Is it just me, or do the local teams never lose? Our Heat Check examines.
BRAVES: Swept the team they’re chasing, so the season’s final 2 1/2 weeks might actually see a real chase. They’re 5 1/2 games back with 15 to go — the Nationals have 16 remaining — and if you’re wondering if such a thing could happen: Sure it could. The pholdin’ Phillies of 1964 led the National League by 6 1/2 games with 12 to play. Heat Index: Even if the Braves don’t catch Washington, they’ve still all but assured themselves a wild-card spot. And, assuming they’re indeed a wild card and assuming they win the play-in, they could well play the Nats in the Division Series, which would be a best-of-five with the first two games at Turner Field. (With the new playoff format, teams from the same division can meet in Round 1.)
FALCONS: Technically they haven’t played yet — that comes tonight — but they had a very good Sunday. The Saints are 0-2. Tampa Bay blew a lead against the Giants. Carolina looked pretty good in getting to 1-1, but the Panthers have already lost a division game. Heat Index: If the Falcons beat the Broncos tonight, they’ll be 2-0 and leading the NFC South. (They’d also be 2-0 against the AFC West, not that it matters.)
GEORGIA TECH: Beat Virginia by 36 points, which is a pretty big deal considering the Cavaliers outmuscled the Jackets 11 months ago. Better still, Virginia Tech was routed by 0-2 Pittsburgh, and the magnitude of that non-conference loss suggests the Hokies could have two or three ACC losses in them. Heat Index: A season that started badly is brightening by the week.
GEORGIA: Beat Florida Atlantic by 36 points, which is no big deal. Freshmen Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley had 100-yard rushing games. The Bulldogs set a school record for yards (713) gained in a game, which assumes this qualified as a real game. Longtime interim Russ was instituted as an official UGA. A good time was had by all except Jarvis Jones, who sat with a groin injury. Heat Index: Already ranked No. 5 in the Associated Press poll, the feeling persists that Georgia is only now approaching peak form.
GEORGIA STATE: Here’s the local exception. The Panthers lost by 24 points to UTSA before a Georgia Dome gathering of 11,496. Georgia State is 0-3 and has been outscored 122-33. Heat Index: Might want to circle the Sept. 29 game at William & Mary, which is also 0-3. If the Panthers come home still winless, they could be looking at a season of abject wretchedness.
DREAM: Has won six of seven and just clinched its fourth consecutive playoff berth. Heat Index: No big deal, you say? Well, the past two seasons the Dream reached the WNBA finals.