GAME OF THE WEEK
PACKERS (3-1) at COWBOYS (3-1)
Line: DAL by 3½.
Cote’s pick: DAL 24-17.
Reasons to give deep thought to an upset by Packers: Aaron Rodgers, always. Gee Bees having won seven of past eight in series. And Cowboys missing injured left tackle Tyron Smith. Reasons to like Dallas: Everything else! After being humbled in upset loss at New Orleans last week (I called it), this is a team primed for a big bounce back at home. Ezekiel Elliott will make his fantasy owners swoon vs. a very sloppy Pack run-D. Dallas has won seven in a row at home and GB only two of its past 11 on road. And Rodgers is without toe-hobbled top wideout Davante Adams. Pack tempts with that dangling half-point on the bet-line, but too many flashing arrows point at the Boys.
UPSET OF THE WEEK
RAVENS (2-2) at STEELERS (1-3)
Line: BAL by 3½.
Cote’s pick: PIT 23-21.
Crows defense was thoroughly unmasked in spanking by Browns last week, which will make Baltimore fired up to reassert itself against its biggest rival. Still, Pittsburgh is on a 15-1-1 roll in division games, and has won four of past five in this series. Steelers also have won 11 of past 18, outright, as a home underdog. I will say this pick feels much better with the shaky assumption that questionable Juju Smith-Schuster and James Conner will play.
THE REST OF WEEK 5:
@Bengals (0-4, -3) over Cardinals (0-3-1), 21-17: A game only a participating player’s family would watch. Maybe not even then. Together these teams have not won in 14 consecutive games. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has no running game and now no John Ross in addition to no A.J. Green. If the opponent were not this lousy, I’d sniff an upset. As is, a nerve-wracking, fingers-crossed venue call.
@Titans (2-2, -3) over Bills (3-1), 19-17: Buffalo won’t travel with the same intensity it showed Patriots in last week’s 16-10 loss, and QB Josh Allen’s iffy status (concussion) makes Buffs a dicey gamble here. Titans protect the ball (one turnover all season), and should get by at home if they give Marcus Mariota a reasonably clean pocket. But Bills’ defense makes visitors a decent hedge vs. spread.
Bears (3-1, -5) over @Raiders (2-2), 20-16: Cheerio! NFL’s obsession with London games continues as this one goes off at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. QB Mitchell Trubisky is very doutbful for Chitown so Chase Daniel preps for his fifth career start in 10 seasons. Like Bears, anyway — that defense, oh my! — although like Oakies with points in a game whose paucity of TDs should remind Brits of soccer.
@Saints (3-1, -3) over Buccaneers (2-2), 31-23: After upsetting Cowboys last week N’Awlins surely cannot afford a letdown vs. a division rival that just stuck 55 points on the Rams. Matchup to watch: Bucs’ stout run stoppage against Saints’ elite dual threat Alvin Kamara. Though a Tampa win would not shock, feel safest here with Saints at home over erratic, up-and-down Bucs.
Vikings (2-2, -5½) over @Giants (2-2), 30-13: Game reps the proliferation of 2-2 teams. New NFL motto: “We’re Average!” Daniel Jones is 2-0 as Biggies QB because of one opponent’s missed chip-shot field goal and another opponent being dismal Washington. Vikings present a sharp step up in challenge.
But also big pressure on Kirk Cousins to produce. No reason not to here.
@Eagles (2-2, -13½) over Jets (0-3), 27-10: Jets, off a bye week, could get QB Sam Darnold back from mono, although coach Adam Gase has been mum on the matter, so more Luke Falk is still possible. Philly’s Achilles is pass-D, but can Planes take advantage? Lot of points to give, but Birds lead all-time series 10-0 and I’m feeling a blowout.
Patriots (4-0, -15) over @Redskins (0-4), 41-6: Could the QB room of Miami’s next opponent be any worse? Case Keenum is awful and has a foot injury. Rookie Dwayne Haskins is awful and not ready. Colt McCoy is awful and coming back from an injury. Who will start vs. Patriots? Like it matters!? Pats are beyond great on defense and QB Tom Brady is due big rebound from rare off game. Skins have lost six in a row at home. Make it seven. Big.
@Panthers (2-2, -3½) over Jaguars (2-2), 27-24: Who would have thought a month ago that Kyle Allen vs. Gardner Minshew would be such an intriguing matchup? Allen is only second QB in Super Bowl era to be 3-0 with zero picks in first three career starts (dating to last year). Minshew’s 106.9 rating is highest in SB era by rookie in first four games. Minshew wears jorts better, but Allen prevails here. Jags with points, but Carolina’s five-game home losing streak ends.
@Texans (2-2, -5) over Falcons (1-3), 23-13: Atlanta is 8-13 since closing the 2017 season. Time to stop thinking of Falcons as anything special. QB Matt Ryan will get his numbers, but his miserably inconsistent team finds ways to lose. Meanwhile, imagine if poor Deshaun Watson had a decent O-line or a running game?
@Chargers (-6½) over Broncos (0-4), 31-16: Denver has won six of past eight at Bolts, but that seems like a trend you would be best to set aside. Broncos’ once highly regarded defense has really sagged, and now loses Bradley Chubb for the year. RB Melvin Gordon’s season debut is likely for LAC, which should roll in handing Nags a ninth straight loss.
@Chiefs (4-0, -11) over Colts (2-2), 35-21: Sunday night shootout awaits. K.C. has 25-plus points in 25 consecutive games, an NFL record. But Chiefs aren’t nearly as good stopping you, and Indy will have chances — especially if questionable T.Y. Hilton (likelier) and Marlon Mack both play. But!: Colts have terrible track record as double-digit road dogs, and are 2-9 in past 11 in prime time.
@49ers (3-0, -3½) over Browns (2-2), 24-20: The Niners, off a bye week, have a defensive front that will bother Cleveland’s O-line and Baker Mayfield (who also might be missing WR Jarvis Landry to a concussion). Also see Frans able to run the ball on Earthtones. Cleveland impressed in slapping around Baltimore last week but won’t repeat the effort out west on Monday stage.