It’s only NFL Week 4, but you can tell Dan Quinn’s Falcons are desperate for a win because they’ve got another motivational T-shirt. This one includes the slogan “I Got Your Back” with an image of three hands grasping three arms. I’m assuming the graphic is not a depiction of the team’s 14 holding penalties through three games.
A T-shirt can’t help the Falcons, but they are better off than Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets lost to The Citadel, took last weekend off and now are two-score underdogs at Temple. Maybe Jackets backers won’t notice another football loss because they are too distracted by the NCAA infractions committee bringing the hammer down on the men’s basketball program.
Georgia is off after its big victory over Notre Dame. The Bulldogs will be heavy favorites in their next three games, so their biggest worry now is finding a reliable punter. I vote for kicker Rodrigo Blankenship, who could enhance his folk legend by saving the Bulldogs with punts.
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Weekend Predictions has been right on 63 percent of picks against the spread this season. That’s an excellent record, but I’m 0-3 picking Falcons games. That T-shirt is a lie. They have not had my back.
Titans (+4) at Falcons
Falcons players are considering $100 fines for players who commit penalties. No word on whether Matt Ryan will be docked for red-zone interceptions. His six picks haven’t been bad luck: Ryan has an NFL-high seven plays deemed “turnover-worthy” by Pro Football Focus. Ryan has a long track record of being better than this, and Tennessee is a middling offensive team. Falcons win and Titans cover.
Georgia Tech (+9) at Temple
AJC beat writer Ken Sugiura reports that Tech’s three quarterbacks will continue to be shuffled in and out of the game, sometimes during the same series. The factors include field position, defensive schemes and the “feel” of offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude. It seems that that feeling is that none of his QBs can run his full offense. Tech is better this week, but Temple still covers.
SEC games of interest
Mississippi State (+10½) at No. 7 Auburn
It’s starting to look like Auburn will make the SEC West a three-team race instead of two. Things are going so well for the Tigers the only thing their fans really can grumble about is winning by only eight points at Texas A&M last week after leading by 18. Coach Gus Malzahn’s detractors know they can always wait quietly until the schedule grinds the Tigers to dust, then re-emerge to start complaining again. I like Mississippi State with the points.
Ole Miss (+38) at No. 2 Alabama
The Crimson Tide will play another home game in the hot afternoon sun despite coach Nick Saban’s grumbling. Said Saban: "I wish some of the TV people and people from our conference would come, at any stadium, in these kind of conditions and know that it's really difficult for the fans." I’m sure Saban and everyone else involved feels really bad about it when they cash the checks from TV revenue. I like Ole Miss to cover.
No. 23 Texas A&M (-23) vs. Arkansas (Arlington, Texas)
Things are so bad at Arkansas that some fans are longing for the return of Bobby Petrino. The ex-Razorbacks coach showed up at a Little Rock event earlier this month and (sort of) apologized for his tenure ending with a scandal that included putting his mistress on the school payroll. Writes Tucker Patridge at Arkansas Fight: “(I)t seems like we’ve been spit on by Bobby, and are inviting him back to spit again.” Spit on me twice, shame on me. Arkansas covers.
ACC games of interest
No. 18 Virginia (+12½) at No. 10 Notre Dame
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly denied that his players faked injuries to slow Georgia’s offensive tempo. I can’t blame him. The person in charge would have to be an idiot to openly admit to directing his subordinates to break the rules. I’m not buying that Virginia is better than average, so I’ll take the Fighting Irish to cover.
No. 1 Clemson (-27) at North Carolina
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney told CBS Sports that his detailed, 13-month calendar includes plans for a national championship parade. It would be great if that blows up in Swinney’s face, but it will have to wait until the postseason. There is no real challenger to Clemson in the ACC, and South Carolina is awful. I’ll take Clemson and give the points.
Wake Forest (-6½) at Boston College
Wake Forest players told the Winston-Salem Journal that they must avoid complacency after winning their first four games. That’s a real concern for a program that’s 4-0 for the seventh time in 111 seasons and has 18 winning seasons since joining the ACC in 1953. Boston College covers.
Panthers (+4½) at Texans
Michael Vick went on FS1 and said Carolina QB Cam Newton’s fashion choices are a sign of poor leadership. If only bold outfits were Vick’s biggest problem when he played here. Newton remains out with a foot injury. Replacement Kyle Allen looked pretty good during Carolina’s victory at the Cardinals, but Houston’s defense is a much tougher test. Texans cover.
Buccaneers (+9½) at Rams
Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times asks: “Do the Bucs trust Jameis Winston?” Fair question, but I’m also wondering about Bucs coach Bruce Arians after he botched managing the game in a home loss to the Giants in Week 3. It’s not looking as if Arians did the Bucs much of a favor by coming out of retirement. I’ll take the Rams and give the points.
Other NFL games of interest
Patriots (-7) at Bills
The Bills are 3-0 for the first time since the 2011 season and third time since 1992. Yet there seems to be more focus on the drunken tailgate antics of their fans, known as Bills Mafia. Even Patriots sourpuss Bill Belichick praised them. I suppose he prefers that to taking (and ignoring) questions about his dumb decision to sign Antonio Brown. I like Buffalo as the home ’dog.
Chiefs (-6½) at Lions
Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes, the league MVP last season, has been even better this year. Now he’ll play his first official professional game in a domed stadium. Lions coach Matt Patricia’s hasn’t looked like such a great defensive coach without Belichick. Chiefs cover.
Vikings (+2) at Bears
Via Chad Graff of The Athletic, Vikings QB Kirk Cousins said he’d rather throw an incomplete pass than take a hit from Bears pass rusher Khalil Mack. Making throws under pressure is a third option for some QBs but give Cousins credit for recognizing he’s not one of them. I wonder if the Vikings knew that when they signed Cousins for $84 million. Bears cover.
Last week: 9-4-1 (31-18-3 season)
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