Weekend Predictions: Bulldogs over Bama, Bucs beat Falcons

Alabama coach Nick Saban (left) and Georgia coach Kirby Smart meet before their teams play Oct. 17, 2020 at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (Photo by University of Alabama)

Credit: Crimson Tide Photos / UA Athletics

Combined ShapeCaption
Alabama coach Nick Saban (left) and Georgia coach Kirby Smart meet before their teams play Oct. 17, 2020 at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (Photo by University of Alabama)

Credit: Crimson Tide Photos / UA Athletics

Weekend Predictions has a winning record for the first time all season thanks to my best record ever for picking games against the spread. I should have been unequivocally excited about these developments. But I wasn’t because Tom Brady found a way to steal my joy, as is his custom.

Tampa Bay beat the Colts last weekend as Brady methodically picked them apart with annoying short passes after halftime. The Colts gave up a 10-point lead, gained it back, and then had Brady snatch it away again. The Colts could have won as three-point underdogs or at least get me a push. Instead, I ended up with a loss against the spread.

That game was last to finish among those I made a pick for last weekend. The loss denied me my first undefeated week over four seasons of picking games against the spread. My picks were 9-0-1 ATS. Instead of being happy about that I spent the rest of Sunday stewing over the one loss.

Why couldn’t it be anyone other than Brady?

Buccaneers (-11) at Falcons

According to the Odds Shark database, the last time the Falcons were underdogs of 11 points or more at home was Nov. 22, 2007. They lost 31-13 to the Colts at the Georgia Dome as a 13½-point ‘dog. The Falcons raced to a 10-0 lead before a great quarterback (Peyton Manning) picked them apart. No way something like that happens in this game.

Because I love home ‘dogs so much, I start with the conclusion that I’m taking the Falcons and the points and then working my way backward. Cordarrelle Patterson’s return last week rejuvenated their offense. Brady has been just OK over his past four games. FiveThirtyEight’s projection has the Bucs (8-3) favored by 7½ points. I’m taking the Falcons (5-6) and the points, but they aren’t going to win.

ExploreWhere to watch, listen, stream Buccaneers at Falcons

SEC Championship game: No. 1 Georgia (-6½) vs. No. 3 Alabama (Mercedes-Benz Stadium)

I’ve heard the chatter that Georgia has become Alabama. Shouldn’t the Bulldogs have to win at least one national championship since the Atari 2600 was hot for that discussion to even start? How about Georgia actually beating the Crimson Tide to end a six-game losing streak against them? The Bulldogs have their best chance to do both since Kirby Smart left Nick Saban’s staff five years ago for Athens, but let’s see it happen before putting them on Bama’s level.

Alabama can’t ruin UGA’s national title hopes this time. The Bulldogs are shoo-ins for the College Football Playoff even if they lose. A Crimson Tide victory would puncture the feeling of inevitability that’s surrounded the Bulldogs for weeks while also setting up a potential CFP rematch. But Bama is too worn down to do it. Bulldogs cover.

ExploreGeorgia-Alabama: TV, online, radio information

Other college games of interest

Big Ten Championship game: No. 2 Michigan (-11) vs. No. 13 Iowa (Indianapolis)

I considered Ohio State and Alabama to be the only real threats to Georgia’s national-title bid. Then Michigan did Georgia a favor by finally beating the Buckeyes and knocking them out of the CFP race. The Wolverines jumped from fifth to second in the rankings and now have a chance to avoid getting steamrolled by Georgia in the CFP semifinal should they make it. Iowa covers.

American Athletic Championship game: No. 21 Houston (+10½) at No. 4 Cincinnati

Selection committee chair Gary Barta was asked if the Cincinnati would be left out of the CFP even if they win this game: “I’m consistent in telling you that we as a committee don’t project. ... So until those (championship) games are played, there’s really no way to predict who is going to go into those spots.” I can’t wait to see what flimsy justifications Barta and Co. come up with for excluding the Bearcats after they win and cover.

Big 12 Championship game: No. 9 Baylor (+5½) vs. No. 5 Oklahoma State (Arlington, Texas)

Oklahoma State Mike Gundy said one of the reasons his program has won without many top recruits is that the coaches “treat the kids with respect.” In April 2020, Gundy called for his players to return to work and said it was no big deal if they were infected by COVID-19 because they are young and, besides, “we need to continue and budget and run money through the state of Oklahoma.” My controversial opinion is that it’s disrespectful for Gundy to treat humans like livestock. I like Baylor to cover.

Pac-12 Championship game: No. 10 Oregon (+2½) vs. No. 17 Utah (Las Vegas)

Oregon’s loss at Utah two weekends ago ended its chances to make the CFP and get embarrassed on the biggest stage. The Ducks still can win a conference title game that drew so little interest in the Bay Area that officials moved it to Vegas. I picked the favored Utes to cover three points in the first meeting and they won 38-7. I’m backing them again in the rematch.

ACC Championship game: No. 15 Pittsburgh (-3) vs. No. 16 Wake Forest (Charlotte)

This is the first ACC title game since 2014 that doesn’t include Clemson. I had a joke lined up about how that makes this game boring. But it’s not as if it was compelling when the Tigers were blowing out patsies from the Coastal Division (or, last season, Notre Dame). This game is worth watching for Panthers quarterback Kenny Pickett. He’s why Pitt is my pick.

ExploreWeek 14 college football: How to watch all 11 FBS games

Other NFL games of interest

Washington Football Team (+2½) at Raiders

The Falcons lost at home to WFT in Week 3 after coach Arthur Smith stupidly tried to sit on an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter. Now Washington (5-6) leads the race for the NFC’s final wild card. I’m not suggesting that Smith’s strategic snafu will end up costing the Falcons a playoff bid. I’m saying it would fit everything we know about the franchise. Raiders cover.

Ravens (-4½) at Steelers

The Steelers were expected to move on from Ben Roethlisberger after last season because of his declining performance and his contract’s big charge against the salary cap. But the team reworked Roethlisberger’s deal to create cap space and now the 38-year-old with a tired arm is one of the worst in the league at his position. Matt Ryan will be 37 years old next season and his contract is set to count $48.6 million against the cap, which I mention for no particular reason. Steelers cover.

Vikings (-7) at Lions

Trading Matthew Stafford for Jared Goff has not worked out for the Lions (0-10-1) unless you think winning the No. 1 draft pick was the goal all along. The Lions are one of the few NFL franchises that the Falcons can view with pity. At least Detroit won three NFL championships in the 1950s. The Lions are the pick.

Last week: 9-0-1 (66-62-1 season)