Hello and welcome back to Weekend Predictions, where we always stand for the national anthem, but we're big on the First Amendment, which is so important that it's FIRST(!), and we're thankful for not living in the Cobb County district of Sheriff Neil Warren and state Rep(rehensible) Earl Earhart, who right about the time of National Free-Thought Day, and I'm not making that up, engaged in a serial texting exchange to pressure Kennesaw State president Sam Olens to keep those dang liberal cheerleaders off the football field during the anthem.
(Earhart is the same yutz who pushed for legislation that delays access to open records to 90 days. So apparently it's his sworn duty as an elected official to let publicly funding institutions operate in secrecy and step on freedom of speech. Cobb: Gateway to the 1600s.)
OK, let's move on to other miserable developments in life.
The Falcons have lost consecutive games to Buffalo and Miami. They blew a 17-0 lead to Jay Cutler, which was thought to be scientifically impossible.
The roof at Mercedes-Benz Stadium remains closed. Because of shame.
And this week, the Falcons meet: 17,000 pounds of mental baggage. The game is against New England. And themselves. And their heads.
I was all prepared to follow the, "Falcons get crushed" narrative because of what happened the last time they played the Patriots -- Google, but only with some calming chamomile tea and Yanni playing softly in the background -- and their past two games.
But you know what? New England's defense is really bad, and the Falcons are really ticked. That may help.
You know what else? I'm kind of crazy. That may not help.
I'm banking on the Falcons team that played for most of the Super Bowl. I'm banking on improvement. Hey, watch this! (Famous last words.)
Take the three points. But Falcons win in a straight upset.
Wake Forest at Georgia Tech: The Jackets lost on a last-second field goal in Miami when it looked like they were taking control of the ACC Coastal. They've lost two games to Tennessee and Miami by a point each. The good news: Wake throws a parade for that. Jackets cover 6½.
Tennessee at Alabama: Tennessee hasn't scored a touchdown in 10 consecutive quarters, and the Volunteers are a five-touchdown underdog to Alabama for the first time in the 116-year history of the series. The good news, said coach Butch Jones is, "I think we have come monumental steps from where we came, if you look at just cleaning up the character part of the program and the academics." Well, that's your first problem. Crimson Tide rolls, but give me Tennessee and 35½.
Ever think the other guy knows what you're doing?
Felt compelled to add this
Syracuse at Miami: Mark Richt is 5-0. I don't ask for much in life -- just a Georgia-Miami playoff game so I can say I was there the day Twitter melted down like Pompeii. Hurricanes cover 16½.
North Carolina at Virginia Tech: UNC spent $18 million in legal fees to defend themselves against academic-fraud charges, but it was worth it because it reaffirms white-collar crime pays in Chapel Hill and the NCAA is the Fisher Price of governing bodies. On a related note, UNC has opened a new independent-study animal-sciences class. Students should pick up their "See 'n Say" by next week. "The Tar Heel says: Oink." Hokies cover 21½.
Kentucky at Mississippi State: I know it's fun to make Kentucky jokes, but the Wildcats (5-1) are one game from becoming bowl eligible, which puts them ahead of Florida, Tennessee, Ole Miss, Missouri, Vanderbilt, Arkansas and Mississippi State. And yet, they're scheduled for homecoming in Starkville. Market correction: MSU covers 11½.
LSU at Mississippi: LSU has won consecutive games over Florida and Auburn since its loss to Troy, prompting coach Ed Orgeron to say, "I do believe a national championship is in our future." OK, Ed go bye-bye now. Give me the 6½ and Ole Miss in a straight upset.
Louisville at Florida State: Louisville officially fired athletic director Tom Jurich in a 10-3 vote by the board of trustees. One of the three contemptible knuckleheads voting to keep Jurich amid NCAA sanctions and the FBI's investigation into fraud and corruption said, "I think he's owed some thanks for the things he's done." In a related note, Al Capone started a soup kitchen. Seminoles cover 7.
Auburn at Arkansas: The Tigers blew a 20-0 lead and lost at LSU, making coach Gus Malzahn 2-9 against LSU, Alabama and Georgia since 2014. Oh look, behind the airplane hangar over there. It's Bobby Petrino. Tigers cover 15½.
Troy at Georgia State: The Panthers have won three consecutive and had 670 yards in offense at Louisiana Monroe. So nice start for coach Shawn Elliott. Now the real question: How many students will travel the one mile for the first home game in seven weeks? Troy wins, but take GSU and 7½.
Pros and Cons
Cowboys at 49ers: I'm old enough to remember when these two seemed to play for the NFC title almost every year. Now they're a combined 2-9 and Cowboys running back/accused domestic abuser Ezekiel Elliott is accumulating frequent-courtroom points. How the mighty have imploded. Dallas wins, but take SanFran and 6.
Eagles at Redskins: A Philadelphia fan collected 71,000 signatures on a petition in hopes of preventing referee Pete Morelli from working another game because of bias, given the Eagles were called for 10 out of 11 penalties last game. Not sure if he's the same fan who threw snowballs at Santa Claus over the years but, you know, Fatman had it coming. Eagles cover 4½.
A fun retrospective
Saints at Packers: Aaron Rodgers is done. Brett Hundley's last start came three years ago against Kansas State in the Alamo Bowl. Yeah, no difference. Saints cover 4½.
Panthers at Bears: One day, things will be better in Chicago. Naaa, probably not. Carolina covers 3.
Titans at Browns: Cleveland will change starting quarterbacks again, going from Kevin Hogan back to DeShone Kizer. The Browns have changed quarterbacks 20 times in the 43 games, going 4-38 with nine starters, six of whom are looking forward to fish sticks Friday at the Daisy Hill Happy Farm. Tennessee wins, but take Cleveland and 5½.
Browns QBs like a series of Sideshow Bobs
Last week (feh): 8-6 straight up, 6-7-1 against the line
Through six weeks: 70-22 straight up, 49-41-2 against the line.
Sack Schultz 2017: Another solid week in contest picks (11-4) leaves me with a record of 75-28 and in 34th place, or, as I like to call, almost first place. Last week's winners of weekly prizes were Kim Denson (14-1) of Tallahassee and Greg Jones (13-2) of Murfreesboro, Tenn. To enter, go to AJC.com/sackschultz2017.
Lilly's pick: Lilly moved to 4-2 with last week's pick of Miami and Georgia Tech. Doggie gets a cookie. This week, we stuck cheeseballs on pictures of Dan Quinn (left) and Bill Belichick (right). Lilly thought about -- OK, she stopped to pick up cheese scraps on the floor -- then went right. Patriots win.
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