Been a tough year overall for us thus far but that’s across the prognostication kingdom. Example: My .609 mark straight-up would be fourth-best on ESPN’s 11-person NFL experts panel. Underdogs are 100-78-1 against the spread (56.2%), another sign of a turbulent season to predict.

We’ve accumulated some momentum lately, though, both straight-up and against the spread, finally creeping back up to .500 ATS. Last week we nailed a fourth consecutive Upset of the Week pick with Broncos beating Chargers (“Aawwk!”), had a second outright mini-upset with Dolphins beating Panthers, and also had Lions-with-point on a Thanksgiving Day cover. Let’s keep it a green-light go on the mo’!

(Note: Thursday night pick was Cowboys (-4½) over @Saints, 27-24.). Editor’s note: The final score was Cowboys 27, Saints 17.


PATRIOTS (8-4) at BILLS (7-4)

Line: BUF by 2½.

Cote’s pick: NE, 27-24.

The AFC East lead is at stake on a Monday night. Bill Belichick’s scorchin’-hot Pats (six wins in a row) vs. a Bills team home and with extra prep time after playing on Thanksgiving. The NFL’s two top-ranked defenses. Heck, the two best teams, based on points-differential. Josh Allen vs. rookie phenom Mac Jones. Dee-licious! It was supposed to be Buffalo’s turn at division supremacy when Tom Brady bolted for Tampa. Now here’s New England and Coach G.O.A.T. back to lay claim again. (Patriots are pedigreed Alabama while the Bills are upstart Georgia).

Games of the Week have rarely been easier calls. Why I like the upset: Streaking Pats are 5-0 on the road (Jones aims to be only third rookie to start 6-0 away), while Buffs are in a 3-3 lull and haven’t won consecutive games since Oct. 10. And Bills are now without injured star CB Tre’Davious White, which is an XXL-big loss. And you’re going to give Belichick points!?


49ERS (6-5) at SEAHAWKS (3-8)

Line: SF by 3. Cote’s pick: SEA, 23-20.

“AAAWWWK!” bellows the Upset Bird. “Seahaaawwwk!” I self-analyze and recognize I can be stubborn with some pick tendencies. I am not bragging. It is a weakness, and yet I keep doing it. Example: Expecting teams I’m used to being good (like Seattle) to magically be good again. And Russell Wilson to be who I’m used to. And the Seahawks’ major home-field edge to return.

So here we go again as I risk my four-game winning steak of Upset of the Week bull’s-eyes on 3-8 Seattle. Why? 1) Hawks on a 9-1 run at home over Niners and 14-2 streak overall in this division series; 2) San Fran offensive spark plug Deebo Samuel is out injured; and 3) Law of averages/plain gut feeling. “The gut knows,” nods the U-Bird. “Russell Wilsaaawwwk!”


@Dolphins (5-7, -4) over Giants (4-7), 23-18: Miami even with four straight wins is not good enough to take any team lightly, and Sunday’s visit by the Giants feels like a challenging afternoon. NYG quietly has won three of its past five games, with an improving defense that now gets back top safety Logan Ryan off the COVID-19 list. Also expect a full dose of Saquon Barkley, who seems the healthiest he has been all year. Biggies QB Daniel Jones (strained neck) is iffy to play (he was ruled out on Friday), with Mike Glennon on call. Bottom line: Miami wins if we get the the Fins defense and the Tua Tagovailoa we have seen during this streak.

Buccaneers (8-3, -11) over @Falcons (5-6), 31-23: Tampa thumped Falcons, 48-25, in September, though it was close in fourth quarter. And Bucs have won by more than a touchdown only once in past 13 trips to Atlanta. Matt Ryan (so much better when Cordarrelle Patterson is healthy, as now) should be able to do enough vs. TB’s battered secondary to keep this inside the bet line.

Cardinals (9-2, -7½) over @Bears (4-7), 27-16: Arizona is 6-0 on the road, all by 10-plus points. Last team to start 7-0 away, all by double-digits: The 1984 49ers. Cardinals are a good bet to match that, presuming Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins both return from injuries off a bye week as team hopes. For Bears, Justin Fields (cracked ribs) might yield to Andy Dalton again; either way, Zona’s pass rush should dominate.

@Bengals (7-4, -3) over Chargers (6-5), 30-24: First career meeting between super sophs Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert spices this stout AFC matchup. Cincy cannot afford to follow big division win over Steelers with a letdown, because L.A. brings some desperation after four losses in past six games. Look for a ton o’ Joe Mixon vs. Bolts’ league-worst run D.

Vikings (5-6, -7) over @Lions (0-10-1), 24-21: Both teams missing their top backs in Dalvin Cook and D’Andre Swift, respectively, but Kirk Cousins has lots more weapons left than does Jared Goff. See it close, though. Vikes beat Lions by only 19-17 in first meeting, and Detroit (7-4 against spread) has turned losing close into an art form.

Eagles (5-7, -7) over @Jets (3-8), 26-20: NYJ has lost eight in a row to Philly in this occasional series, and has yet to win back-to-back games this season. Why start now? Eagles have 200-plus rushing yards past three games; no team has done that four straight since the 1978 Patriots. And run defense is not the Jets’ forte’. Come to think of it, the Jets have no forte’. Even so, the bet line is a bit of a fatty.

Colts (6-6, -9½) over @Texans (2-9), 30-13: Indy’s biggest threat here is a laissez-faire approach, with lousy Texans sandwiched in between last week’s battle with champion Bucs and next visit by streaking Patriots on Saturday, Dec. 18. Even if so, Colts won first meeting, 31-3, and should roll again. RB Jonathan Taylor will hit fantasy jackpot again and be first RB since LaDainian Tomlinson in 2004 with a TD run in 10 straight games.

Washington (5-6, +2½) over @Raiders (6-5), 25-23: Upset! (“Aawwk!”) Washington No-Names have won three straight, all as betting underdogs. Let’s make it four. Vegas has a rest edge after playing on Thanksgiving while WAS played Monday night. Still, D.C. gang has beaten Raiders four of past five, and Washington’ s defense — like Miami’s, like KC’s — has gone from really bad to quite great in past four games.

@Rams (7-4, -13) over Jaguars (2-9), 38-10: Both teams here have lost three games in a row. One of those slumps is surprising, and about to end. Jax is bad generally and worse (0-4) on the road. LAR’s defense has sagged during the recent, but the perfect cure for that is the Jags’ 31st-ranked offense and Trevor Lawrence in the midst of a thoroughly bad rookie season.

Ravens (8-3, -4) over @Steelers (5-5-1), 23-20: Pittsburgh got routed/embarrassed at Cincy last week, and a fired-up bounce-back effort at home is likely. Ben Roethlisberger is banged-up, fading fast and now facing Baltimore’s NFL-high blitz rate, but Steelers have a path if a ton of Najee Harris limits Lamar Jackson’s impact. I’m riding Pitt’s 3-0-1 run at home to a cover, at least.

@Chiefs (7-4, -9½) over Broncos (6-5), 28-17: Remember when KC was 3-4 and Patrick Mahomes seemed mortal and the sky was falling? Hahahahaha! Now look. Four wins in a row, Mahomes is Mahomes, sky still where it should be. Denver quietly has won three of past four, though, so Sunday night stage gets a good one. But: Chiefs have beaten Broncos 11 times in a row. And bye weeks are to KC what spinach was to Popeye. Andy Reid is 19-3 after byes, and Mahomes is 7-1.

Bye weeks: Browns, Packers, Panthers, Titans.