Falcons (+6½) at Saints
Matt Ryan wasn’t good against the Panthers on Sunday. Chances are the Falcons will lose to anybody when that happens. They just don’t have many good players or much depth. Coach Arthur Smith can’t say that, so instead you get him doing things like exasperatingly countering the “false narrative” that the Falcons aren’t trying to throw the ball downfield.
Strange, and unexpected things can happen Falcons-Saints games. Several variables make this meeting even harder to figure out. Saints QB Jameis Winston (knee) is out, but New Orleans beat the Falcons twice last season with backup Taysom Hill totaling 597 yards and four touchdowns. However, Hill (concussion) has been out since Week 5 and Trevor Siemian might be the starter. Either way, the Saints are playing great defense so I’m taking them to cover.
Missouri (+38) at No. 1 Georgia
Georgia is trying to avoid getting bored before the inevitable SEC Championship game matchup against Alabama. Coach Kirby Smart has reminded his players that only one of seven teams to be voted No. 1 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings went on to win the national championship. The 2017 Bulldogs were one of those teams. Someone check to make sure Bama doesn’t have another superstar QB on the bench.
The Bulldogs haven’t been favored by 38 points or more against an SEC opponent since at least 1990. That’s as far back as the Odds Shark database goes. Georgia is reaching Alabama levels of respect from the betting public, which naturally means I can’t resist taking the other side. Mizzou clears a low bar by losing by less than 38 points.
Georgia Tech (+10½) at Miami
AJC Tech beat writer Ken Sugiura notes that the “WIN 21″ slogan for this Yellow Jackets season has given way to more modest goals. Said coach Geoff Collins: “We’ve decreased the gap amongst the teams that we’ve played.” I figure we’re two more Tech losses away from Collins dusting off his speech about how he took on the most unique rebuilding job in the history of the universe.
The Hurricanes (4-4, 2-2 ACC) have a habit of delivering surprise victories after they’ve been written off. They’ve won as underdogs in back-to-back weeks, at home against then-No. 18 North Carolina and at No. 17 Pitt. I’ll probably regret trusting the ‘Canes, but I’m taking them to beat Tech (3-5, 2-4) and cover the spread.
Other college games of interest
LSU (+28½) at No. 2 Alabama
ESPN reports that Nick Saban so strongly believes in the Coach Code of never, ever criticizing another coach that he doesn’t even do it in private. Of course, Saban has no issue publicly disparaging his unsalaried players while sanctimoniously advising them to create more “value” that he can steal. The Crimson Tide are rolling again after stumbling at Texas A&M while LSU is playing out Ed Orgeron’s lame-duck season. Bama is the pick.
No. 13 Auburn (+4½) at No. 14 Texas A&M
Per AL.com, things are looking up at Auburn: “The Tigers are the highest-ranked two-loss team in the CFP rankings, and first-year coach Bryan Harsin has his team relevant heading into the homestretch of the season.” Bless their hearts. Aggies cover.
Tennessee (pick) at No. 18 Kentucky
Tennessee cornerback Alontae Taylor said: “You don’t lose to Kentucky.” That used to be the case for the Volunteers, who lost once to the Wildcats from 1985 through 2016. But Kentucky has won two of the past four meetings, including last season in Lexington. Kentucky opened as a 3-point favorite, but the line moved all the way to a pick ‘em. I’m picking Kentucky.
Clemson (-4) at Louisville
Clemson’s offense has been so bad that coach Dabo Swinney has modest goals for this week. “We need to not score for the other team,” Swinney told reporters. FSU and Pitt scored defensive TDs against Clemson in consecutive weeks. Louisville’s defense isn’t good, but the Cardinals will score enough to cover.
Florida (-18) at South Carolina
Two days after Florida’s blowout loss to Georgia, coach Dan Mullen didn’t want to talk about his recruiting. Then Mullen canceled media availability for the rest of the week except for his mandatory SEC coaches teleconference. That’s probably a smart move for Mullen so he has fewer chances to say dumb things. Gamecocks cover.
Other NFL games of interest
Patriots (-3½) at Panthers
Panthers coach Matt Rhule challenged quarterback Sam Darnold to rush for 89 yards against the Falcons. Rhule didn’t explain why he settled on that odd number as a key to victory. Hopefully Darnold wasn’t trying to meet the arbitrary goal when he ran for the end zone and took a big hit that knocked him out of the game (Darnold finished with 66 yards rushing). P.J. Walker could start against New England’s improving defense. Pats are the pick.
Packers (+7½) at Chiefs
When I covered the Packers way back when, team officials would complain that the NFL office treated the franchise unfairly because it doesn’t have an owner who can advocate for its interests. Well, here’s a good test of that theory: Aaron Rodgers tested positive for COVID-19, and it appears he didn’t follow protocols for unvaccinated players. We’ll see if the Packers get the Patriots treatment of a slap on the wrist for blatant rules violations. Rodgers is out for this game, but I still like Green Bay with the points.
Last week: 6-2 (43-45 season)