There is losing, and there is LOSING.
The Atlanta Falcons have mastered the capitalized version.
Blown leads, botched onside kicks and, last Sunday, scoring when they shouldn’t have. It’s all added up to a 1-6 record, a coach and general manager fired and ridicule across the United States for what is actually one of the NFL’s best organizations.
It might be a stretch to say that the Falcons' foibles in 2020 date back to when they set a Super Bowl record for losing from ahead in the 2017 game against New England. Or maybe not. Clearly, Atlanta has shown a penchant for monumental collapses.
On Thursday, they head to Carolina, already having lost to the Panthers this season, although not with a spectacular stumble. That was the final game for coach Dan Quinn and GM Thomas Dimitroff.
Some believe the best advice for the Falcons is to simply plow ahead, while others insist they must learn from these fiascos.
“Playing on Thursday night makes you get out of the funk that you’re in after a tough loss,” Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said. “So I think getting back into a game plan quickly, talking with coaches, starting to make plans for Thursday night kind of helps.”
The Panthers, 3-4 in their first season under coach Matt Rhule, have been a pleasant surprise considering they were pegged to be the NFC South’s tail-ender. They hope to get back star running back Christian McCaffrey, who can be a difference-maker if he’s fully healed from a high ankle sprain.
The Panthers, No. 19 in the AP Pro32, are a 2 1/2-point favourite over the floundering No. 28 Falcons.
Knockout pool: The Chargers had us worried for a while before subduing Jacksonville. We aren’t worried about selecting KANSAS CITY this week.
No. 32 New York Jets (plus 19) at No. 2 Kansas City
Probably should be our best bet, but that’s a ton of points to give. Still ...
Best bet: CHIEFS, 38-10
No. 22 Los Angeles Chargers (minus 3) at No. 23 Denver
Yes, the QB matchup favours LA, but favouring the Chargers overall here? Nope.
Upset special: BRONCOS, 22-20
No. 1 Pittsburgh (plus 5) at No. 3 Baltimore
Pro Picks' top NFL rivalry, with the top spot in the AFC North up for grabs.
No. 27 Minnesota (plus 6 1/2) at No. 5 Green Bay
If not for Jets-Chiefs, this would be our Best Bet.
No. 18 New England (plus 3 1/2) at No. 9 Buffalo
Things have gotten ugly in New England, with no Tom Brady to bail out the Patriots.
No. 6 Tampa Bay (minus 10) at No. 30 New York Giants, Monday night
Speaking of Brady, the Giants fared pretty well against him. Not here.
No. 10 Los Angeles Rams (minus 3 1/2) at No. 17 Miami
Aaron Donald, meet newbie QB Tua Tagovailoa.
No. 13 San Francisco (plus 3) at No. 4 Seattle
The Seahawks don’t know how to avoid close games, even with SF banged up.
No. 8 New Orleans (minus 4) at No. 12 Chicago
Can’t like much of anything the Bears showed in L.A. It should be tighter in the Windy City.
No. 29 Dallas (plus 7 1/2) at No 21 Philadelphia
We will take Philly’s grit and determination over Dallas’s ennui.
No. 16 Las Vegas (plus 3 1/2) at No. 14 Cleveland
The Browns have proven they can beat bad teams. What are the Raiders?
No. 7 Tennessee (minus 5) at No. 26 Cincinnati
The Bengals are growing even as they keep losing. But they haven’t grown this much.
No. 15 Indianapolis (minus 2) at No. 20 Detroit
Don’t be fooled by the Lions reaching .500.
Last week: Straight up: 11-3. Against spread: 8-6
Season: Straight up: 69-35-1. Against spread: 56-44-2
Best bet: Straight up: 6-1. Against spread: 5-2
Upset special: Straight up: 2-5. Against spread: 2-4-1