Star wide receiver Julio Jones presumably will suit up for the Falcons at Minnesota on Sunday. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
Photo: Julio Aguilar/Getty Images
Photo: Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Weekend Predictions: Falcons lose, Georgia Tech wins

The first (real) week of college football was fun, but honestly, I’m glad the NFL is back. I prefer watching football when the players are paid. Then I don’t need to feel quite so gross and hypocritical while watching humans suffer multiple head collisions that can cause neurodegenerative disease. 

On that note, Murray State will cash a nice check for agreeing to let its unpaid players get beat up by the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday. The Racers are an FCS team, so there’s no betting line on the game. There also should be no lines for concessions at Sanford Stadium after halftime. 

» RELATED: How to watch all 76 FBS games Saturday

The Falcons presumably will have star wide receiver Julio Jones in uniform Sunday at Minnesota. He still doesn’t have the new contract that the Falcons have said for months is a sure thing. At this point, I expect coach Dan Quinn will be telling the Fox sideline reporter before the game that the two sides are very close to a deal while Jones is waiting in the locker room. 

Falcons (+4) at Vikings 
The Falcons begin the season still wondering if their offensive line is any better than last season. They’ll get some immediate answers against the Vikings, who still have a very good defensive front despite tackle Sheldon Richardson departing for the Browns. The Falcons will run the ball effectively and force Minnesota QB Kirk Cousins make plays. That’s enough to cover but not win. 

South Florida (-6) at Georgia Tech 
This game sets up well for the Yellow Jackets after they were routed by Clemson in Week 1. South Florida is reeling after a 49-0 home loss to Wisconsin. The Jackets still don’t have much of a passing game but that probably won’t matter against the Bulls, who were bad at stopping the run in 2018 and terrible vs. Wisconsin. The Jackets win and cover. 

NFC South games 
49ers (pick) at Buccaneers 
After posting the second-worst interception percentage among NFL starters in 2018, Bucs QB Jameis Winston threw a bunch of picks in practice this summer. Coach Bruce Arians says that’s no big deal because Winston is learning a new offense and — I’m not making this up -- Tampa Bay’s defense showed him a lot of complex looks in practice. Give me the 49ers to win. 

Rams (-2½) at Panthers 
Sports Illustrated reports
that Cam Newton has benefited from a notebook that QB coach Scott (Son of Norv) Turner gave Newton before last season. Writes SI: “(Newton) is a visual learner, something the team has always known.” It only took the Panthers seven years to provide Newton with his magical notebook. I like the Panthers with the points. 

Texans (+7) at Saints 
This year should be different for the Texans after they beefed up their offensive line. Now they’ll do a better job protecting QB Deshaun Watson on the way to another postseason flop. The Saints are very good again, and it’s risky to fade them at home, but seven points is too many. Give me Houston as the underdog. 

Other NFL games of interest 
Colts (+6½) at Chargers 
Colts QB Andrew Luck retired at the age of 29. His decision upset some people who resented paying good money to see him risk his health. It’s not fair to those people that they’ll have to settle for watching another person they don’t care about, Jacoby Brissett, get beat up. I like the Colts with the points. 

Giants (+7) at Cowboys 
Ezekiel Elliott ended his holdout this week and agreed to a contract with the Cowboys. Elliott may or may not be the highest-paid running ever. You never can tell with NFL contracts, which include a lot of funny money. Dallas gets enough out of Elliott to cover. 

Steelers (+6) at Patriots 
I was looking for a reason to fade the Patriots and Tom Brady helpfully obliged. New England’s quarterback says “outcomes are very unpredictable” early in the season because teams still are trying to figure out their identities. Also, the Patriots have a mediocre record as home favorites since 2003. I’ll take the Steelers and the points with the expectation that I’ll be seeing Brady’s annoying smirk after he carves them up. 

Broncos (+1.5) at Raiders 
ESPN reports the Raiders will suspend wide receiver Antonio Brown after he got into an argument with GM Mike Mayock. Oakland sent away draft picks for Brown and signed him to a big contract but, in fairness, only about 90 percent of the evidence indicated that he’s a difficult player to manage. Man, the Raiders were dumb to take a chance on that guy. Now I just need to take Brown out of my fantasy lineup. Oakland still covers. 

Other college games of interest 
No. 12 Texas A&M (+17) at No. 1 Clemson 
This is the first of four chances for Texas A&M to wreck a national title contender’s season. Games vs. Alabama and at Georgia and LSU are still to come. Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher hasn’t looked like such a genius without Winston as his QB, but I kind of like him in this new spoiler role. Aggies cover. 

No. 6 LSU (-6.5) at No. 9 Texas 
Now that everyone has caught on to Miami’s eternal disappointment, no program lives off reputation more than Texas. It’s been a decade since the Longhorns played for a national championship. They still are getting a lot of credit for that Sugar Bowl victory over Georgia in January. The hype ends here. The line has moved toward LSU all week, but I still like them to cover. 

Cincinnati (+16) at No. 5 Ohio State 
Anyone hoping to avoid the Jake Fromm vs. Justin Fields narrative at least for a little while had their hopes dashed immediately. Before Fromm handed the ball off 40 times at Vanderbilt, Fields did more for Ohio State on his first 13 plays than he ever did (or was allowed to do) for the Bulldogs. That’s only a slight exaggeration: on those 13 snaps Fields completed four of five pass attempts for 100 yards and three touchdowns and ran for a 51-yard score. I’ll take the Buckeyes and give the points. 

BYU (+3½) at Tennessee 
The most striking thing about Georgia State’s upset victory at Tennessee last weekend was seeing how far the sweat would spread on the clothes of Panthers coach Shawn Elliott. I had the knees of his khakis as the over/under, and I think it went over. The second-most striking thing was how confidently Georgia State sliced through Tennessee’s defense in the second half. I think this line is an overreaction, though, so I’m taking the Volunteers and giving the points. 

Last week’s record: 6-6.

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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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