Mike Check

Michael Cunningham’s ramblings from the world of sports

Weekend Predictions: Falcons bounce back, Bulldogs and Jackets roll


The Falcons had a chance to climb above .500, but didn’t have the defense to finish the deal against the Saints. Same thing goes for Weekend Predictions, which has no defense for picking Tennessee to cover against Florida. 

At least the Falcons have an excuse. Injuries have wrecked their defense, which has three starters on injured reserve. Coach Dan Quinn said his team won’t “play the role of the victim”, but the injuries are a legitimate excuse in my opinion, which is in no way related to my preseason prediction that the Falcons’ defense would be great. 

Bengals (plus-5.5) at Falcons 

The Falcons have had trouble stopping running backs catching the ball out of the backfield. They’ve also had issues when backs run it. The Falcons allowed Drew Brees to rush for two touchdowns, something he’d done in five of his previous 16 seasons as a starter, so really the Falcons just have trouble stopping anyone. 

Cincinnati’s defense is average, so the Falcons should score plenty of points. The Bengals are pretty good with the ball, but Marvin Lewis somehow is still the coach. Falcons defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel vows the Falcons will tackle this week, and  I believe him even after watching that mess against the Saints. I’m taking the Falcons again and giving the points. 

Tennessee (plus-31.5) at Georgia 

Tennessee beat the Bulldogs in Athens two years ago with a 20-point fourth quarter capped by a game-winning Hail Mary pass. It was a classic Mark Richt loss, except Kirby Smart was the coach. Bulldogs fans can laugh about it now that Smart has turned them into a power, right? Right.

The Volunteers need another miracle to beat Georgia. Tennessee tends to play Georgia close in Athens, but this Vols team is so bad that “close” means within four touchdowns. I learned my lesson about backing the Vols, so I’m taking Georgia and giving all those points. 

Bowling Green (plus-28.5) a Georgia Tech 

Last week coach Paul Johnson said Tech fans believe “revisionist history” if they think the program has ever been much better since Bobby Dodd retired. After Clemson blew out the Yellow Jackets, Johnson offered “told-you-sos.” ... No, wait, he said Tech, 0-2 in the ACC, can still win the Coastal? 

To be fair, what else is Johnson supposed to say? That it turns out he really can’t make his offense work with lesser talent? That the coordinator he fired, Ted Roof, really wasn’t the problem for the defense? That he reshuffled coaching responsibilities for his atrocious special teams, and somehow they may be even worse? Bowling Green move the ball a bit, so the Falcons cover. 

NFC South 

Buccaneers (plus-3) at Bears 

Lots of Bucs fans are not happy to see Jameis Winston back with the team considering recent developments. I wish I meant Winston’s three-game suspension for groping a woman, but sadly it’s only because they think Ryan Fitzpatrick is better. Fitzpatrick’s pixie dust wore off a bit in Monday’s loss to the Steelers, and Chicago’s defense ends the fairy tale for good. Bears cover. 

Saints (minus-3.5) at Giants 

The Saints placed nickel back Patrick Robinson on IR, which means their awful pass defense could be even worse. You’d think Eli Manning somehow still starting at QB for the Giants would be a stroke of luck for New Orleans, but he’s been pretty good. Giants cover. 

Other NFL games of interest 

Dolphins (plus-6.5) at Patriots 

Those hoping so see the end of the Evil Empire were heartened by offseason reports of conflict between Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. Now there’s a report that Belichick also is peeved at owner Robert Kraft. But now comes a reminder of why the Pats dynasty keeps chugging along: they play in the AFC East. New England covers. 

Browns (plus-2.5) at Raiders 

In true Browns fashion, they won their first game since 2016 only because QB Tyrod Taylor got hurt and coach Hue Jackson was forced to play rookie Baker Mayfield. The Raiders will be ready for Mayfield, so they cover. 

Chiefs (minus-4.5) at Broncos 

The Chiefs are 3-0 and coach Andy Reid is looking like a genius again, which will make their inevitable playoff flop even more hilarious. I’ll take Denver as a home ’dog. 

SEC games of interest 

South Carolina (plus-1) at Kentucky 

Kentucky is 4-0 and looks legit, which will make its inevitable slide to mediocrity even more hilarious. In the past four seasons the Wildcats went from 5-1 to 5-7, from 4-1 to 5-7, from 5-3 to 7-6 and from 5-1 to 7-6. But they’ll cover this week. 

Florida (plus-7.5) at Mississippi State 

For the first time in a while the Gators are pretty good on offense, which makes it even more hilarious that their 31-game winning streak against Kentucky ended because they couldn’t score. They also won’t manage many points against the Bulldogs, who cover. 

Louisiana-Lafayette (plus-48.5) at Alabama 

The Crimson Tide are favored by nearly 50 freaking points after not covering the spread against Texas A&M. I told you bookmakers are desperate to get bets against Alabama. Heck, yes, I’m taking the bait. Lafayette covers. 

ACC games of interest 

Clemson (minus-25.5) at Syracuse

Tigers senior QB Kelly Bryant decided to transfer after coach Dabo Swinney named freshman Trevor Lawrence the starter. Bryant angered those Clemson fans who believe he should show some loyalty to the people who trash him now that he can’t do anything for them. ’Cuse covers. 

Virginia Tech (plus-4.5) at Duke 

Virginia Tech put out a news release Monday that said the team is “coming off a xx-xx win at Old Dominion.” The Hokies lost to ODU by two TDs when they were favored by five. They can go ahead and write the release now for a loss at Duke, which covers. 

Florida State (minus-7.5) at Louisville 

This game should be awful, but watch it if you want to see Bobby Petrino’s misery. Petrino’s offense is among the worst in FBS now that Lamar Jackson is no longer around to make him look good. Fortunately, Petrino has plenty of emotional support because he hired half of his family as assistant coaches. FSU covers. 

National games of interest 

Ohio State (minus-3.5) at Penn State 

Not much has changed for the Buckeyes. They are still very good, and Urban Meyer is still terrible. If Meyer wants to make you pull for Penn State, remember that coach James Franklin has his own baggage. Nittany Lions cover. 

Stanford (plus-5.5) at Notre Dame 

The Fighting Irish may be good enough to crash the College Football Playoff. That would be unfortunate for the SEC team that gets left out because Notre Dame takes a spot, but good for the SEC team that gets to embarrass the Irish again in a big game. Notre Dame covers. 

Last week 

Against the spread: 6-7 (26-22-1 season) 

AJC pick ’em (straight up): 11-4 (33-25 season)


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About the Author

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