Weekend Predictions: Falcons lose again, Georgia earns tight victory over Kentucky

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder (9) passes the ball during the first quarter of an NFL football game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley stadium in London, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Ian Walton)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder (9) passes the ball during the first quarter of an NFL football game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley stadium in London, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Ian Walton)

After six weeks of football (seven if you count Week 0, which I don’t) Weekend Predictions is stuck in a rut. Consecutive losing weeks on picks against the spread dragged my record to one game below break-even. The low point was earnestly believing that Carolina would score a late touchdown to cover and salvage a winning week, only to see Bryce Young take a sack on fourth down.

I’m feeling insecure about my mediocre performance so far, but I’m drawing inspiration from Falcons coach Arthur Smith. If Smith still believes Desmond Ridder can be a good NFL quarterback, then I should still believe in my ability to pick winners. There’s no reason why evidence to the contrary should discourage either of us.

Texans (+2) at Falcons

I felt bad for the Falcons fans on my flight back from London (well, all of them except for Atlanta mayor Andre Dickens). They spent all that time and money just to see their team flop. The Jaguars didn’t even play that well; Ridder was just that bad. Now I must ignore the psychic scars of watching that performance and try to look at this game objectively.

Ridder can’t possibly play that bad again. Also, Bijan Robinson had a good day in London once he got into space. Houston’s defense is banged up, but the offense has been surprisingly good with rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud. Now starting tackles Laremy Tunsil and Tytus Howard could return from injury. That’s enough to push me to pick the Texans to win straight up.

No. 20 Kentucky (+14½) at No. 1 Georgia

Brock Bowers saved the Bulldogs at Auburn when the Tigers didn’t seem to think it was important to keep track of Georgia’s best (only?) playmaker. It’s become clear that Georgia isn’t a dominant team this season. Unfortunately, it’s taken me a long time to get the message. The Bulldogs are 0-3-1 against the spread, and I picked them to cover every time.

All the trends favor the Wildcats in this game. They’ve covered the spread in four consecutive games against Georgia. Per ESPN, Kentucky is 7-1-1 ATS versus ranked teams since the start of the 2021 season. Kentucky plays a physical style, and Georgia has been surprisingly lacking in that area. I’m taking the Wildcats and the points while hoping they have enough sense to cover Bowers.

Georgia Tech (+21) at No. 17 Miami

Got to hand it to Tech coach Brent Key for making a tough decision that makes it look like he doesn’t know what he’s doing. Key retained Andrew Thacker as defensive coordinator after last season, gave him a two-year contract with more money and then demoted him after five games. Miami leads the ACC in points scored. It’s going to be awkward for Key if the Hurricanes score 40 against his team a week after he changed coordinators.

The Yellow Jackets haven’t been much better on offense (28.5 points per game vs. FBS teams) than defense (33.5 points), and they’ve played two opponents with explosive offenses (Louisville and Ole Miss). It seems to me that the ‘Canes should be a bigger favorite. That means this point spread likely is a trap, and I’m going to regret taking Miami and giving the points.

Other college games of interest

No. 12 Oklahoma (+6½) vs. No. 3 Texas (Dallas)

ESPN.com published a story with the headline: “How Steve Sarkisian built Texas into a CFP contender.” The answer – spoiler alert – is Sarkisian got more good players. Ex-Georgia wide receiver Adonai Mitchell is one of them. He’s already had two games for Texas that were more productive than he ever had with Bulldogs. The Longhorns smoked Oklahoma in last season’s Red River Showdown. The Sooners are playing much better defense now, though, so I’m backing them to cover.

No. 10 Notre Dame (-6½) at No. 25 Louisville

The Fighting Irish won at Duke last weekend to keep alive their bid to be just good enough for the College Football Playoff committee to find an excuse to give them a bid. Now comes another challenging road game against a basketball school that occasionally is good at football. The Cardinals are 5-0, but I’m still not sure they are good because their defense allows as many big plays as their offense makes. That will be Louisville’s undoing as Notre Dame covers.

No. 11 Alabama (-1½) at Texas A&M

Jimbo Fisher is 43-22 at Texas A&M, which owes him about $50 million after signing him to the worst contract in college sports. Fisher is 10-12 vs. ranked opponents at TAMU. One of the victories was against Nick Saban, but Fisher is 13-10 since then. The best thing about the Aggies’ offensive improvement is that it increases the chances a Power Five program will talk itself into hiring play-caller Bobby Petrino as head coach. I’m picking Bama to cover.

No. 23 LSU (-5 ½) at No. 21 Missouri

LSU coach Brian Kelly has built on the momentum of last season’s SEC West title by losing twice before October. The Tigers gave up 706 yards and 55 points at Ole Miss last week. “We are playing with inexperienced, young players, and that’s who we are,” Kelly told reporters. Does Kelly think no one can see that the defensive depth chart has juniors and seniors everywhere? Mizzou is the pick.

Other NFL games of interest

Panthers (+10) at Lions

The Panthers are 0-4 because the offense stinks. It was better when rookie QB Young was out with an injury and Andy Dalton started in his place. The Panthers can’t even look forward to another high draft pick because they traded their first-round pick in 2024 to acquire Young. I’m tempted to take all those points but the Lions are the pick.

Saints (-1) at Patriots

The NOLA.com headline billed the story as an exclusive: “Saints’ Derek Carr is waking up at 3 a.m. thinking about poor performance on the field.” That’s good journalism, but I was left wondering what Carr had for breakfast. Carr played with a sore shoulder against Tampa Bay on Sunday and barely tried to throw downfield (127 yards on 37 attempts) as the Saints failed to score a touchdown. New England’s offense hasn’t been good, either, but the defense is playing well. Pats are the pick.

Cowboys (+4) at 49ers

The 49ers (4-0) have outscored their opponents by a total of 125-58. The Cowboys (3-1) have the league’s No. 1 scoring defense. The 49ers eliminated Cowboys in the playoffs the past two seasons, and QB Dak Prescott was bad in both games. Prescott accused a reporter of trying to make him mad by asking Prescott how he felt after the last loss: “It’s obvious. We’re so far past that, to be honest with you, that’s obvious.” Prescott is not, in fact, past that. Cowboys cover.

Last week: 5-6 (22-23-2 season)