Welcome to the beginning of the NFL season, or as Roger Goodell likes to call it, “The league where owners allow me to do anything I want because I help make them billions and then conveniently scream poverty when it’s time for a stadium initiative or new CBA talks, and I fully endorse knocking down historic churches for football fields with martini bars that do bupkis for the community and I prefer the optics of laying off secretaries during lockouts to letting everybody know about Spygate tapes because I’M THE KING OF THE UNIVERSE and … DAMN’T!!! Who forgot to send Judge Berman his free 30-day pass for the NFL Network! I’m tired. So tired. Care for a shrimp?”
It has been another disastrous week for Goodell. In addition to his real-legal-world setback in Deflategate, an ESPN Magazine story detailed how the league sought to cover up and destroy evidence that the New England Patriots taped opponents’ signals in 40 games — 40! — because Goodell thought it would be bad PR for the league. The resulting backlash from other owners, the story goes, is what led to Goodell overcompensating by suspending Tom Brady for four games instead of one or two, which was expected, for felonious ball deflation.
None of this affects the Falcons, who’ve been cleaning out every going-out-of-business sales, picking up offensive linemen like mismatched socks at Big Lots. They open the season against Philadelphia. If you’re one of the first 1,000 fans through the doors Monday night, you will be automatically entered into a contest for a chance to start at center.
The Falcons’ offensive line will be an adventure this season. So it follows a lot of folks are going the other way on this one. But I’ve got a weird feeling. Maybe it’s that andouille I just ate. The Eagles’ secondary is vulnerable and the Falcons’ defense should be improved this year under Dan Quinn.
Expect a lot of points. Surprise! I’ll take the extra three and the home team. Falcons in an upset.
Falcons go linemen shopping
When all else fails, remember the Titans’ play
*** THURSDAY WEB-ONLY SPECIALS ***
Steelers at Patriots: Tom Brady was NOT found innocent in Deflategate. U.S. District Judge Richard Berman merely slapped Kommandant Goodell around a little bit. If you doubt that you can ask the judge yourself: He’ll be at the game tonight, eating Maine lobster and Kobe beef kabobs in owner Robert Kraft’s luxury box. Pats win but take Pittsburgh and 7.
BACK TO SCHOOL
Georgia at Vanderbilt: Georgia moves up a half-notch in opponents from Louisiana-Monroe to Tennessee-Nashville. There was about a seven-minute stretch there when Vandy was turning into some semblance of a threat but then coach James Franklin went to Penn State and the Commodores again became a drive-thru on every SEC opponent’s schedule. Georgia covers 20½.
Tulane at Georgia Tech: I’m not making up: One of Tulane’s strength coaches was fired because she made a member of the school’s bowling team run for being an hour late to practice. School administrators must’ve believed this penalty was too harsh. They would’ve preferred the bowler just be docked their usual between-games double patty melt. So if that’s the bowling team standard, what does it say for football? Bees cover 28½.
Houston at Louisville: Hey, Petrino: It’s Thursday — call timeout! Louisville wins but I’ll Houston and 13.
Inside Bobby Petrino’s head last week
Georgia State at New Mexico State: Trent Miles has a long legitimate gripe list at Georgia State, but when you lose your opener at home to Charlotte (ranked No. 128 by Athlon) and you’re 1-24 in season three, a coach’s license to complain has been revoked. The other team covers (6½).
Oklahoma at Tennessee: Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker isn’t happy the SEC has 10 teams in the ranking: “I don’t know why people blow gas up their a** all the time.” So is this gas blowing action a thing in Norman? Take the 1 point but SEC punks win straight up.
LSU at Mississippi State: LSU lost up to $3.2 million when lightning and rain forced the cancellation of last week’s game against McNeese State. But the good news is, Baton Rouge finally got a bath. Tigers cover 4½.
East Carolina at Florida: Philly coach Chip Kelly told Tim Tebow that if he was serious about playing in the NFL, he should go to Canada. Tebow went back to broadcasting. Think about that the next time he says, “Just give me a chance.” (Sorry but there was nothing interesting about Florida-East Carolina.) Gators cover 20.
Flotsam at Alabama: Middle Tennessee State scored 70 points against Jackson State last week. So when you think about it, taking the 35 points at Alabama is just like leading 105-0 before opening kickoff. Welcome to Degenerate Gambler’s Mathematics. Bammy covers.
Saban’s slow burn after media guy suggests opponent is a creampuff
Colts at Bills: There is new Facebook evidence that Buffalo coach Rex Ryan has a picture of his wife’s feet on his desk. And that’s all I’m going to say about that. Except: Keep on your toes against Andrew Luck. Colts cover 2½.
Packers at Bears: While watching a college game on TV the other night, Chicago receiver Eddie Royal Tweeted, “We really could use one of them quarterbacks Ohio State got.” That no doubt made Jay Cutler feel all warm and fuzzy. Should be a fun huddle. Packers cover 6½.
Saints at Cardinals: New Orleans coach Sean Payton is refusing to talk to the media during the week in person so he’s conducting his press conferences by conference call. But when you’re coming off a 7-9 season, Jimmy Graham leaves and your quarterback (Drew Brees) is 36, I guess you’d rather not show your face in public. Cards cover 2½.
“There are many harsh lessons to be learned from the gambling experience, but the harshest one of all is the difference between having fun and being smart.” — Hunter S. Thompson
Last week: 9-1 straight up, 6-4 against the line.
Sack Schultz update: I went 13-2. Our weekly local and national winner last week was Dwight Flowers of Hephzibah, Ga., who went 15-0 and is clearly on PEDs. Want to win $2,500 from Apple, Kroger gift cards and Chick-fil-A Bowl tickets? Go to ajc.com/go/sackschultz2015 to enter.
Lilly’s pick (0-1): The misguided mutt picked Louisville over Auburn last week and lost. This week, it’s Falcons vs. Eagles. We switched from cheese to salami. Lilly went left: to the Falcons.