Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, October 21, 2017 at 1:31 PM
There's more football storylines than you can shake a proverbial stick at this weekend - and it all culminates with the just-gotta-see-it Sunday Night Football game in NFL Week 7 between the Atlanta Falcons at the New England Patriots.
Sound familiar? Hey, if you hear the score "28-3" one mo' time we're gonna lose it but you know the Falcons' 25-point lead in the latest Super Bowl is the biggest single story this autumn weekend and guess it's up to the defending NFC champs to change that tired narrative … or else.
We'll get you a Falcons vs. Patriots game preview shortly but first here's what else should be part of your weekend guide:
On Saturday …
The college kids ambushed us - and the national media folks, for that matter - last week with all those wild upsets that shook up the top 10 and just in case you want to get ahead of the curve here, consider that #1 Alabama is a five-TD betting favorite against old rival Tennessee, #2 Penn State is close to a double-digit betting fav for its "whiteout" game against Penn State, #3 Georgia is idle, #4 TCU is a nearly 40-point favorite versus hapless Kansas and #5 Wisconsin is laying 24 points against visiting Maryland.
So, in other words, if any of the top five teams in the land get picked off this weekend - don't get angry with us, Michigan fans! - than it'll really be a headline-stealer.
One other thing we'll we eyeballing with the college kids is what Power 5 teams could be making a "statement" on this third Saturday in October as the likes of #11 USC and #13 Notre Dame knock heads with the winner likely leapfrogging some teams into the top 10 and don't forget about #9 Oklahoma as the 5-and-1 Sooners trek into Manhattan (and note Oklahoma's beaten Kansas State 93-17 in recent back-to-back wins/covers).
A couple of pointspread notes from the NCAA Football world:
Don't sleep on Virginia: The Cavaliers have covered their last four games in a row while entering Saturday's home game against 5.5-point pup Boston College;
And whatever happened to the once-potent Louisville Cardinals who head into Saturday's game at 6.5-point fav Florida State? The Redbirds are a collective 0-6-1 ATS (against the spread) - is it possible Bobby Petrino's won't cover a single game in 2017? Yikes!
On Sunday …
The NFL Week 7 card features 11 games with a pointspread of between Pick 'Em and 6 points - is that partially a byproduct of last week's many, many NFL upsets when Underdogs registered an 11-3 ATS mark or are we simply getting a glimpse of what figures to be more competitive games. In case it didn't jump out at you, there's a half-dozen road favorites on the docket - that's Tennessee, Jacksonville, Carolina, New Orleans, Dallas and Seattle -- and that doesn't count the seemingly-weekly London game where the LA Rams are a 3.5-point fav against Arizona.
Just to keep you up to speed, the NFL's Best Bets so far in '17 include Buffalo (4-1), Chicago (4-2), Houston (4-2), Kansas City (5-2), the New York Jets (4-2), Philadelphia (4-2) and San Francisco (4-2).
On Sunday Night, it's …
ATLANTA (3-2) at NEW ENGLAND (4-2) - 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC
Go ahead and skip past all the Super Bowl talk and keep in mind the SB champion N'England Patriots rank dead-last in the league in pass defense while yielding an eye-popping 324.8 aerial yards per game. So, short and sweet, if the Pats don't get some off-the-edge pass-rush heat on Falcons' QB Matt Ryan here, then it could be a looong night for Bill Belichick's defense that already has allowed 33 points in a game twice this year.
On the flip side, if you think Pats' QB Tom Brady can solve this Atlanta defense - and remember New England ranks 1st in the league in passing offense (309.8 ypg) - then this 3-point home price probably seems cheap to you.
Spread Stats - New England is 16-7-1 against the odds as betting favorites since the start of 2016; Atlanta has notched spread wins in eight of its last 10 away games and - yes - one of the setbacks was the 34-28 in OT in SB 51.