Weekend Predictions: Falcons slip by Philly, Georgia handles UAB

Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith gestures during the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Credit: AP

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Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith gestures during the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Credit: AP

It was a bad start to the season. It hurt because expectations were so high. But all you have to do is look at the track record to see that it’s just a minor setback. Better days are ahead.

Weekend Predictions is sounding like Georgia Tech coach Geoff Collins. Sadly, my picks last weekend were even worse than Tech’s performance against Northern Illinois. I did pick Georgia to beat Clemson, so at least I got the two-for-one of a win and Dabo Swinney looking silly.

Tech and Georgia State were two of the five favorites I picked that lost straight up. I got what I deserved for straying away from my beloved underdogs. I can’t fail. I can be failed only by favorites.

There’s no official betting line for Tech’s game against Kennesaw State on Saturday. ESPN expert Bill Connelly’s statistical projections favor the Jackets by 15-1/2 points. The Owls run a version of the triple-option, which raises an important question: If Tech loses, would it be ironic? Answer: it would be a catastrophe for Collins.

Eagles (+3) at Falcons

Falcons coach Arthur Smith is in a weird position for his first game as a head coach. His team has low expectations overall, but is expected to win out of the gate. The Eagles might be the worst team in the NFC. If the Falcons lose this game it could be them that’s the worst team, and they play at Tampa Bay in Week 2. Good luck, coach Smith.

The Eagles are the anti-Falcons. They built their roster by focusing on strengthening both lines. Injuries on the offense were a factor in Philly slipping to 4-11-1 in 2020. Now that group is healthy, and quarterback Jalen Hurts is a candidate to make a big improvement in his second season. Falcons win; Eagles cover.

Alabama-Birmingham (+24½) at No. 2 Georgia

Kirby Smart said we had him wrong all this time. After Georgia slugged out the victory over Clemson, Smart said it’s not the case that he prefers to win old-school. Everyone just play along and pretend that’s true. We’ll forget that Smart clung too long to leather-helmet football as long as he lets it go.

Clemson’s defense had a lot to do with Georgia’s troubles scoring. Also, the Bulldogs were short on wide receivers. They could get some of those players back this week, but quarterback JT Daniels may (or may not) be dealing with an injury. The Blazers are very experienced, and they can score. I’ll take them with the points.

Georgia State (+26) at No. 24 North Carolina

GSU fell behind 21-0 to an option team, so you know what happened next. The Golden Knights had the ball for 42 minutes while delivering death by a thousand cut blocks. The Panthers aren’t facing the option this time and, like my picks, they were so bad that they can’t help but be better this week. That’s the best justification I can come up with for taking the Panthers and the points.

Other college games of interest

No. 15 Texas at (-7) Arkansas

The Razorbacks won at least a share of 13 Southwest Conference football championships, but left the Texas-based league because they were tired of being treated like outsiders. The Hogs joined the SEC in 1992 and have only four West titles, none since 2006, but at least they feel more at home. Arkansas is 22-56 all-time against Texas, so losing to the Longhorns again should have them feeling nostalgic. Texas covers.

No. 13 Florida (-28½) at South Florida

Florida quarterback Emory Jones, heir apparent to Kyle Trask, wasn’t good in the opener against Florida Atlantic. Backup Anthony Richardson electrified The Swamp with his running ability. I’m certain Gators coach Dan Mullen will settle on the right QB after it took him only two years and an injury to Feleipe Franks to discover that Trask should be his starter. USF is so awful that I can’t take all those points. Gators cover.

Pittsburgh (-3) at Tennessee

From the Knoxville News Sentinel: “All it took was one game for Josh Heupel to attract skepticism over his decision to make Joe Milton Tennessee’s starting quarterback.” Welcome to the SEC, where it just means more headaches from fans seeking faded glory. Heupel said he’s sticking with Milton, a Michigan transfer. Volunteers running back Tiyon Evans reportedly is doubtful to play after he ran for 116 yards against Bowling Green. Give me Pitt and the points.

Other NFL games of interest

Packers (-4) at Saints

I’m happy to see Saints QB Jameis Winston won the starting job. I make dumb jokes about football, and Winston provides an endless supply of goofiness. As a bonus, I get to laugh at everyone who believed Taysom Hill is a high-level NFL QB. I’m taking the Saints and the points while bracing for the joke to be on me when Winston throws a pick-six to blow the cover.

Jets (+4) at Panthers

Panthers coach Matt Rhule went fishing with Jimmy Johnson in April and asked him about his football philosophy. A couple of weeks later the Panthers traded QB Teddy Bridgewater for a draft pick. The next month they netted five extra picks in trades during the draft. Maybe Arthur Blank should have found a way to get his coach on Johnson’s boat. Jets cover.

Dolphins (+3) at Patriots

Tom Brady left New England and won a Super Bowl with the Bucs. Bill Belichick stayed behind and went 7-9. Now Belichick will start rookie quarterback Mac Jones against Miami’s blitz-heavy defense. It feels safer than ever to pick against Belichick, which is why there’s no way I’m doing it. Pats cover.

49ers (-7½) at Lions

San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan wouldn’t name his starting QB. Jimmy Garoppolo let slip that it’s him instead of rookie Trey Lance, who cost the 49ers a stack of draft picks. It will be fun to see how long Shanahan can pretend he has faith in Garoppolo while itching to play the QB he really wants out there. I like the Lions with the points.

Last week: 3-6 (3-6 season)

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