Falcons coach Dan Quinn uses body English during a field-goal attempt while playing the Washington Redskins on Thursday, August 22, 2019, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton

Weekend Predictions: Falcons lose again, Georgia tries not to look ahead

Falcons coach Dan Quinn already is feeling the heat. After the Week 1 flop in Minnesota, the online sportsbook bovada.lv made Quinn the 2½-to-1 favorite to be the “first NFL head coach to leave his post.” That’s a weird way to describe getting fired. I suppose it leaves open the possibility that a coach at the top of his profession will quit and give back millions of dollars. 

Washington coach Jay Gruden (4½-to-1) has the second-lowest odds to be fired first. He’s not to be confused with the Gruden who signed Antonio Brown. That’s Jay’s brother Jon, coach of the Raiders. Jay is the Gruden who already had shaky job security after consecutive losing seasons and then ticked off his veteran players by not dressing Adrian Peterson in Week 1. 

» RELATED: How to watch all 68 FBS games Saturday

Weekend Predictions avoided that kind of drama by going 9-4 in Week 3 to improve to 15-10 on the season. Bad picks won’t get me fired. I still would like to avoid the public humiliation of being a so-called expert with worthless predictions. On the other hand, that could get me a cushy gig as a TV pundit.

Georgia State has the most compelling game among college football locals this weekend. The Panthers go to Western Michigan after they followed their big win at Tennessee with a comeback victory over Furman. Georgia will try to stay interested against Arkansas State with Notre Dame looming, and Georgia Tech will try to find some offense against The Citadel (no line, so no pick). 

Eagles (-1½) at Falcons 

The Falcons still are trying to figure out their offensive line and now here comes Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia’s interior pass-rush terror. Falcons rookie right tackle Kaleb McGary didn’t look good pass blocking at Minnesota. Quinn: “When the game shifted (to drop back passing) I thought he held up well for a spot that maybe wasn't, you know, something we thought of him in the first place.” That might be worrisome if the NFL were a passing league. Give me the Eagles to cover. 

Arkansas State (+32) at No. 3 Georgia 

Arkansas State was a one-year steppingstone for three coaches: Hugh Freeze (Ole Miss), Gus Malzahn (Auburn) and Bryan Harsin (Boise State). Blake Anderson is still there after winning at least seven games in five seasons with two Sun Belt championships. The Red Wolves have a winning pedigree and can put up points, which makes them the kind of underdog I can’t resist. They’ll cover.

Georgia State (+8½) at Western Michigan 

It turns out Panthers safety Remy Lazarus was right when he told the AJC’s Steve Hummer that Furman would give his team a “tougher battle” than Tennessee. That’s not good for Tennessee, but also isn’t great for the Panthers considering Furman plays at the FCS level (it’s a good FCS program, but still). Georgia State’s offense is legit, but it won’t get enough stops to cover at WMU. 

NFC South 

Saints (+2½) at Rams 

This is a rematch of the 2018 NFC Championship game. The Saints lost that game after a terrible no-call on pass interference and a (less-discussed) Drew Brees interception. Kevin Modesti of the Orange County Register offers this nugget about the five NFL rematches since 1970 following officiating controversies: “In four of the five, the team that lost on a bad call won the later meeting (and, by the way, beat the point spread).” That probably means nothing, but I’m still taking the Saints with the points. If they win, then maybe New Orleans will whine a little less about that no-call. 

Buccaneers (+6½) at Panthers (Thursday night) 

During Carolina’s Week 1 loss to the Rams, QB Cam Newton didn’t throw any long passes or run the ball much. Coach Ron Rivera said those things are unrelated to Newton’s offseason shoulder surgery and preseason ankle injury. “I think it’s more about decisions he makes out there,” Rivera told media in Charlotte. I’ll buy that concerning Newton’s fashion choices, but I’m wondering about his health. Bucs cover. 

Other NFL games of interest 

Colts (+3) at Titans 

Hope you didn’t think Andrew Luck’s retirement meant the Falcons caught a break for their Week 3 game at Indy. Colts QB Jacoby Brissett isn’t Luck, but he’s better than Kirk Cousins. The Colts scored 24 points during an overtime loss at San Diego in Week 1 with an efficient passing game from Brissett and 203 yards rushing. They’ll use the same formula to cover again. 

Vikings (+3) at Packers 

Packers defensive lineman Kenny Clark told the team’s web site: “It’s a lot different Minnesota team as far as the run game is concerned than last year.” That may or may not be related to the fact the Vikings played the Falcons. I’m taking the Packers and giving the points because I assume they actually will make Kirk Cousins pass. 

Patriots (-19) at Dolphins 

The rational part of my brain knows the Ravens smashed the Dolphins at Miami in Week 1. It is overruled the other, more fun part of my brain that loves ‘dogs. The Dolphins are an NFL team getting three touchdowns at home. I have no choice but to take the points, just on principle. 

49ers (+½) at Bengals 

A San Jose Mercury News headline asks: “Does Kyle Shanahan trust Jimmy Garoppolo?” I figured it was a rhetorical question, but there’s an article under the headline. San Francisco won at Tampa Bay in Week 1 despite doing little on offense because Bucs QB Jameis Winston delivered one of his terrible interceptions (glancing nervously at my Bucs pick above). Bengals RB Joe Mixon (ankle) will be limited if he plays, so I’ll take the 49ers with the points. 

SEC games of interest 

Alabama (-25½) at South Carolina 

While searching for angles on this game, I noticed a handful of articles about a different game: South Carolina’s victory at Alabama in 2010 to end the Crimson Tide’s 19-game winning streak. Steve Spurrier is long gone, and Will Muschamp hasn’t come close to getting the Gamecocks back to that level. They can play some defense, though, and will keep it close enough to cover at the end against Bama. 

No. 9 Florida (-8) at Kentucky 

The Wildcats entered the season grumbling about a lack of respect. Why would anyone question Kentucky’s staying power after it lost a lot of good players from its first 10-win season since 1977? The ’Cats ended a 31-year losing streak to Florida last season, and their defense could give the Gators trouble again. But losing QB Terry Wilson (knee) was a blow, so I’ll take Florida and give the points. 

ACC games of interest 

No. 1 Clemson (-27½) at Syracuse 

It was funny seeing ESPN promote this game relentlessly Saturday at the same time Maryland was blowing out Syracuse. Kind of makes it harder to pretend the Orange have a real chance. Syracuse won at Clemson in 2017 and lost by four to the Tigers last season, and the Carrier Dome is a weird place where strange things can happen. Clemson still covers. 

Florida State (+7) at No. 25 Virginia 

Florida State coach Willie Taggart hired Jim Leavitt as an analyst. Leavitt was Taggart’s defensive coordinator at Oregon in 2017. The Ducks ranked 82nd in FBS in points allowed per game that season, so you can see why Taggart thinks Leavitt can help fix his defense. Virginia covers. 

Last week: 9-4 (15-10 season)

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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.