiefs lost a stunner in Denver last week when the flu threw off Mahomes’ game, so KC will be primed for a rebound performance. Miami in turn is healthier than it’s been in a while -- especially in the secondary -- although the availability of RB Raheem Mostert (ankle) will be crucial. Bottom: Miami has the one offense in the league best-suited to engage and beat anybody in a shootout and, in this case, to offset and overcome the Chiefs’ overall edge on defense. Upset!
UPSET OF THE WEEK
COWBOYS (5-2) at EAGLES (7-1)
Line: PHI by 3.
Cote’s pick: DAL, 27-23.
TV: 4:25 p.m., Fox.
“AAAWWWK!” roars the Upset Bird. “Cowbaaawwwk!” Recent trends can bend to serve your every need in this Game of the Week first-runnerup. For example, Dallas is on a 4-1 run in this NFC East rivalry ... but it’s just as true Philly has won three of the past four at home in the series. Bird backers might also note that the Cowboys, while they’ve won 11 straight at home, have lost seven of the past 12 on the road. I like this one: Dak Prescott is 8-3 in his career vs. the Eagles, including the past three straight wins in which he has 11 TD throws and only one interception. Plus, two really good offenses here but only one top-five defense, and it’s the ‘Boys’. “Hence the road-dog upset,” summarizes U-Bird. “He’s Mr. Prescott, but I call him Daaawwwk!”
THE REST OF WEEK 9:
Thursday night: @Steelers (-2 1/2) over Titans, 20-17: Find that full prediction capsule separately here.
@Falcons (4-4, -4 1/2) over Vikings (4-4), 19-16: Easy narrative has Minnesota in a sharp free-fall with QB Kirk Cousins lost for year to an Achilles injury; granted, it’s a huge dropoff to fifth-round rookie Jaren Hall in his first career start. But Vikes’ defense is good enough to cover this line in a low-scoring matchup. Atlanta has QB issues of ts own, with Desmond Ridder benched in favor of the Green Lizard, journeyman Taylor Heinicke.
@Browns (4-3, -8) over Cardinals (1-7), 24-6: More QB intrigue! Deshaun Watson entered Thursday seeming on track to return from a shoulder injury for Earthtones. Kyler Murray also is close to finally returning for ‘Zona, though indications are rookie Clayton Tune will get his first pro start (with Joshua Dobbs traded to Vikes at the deadline). Whether Watson or P.J. Walker, Myles Garrett and Browns’ D will make for a mournful Tune. (Sorry.)
@Packers (2-5, -3 1/2) over Rams (3-5), 23-20: Still more QB tumult. Dicey pick because Rams’ Matthew Stafford (thumb) looks like a game-time decision, and it’s a steep drop to backup Brett Rypien. Meantime Packers GM was noncommittal this week on Jordan Love as long-term answer, so he’s playing to earn his future. LAR travels poorly and is on a 1-9 skid as road dog, but lean Rams getting that extra half-point.
@Patriots (2-6, -3 1/2) over Commanders (3-5), 24-21: Washington has second-worst scoring defense in league ... but can Mac Jones and Pats’ 31st-ranked scoring offense take advantage? Comms have a higher offensive upside with Sam Howell, but can he outscore his own defense’s ineptitude? A hesitant venue pick, with a hedge against the spread.
@Saints (4-4, -8 1/2) over Bears (2-6), 27-13: Chitown should be appreciating Justin Fields in his absence. It’ll be a third straight missed start here for Fields and his thumb, and N’Awlins’ defense will make it a long day for backup Tyson Bagent. Derek Carr has rolled three straight 300s for the Saints, and we’re seeing a big fantasy day for Alvin Kamara against a bottom-five Bears defense.
@Ravens (6-2, -6) over Seahawks (5-2), 24-20: Battle between two hot division leaders would be the Game of the Week some weeks but is only maybe the fourth-best game of Week 9. Baltimore ties for best record in AFC, while Seattle is all-in as evidenced by trade for run-stopper Leonard Williams. Edge to Lamar Jackson and Crows’ elite D, although bet-line disrespects Seabirds. BAL has covered in only three of past 11 games as home chalk.
@Texans (3-4, -3) over Buccaneers (3-4), 20-16: Surprisingly stout defenses are each team’s hope. Neither offense is great but Tampa’s is worse, scoring only 37 total points in its 0-3 slide, with Baker Mayfield playing through a knee injury that shows in his recent performance. Still sniff a medium-size upset shot for Bucs.
@Panthers (1-6, +2 1/2) over Colts (3-5), 27-23: Upset! Indy has allowed 114 opponent points in a three-game skid during which Gardner Minshew has belched five interceptions. Colts do have a path to winning here -- Jonathan Taylor and Zach Moss eating clock vs. a beatable Houston run defense -- but it’s nothing I’d count on.
Giants (2-6, +1 1/2) over @Raiders (3-5), 19-16: Upset! Las Vegas fired coach Josh McDaniels, its GM, its offensive coordinator and, in effect, its quarterback, benching Jimmy Garoppolo for Aidan O’Connell. NYG also waived the towel on the season by trading away top run-stopper Leonard Williams. Giants’ D has been really good the past few weeks, G-Men get QB Daniel Jones back, and Saquon Barkley should make his fantasy owners smile vs. Raiders’ lousy run-stopping.
Bills (5-3, +2 1/2) over @Bengals (4-3), 31-27: Upset! Sunday night stage gets another of this week’s Game of the Week-quality matchups. When last these teams met in Cincy late last season, Bills safety Damar Hamlin nearly died on the field. Three weeks later the Bengals eliminated Buffalo in the playoffs. R&R both are on Bills’ side for the rematch: Rest (played last Thursday) and revenge. Joe Burrow and Cincy are in sync after a slow start and have won nine of past 10 home games. But I see a big, shootout-ready night from Josh Allen vs. an average Bengals secondary.
Chargers (3-4, -3 1/2) over @Jets (4-3), 24-16: Monday night’s game inexplicably makes it four straight weeks with a prime-time appearance for the Chargers. I know Justin Herbert has beautiful hair and all (Justin Hairbert), but, c’mon! NYJ presents a top-five pass defense to challenge Herbert. The trouble is, Zach Wilson and that weak Jets offense are not well-suited to take advantage of the Chargers’ shaky defense. Herbert and Austin Ekeler, et al, won’t need to score much for it to be enough.
[Note: Betting lines are courtesy Caesars Sportsbook as of mid-afternoon Thursday].
OFF THIS WEEK
Broncos (3-5-; next @Bills) -- The high price Denver paid to haul Sean Payton out of retirement is looking a bit better after two straight wins including last week’s home stunner over rival Chiefs.
49ers (5-3; @Jaguars) -- San Fran was busy at trade deadline and added pass rusher Chase Young after a third straight loss and with a tough road test waiting after the bye.
Jaguars (6-2; vs. 49ers) -- Trevor Lawrence has surging Jacksonville as NFL’s hottest team (five straight wins) and one of four teams bunched atop the AFC standings at 6-2.
Lions (6-2; @Chargers) -- This is the best team Detroit franchise has fielded in decades and Jahmyr Gibbs looked like one of best running backs in league in Monday home win over Raiders.
HOW THE DARTS LANDED
Nice, much-needed rebound with an 11-5 week straight-up but our slump against the point spread continued. Hit a big bull’s-eye on our Upset of the Week with Titans over Falcons (“Aawwk!”) and also pocketed a rare exacto on Dolphins over Patriots, hitting Miami’s 31-17 win on the nose. The three games that pushed against the spread were wins by the Jets, Eagles and Seahawks. We near the season’s midpoint poised to vault over the Mendoza line straight-up and leave it in the dust, and still confident to get on the right side of .500 ATS. [Note: Our Thursday night pick was @Steelers (-2 1/2) over Titans, 20-17. Find that full prediction capsule separately here.]
Week 8: 11-5, .688 overall; 4-9-3, .344 vs. spread.
Season: 73-49, .598 overall; 55-62-5, .471 vs. spread.