The sports calendar has many twists and turns, but unequivocally, I love this time of year. First off, Halloween is now out of the way, which means it will be 364 days until kids are ringing my doorbell after 8:30 p.m. looking for candy. (Parents, control your kids, man! 8 p.m. should be the curfew!) But beyond that, we have the first set of College Football Playoff rankings, so the late regular season is essentially the play-in tournament. That's fun!
In the NFL, man, we are just getting started! Week 9, the halfway point! So much football to be played, and with the trade deadline now being a real thing, we have a gauge on which teams feel like they got a shot, and which teams are cashing in their chips. That can only help up in handicapping.
So after another winning week last week, and a solid 58 percent on the season, let's keep this train rolling, shall we? Here we go....
Georgia Tech -6.5 over NORTH CAROLINA
Here was my handicap on last week's Wake Forest-Louisville game (relevant, and you'll see why in a moment):
Truth be told, neither of these teams have really beaten anybody, with Wake's three wins over Tulane, Towson, and Rice, and Louisville's two wins over Indiana State and a three-point win over Western Kentucky (as a three- touchdown favorite). It just so happens that I believe very little in Louisville. I think it's a team and a program on the verge of implosion, and any time there's a match-up where you have one of the worst teams in college football at defending the run (Louisville is 122nd out of 130 FBS schools) against an up tempo team that LOVES to run the football (Wake is 30th in rushing offense), that feels like one of those recipes for a cover, regardless of venue.
Aside from the specificity of the stats and the tempo of Wake, you can essentially "Mad Lib" GeorgiaTech in for Wake and UNC in for Louisville, and the rationale is the exact same. Georgia Tech is going to run all over North Carolina, and they won't stop. Tech is playing good football overall right now, having won three of four. By the way, Wake won the game last week outright by 21 over Louisville, an easy cover.
FLORIDA -6.5 over Missouri
The Tigers lost in soul crushing fashion last week in what could have been a season-defining win over Kentucky, on the last play of the game at home. Going out on the road to face a Florida team that should be plenty angry after coughing the game away to Georgia last week (minus three in turnover margin for the Gators) is not the proper tonic for Mizzou. The biggest concern I have for Missouri — and considering I have bet against (Memphis, loser) and on (Kentucky game, loser) the Tigers the last two weeks, it is rather acute —- is that Drew Lock appears to be a lamb killer. Against real teams (Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Kentucky), Lock has 1 TD and 4 INT's. Against everybody else? 20 TD's and 1 INT. Florida is a LOT more like those real teams than the rest of Mizzou's schedule. Give me the Gators at less than a touchdown.
N.C. STATE -9.5 over Florida State
Here was FSU head coach Willie Taggart after his team's 59-10 loss to Clemson last week:
That is a beaten man, talking about his team quitting and big picture things like recruiting. I will be happy to bet that this group of underwhelming Seminoles has cashed it in on their first year head coach. At the very least, there will be a bunch of new "try hard" guys out there, who may keep up for a bit, but N.C. State is still a pretty good team who's lost to two great (Clemson) and good (Syracuse) teams over the last couple weeks. N.C. State will be favored the rest of the way this season, and can still get to ten wins on the year. I am fading quitters. Always fade quitters.
Chiefs -9 over BROWNS
Speaking of quitters (segue alert!), the Browns finally quit on Hue Jackson this past week, firing the head coach who managed to win three games over 2.5 seasons in Cleveland. That is a poor ratio, in case you're wondering. Anybody who watched Hard Knocks knew that Hue getting blown out was the most obvious whacking seen coming on an HBO show since Big Pussy got taken out for that boat ride at the end of Season 2 of The Sopranos. So the Browns, who once looked frisky at 2-2-1 (and a decent kicker away from maybe being 5-0), are now...well, they're now the Browns again. The Chiefs continue to roll and cover (against everyone not named ":the Broncos") over their schedule. I'll take the AFC's best team here, road game be damned.
REDSKINS -2 over Falcons
It's funny, the Chiefs, who we just took, have rolled right on after moving off of Alex Smith at quarterback, but Smith, too, has been fine in his new home, our nation's capital! The Redskins have quietly put together a nice 5-2 start, and they sent a nice message to their locker room at the deadline, trading a fourth round pick for safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to fortify what's already been a nice defense. The Falcons are off to a shaky 3-4 start, and that's with five games at home! Tough sledding for them to get back into the mix in the tall timber of the NFC South, with New Orleans and Carolina in front of them. The Falcons have not been a good underdog lately either, going 0-5 ATS in their last five dog spots, while the Skins have covered in their last five games.
SEAHAWKS -2 over Chargers
So much for the demise of the Legion of Boom cratering the season for the Seahawks. They currently sit at 4-3, very much alive for a playoff spot in the NFC, and since losing Earl Thomas, they're 2-1 SU and 3-0 ATS, perhaps validating that whatever they were gaining from Thomas on the field might have been more than cancelled out by his surliness toward the organization. The Chargers are coming off a bye week following a close shave in London against the Titans. The Chargers only two losses this season have been to the Rams and the Chiefs, so they've still beaten the teams they should. I'm just not sure on the road in Seattle, still one of the toughest places to play, and against a team that can run the football (go figure!), is the best spot. At a number where we are laying under a field goal, I like Seattle in a spot where they basically just need to win the game, more or less.
Last Week: 4-2
Season Record: 31-22-1 (58.5 percent)
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
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