Our weekly Heat Check begins with the hottest team in town. Technically, it’s also the only team in town that’s actually playing games — the Dream is on Olympic hiatus — but never mind. We take our warmth where we find it.
BRAVES: They went 5-2 for the week and shaved a game off Washington’s lead. (Down to three games, as we speak.) They were 8-2 over the homestand that concluded Sunday, and we should probably prepare ourselves for similar surges the rest of the way.
Of the Braves’ remaining 54 games, only 16 will come against teams currently above .500. By way of contrast, Washington has 22 games left against plus-.500 teams. (Including three at Arizona and three at San Francisco over the next 10 days.) That’s not a major difference, but it is a difference. And with the new playoff format, there’s a major bonus to being division champ. It means you get to skip that terrifying play-in tilt against the other wild-card club. Heat Index: The Braves are 16-7 since the All-Star break. That’ll do.
DAN UGGLA: The good news is that he had eight RBI’s on the 10-game homestand. The less-good news is that he only had six hits (against 10 strikeouts). Heat Index: Hey, at least he’s making ‘em count. And if you’re hitting .209, you’d better.
GEORGIA: Well, here’s a switch. Rather than lose yet another defensive back to suspension,which was a repeating offseason riff, the Bulldogs announced that Branden Smith will be eligible for the all-important opening game against … er, Buffalo. Heat Index: Oddsmakers immediately announced that Georgia, which had opened as a three-point home underdog, is now a one-point favorite over the Bulls. (Yes, I’m lying. Georgia was and is favored by 37.)
GEORGIA TECH: Speaking of opening games, the Jackets are a 7 1/2-point underdog for their Labor Day lid-lifter in Blacksburg, Va. For the record, David Sims told me Saturday he thinks Georgia Tech will win. For the record, David Sims plays B-back for Georgia Tech. Heat Index: Confidence is always a sign of hotness!
FALCONS: They’re practicing against the Tennessee Titans tonight and will open their exhibition schedule against Baltimore on Thursday. The remainder of the preseason includes games against Cincinnati, Miami and Jacksonville. The first three regular-season games are against Kansas City, Denver and San Diego. Just wondering: Has any NFC entry ever gone through an entire preseason (plus a controlled scrimmage) and three weeks into a regular season without facing another NFC team? Heat Index: Trivia is fun, is it not?
By Mark Bradley