I don’t like Atlanta, the city. If it offers charm, I’ve yet to find it. There’s no room to move. The freeway system is the worst I’ve experienced in a city its size.
I like Atlanta, the football team. I respect the coach and the quarterback. The Falcons, however, have lost too many players to injury. They lost their best player, Julio Jones, the first week of October and were 1-4 with him. Last week they lost one of their best defensive players, tackle Corey Peters.
But you saw how hard the Falcons played in their 34-24 Monday loss to San Francisco. The Falcons were on the road and driving for the tying or winning score when NaVorro Bowman grabbed a tipped pass and returned it 89 yards for a touchdown.
The Atlanta defense, however, struggles, and the loss of Peters, who had five sacks this season, won’t help.
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The Panthers beat Atlanta 34-10 in Charlotte. This one won’t be as easy. There will be a lot of nervous moments for Carolina fans, but you’re used to it. When the Panthers have to get that first down, or field goal, or touchdown, they will.
Carolina 27, ATLANTA 23
Last week: 9-7
Upset of the week: Lost again. I picked Cleveland (+2 1/2) to upset the New York Jets. The Jets won by 11.
Lock of the week: Won. Picked Denver (-10 1/2) to cover against Houston. The Broncos won by 24.
This week’s games, with the home team in CAPS:
San Francisco 23, ARIZONA 21
The Cardinals have won eight of nine. But the 49ers might be the most complete team – the team with the fewest weaknesses – in football. Maybe they’ll finally prove it. I respect what Arizona has accomplished. But I’ll go with the young quarterback over the old one.
SEATTLE 24, St. Louis 13
The Seahawks and Rams played in St. Louis in October and Seattle was fortunate to win. Russell Wilson passed for only 139 yards and Marshawn Lynch rushed for only 23 (on eight carries). But can you envision Seattle finishing the season with consecutive losses at home? Panther fans, I can’t, either.
TENNESSEE 23, Houston 14
PITTSBURGH 24, Cleveland 17
NEW YORK GIANTS 26, Washington 20
CINCINNATI 24, Baltimore 20
INDIANAPOLIS 29, Jacksonville 17
MIAMI 24, New York Jets 19
Denver 33, OAKLAND 20
NEW ENGLAND 28, Buffalo 17
CHICAGO 29, Green Bay 23
Philadelphia 26, DALLAS 20
Upset of the week: Detroit (+3) 23, MINNESOTA 21
The Lions end the season with a victory and begin the off-season with a coaching search.
And now, the rare and almost unprecedented Double Lock.
NEW ORLEANS (-12 1/2) 33, Tampa Bay 16
It’s almost as if the Saints are better at home. They’re resilient, and for this Tampa Bay will pay.
SAN DIEGO 31, Kansas City 20
True, the Chiefs don’t want to go into the playoffs with the memory of last week’s horrific loss to the Colts hanging over them. But no matter what happens, they’re the fifth seed. If you’re Andy Reid, do you play star running back Jamaal Charles or injured players such as Tamba Hall or Dwayne Bowe? I don’t, either.