Our Heat Check begins with the hottest team around — the still-unbeaten-heading-into-December Atlanta Hawks! OK, I’m joshing. (Not to be confused with still-a-Hawk-Josh Smith.)
Georgia Bulldogs: Their basketball team lost by two points at Colorado on Monday, which is actually a good sign. Their football team lost by two points at Colorado last season, and look at it now! Ten wins running, an SEC East title, a comprehensive victory over Georgia Tech, no more hot-seat talk about the coach. Heat Index: Warm, with the chance — should the Bulldogs unhorse LSU — of a truly toasty holiday season.
Isaiah Crowell: The heralded freshman didn’t play a down against Tech due to injury, and it mattered not — except maybe to Crowell’s case for being indispensable. He was, as we know, supposed to be the Missing Man. Now Mark Richt is telling running-back recruits that a great opportunity can be found in Athens. Heat Index: “Keith Marshall of Raleigh, N.C., come on down! You’re the next contestant on ‘Who’s the New Herschel?’ ”
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: The Jackets had nine offensive touchdowns in 60 minutes against Kansas; they managed eight offensive touchdowns in the 240 minutes of their four losses. Heat Index: In other news, Kansas just fired its coach.
Atlanta Braves: Frank Wren the GM is doing his speed-dialing exercises this week. Baseball’s winter meetings convene in Dallas on Monday. Heat Index: Red-hot Wren action coming right up!
Alex Gonzalez: The Braves declined to offer him arbitration, which mean Wren is looking for a shortstop. I’m guessing he doesn’t call Toronto to inquire about the availability of Yunel Escobar. Heat Index: Remember when Rafael Furcal spurned the Braves and John Schuerholz threw a presidential fit? He might have to grant a presidential pardon.
Atlanta Hawks: The NBA lockout is over. The Hawks will restart after Christmas. Might the Atlanta Spirit talk you into buying four dozen season tickets to serve as stocking stuffers? Heat Index: See next item.
Jamal Crawford: The Hawks’ fourth-best player is a free agent. He won’t be coming back. But Kirk Hinrich, who arrived at heavy cost in trade, will. Heat Index: Let the record reflect that the Hawks took top-seeded Chicago to six games in the Eastern Conference semis without Hinrich playing a minute.
Atlanta Falcons: They’re 7-4. Given that Houston might have to deploy Dan Pastorini at quarterback Sunday, they’ve got a real shot at being 8-4. Given that the two games after that are against Carolina and Jacksonville, they’ve got a real shot at being 10-4 when they play the Saints on Dec. 26. Heat Index: A month from now, we could be calling this the hottest team going.
Matt Ryan: He didn’t complete a long ball against the Vikings — Julio Jones dropped one and Roddy White stumbled reaching for another — but he did complete just about everything else. And his team did win. Heat Index: The Iceman warmeth.
By Mark Bradley