Week 4 was a struggle but we toughed through it OK at 9-6 overall and an even 7-7-1 against the spread, with Bucs-Chargers pushing at a seven-point margin for the tie. We misfired on our Upset of the Week — lesson: you gamble on Vegas, you lose — but we hit on a trio of dogs with points in calling covers by the Browns, Vikings and Eagles. Looking for a sizzling Week 5 as the second quarter of this pandemic-rocked season begins. (Note: Thursday night pick was Buccaneers (3-1, -3 1/2) over At Bears (3-1), 23-17.)
Week 4: 9-6, .600 overall; 7-7-1, .500 vs. spread.
Season: 39-2-1, .629 overall; 32-29-1, .525 vs. spread.
Final 2019: 169-86-1, .663 overall; 129-120-7, .518 vs. spread.
Final 2018: 179-75-2, .705 overall; 145-104-7, .582 vs. spread.
GREG COTE’S NFL WEEK 5 PICKS
GAME OF THE WEEK
UPSET OF THE WEEK
BILLS (4-0) at TITANS (3-0)
Line: BUF by 8 1/2.
Cote’s pick: TEN 20-17.
TV: 1 p.m., CBS.
“AAAWWWK!” trumpets the Upset Bird. “Tennessaaawwwk!” A COVID outbreak forced Titans to postpone last week and take an unexpected bye. Now Tennessee confronts the disrespect of being an unbeaten team playing at home — yet being an 8 1/2-point underdog. I know Josh Allen has been great. I know the Buffs’ defense is really good. But I have a gut feeling the Titans rally around what they have gone through with a big performance. Looking for standout games from Derrick Henry and an overlooked defense. “Two passers in this game. Josh Allen, meet Ryan Tannehill,” notes U-Bird. “Tannehaaawwwk!”
THE REST OF WEEK 5:
Panthers (2-2, +1) over At Falcons (0-4), 27-23: Upset! Well, technically, sort of. Atlanta has won five in a row in this series, but these Falcons can’t get out of their own way. Matt Ryan can’t outscore his own putrid defense. Carolina is 2-0 since Christian McCaffrey’s injury, with improved D and Teddy Bridgewater both stepping up. Atlanta has lost seven of past nine at home and Dan Quinn could be the next coach to go.
At Chiefs (4-0, -13) over Raiders (2-2, +13), 38-16: From up in football heaven Don Shula might be looking down and starting to worry. Can anybody stop KC from rolling to a perfect season? Chiefs have won 13 consecutive games and remarkably are 12-1 against the spread in that span. Pats held Patrick Mahomes in relative check last week, but Vegas’ defense won’t.
Cardinals (2-2, -7) over At Jets (0-4), 24-20: Sam Darnold is out with a shoulder injury, but veteran Joe Flacco might actually give NYJ a better chance here. Medium outright upset shot and definitely like Planes getting seven vs. an Arizona squad whose offense has cooled in two consecutive losses. And Cardbirds have lost 17 of past 21 games that kick off at 1 p.m. Eastern. Ways to avoid 0-16 are running away from doomed Adam Gase.
At Steelers (3-0, -7) over Eagles (1-2-1), 21-17: First Keystone State Duel since 2016 finds Philly coming off a nice surprise win over San Fran and Pitt coming off an unexpected bye caused by the Titans’ COVID outbreak. Like Big Ben’s weaponry over Carson Wentz’s, and edge to Steelers D as well. Point spread is thorny because I can see the faves in a rout, but a strong hunch says Eagles keep it tight.
Rams (3-1, -7) over At Washington (1-3), 30-16: The No Names benched QB Dwayne Haskins and will go with Kyle Allen over Alex Smith here. Rams are 3-0 vs. the miserable NFC East and looking for a sweep. Washington is allowing 31.7 points a game since its season-opening win, and can’t see Allen turning around a toothless offense.
At Ravens (3-1, -13) over Bengals (1-2-1), 37-20: Bengals have had tie and win in past two games, and Joe Burrow vs. Lamar Jackson could make for an entertaining game. I didn’t say a close game. Baltimore tends to dominate everybody but KC; its past six wins have been by a 19.7 average margin. And Cincy is an 0-13-1 rut in roadies.
Texans (0-4, -6) over Jaguars (1-3), 27-23: Desperate, flailing Houston is going interim after firing coach/GM Bill O’Brien in the year’s first in-season sacking. The change should play well in the locker room and give Texans a bump. HOU has won eight of past 10 in series, and Deshaun Watson can beat up on Jax’s awful pass defense. But Jags can run on Texans and keep it inside the bet line.
Colts (3-1, -1) over At Browns (3-1), 23-20: Near pick-’em matchup is the close call you would expect, and our Game of the Week runner-up should be a good one. Indy’s defense has been pretty great, and will limit an Earthtones attack now sorely missing RB Nick Chubb. Also see big Philip Rivers numbers vs. a soft Cleveland pass D. Rivers and Baker Mayfield — the one who avoids a turnover wins.
At Cowboys (1-3, -9 1/2) over Giants (0-4), 41-16: The World’s Saddest Division presents winless NYG and a Dallas team one miracle rally from also being winless. From this point forward, until they win, I’ll be referring to the Giants as the Gnats. Dak Prescott and the Cowboys offense seem sort of unstoppable. Dallas’ defense is terrible, but not sure the Gnats’ impotent offense can take advantage.
At 49ers (2-2, -9) over Dolphins (1-3), 27-20: The Niners should beat Miami no matter what, but the iffy status of QB Jimmy Garoppolo (ankle) makes picking against the point spread a crapshoot, because it’s a big drop-off to Nick Mullens or C.J. Beathard. The uncertainly whittled the bet line all the way from 13 to 8 1/2. San Fran also has mounting defensive injuries, but still will show better pass D that what Fins saw from Seattle last week. After surprise loss to Philly in Week 4, Niners are too good and too well coached to be surprised again.
At Patriots (2-2, -11) over Broncos (1-3), 23-13: A quarterback mess both ways. Pats’ Cam Newton seems unlikely again to play after testing positive for coronavirus, which means either Brian Hoyer or Jason Stadium after both struggled last week. For Denver, injured Drew Lock seems unlikely, which would mean Brett Rypien again. Two solid defenses, but NE’s is more likely to dominate the QB, even with Stephon Gilmore (virus) out. Sans Cam, though, the bet line feels fat.
At Seahawks (4-0, -7) over Vikings (1-3), 31-27: Should be a fireworky Sunday nighter, bombs bursting in air. Russell Wilson will be cooking all night on Minny’s porous pass defense, and likewise Kirk Cousins should enjoy a Seattle pass D that has been as bad or worse. If Dalvin Cook stays hot, Purples stay close and make it a worthy of prime time affair.
At Saints (2-2, -8) over Chargers (1-3), 27-23: There was a chance Monday nighter might be moved to Indy to avoid Hurricane Delta, but it seems late Thursday N’Awlins would still host. Almost went with Chargers in a shocker — and an upset still would not surprise — but our pick turned on two injury situations. N’Awlins might finally get back star WR Michael Thomas, whom Drew Brees has dearly missed. And Bolts will be without top RB Austin Ekeler, a big loss. All three LAC losses have been close. Same here.
Lions (1-3) — Detroit blew another lead in losing to Saints last week. On deck: Lions at Jacksonville next as Matt Patricia schemes to save his teetering job.
Packers (4-0) — After beating Atlanta the Gee Bees have scored 152 points or 38 per game. Next: at Tampa Bay. Six words: Aaron Rodgers vs. Tom Brady, baby!
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