Weekend Predictions: Wins for Falcons and Georgia

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) works in the pocket against the Las Vegas Raiders during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) works in the pocket against the Las Vegas Raiders during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Credit: John Bazemore

Credit: John Bazemore

The Ravens and Cowboys played Tuesday night despite Baltimore wide receiver Dez Bryant receiving word of his positive COVID-19 test while warming up on the field. The NFL said it didn’t cut corners with its contact-tracing program, which includes a strict requirement to follow the TV money and play games no matter what.

Weekend Predictions had 4-5 record against the spread last week. It’s only my second losing record this season. But I really went 5-5 because Georgia surely would have covered the 35 ½-point spread against Vanderbilt if that game hadn’t been postponed. If the Big Ten and ACC can make up the rules as they go, then so can I.

Unfortunately, the Falcons did play their game against the Saints, so I was wrong for the eighth consecutive time on my pick ATS in their games. My Falcons picks have become a farce, but it’s not so funny when the joke’s on me.

Falcons (-2½) at Chargers

I picked the Falcons to lose to the Vikings, Panthers (in the rematch), Broncos and Raiders. They won each game by a touchdown or more. I backed the Falcons to beat the Panthers (first meeting) and Lions, and win both games against the Saints. They botched the end-game sequence against Detroit and scored a total of two touchdowns in the loss to Carolina and the sweep by the Saints.

Now I’m having an existential crisis about my Falcons picks. What is the purpose of predictions that are unprophetic? I could go against my instincts, but wouldn’t that just make my new position the wrong one? I’m picking the Falcons to win by at least a field goal because the Chargers can’t stop anybody, so look for L.A. to have a great day on defense.

No. 9 Georgia (-13) at No. 25 Missouri

Missouri won consecutive SEC East titles in 2013 and 2014. Seriously, they did. I checked. That run was forgotten as the Tigers failed to post a winning league record over the next five seasons. No one can ever take away Mizzou’s 2014 Citrus Bowl trophy.

The Tigers (5-3) might be good again. It’s hard to say because their victories were against teams with a combined 12-33 record. Mizzou’s defense is stout enough to keep this game close if Georgia messes around. I think the Bulldogs (6-2) will let quarterback JT Daniels loose and cover the spread.

Pittsburgh (-7) at Georgia Tech

The Yellow Jackets (3-6) are playing on a short week while Pitt (5-5) was off last weekend. Tech’s offense is best at running the ball, but Pitt has allowed an ACC-low 2.6 yards per carry. The Jackets figure to be without lead running back Jahmyr Gibbs (hamstring) and some other key players for the second consecutive week. I don’t see the Jackets winning under the circumstances, but I’ll take them to cover.

Other college games of interest

No. 1 Alabama (-32½) at Arkansas

Alabama coach Nick Saban said he’ll donate convalescent plasma for COVID-19 patients after he benefitted from the treatment. You see! He’s not a machine! He’s a man! (Apologies to Sly Stallone.) Seriously, kudos to Saban for paying it forward, though it’s important to note that the Centers for Disease Control says there’s “insufficient data” to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of the therapy. I like Arkansas with the points.

LSU (+23½) at No. 6 Florida

LSU took a page from Georgia Tech basketball and self-imposed a postseason ban in a year when its team isn’t good. The NCAA waived bowl eligibility requirements for this year’s COVID-19 cash grab, so the Tigers (3-5) could have played in one while finishing below .500. But what’s the point? Better to end this miserable season as soon as possible and reminisce over last year’s national championship. Gators cover.

Auburn (-6½) at Mississippi State

After Auburn’s 31-20 loss to Texas A&M last weekend, coach Gus Malzahn said a 6-4 record would be a “solid year” for the Tigers. He tried to walk it back the next day: “I just wanted to make sure that it’s very clear: Our expectation is to win championships here at Auburn.” Malzahn went on to list the “circumstances” of this season that would make 6-4 pretty good. Malzahn sometimes seems to be trolling Tigers fans who want him gone. I like Mississippi State to cover.

Tennessee (-15) at Vanderbilt

Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt told a caller on his radio show that he’d like a do-over on last weekend’s 31-19 loss to Florida so he could make a different defensive call on a key play. Per 247Sports, Pruitt said: “We talked about changing that (coverage) at halftime, and we didn’t because we felt like we needed to just do what our players knew.” I don’t think doing it over again would matter if Volunteers coaches can’t teach and adjust on the fly. Tennessee is the pick.

Other NFL games of interest

Vikings (+6½) at Buccaneers

CBS commentator Tony Romo recently went on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and did an impression of Bucs QB Tom Brady. I can give Romo only a “B” because he didn’t mimic Brady’s trademark whining to the refs. These are tough times for Brady. The Bucs have lost three of four games, he’s not playing well and his nutrition company received only $961,000 from the federal government’s bailout slush fund. I’ll take the Vikings and the points.

Saints (-7) at Eagles

Saints QB Drew Brees (ribs) is eligible to practice Friday but is expected to miss his fourth consecutive game. During an appearance on the PFT PM podcast, Saints coach Sean Payton said the injury is “like watching spaghetti boil where you’ve gotta let it heal.” I’m wondering what’s going on with Payton’s pasta. Good luck to Eagles rookie QB Jalen Hurts, whose first NFL start is against a great defense. Saints cover.

Broncos (+3½) at Panthers

The Panthers (4-8) and Falcons are in a tight race to finish a distant third in the NFC South. At least the Panthers weren’t really trying to win this season. But they already may have too many victories for a shot at drafting one of the top QB prospects. Carolina could be thin at wide receiver and on the defensive line with 10 players placed on the reserve/COVID list in the past week. Broncos cover.

Last week against the spread: 4-5 (77-57-3 season)

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