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Greg Cote’s capsules for NFL games this weekend

By Greg Cote The Miami Herald (MCT) • Dec 17, 2015 at 5:39 PM

Greg Cote’s Week 15 NFL picks


Our late-season surge continued last week as we nailed the Dolphins’ upset of New England, bull’s-eyed our Steelers-over-Bengals Upset of the Week call (“Aawwk!”) and had four other ‘dogs-with-points. For the year we’re within sight of the Mendoza line of .600 overall, and have given ourselves at least a fighting chance to avoid our worst mark ever against the spread, which was .449 in 2006. We’ll need a heck of a finishing kick. So let’s go!

;Overall;Pct;Vs. spread;Pct.

Last week;10-6;.625;9-6-1;.600


Final 2012;166-89-1;.651;114-120-22;.488



SAINTS (10-4) at PANTHERS (10-4)

Line: CAR by 3.

Cote’s pick: CAR 27-20.

Time: 1 p.m. EST.

Half a dozen strong Week 16 matchups, but this was quick work for the GOTW panel. This is the only duel of 10-win teams, it’s for the lead in the NFC South and it’s Drew Brees against maybe the NFL’s best defense. What’s not to like? Winner clinches a playoff spot and likely the NFC’s No. 2 seed. Saints won 31-13 just two weeks ago, but make this a venue pick. Panthers have won six in a row at home, by an average margin of 18.7 points, while N’Awlins has dropped four of its past five roadies. Brees is Superman in the Superdome, where Saints average 32.9 points, but he finds Kryptonite on the road, where that average falls to a mortal 18.2. Cats are the real deal.



TITANS (5-9) at JAGUARS (4-10)

Line: TEN by 5 ½.

Cote’s pick: JAC 26-24.

Time: 1 p.m.

“AAAWWWK!” carols the Upset Bird. “Jaguaaawwwk!” A game only a mother could love, and maybe not even then. Titans have lost nine of their past 10 division games. Jaguars have lost 13 of their past 15 home games. Both will get no closer to the playoffs than their TV remote. Jax won 29-27 in November, and I like a sweep. They’ll honor retiring center Brad Meester before his final home game. He’s a 14-year Jaguar. Poor fellla! “Indeed, a career spent in purgatory,” nods U-Bird. “On a brighter note, happy holidays, everybody. Merry Christmaaawwwk!”



BROWNS (4-10) at JETS (6-8)

Line: NYJ by 2 ½.

Cote’s pick: NYJ 19-13.

Time: 1 p.m.

The Browns and double-digit losses go together like egg nog and rum. On the other sideline, the sight of Rex Ryan fighting for his job is always good for some holiday cheer. The win here could give Rex a fighting chance. Earthtones are bad on road and could be missing CB Joe Haden and TE Jordan Cameron, and Cleveland is allowing 33 points per in its five-game losing streak.


VIKINGS (4-9-1) at BENGALS (9-5)

Line: CIN by 7.

Cote’s pick: CIN 30-24.

Time: 1 p.m.

As Dolfans root for a Cincy loss here, the Bengals falling to Pittsburgh last week makes this game very important for the home team as it tries to nail down a playoff berth. But Minny presented itself as spoiler-qualified by upsetting Philly last week. Vikes are 0-6-1 away and ‘Gals 6-0 at home, but Purples should have Adrian Peterson back and should keep it close.


COLTS (9-5) at CHIEFS (11-3)

Line: KC by 6 ½.

Cote’s pick: KC 31-27.

Time: 1 p.m.

In what could be a preview of an AFC wild-card playoff matchup, both teams have clinched a postseason ticket but still could improve their seeding. Indy seeks mojo and momentum after going 3-3 in past six games, while KC seeks to shore up its defense. Jamaal Charles runs big vs. a Colts ground-D missing MLB Pat Angerer, but Nags keep it close.

— —

BUCCANEERS (4-10) at RAMS (6-8)

Line: STL by 5 ½.

Cote’s pick: STL 24-13.

Time: 1 p.m.

Represented here is a continuation of NFC’s two longest playoff droughts, with Rams last in it in 2004 and Bucs in ‘07. St. Lou faces letdown after stunning Saints last week, but T-Bay is lousy on road, and Golden Archies’ Robert Quinn-led pass rush will seriously harass Mike Glennon.


COWBOYS (7-7) at REDSKINS (3-11)

Line: DAL by 2 ½.

Cote’s pick: WAS 34-27.

Time: 1 p.m.

Dallas somehow wins the sad NFC East if it finishes 2-0, but how can a team that blows a 26-3 halftime lead to Green Bay deserve such a thing? Cowboys have allowed a league-worst 35.2 points over the past five games. Redskins have lost six in a row and lost first game to Dallas, 31-16, but I’m rolling with Kirk Cousins and a home-’dog upset.


BRONCOS (11-3) at TEXANS (2-12)

Line: DEN by 10 ½.

Cote’s pick: DEN 35-16.

Time: 1 p.m.

Matt Schaub is back at QB for Houston. Think home fans will start booing him at kickoff or wait ‘til his first incompletion? Miserable Texans have lost 12 in a row and now are down to their third-string running back. Denver is playoff-clinched but still fighting for a first-round bye. See a big Broncos bounceback from last Thursday’s loss.


DOLPHINS (8-6) at BILLS (5-9)

Line: MIA by 2 ½.

Cote’s pick: MIA 23-20.

Time: 1 p.m.

Here’s a game Miami must have in its playoff chase — Dolphins in fact can clinch a spot if they win and if Ravens and Bengals both lose. But lest you think this is a big game nationally, CBS’ broadcast team is Spero Dedes and Steve Beuerlein. You read that right: “Spero Dedes.” Anyway, oddly enough, this game worries me. It isn’t that Buffalo, which I think last made the playoffs during the Eisenhower administration, won 23-21 Oct. 20 in Miami, because the Dolphins are better now. It isn’t even the expected dreary/wet/cold weather. It’s more that the Bills bring the NFL’s leading sackers, and that Miami may simply be due a letdown/stumble after consecutive emotional wins at the Jets, in snowy Pittsburgh and vs. the nemeisis Patriots. Ultimately I’ll side with Miami’s defense over backup Bison QB Thad Lewis, who’ll be missing his top receiver as Stevie Johnson deals with the death of his mother. Also think Dolphs’ ground game could exploit a Buffs run-D giving up 149 yards per over the past five games. Still getting that anxious feeling, though. I think Ryan Tannehill — of the 103.2 rating in the three-game win streak — could struggle against these elements and this pass rush.


GIANTS (5-9) at LIONS (7-7)

Line: DET by 9 ½.

Cote’s pick: DET 28-20.

Time: 4:05 p.m.

Turnovers! Dumb penalties! Helpless coaches! This game should have it all. Eli Manning is an interception factory, and Matthew Stafford has 12 turnovers himself the past five games. Four losses in those five games have sent Motown spiraling from first place to third in the NFC North and now needing help to make the playoffs. Desperation and the home field should be enough here.


CARDINALS (9-5) at SEAHAWKS (12-2)

Line: SEA by 10 ½.

Cote’s pick: SEA 24-17.

Time: 4:05 p.m.

Seattle is playoff-bound but still seeks to nail down a first-round bye, while tough-luck Arizona needs help. Cardbirds actually could win 11 games and somehow still miss the playoffs. ‘Hawks beat Cacti 34-22 in October and should complete the sweep. Still, that fat bet-line is an insult to ‘Zona.


STEELERS (6-8) at PACKERS (7-6-1)

Line: OFF.

Cote’s pick: GB 24-20.

Time: 4:25 p.m.

Game stayed off most betting boards into Thursday because of Aaron Rodgers’ iffy status. Gee Bees coach Mike McCarthy said his QB “looks ready to play” after missing six games, and a decision was expected by Friday. I’m thinking Aaron plays. Either way, Pack is fighting desperately for a playoff spot, and Steelers are 2-5 on the road.


RAIDERS (4-10) at CHARGERS (7-7)

Line: SD by 10.

Cote’s pick: SD 41-16.

Time: 4:25 p.m.

Oakland won 27-17 in October but won’t sweep, or come close. Playoffs are all but out for Bolts, but Philip Rivers should obliterate a Raiders D that has allowed 34.7 points on average in its past seven games.


PATRIOTS (10-4) at RAVENS (8-6)

Line: BAL by 2 ½.

Cote’s pick: BAL 27-24.

Time: 4:25 p.m.

Game of the Week contender finds Pats still needing to nail down a playoff spot and gunning for first-round bye, and hot Ravens after a fifth win in a row and a playoff spot. It should pain Dolfans to root for New England, but a Baltimore loss here would help Miami’s playoff cause. Tom Brady winning would not surprise even a smidge, but make it a venue call.


BEARS (8-6) at EAGLES (8-6)

Line: PHI by 3.

Cote’s pick: PHI 34-30.

Time: 8:30 p.m.

Sunday’s prime-time matchup is another Game of the Week candidate, with two teams leading their divisions but with a loose grip. The winner here will have the edge for the NFC’s No. 3 seed, while the loser likely will cede control of its playoff fortunes. Give me the home Birds, but it’s a coin flip.


FALCONS (4-10) at 49ERS (10-4)

Line: SF by 12 ½.

Cote’s pick: SF 27-17.

Time: 8:40 p.m. Monday.

Season’s final Monday night game also will be the last regular-season game at Candlestick Park. That adds emotion, but Frans must stay focused on still trying to secure a playoff spot — against a Falcons team with incentive after losing last year’s NFC title game to the Niners. I’d give ATL half a shot, but Birds are 1-6 away and don’t have the run stoppage to match Frank Gore and Colin Kaepernick.

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