GAME OF THE WEEK
TEXANS (6-3) at RAVENS (7-2)
Line: BAL by 4½.
Cote’s pick: BAL 27-24.
Game of the Week panel had its Patriots-Eagles wing, but how do you deny Deshaun Watson vs. Lamar Jackson in a first pro career meeting of two of NFL’s most dynamic, electric young QBs? (Answer: You don’t!). And remember: They finished 1-2 in 2016 Heisman Trophy voting, Louisville’s Jackson winning, and Clemson’s Watson saying he should have won. Oh que delicoso! More than the QBs make this must-watch. Both teams are hot and division-leading, and Houston presents its third-ranked run defense to Baltimore’s top-rated run offense. Texans are off a bye week but don’t discount the home-field edge here. Houston has lost five consecutive trips to BAL, and is 2-10 in its last dozen away vs. teams with a winning record. See this one close, though. Too much respect for Watson and Jackson to think otherwise.
UPSET OF THE WEEK
JAGUARS (4-5) at COLTS (5-4)
Line: IND by 2½.
Cote’s pick: JAC 24-20.
Ripe upset shot for Jaguars, who have won three of past four in this division series, are coming off a bye and, most importantly, get QB Nick Foles back for first time since his Week 1 injury — effectively penning the epitaph for Minshew Mania. Yes, I am aware Jacoby Brissett is likely back for Colts after missing Dolphins game. Also know Jags have lost 15 of past 17 division road games. These factors do not enhance the confidence level on this pick, no. Call it a gut-hunch then. See Jax’s capable defense rising up, and a major comeback game from Foles.
Bills (6-3, -5½) over At Dolphins (2-7), 21-17: Bills tend to fizzle away from home, dropping 12 of past 16 roadies to teams with a losing record. Inaccurate Josh Allen and that offense don’t scare you much. Then again, the Bills have won four of past five in this rivalry, and bring the NFL’s No. 3-ranked defense for both fewest points and yards allowed. Miami will need to be turnover-free to win, but like them to cover in a defensive scrum.
Cowboys (5-4, -3½) over At Lions (3-5-1), 27-17: Off a big loss to Vikings and with Patriots next, this could be a risky sandwich/look-ahead game for Dallas. Dear Dallas: You ain’t that good to look past anybody on the road as your playoff hopes sit precariously. Might think hard on upset if Matthew Stafford wasn’t looking like he would sit again. Steep drop-off to Jeff Driskel.
At Vikings (7-3, -10½) over Broncos (3-6), 31-10: Minnesota just beat Dallas and is at Seattle next, but I would bet Vikes can cruise past Denver on autopilot at home, where they have won 15 of past 18. Broncos’ struggling offense will have very little chance of outscoring what Kirk Cousins and Dalvin Cook are leading.
Saints (7-2, -5) over At Buccaneers (3-6), 34-23: In a normal situation I would consider a Bucs upset shot. Saints beat Tampa, 31-24, last month, and teams have split games each of the four previous seasons. But Fleur-de-Lis have won three straight in Tampa, and N’Awlins’ stunning loss to Atlanta last week was a ringing alarm that will see Drew Brees and company at their best.
Jets (2-7, +1) over At Redskins (1-8), 19-17: Upset! Well, technically. Our Game of the Weak pits two of Miami’s rivals for the No. 1 draft pick. Redskins going with rookie Dwayne Haskins the rest of the way also affects the Dolphins, because the lengthy audition will tell Washington if it has its QB or needs to draft another one. Skins have dropped eight straight at home.
At Panthers (5-4, -5½) over Falcons (2-7), 27-23: Will Cats try to trade Cam Newton after the season if Kyle Allen keeps performing, as is rumored? A more immediate question: Will the Falcons who stunned New Orleans last week in the upset of the year show up again? There is enough doubt on the latter to chance Birds (winners of three straight in series) with points.
At 49ers (8-1, -11) over Cardinals (3-6-1), 27-20: Cardbirds are a competitive, sneaky-good bad team and have been a Niners nemesis — Zona winning eight straight in series before SF snuck by, 28-25, on Halloween night. Top targets George Kittle doubtful and Emmanuel Sanders iffy for 49ers is another reason to like the Cacti with a double-digit head start.
At Raiders (5-4, -10½) over Bengals (0-9), 38-13: Cincy’s complete home lay-down vs. hated Ravens last week confirmed Gals are mailing it in and waiting to draft No. 1 next April. Raiders, a rare double-digit fave, are rested after playing last Thursday and should have their way with raw Ryan Finley and the cesspool that surrounds him.
Patriots (8-1, -3½) At Eagles (5-4), 23-17: New England victory would clinch 19th straight winning season, second only to Dallas’ 20 from 1966 to 1985. Home-dog upset by Philly would only mildly surprise in our Game of the Week first-alternate, but I’m saddling up Belichick & Brady in revenge mode for the rematch after losing Super Bowl LII to Eagles.
At Rams (5-4, -6½) over Bears (4-5), 20-16: Two average teams needing a run to climb into playoff contention could make for an interesting Sunday nighter. Aaron Donald and that Rams pass rush will bother Mitchell Trubisky. And Bears defense is capable of keeping it close and giving Chitown a shot. Bet line feels fat for a point-shy prime timer.
Chiefs (6-4, -4) over Chargers (4-6), 30-24: Monday nighter will be played 7,201 feet above sea level at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, assuming the two teams are able to scale Trump’s wall and get in. And gunslingers Patrick Mahomes vs. Philip Rivers means our southern neighbors should get an entertaining shootout. KC lost at Tennessee last week and Rivers looked awful vs. Oakland last Thursday, so expect better from both teams. A heating up Melvin Gordon should exploit KC’s weak run D, but, more so, Mahomes will dominate LAC’s wobbly air defense.