Fort Lauderdale – Owing to the national championship game, our weekly Heat Check emanates from warm environs. We begin, however, with professional football.
FALCONS: It has already started. The No. 1 seed hasn’t yet stuck its toe in playoff waters, and again we’re hearing that it’s out of its depth. The local franchise sits behind five other teams on the odds-to-win-the-Super-Bowl tote board, and it’s even with Seattle, which has to play in the Georgia Dome on Sunday. Technically the Falcons are a two-point favorite over the Seahawks, which is the same tepid betting line the 13-3 Birds faced when playing host to Green Bay two years ago. And they lost that one 48-21. Atmospheric reading: I’ve been saying since August that these Falcons are different. Here’s where they prove me right.
GEORGIA: Won the Capital One Bowl, lost Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree to the NFL, kept Aaron Murray. That latter bit is the biggie, folks. It’s the difference between being picked to repeat as SEC East champs and being tabbed third behind South Carolina and Florida. Atmospheric reading: The schedule does get tougher next season, at least at the beginning, but that had to happen sometime.
GEORGIA TECH: Won the Sun Bowl over the preseason No. 1, and USC receiver Marqise Lee, speaking here Sunday at a press gathering, said he believed the Trojans actually played hard in that game. (”You’re out there playing — why wouldn’t you try to win? It just didn’t work out for us.”) Atmospheric reading: There’s a chance the Jackets will be the preseason choice to win the ACC Coastal Division. Seriously.
HAWKS: Lost three of four last week, and the last outing — a get-a-big-lead-but-wilt-under-pressure home loss to the pesky Celtics — was the most distressing night of a season now in its third month. Atmospheric reading: If the playoffs began today (which they won’t), the Hawks would be the No. 3 seed in the East. This wobble aside, they’ve been very good.
GEORGIA TECH HOOPS: The Jackets were a fairly rousing 10-2 in pre-conference play but were routed at home by Miami in their ACC opener. Atmospheric reading: This will get worse before it gets better. Tech’s next four games include road dates at North Carolina State, Duke and North Carolina.
GEORGIA HOOPS: After starting 2-7, the Bulldogs have won four in a row to draw within sight of .500. Atmospheric reading: This could start to go bad again. Of Georgia’s first five SEC games, three are against ranked opponents (Florida twice, Missouri once).
By Mark Bradley