Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian react on the sidelines as the New Orleans Saints win the game 43-37 on a Dree Brees touchdown in overtime during an NFL football game on Sunday, Sept 23, 2018, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton

Weekend Predictions: Falcons top dysfunctional Steelers, Jackets and Bulldogs win 

Pity Steve Sarkisian. After a year of taking flak for his underachieving offense, Sarkisian has the group humming, but nobody is talking about it because the defense is terrible. He probably hasn’t felt this underappreciated since he worked for Nick Saban. 

Weekend Predictions can relate. I’m having a pretty good year picking games against the spread, but I only hear from readers when I get them wrong. It’s all in good fun. I’ve saved those emails in my “Enemies List” folder to be replied to at a later date.

» More: How to watch, stream Week 6 games

I was ready to talk smack about going 14-1 last weekend in the AJC’s pick ’em contest. Then I discovered that Allan Applegate of Duluth one-upped me by going 15-for-15. Congratulations to Applegate for joining my folder of enemies. 

Falcons (plus-3) at Steelers 

I’ve always had faith in Dan Quinn’s ability to coach up his defense. But it’s possible the Falcons have so many injuries that they have no chance of stopping foes with functional offenses. Luckily for the Falcons, the Steelers have been dysfunctional with the ball. 

The Steelers are talking about committing to the running game, but they may want to save that for another week. Everybody knows the major issue for the Falcons is they can’t cover anybody. But the Steelers have been bad at home so I’m taking the Falcons to win as an underdog in Pittsburgh. 

Vanderbilt (plus-26.5) at Georgia 

Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart said “there is no plan” for playing quarterbacks Jake Fromm and Justin Fields. Smart said which quarterback plays when depends on how opponents play Georgia. “That doesn’t mean we don’t have a plan in practice,” Smart added, clearing that whole thing right up. 

Vandy looked pretty good while starting 2-0, but has regressed each week since then. Last week the ’Dores struggled to beat FCS-foe Tennessee State, which didn’t have its best receiver. Georgia has plenty of good receivers and I’m assuming the plan calls for Fromm to to get them the ball. Bulldogs finally break out and cover the big spread. 

Georgia Tech (minus-4.5) at Louisville 

Louisville coach Bobby Petrino complained that Tech’s uniform numbers are hard to see, making it difficult to identify players in game video. Tech coach Paul Johnson responded that Petrino “ought to get some glasses.” Thankfully that seems to be the end of the most boring, pointless coach back-and-forth in memory. 

The Cardinals had Florida State beat last week but Petrino decided to pass instead of running the ball and the clock. The ’Noles intercepted Jawon Pass’, um, pass, and stole the victory. Dumb. Then again, I’m 0-2 backing the Yellow Jackets to cover as favorites and I’m doing it again so maybe my decisions also aren’t great. 

The Yellow Jackets are 6-4 in regular-season games played on Fridays

NFC South 

Giants (plus-7) at Panthers 

The Giants are bad on offense. Diva wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. said “it’s tough to deal with that” but he was talking about not being able to meltdown anymore because cameras might catch him. Panthers cover. 

Washington (plus-6.5) at Saints 

The Saints have allowed just one point less than the Falcons, yet they are 3-1 and in control of the division. Washington won’t say it needs to win a shootout, which is prudent when Alex Smith is the quarterback. Saints cover. 

Other NFL games of interest 

Jaguars (plus-3) at Chiefs 

Things are going so well for the Chiefs that the big news this week is QB Patrick Mahomes’ voice has become a meme on social media. There was some early debate about whether he sounds more like Cookie Monster or Kermit the Frog but the consensus landed on the little green guy. Chiefs cover. 

Dolphins (plus-6.5) at Bengals 

The Dolphins are threatening to make the playoffs for just the third time since 2001. Coach Adam Gase already took them to the playoffs once, which means he’s accomplished more in the NFL than Saban. I’m taking Miami and the points. 

Rams (minus-7) at Seahawks 

Seattle safety Earl Thomas held out of training camp but didn’t get a contract extension. After Thomas suffered a season-ending injury Sunday, he directed a middle finger at Seattle’s sideline. Somewhere, Quinn is wondering if this is what it looks like when the Brotherhood turns into a family feud. I still like Seattle with the points. 

SEC games of interest 

Auburn (minus-4) at Mississippi State 

The Tigers plan to rush to the line of scrimmage to make Bulldogs fans stop ringing those annoying cowbells. Auburn also will change its snap count to mitigate crowd noise. “We do have ways to deal with that, but I don’t want to incriminate us,” Malzahn said, confirming that he doesn’t know what that word means. I like the home ’Dogs. 

LSU (minus-2.5) at Florida 

Ed Orgeron is doing such a good job as LSU coach that people are starting to laugh with him instead of at him. But Florida has looked pretty good since ruining my jokes by losing to Kentucky, so I’ll take the Gators and the points. 

Kentucky (plus-6) at Texas A&M 

Kentucky is 5-0 for the second time in 34 years. “We take football very serious here,” Kentucky running back A.J. Rose told the Courier-Journal. Bless his heart. I’m still taking the Wildcats as a ’dog. 

Alabama (minus-35) at Arkansas 

Saban, who famously makes more than $8 million a year to coach Bama, is “disappointed” because students didn’t fill their section for last week’s game against paycheck patsy Lafayette. Saban is hard to take, but his team is a machine. I’ve won two weeks in a row picking a big ’dog against Bama, so I’ll do it again. 

ACC games of interest 

Clemson (-19) at Wake Forest 

Clemson’s Dabo Swinney, who once threatened to quit coaching if players were provided the “entitlement” of salaries, was given a sweet condo near campus as a “perk” for endorsing a different property. Swinney is hard to take, but his team is very good. Tigers cover. 

Notre Dame (minus-6) at Virginia Tech 

Notre Dame offensive lineman Liam Eichenberg on the game: “I’m excited to go in there, kick the (expletive) out of them, get a win, then get out of there.” More surprising than the staid Fighting Irish talking trash like this is that I agree with Eichenberg. The Irish cover. 

Florida State (plus-13.5) at Miami 

FSU coach Willie Taggart lucked out when Petrino one-upped his ineptness and handed him a victory before the ’Canes smack the ’Noles. Miami covers. 

National games of interest 

Texas (plus-8) vs. Oklahoma 

The Longhorns narrowly beat lowly Kansas State for their fourth victory in a row, thus assuring they are ranked for the Red River Blowout. I like Okie to win big.

Indiana (plus-26.5) at Ohio State 

The Buckeyes survived at Penn State, which means we’ll probably have to wait until the playoffs for Urban Meyer to get his comeuppance. Hoosiers cover. 

Last week 

Against the spread: 8-8 (34-30-1 season) 

AJC pick ’em (straight up): 14-1 (47-26)

About the Author

Michael Cunningham
Michael Cunningham
Michael Cunningham has covered the Hawks and other beats for the AJC since 2010.

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