Heat Check: Will the Falcons again feel the January chill?

Here's how it was when last the Falcons were the No. 1 seed. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Here's how it was when last the Falcons were the No. 1 seed. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

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

129 comments Add your comment

MatthewH

January 7th, 2013
8:17 am

Monday morning first? Not feeling too good about Tech’s ACC part of the schedule, but I like what I’ve seen so far and I do think it will get better.

Goldenrod

January 7th, 2013
8:21 am

Mark – I agree that Georgia Tech WILL win the ACC Coastal division. as well as knock off the Leghumpers in 2013!

We have already defeated the preseason #1 team in the country and Coach Paul Johnson has restored GT as one of the premier teams in the country!

Wreck ‘Em!

Mark Bradley

January 7th, 2013
8:22 am

Kudos, MatthewH.

All I'm Saying Is....

January 7th, 2013
8:38 am

When does the heat rise on Georgia Tech’s hoops coach? Are you telling me that The U is that good in basketball?

Columbus Dawg

January 7th, 2013
8:38 am

Here’s hoping you are right on the Falcons. I have watched with at least one eye closed since they showed up in the sixties. That’s the Tommy Nobis era to all you nubies. Had fun watching the Bartkowski/ William Andrews era, and was embarrassed by the butt whipping administered by the Denver Broncos in their only Superbowl appearance just like everyone else. I have seen a little bit different Falcons team this season as well, but dropping their last game in a very lackluster way did bring back old memories. They may or may not make the big game this time around, but I don’t think it will be because of the Seahawks if they don’t.

Oh yeah, and sorry, but I just can not pull for the Mobile Homers in the BCS, if there is ANY group of people in need of a little humility, it’s that bunch!

crackbaby

January 7th, 2013
8:40 am

Falcons – Git er done!

Jackets – “Significant improvement” is expected.

UGA – Has Aaron Murray improved at QB since his Freshman year?

Hawks – Don’t match up well against the best teams.

GT Hoops – Desperately need better guard play.

UGA Hoops – KCP and the band of unknowns…

ramguy68

January 7th, 2013
8:43 am

I couldn’t watch the Skins-Seahawks game yesterday but I recorded it and just watched it. Seattle has just became the team I despise the most. Their DB’s think they are the toughest guys in the world and do more trash talking and intimidation attempts than any team I have seen this year and that’s saying a lot. I’m not saying they intimidated Washington’s WR’s but they did overmatch them, I don’t think RW, JJ and AG will be so easily manhandled.

royalair

January 7th, 2013
8:53 am

Don’t understand the fascination with Aaron Murray. Considering what UGA loses on defense, they’ll have a hard time stopping Clemson and Carolina early in the year next season…

If Richt starts out 0-2 (again), will Dwag (sic) fans finally admit that the recent “success” was wholly due to scheduling, and not from actual merit?

DawginLex

January 7th, 2013
8:55 am

Will royalair admit that he is a Tech fan pining for any team that can actually beat us since your own team can’t???

:) :) :)

markie mark

January 7th, 2013
8:58 am

royalair – you did hear about the SEC championship game right? Georgia lost to Alabama by about 5 yards and/or 5 seconds, right? take you schedule comment and stick it in your ear…..we proved by that game the schedule didnt matter as much as you want to think….

The Hammer

January 7th, 2013
8:59 am

I’m looking forward to another January freeze by the Falcan’ts.

My predictions going into the NFL postseason have all worked out.

The NFC Championship Game will be Packers vs Seahawks.

The AFC Championship Game will be Patriots vs Broncos.

The Patriots will win the Super Bowl over the Packers.

Macon Fan

January 7th, 2013
8:59 am

If the Sea Chickens watch ESPN at all this week they will come to the Dome believing that they cannot possibly lose and they will be overconfident. They may leave half of their starters at home. Because, as you may have heard, the Falcons are 0-3 in the playoffs in the Smith – Ryan era.

markie mark

January 7th, 2013
9:00 am

“We have already defeated the preseason #1 team in the country and Coach Paul Johnson has restored GT as one of the premier teams in the country!”

Goldenrod, are you kidding me? Your team had to ask for a waiver to just be eligible to play in the dang game….Premier teams? where the hell do you rank everyone else? Good God, son, there’s being loyal, and then there’s being….you…..

morn

January 7th, 2013
9:01 am

Until the Falcons get a running back or change their play calling, not straight up the middle every time, they will struggle. Jones and White need to work on catching footballs throughout the games too and not just in the first and fourth quarters.

Eugene Robinson

January 7th, 2013
9:02 am

The Falcons will win the Superbowl. Bank on it!

juvenal

January 7th, 2013
9:07 am

no defense till the last 6 qtrs., a QB who won 1 close game is gone, WRs now with a year experience, VT & CU at home(?), we still played the ACC champ to one score-how are we not contenders, esp. with 2 teams in our division on probation?

juvenal

January 7th, 2013
9:15 am

happy new year, Lex-you lose a lot of D……..

Gracie

January 7th, 2013
9:18 am

Doesn’t anyone else remember the mess in 2010 right before the Falcons game against the Packers? Snow, ice, nobody moving anywhere – including players not getting to practice. That alone is a HUGE difference compared to this year. They couldn’t focus then, and this year should/BETTER be different.

Freddie Blassie

January 7th, 2013
9:20 am

Murray is a good quarterback and I am sorry that he’ll be back at Georgie next year.
I think the Bees will use this bowl win to have a great off season, spring and 2013 season. I’m looking forward to seeing Thomas and Lee play at QB and how the defense progresses.

Dwayne C

January 7th, 2013
9:25 am

On 1/13/13: Seattle Seahawks 24 – Atlanta Falcons 17

lol

Will

January 7th, 2013
9:27 am

I’ll take Mike Nolan vs a rookie QB anyday. I’m sure Nolan has tricks for Wilson. Remember, Nolan confused & beat the Manning Bros. & Brees. Imagine what he will do to Wilson

Tom

January 7th, 2013
9:27 am

Markie,
If you had sc schedule last year, you wouldn’t have been in the game. Considering how much bama lost from their 2011 seaon and you still couldn’t beat them with your best team in ages, that says a lot. Now with an average defense, uga will revert back to ho hum.

Confused but not scared

January 7th, 2013
9:31 am

crackbaby – Hawks don’t match up well against the best teams?? They’ve beaten OKC on the road, Memphis on the road, the Clippers, the Pacers, and others. The only top team they can’t match up with is the Heat, but no one can match up with the Heat!

Hawks problem is complacency when they get a lead — shows lack of veteran leadership to help them keep the foot on the gas. No matter what, this year is shattering our “rebuilding” expectations…

JB

January 7th, 2013
9:31 am

Tech has just become delusional since beating a quarterbackless and “bored” USC team who opted for pizza rather than even eat with Tech. USC was embarrassed to be at that game with Tech. Don’t know where the 7 or 9 Tech starters returning on defense are going to find speed and talent between now and next year. Vad Lee will be an upgrade I’ll admit. 8-4 tops.

brad

January 7th, 2013
9:32 am

It’s not just who you play. It’s when they appear on your schedule. UGA had a very soft schedule compared to sc and fla. Now ga adds clemson and lsu. That alone equals at least 2 reg season losses with all the defensive vacancies. And gt will certainly be much improved with lee at qb.
2013 uga 9-3

Confused but not scared

January 7th, 2013
9:37 am

And re Falcons – WE GOT THIS. Let the Worldwide Leader and its group think sheep jump on the Seattle bandwagon. Meanwhile, our guys will fly under the radar (as a 13-3 no. 1 seed) and come in blazing on Sunday. Seahawks needed all the breaks and a hobbling RGIII to get by the Skins. ATL is a FAR superior team than the Redskins, and it will show this weekend. Maybe not Giants-level beatdown, but it’s going to be about 27-13.

Simba

January 7th, 2013
9:38 am

“USC was embarrassed to be at that game with Tech.”

Maybe it’s just me, but if they were truly “embarrassed” to be at that game, then they wouldn’t have let that game get away so easily. Imagine how embarrassing that would be, right?

Gritsfed

January 7th, 2013
9:54 am

Mike Nolan is certainly smarter than me and knows more about football in his pinkie than I know about it in my whole life. But I would seriously like to know of a game where Russell Wilson won it with his arm? Point being: Coach Nolan, stack 8 in the box, with Robinson and Samuel on the corners and put DeCoud or Hope out there at high Safety. CHALLENGE Wilson to beat us with his ARM!!! I say he can’t. If he beats with the legs the Falcons will have some problems but I don’t believe the rookie can win a playoff game in the air. Falcons’ have this! Falcons 34-Seasquakers 13.

yellowfever

January 7th, 2013
10:07 am

I’m sure Mike Nolan will have something the rookie Wilson hasn’t seen but that being said if we blitz, and we will, it only does any good if you get to the QB and get him on the ground. Here’s hoping the Falcons are up to the task.

Greg Brezina

January 7th, 2013
10:20 am

On the Falcons, I’m just praying that the offensive line isn’t as soft and out of sync as it looked against Tampa Bay. (Harvey Dahl, I miss you). Ryan does not have the escapability of other premier QB’s and without a run game it could get ugly. On the other side of the ball it will be crucial to get a push from our Defensive front 4. Marshawn Lynch is a beast and is really who makes that Seattle offense go. I’m a 40 year Falcon Fan so I guess I’m a glass is half empty guy by nature.

jerry

January 7th, 2013
10:21 am

Well, they added Samuel after the debacle in NY last year. They have lost Grimes, Lofton. Dahl, Weems, Ovie, and two free agents, Totupu and Manuwai. It seems to me the only way they could be better is because of the new coordinators.

Soshelist Yutopia

January 7th, 2013
10:23 am

1. Aaron Murray could have ended up a late first rounder based on the QB talent coming out this year. Why he would come back to a team that has repeatedly proven itself incapable of winning games that matter is beyond comprehension. Anyway, I guess it works out for everybody but him. GO Dawgs.

2. The Falcons will WIN on Sunday if the 12th man shows up. The ‘Hawks are vulnerable on the road, and the Dome can be a tough place to play (when you don’t have 5,000 or so fat ladies in cheese hats shouting “let’s go pack”) when your fans don’t travel like Green Bay’s, for example.
BUT . . . Falcons fans cannot show up at this game and sit on their hands. I know it’s a 1PM kickoff and it takes time to prime the pump. So here’s what I suggest: get a good night’s sleep on Saturday. No booze; sleep in your own bed. Then, on Sunday morning, take a hot shower, put on clean underwear, and get to the Dome no later than 10AM. And remember, you can’t buy booze on Sunday before 12:30 – anywhere in GA. So plan accordingly. If you’re not cursing at strangers by Noon you have no business being at the game.
As for me and my buddies, we’ll be in Gulch I drinking Maker’s Mark and injecting bath salts the minute they open the gate.
This year is different. Hakeem Dent will have a dozen tackles, and we will hold Marshawn Lynch to under 100 yards.

Like the volume level in the GA DOme, it’s time to RISE UP ATLANTA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

headley lamar

January 7th, 2013
10:25 am

Maybe it’s just me, but if they were truly “embarrassed” to be at that game, then they wouldn’t have let that game get away so easily. Imagine how embarrassing that would be, right?

Not as embarrassing as being there in the first place

Tech Fan

January 7th, 2013
10:25 am

Congratulations to the Yellow Jackets on a great bowl victory. If the defense continues to play good, Tech will have a very good 2013 season.
Congratulations to Mark Richt and his dogs for a great season and bowl win. I hope they win the SEC in 2013 with one loss to the Yellow Jackets.

Say what

January 7th, 2013
10:26 am

If our offensive line gets manhandled, we’re toast. If they don’t, we win. In other words, Seattle will come after Ryan, and if the line can keep them out of his face and give him time and the room to step into his throws, he will torch them and get that playoff monkey off his back. We need lots of screens and draws to slow down the rush and please don’t start the game with Turner up the middle. Start with a fake to Turner up the middle and a shot to a streaking Julio.

Yellow World

January 7th, 2013
10:27 am

” markie mark

January 7th, 2013
8:58 am
royalair – you did hear about the SEC championship game right? Georgia lost to Alabama by about 5 yards and/or 5 seconds, right? take you schedule comment and stick it in your ear…..we proved by that game the schedule didnt matter as much as you want to think…. ”

It’s kind of easy to show up for ONE game against a quality opponent especially with so much on the line and having most of the team fresh due to an easy schedule, any team with any size could had did what Georgia did in that game, especially against an Alabama team that wasn’t as good as last year’s, so try another using a better logic. .

extremus

January 7th, 2013
10:27 am

The two biggest liabilities for the Falcons all season have been the lack of any consistent running game and a usually non-existent pass rush. If Russell Wilson has all day to stand in the pocket as most opposing QBs have this season, the Falcons will have serious problems; his mobility when pressured makes him even more of a threat. It’s going to be a delicate balance between rushing Wilson and making sure some guys stay back to prevent him from drawing everyone in and then rabbiting out for big yardage.

Unless you’re doing straight north-and-south draw plays (and then only if they actually work for positive yardage) I highly recommend giving the ball to Rodgers over Turner in the running game, but in the end the outcome of this game will hinge on Matt Ryan and the receivers. It is also incumbent upon the Falcons defense to once again find ways to create turnovers and big plays against a Seahawks team that doesn’t make many mistakes.

mister.earl

January 7th, 2013
10:29 am

Exodus

The Falcons cannot fall behind by more than a touchdown on Sunday. If that happens, the halftime rush during the Green Bay playoff game will look like a Sunday stroll in Piedmont Park.

Seattle is playing with house money. The Falcons are expected to win and win BIG. This is not a test of physical matchups or athletic ability. This is final exam whether the Falcons have the mental resolve to not flinch at the first sign of trouble in a meaningful game.

Turnovers happen. Interceptions hurt. The Georgia Dome fans may not be so forgiving with the threat of Personal Seat Licenses being subtracted from their household budgets.

The opponent is not the Seattle Seahawks. It is the ghosts of recent NFL Playoffs past.

DawginLex

January 7th, 2013
10:31 am

yellow world

Florida would have pounded Tech
So would Vandy
So would SC
So would Tenn
So would Mizzou
GS would have given them a 4 quarter war

We will switch schedules with you anytime you want to.

juvenal

January 7th, 2013
10:33 am

JB, 8-4 not good enough to win the acc? fsu QB coming back? who does Clemson lose? the Q is, can we win the acc………

buzzwax

January 7th, 2013
10:34 am

Falcons – Can they run the ball? If no, they lose.

UGA – Will their Defense be as good as this year? No, they will not repeat as SEC East Champs even with Murray. SC and UF look to be even better next year.

GT – USC was just not ‘into the bowl game’ they were just OVERRATED with a POOR Head Coach. If you couldn’t run the ball on GT’s front seven then you are simply OVERRATED. GTs LB’s and DB’s should be decent next year but again will be replacing 2 of 3 DL. Has CPJ recruited well along the DL? Counting on unproven RsFr,So DL in the 3-4 (Gotsis/Kallon/Gamble) with no injuries is not a recipe for success. The DL recruiting pipeline at GT will once again be the teams weakness regardless of who the DC is. UGA’s OL and RB’s will run over GT again. (And I’m a GT fan) But will the GT defense improve over 2012? How can they get any worse? So yes they have a legit shot at the ACC Coastal. Vad Lee or Justin Thomas will be electric on offense as the pipeline of OL recruits is STRONG. Miami has self imposed two bowl bans already. IF by a miracle Miami doesn’t get a third bowl ban (and disqualification from the ACCCG as they were this year) when the NCAA FINALLY comes to a decision, Miami should be the favorite as GT has to play at Miami.

Hawks – NBA – wake me up when its the playoffs.

GT hoops – Guard play wins in college ball, Mfon is not a natural PG. Can Solomon Poole grow up that fast? (was playing HS ball LAST MONTH) 2013/2014 will be the year to see if GT hoops can break into the top third of the ACC. (But SU, Pitt and ND come into the league, man ACC hoops is going to be SICK. Add Louisville in 14/15, CRAZY)

lanier

January 7th, 2013
10:34 am

1 and done falcons. nothing changes

juvenal

January 7th, 2013
10:34 am

maybe not Tenn……

GTBob

January 7th, 2013
10:39 am

The game against Miami was pretty tough to watch. The freshman played like freshman, we couldn’t make any shots, we couldn’t rebound, and we didn’t play and backside defense. It was basically a layup fest for them when they weren’t getting wide open threes. Its not very surprising though with a team this young who hasn’t played that tough of a schedule. This will be a tough stretch but we will get much better.

brad

January 7th, 2013
10:41 am

Who cares what a team is ranked in the preseason. They finished UNRANKED. Do you actually think USC was a good team? They sucked all year and Tech beat them because they are trying to get Lane Kiffen fired. If you think that was a marquis win for Tech, YOU ARE KIDDING YOURSELF. Tech wont win 6 games next year.

Matt

January 7th, 2013
10:42 am

Falcons are dooooomed. Sorry, I want them to win, but the way “the Squawks” are playing and the unimpressive up and down play from the Falcons this season, leads me to believe that they are going to blow it again.

Yellow World

January 7th, 2013
10:43 am

dawginLex, you might be right; however, would Georgia had beaten teams such as Clemson, Florida State or even Virginia Tech (depending on the day) this year??? Georgia got by because of a soft schedule and lucky breaks such as the Florida turnovers and SC’s running back getting injured again. I’m no homer, Georgia Tech was difficult to watch at times this year, but I honestly do not believe that the best overall team from the SEC East was in the championship game this year…. But then again, the East was flawed in many ways this year.

I coined the term "Fandamonium."

January 7th, 2013
10:54 am

The difference in this year’s Falcons is the way they have managed Michael (formerly known as “Burner,” but now prefers to be called “Cheeseburger”) Turner.
With little more than half the touches he had in 2011, he is well rested after the regular season this year.
Naturally Coaches Smith and Koetter advised Turner to save all his energy for the playoffs this year. All those times you saw Turner get the ball in the backfield, look at his watch, check his phone to see if it was his turn on Words With Friends, and then start chopping his feet and surveying the line to see if there were any available holes through which to trot, he was following a well-written script. Coach said “Mike, if it’s not there, don’t force it. We can get the No. 1 Seed with you averaging less than three and a half yards per carry.” And that’s what he did. If he had been out there knocking heads and trying to break the ball outside, the Falcons would have gone undefeated.
So look for Michael to turn up the heat this Sunday. You may not recognize him (so bring a photo of him from a contract year). Mark it: Turner will carry for more yards than Lynch. There, I said it.
RISE UP delusional Facon Fans!!!!!!!!

jo

January 7th, 2013
10:55 am

The Falcons scare me…but if I think coldly about it, thay have won every “must win” game this season. The Seachickens did NOT look impressive yesterday AT ALL. They looked, well, like the falcons when they play lethargically which will not be the case next Sunday,. Falcons 27-19.

Confused but not scared

January 7th, 2013
10:59 am

Matt – you’re right about “up and down play” from the Falcons, but what’s to say this isn’t an “up” week? The BIG difference from previous years is we actually showed up for primetime/spotlight games this year — Broncos, Saints, and Lions — won all 3. Don’t read into that Bucs game. If anything, it provided fuel for the fire.