Matt Ryan has struggled to let go of two defeats in his career. Not surprisingly, both of those were playoff losses.
“The problem is you can’t go out and play the next week,” he said. “But you can’t let it leave you with a hangover forever.”
Not forever. Just until opening week the following season. Football season is nearing and it has been a while since all three major teams in the area were coming off such downers.
The Falcons, following a 13-3 regular season and a bye week, were hammered at home by Green Bay 48-21. Georgia, after the stench of a 6-6 regular season, did something even Bubba Joe Bulldog Boxer Shorts never could’ve envisioned, losing to Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl. Georgia Tech, in the year after an ACC championship, also tumbled to six wins and lost to Air Force in the Independence.
Caution tends to follow humiliation. While the Falcons may have put themselves in the Super Bowl hunt with the signing of Ray Edwards, their projected regular season win total this season is down, partly because of a tougher schedule but also because 13-win regular seasons generally are reserved for teams that don’t lose home playoff games by 27 points.
The over/unders are out for this season. According to the online sportsbook Bodog.com, whose lines generally equate to most in Las Vegas, the over/under on Falcons’ wins this season is 10.5. Georgia is at 8. Georgia Tech: at only 6.
These totals do not include playoff, bowl or conference championship games. So the projections basically have the Falcons going somewhere between 10-6 and 11-5, Georgia going 8-4 and Tech going on 6-6.
Personal view: The total for the Falcons is on target. Georgia and Tech both are slightly understated. The breakdown:
♦ FALCONS (10.5): Go over (or under?): We’re going to find out pretty early about this team. In the first five weeks, the Falcons travel to Chicago, play host to Philadelphia, travel to Tampa Bay, travel to Seattle, then must come back home to play defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay on a Sunday night. If they can come out of that 4-1, most people would be ecstatic.
Here’s how I break it down. The Falcons will go 4-2 within the division (sweeping Carolina, splitting with New Orleans and Tampa). I’m giving them home wins over Tennessee and Jacksonville and road wins at Seattle, Detroit and Houston. That’s 9-2, leaving five difficult games: home against Philadelphia, Green Bay and Minnesota, and road at Chicago and at Indianapolis. With three of those games in the Georgia Dome, they’ll certainly go no worse than 2-3, which would leave them 11-5.
♦ GEORGIA (8): Go over ( I think). Once the Bulldogs get past Boise State and South Carolina, they fall into one of their easiest schedules in years. They avoid Alabama, LSU and Arkansas from the West. The rest of the schedule is stacked with easily winnable games (save maybe that one in Jacksonville): Coastal Carolina, at Mississippi, Mississippi State, at Tennessee, at Vanderbilt, Florida, New Mexico State, Auburn, Kentucky, at Georgia Tech.
I know. Last season, nobody would’ve expected such a complete program unraveling, an early season-smothering, four-game losing streak, and defeats to Mississippi State, Colorado and Central Florida. But where are the losses here? One or two early. Maybe Florida. Maybe Georgia Tech for rivalry sake. Auburn and Tennessee aren’t any good. Mississippi State is decent but it’s hard to imagine Georgia losing to them two years in a row (this time in Athens). I’m going 9-3. (My complete game-by-game Georgia breakdown will be coming in the AJC’s football section on Aug. 28.)
♦ GEORGIA TECH (6): Go over (I’m sure. I think). For every Georgia fan who wonders, “How do you lose to Colorado?” there’s a Tech fan asking, “How do you lose to Kansas?” The Jackets should — should — mow through the first three games (Western Carolina, at Middle Tennessee State, Kansas ). Florida State is not on the schedule but there’s a difficult stretch in the middle: at Miami, Clemson, Virginia Tech. But the rest of the ACC really isn’t that good. The Jackets also have 16 days between the Virginia Tech and Georgia games, with only Duke in the middle.
Tech has lost a lot of talent in the last two years but coach Paul Johnson seems to enjoy being around this team more and expects better leadership. I’m going 8-4 on the Jackets with four losses coming among six opponents: North Carolina State, Virginia, Miami, Clemson, Virginia Tech, Georgia.
See. That was easy. What could possibly go wrong?
By Jeff Schultz