Archive for September, 2010

We’re live (from NOLA to Starkville) for Dogs vs. Dogs

starkvillefwy

"I found out long ago. ... It's a long way down the holiday road. ... Holiday ro-o-oa-oad."

"I found out long ago. … It's a long way down the holiday road. … Holiday ro-o-oa-oad."

STARKVILLE, Miss. — So when the assignments for this weekend came out and the schedule had me covering two games — Georgia at Mississippi State tonight and the Falcons at New Orleans Sunday, I knew immediately this called for some creativity in travel plans — at least without spending too much of my employer’s travel budget or getting stuck on one of those tiny planes that veers off to dust crops while en route to my primary destination.

So this was the plan: Fly to New Orleans Friday, drive to Starkville Saturday for the Dogs’ game, then drive back to civilization for the Falcons’ game Sunday.  Of course, the problem was . . .

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. . . Anybody who ever has been to New Orleans knows it’s a hard place to leave. Especially when you need to leave to go to Starkville.

nola

cafedumonde

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So I decided to take some of New Orleans with me. This muffuletta will do just fine.

muffelatta

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kilnsignFairly early into my …

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Weekend Predictions: Even Vegas is down on Dogs

newboard

Occasionally, we here at Weekend Predictions, home of the world’s only 100 percent guaranteed financial projections, assuming you didn’t fall for one of those silly picks we just put out there for comic relief, bring in a consultant.

So let me introduce you to my new market analyst, Todd Fuhrman, race and sports book analyst at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, where I once helped fund a significant expansion. I phoned Todd because Georgia opened this week as an underdog to Mississippi State, which is somewhat like the Ukraine opening as an underdog to Lichtenstein. These Dogs haven’t lost to those Dogs since 1974 (1951 in Starkville, when bread was 16 cents. Starkville looked the same, though.).

Trust me. I have a system.

Trust me. I have a system.

Todd’s research goes back only 20 years but  he’s never seen Georgia less than 3 1/2 point favorites. Why is Mississippi State favored?

“It’s tough to get behind Georgia,” he said. “Their passing game is stagnant without A.J. Green, their freshman quarterback …

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Braves’ playoff chances ‘cooling’ but still strong (74.9 percent)

It seemed the Braves always were turned in the wrong direction in Philadelphia.

It seemed the Braves always were turned in the wrong direction in Philadelphia.

Good morning: The Braves are not dead yet.

While you were trying to sleep away the memory of the Braves being swept by Philadelphia, San Diego won and San Francisco and Colorado each lost late Wednesday night. So while the Braves have flat-lined in the National League East standings, they’re still one-half game up on the Giants in the wild card race and three up on Colorado (which also has lost three straight).

This is when I like to turn to “Cool Standings.”

We’ve talked about Cool Standings before. In short, it projects a team’s division title, wild card and playoff chances, based on past performance, remaining games and other factors, using basic statistics like a team’s runs scored and against.

Cool Standings has been charting the Braves’ postseason hopes daily. The results look like this:

2010_coolstats_s_ATL

OK, don’t freak. It’s actually pretty simple.

♦ The blue line represents East Division chances. You’ll …

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Can Falcons and ‘D block’ defense contain Saints?

Arizona's Tim Hightower is somewhere under the pile of Falcons' defenders.

Arizona's Tim Hightower is somewhere under the pile of Falcons' defenders, but New Orleans is a big step up.

FLOWERY BRANCH  — There is an area of the Falcons’ locker room at their training facility known as “D block.” It’s comprised of mostly linebackers and defensive end Kroy Biermann, because, in the words of linebacker Curtis Lofton, “Kroy’s nasty so we let him in.”

“You can’t enter D block without permission,” Lofton said.

“We’re the bad side over here,” said linebacker Mike Peterson, the unofficial mayor of D block.

Motioning to the opposite corner of the locker room, where quarterback Matt Ryan and the receivers dress, Peterson added: “That’s Beverly Hills over there.”

I figured this would be a good week to visit D block. The Falcons’ defense goes against New Orleans Sunday, and Atlanta’s upset chances are closely tied to the more physical, less graceful aspects of football. Finesse probably won’t win it.

Last year, the Saints defeated the Falcons by scores of 35-27 …

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Sports’ 5 most remarkable comebacks (and Vick makes list)

Michael vick is a starter once again.

Michael vick is a starter once again.

We all love comeback stories. It’s understandable if not everybody in Atlanta is completely embracing the Michael Vick comeback story. But if Vick’s sudden ascent to starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles’ starting quarterback turns out to be not just an aberration for the rest of his NFL career, his return to the top will go down as one of the most remarkable comeback stories in sports history.

I would put Vick’s comeback as No. 4 all-time. You may put him higher, or lower, or not at all. But here are my top 5.

♦ 1. Muhammad Ali: He was the heavyweight champion when being the heavyweight champion meant something. But he was stripped of his title after refusing induction into the army in 1967 because, as he said, “I ain’t got no quarrel against no Viet Cong.” When Ali returned to the ring three years and seven months later in Atlanta, he

Muhammad Ali: Scored a TKO over Jerry Quarry after a 3 1/2-year absence.

Muhammad Ali: Stopped Jerry Quarry after a 3 1/2-year absence.

dropped Jerry Quarry in three …

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Richt not worried about Georgia players being in funk (yet)

Mark Richt hopes frustrations from the loss to Arkansas, including those on offense, have subsided by the Mississippi State game.

Mark Richt hopes frustrations from the loss to Arkansas, including those on offense, have subsided by the Mississippi State game.

ATHENS — Welcome back to funk central. Actually, it’s really not all that bad. The Georgia players made available to the media in the afternoon seemed in a relatively normal mood and coach Mark Richt said he wasn’t concerned how his players felt, given that it was only Tuesday.

More on that in a minute. First, if you missed it, I spoke to athletic director Greg McGarity and posted a column earlier. He maintained confidence in Richt, despite the storm that is swirling around the program right now and the 0-2 start in the SEC.

Stating the obvious here: McGarity is an impressive guy. He handled the questioning about as well as could be expected. If you missed the column, you can click here.

Back to Richt. He gave an interesting response at his weekly news conference when asked about the mindset of his players at practice Monday after consecutive losses …

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McGarity still calm amid storm, expresses confidence in Richt

Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity is not oblivious to the storm around him but he remains confident in coach Mark Richt. (AP photo)

Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity is not oblivious to the storm around him but he remains confident in coach Mark Richt.

ATHENS – Stationed in his first fire storm since becoming athletic director, Greg McGarity last Saturday chose to go in a different direction than some of the angry, torch-carrying villagers in Athens who believe the best course of action following SEC losses is to open more “Fire [Coach]” Facebook pages.

McGarity waited for Georgia coach Mark Richt to address his team after the home loss to Arkansas, waited until Richt released most of the players from a holding room under the stands at Sanford Stadium and then walked in.

“I don’t generally go into the locker room because I don’t feel I really belong in there,” he said. “What I did do was go in there after the game, but before the media came in, just to see Mark and the 12 or 14 players who were still there waiting for interviews. I just said, ‘Mark, let’s get ready to go next week. Call me if you …

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Braves’ biggest problem may be Rockies, not Phillies (UPDATE: Jurrjens out)

Will Derrek Lee's grand slam Sunday in New York jump start the Braves to the playoffs?

Will Derrek Lee's grand slam Sunday in New York jump start the Braves to the playoffs?

(UPDATED at 3:25 p.m. below with news that rookie pitcher Brandon Beachy will replace starter Jair Jurrjens tonight.)

I’ve never really been a numbers guy, but sometimes in baseball there are numbers that can’t be avoided.

These for example: The Braves are three games back of Philadelphia in the National League East going into tonight’s series opener between the teams. They play the Phillies again in the final weekend of the season.

What do Braves have to go in final 12 to make the playoffs?

  • 6-6
  • 7-5
  • 8-4
  • 9-3
  • 10-2
  • 11-1
  • 12-0

View Results

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Simple math says if the Braves don’t win at least four out of the six games against Philly, they will have to make up the minimum-three-game deficit in the other six games. That’s not likely to happen.

The Phillies have the pitching advantage in every game in this series: Cole Hamels (3-0, 0.44 in his last five …

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Matt Ryan overcomes first hellish week (not that he noticed)

Matt Ryan and Jason Snelling each had three touchdowns to celebrate Sunday, as well as a lopsided Falcons' win over Arizona.

Matt Ryan and Jason Snelling each had three touchdowns to celebrate Sunday, as well as a lopsided Falcons' win over Arizona.

Since 2008, Matt Ryan has gone from being a semi-embraced, first-round draft pick (remember Glenn Dorsey?), to a franchise savior (playoffs!), to just pretty good, to having questionable arm strength, to being an opening week loser to Dennis Dixon in Pittsburgh, to mounting doubts about his career and one NFL media outlet whispering that the Falcons were “having doubts” about him.

So did the room just stop spinning?

If Ryan cemented neither his legacy nor the Falcons’ fate this season, he at least calmed nerves and muzzled critics Sunday.

He threw a touchdown pass on the Falcons’ first possession. He was the model of efficiency, completing 21 of 32 passes for 225 yards, three touchdowns with zero interceptions.

Ryan and the Falcons did what good quarterbacks and good teams are supposed to do: They followed a fizzle on opening week at Pittsburgh with a …

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LIVE: Falcons look to avoid 0-2 start (and deep hole)

The Falcons' future is all in your hands, Matt Ryan.

The Falcons' future is all in your hands, Matt Ryan.

Welcome to Week 2 for the Falcons. Can it be must-win week already?

Maybe so. I just thumbed through the franchise’s mostly inglorious history. Since their birth in 1966, the Falc0ns have started a season at least 0-2 15 times. They made the playoffs only twice in those 15 years: 1) the 1991 season under Jerry Glanville, finishing 10-6 and then beating the New Orleans Saints in the wild card game, before losing the division playoff in Washington; 2) the 2002 season, when they went 9-6-1 in Michael Vick’s first season as starter and upset the Green Bay Packers in the wild card game, before losing at Philadelphia.

So, after opening with the loud thud of a 15-9 overtime loss at Pittsburgh, is the season over if they fall to Arizona today in the Georgia Dome? No. But given that next week’s game is in New Orleans — and the Falcons still must play Philadelphia and Cincinnati in the first seven games before the bye week — losing to …

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