Falcons head coach Dan Quinn talks with his defense during a first half time out against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday, Oct 14, 2018, in Atlanta. The Falcons scored their second win of the season.
Photo: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Weekend Predictions: Falcons lose again, but I (probably) won’t

These are tough times in local sports (the exceptions are Georgia State football and Atlanta United association football). Expectations are not being met. There is anger and doubt. People want answers. 

The Falcons, Braves and Bulldogs have disappointed, too. 

Weekend Predictions has posted consecutive losing seasons for the first time ever. In this case “ever” means only since the start of the 2018 season, but I’m still not taking my first losing streak well. I’m so flustered that I considered picking a bunch of favorites this week, but I’m not desperate enough to be that boring.

» RELATED: How to watch all 55 FBS games this weekend

Georgia and Georgia Tech both are off this weekend. The Falcons are playing, though plenty of their customers are tired of watching them. They probably can unload tickets to Seattle fans. Falcons supporters who show up will have their loyalty rewarded by being surrounded by one of the more annoying group of fans in the NFL. 

Seahawks (-3½) at Falcons 

This is a weird line. It seems as if Seattle should be favored by a couple of field goals even if Falcons QB Matt Ryan (ankle) plays. He probably won’t play, and MVP candidate Russell Wilson is at QB for Seattle. This feels like a trap, but trusting the Falcons is a bad idea under any circumstance. I’ll take Seattle and give the points. 

Troy (+1½) at Georgia State 

I’ve lost three consecutive weeks picking against GSU (5-2). My only comfort is that the betting market has been just as dumb as me. The Panthers are favored for the first time in six games against FBS teams this season. I’m backing them this time, which probably means they are doomed. 

Other college games of interest 

No. 9 Auburn (+10½) at No. 2 LSU 

According to Saturday Down South, when asked if he mentioned to his players that Auburn hasn’t won at LSU since 1999, coach Gus Malzahn said: “I don’t have to bring it up because everybody else brings it up.” I question the motivational value of a coach talking about the many previous teams that lost at a place. Should Malzahn tell his team to remember that time two years ago when Auburn blew a 20-point lead in Death Valley? I like Auburn to cover. 

No. 13 Wisconsin (+14½) at No. 3 Ohio State 

This game lost some national luster when Wisconsin lost at Illinois, but there’s a good pettiness angle for some locals. Wisconsin’s elite defense is the toughest test yet for ex-UGA quarterback Justin Fields. If he struggles and the Buckeyes lose, it would alleviate some angst for any Bulldogs backers worried about the nightmare scenario of Fields taking Ohio State to the College Football Playoff. They’ll have to wait: Badgers cover, but Buckeyes win. 

Boston College (+34) at No. 4 Clemson 

Boston College’s recruiting ranks near the bottom of the ACC (you try attracting good players to a cold pro sports town), yet coach Steve Addazio is on track for his sixth winning season in seven. That’s impressive. Come to think of it, that sounds like pretty good job security for Addazio. Maybe that’s why he’s still there. The Eagles have a decent offense for a change, so I’ll take them with the points. 

No. 8 Notre Dame (-1) at No. 19 Michigan 

Win this game, and the Fighting Irish will be in good position to run the table. That would give the athletic directors and school presidents on the CFP selection committee the opportunity to please their TV partners by putting the Irish in again. I’ll back Michigan after it gave a good effort last weekend at Penn State as a road underdog. 

Washington State (+14) at No. 11 Oregon 

Oregon’s defense is good this season. Really. The Ducks rank second in the Pac-12 in points allowed (11.9 per game). They became a lot better on defense after firing coordinator Jim Leavitt following last season. He was hired as an analyst by Florida State, which got a lot worse on defense. I’ll take Oregon and give the points. 

No. 5 Oklahoma (-23½) at Kansas State 

Oklahoma QB Jalen Hurts fell behind LSU’s Joe Burrow in USA Today’s most recent survey of 21 Heisman Trophy voters. Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa was third, and Fields is fourth. That’s two QBs who’ve ruined a season for Georgia’s and another who left Athens and immediately became a star. The Bulldogs can complete the circle by losing to Burrow in the SEC Championship game. K-State covers. 

Other NFL games of interest 

Cardinals (+10½) at Saints 

Saints QB Drew Brees (thumb) told Steve Wyche of NFL Network that he plans to start against the Cardinals after missing five games. The Saints can win with Brees and give him a tuneup for the Nov. 10 game against the Falcons or let him rest and win a sixth consecutive game with QB Teddy Bridgewater. It wasn’t long ago the Falcons were better than the Saints. It only feels like it. I’ll take New Orleans and give the points. 

Buccaneers (+2½) at Titans 

Bucs coach Bruce Arians to the Tampa Bay Times on QB Jameis Winston’s future: “For me, it’s just play it all out and let’s see.” The NFL suspended Winston three games in 2018 for groping an Uber driver. When he returned, the Bucs made him the face of their marketing. They fired coach Dirk Koetter after the season, and now his replacement isn’t sure Winston is the right guy. How are the Falcons worse than the Bucs? Titans cover. 

Panthers (+5½) at 49ers 

Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman writes that “teams are highly interested” in trading for Panthers QB Cam Newton. Newton has struggled with injuries, and Kyle Allen has been pretty good in relief. On the other hand, Newton is a former league MVP who’s still only 30 years old, and Allen has only five career starts. And have you seen the QB play in this league? Newton at 80 percent healthy probably is better than half the starters. San Francisco covers. 

Packers (-3½) at Chiefs 

This line only makes sense if Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes doesn’t play. He returned to practice less than a week after suffering a dislocated right kneecap. Mahomes left the game in the first half at Denver, and the Chiefs still won big with backup QB Matt Moore. I like the Chiefs with the points even if Mahomes doesn’t play. It’s a gift if he does play.

Last week: 6-7 (57-43-3)

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About the Author

Michael Cunningham
Michael Cunningham
Michael Cunningham has covered the Hawks and other beats for the AJC since 2010. 
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