The Falcons won as touchdown ‘dogs at New Orleans. Arthur Smith simultaneously had his worst and finest moments as coach. The Falcons blew an 18-point lead in the fourth quarter before Matt Ryan saved them. You’ll remember that Ryan and Julio Jones tried doing the same thing for Smith’s predecessor in the Super Bowl.
Relatedly, this week the Falcons are at the Cowboys, whose defense is coordinated by Dan Quinn. Quinn’s guys just got rolled by Denver, so he said it’s “no time to take a stroll down memory lane.” That’s probably best for him and everyone involved with 28-3.
Falcons (+9½) at Cowboys
The Cowboys were bad on defense last season but now are very good. I’ve always believed Quinn is a good coordinator, even though he had great players while making his name with Seattle’s defense. Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy won a Super Bowl in Green Bay, yet few people seem to believe he’s good at his job. This pairing has the potential to flame out in spectacular fashion.
After the Falcons started 0-2 with a combined losing margin of 49 points, I opined that they couldn’t be written off because Ryan is the quarterback. I made the mistake of discounting their chances of competing at New Orleans because Ryan had a bad game the week before. I’ve learned my lesson: Falcons lose, but they cover with Ryan making plays.
No. 1 Georgia (-20) at Tennessee
The Volunteers are suspicious that opponents are faking injuries to slow the breakneck tempo of their offense. But Adam Sparks of the Knoxville News Sentinel notes that “the Vols have appeared guilty of faking injuries a few times” on point-after attempts to give their defense more time to rest. Either way, it’s probably best that injured Bulldogs get off the field as quickly as possible so that Vols fans won’t riot again at Neyland Stadium.
According to Bill Connelly’s opponent-adjusted SP+ rankings, Tennessee’s offense is the 12th-best in FBS. Two previous Bulldogs opponents, Arkansas (35) and Florida (9), rank above 40th. Against Georgia, those teams gained 4.3 yards per play and scored a total of seven points. The Bulldogs make good offensive teams look awful, but I can’t turn down a quality home ‘dog getting that many points.
Boston College (+2) at Georgia Tech
Yellow Jackets coach Geoff Collins said people who don’t see the growth of his program “don’t want to see it.” I certainly would like to see it because I’ve vouched for Collins’ ability to win at Tech, and I like to be right. Now I’d like to see the Jackets cover wide receivers every so often.
I’m receptive to the notion that reducing the losing margins is a sign of progress for Tech. Counterpoint: Tech has lost twice at home as favorites this season, vs. Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois. Winning is the best way for Collins to make his case and, more important, prove me right. I’m taking Tech and giving the points.
Georgia State (+10½) at Coastal Carolina
The Panthers last week had their upset bid at Louisiana-Lafayette derailed by a pass interference that wasn’t called. Tough break for GSU, but that effort seems to have moved the markets. The SP+ projection favors Coastal by 20-1/2 points. There’s rarely such a big difference between that number and the spread. Maybe the bettors know better, but I’m taking Coastal to cover.
Other college games of interest
No. 11 Texas A&M (-2½) at No. 15 Ole Miss
Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher said he’s “sick and tired” of what he sees as inconsistent calls by SEC officials on snap-count simulations by defenders and suggested a pro-Alabama conspiracy. The guy knows his audience. Ole Miss QB Matt Corral played on a bad ankle at Liberty last weekend, and his top three receivers were out. The Rebels still gained 8.5 yards per play and scored 27 points. Texas A&M’s defense is a much tougher test, so I like the Aggies to cover.
Mississippi State (+5½) at No. 17 Auburn
The Tigers fell back to earth with a 20-3 loss at Texas A&M. There’s still a chance Auburn can win the SEC West. But really the only intrigue is whether coach Bryan Harsin will get vaccinated before the state-imposed deadline or make the courageous decision to give up a multimillion-dollar salary for identity politics. Bulldogs cover.
Connecticut (+41) at Clemson
UConn hired ex-Falcons coach Jim Mora to replace Randy Edsall. Before you laugh about Mora reaching the point of taking a job with the worst program in FBS, consider that he’s reportedly going to be paid $1.5 million per year. Even bad programs have plenty of money to pay mediocre coaches because they steal so much of it from the players. I hate giving so many points, but Clemson’s offense is showing life lately, so the Tigers are the pick.
Other NFL games of interest
Buccaneers (-9½) at Washington Football Team
Bucs QB Tom Brady smartly dodged a question about the anti-vax ignorance and lies of Packers QB Aaron Rodgers. One underdiscussed aspect of that story is that even Brady — who probably eats only wheatgrass and whatever supplement he’s hawking — got vaccinated. Whether you love him or (probably) hate him, Brady knows how to lead. WFT covers.
Saints (+3) at Titans
After the Falcons won in New Orleans, Saints safety Malcom Jenkins said: “We’re a team that doesn’t make excuses.” Cool, let’s hear teammate Terron Armstead’s take on the loss: “It was self-inflicted wounds and penalties.” OK, let’s go to coach Sean Payton: “I thought we dropped a few (passes).” Hopefully you weren’t expecting humility from the Saints. Tennessee is the pick.
Panthers (+10½) at Cardinals
Panthers QB Sam Darnold (shoulder) was placed on injured reserve this week. Asked Wednesday if the team would consider bringing back Cam Newton, coach Matt Rhule said: “I won’t get into any hypotheticals.” The next day the Panthers signed Newton because the reality is they aren’t going anywhere with P.J. Walker at QB. Walker is set to start this week as Newton gets up to speed. Cardinals cover.
Last week: 4-6 (47-51 season)