Tag Archives: NFL

The Nerdy Approach to Super Bowl LI

Anyone who knows me knows that if I’d spent 1/3 the time studying in school that I do studying sports, who knows what I could have accomplished in life. But the past is the past, and what’s present and future is this pretty big football game on Sunday night.

So of course I decided to delve deeper into the numbers. I don’t just wanna know who scored the most points and who allowed the fewest, and vice versa. I want to know how. More specifically I want to know how what we do matches up with what they do. I don’t want to just look at blanket rushing yards and yards allowed, I want to know what is likely to happen if we run over the right tackle, based on our success doing it, and their success stopping opponents. So I’ve done the homework, probably much to my boss’ chagrin, and have put this together for you.

For those unfamiliar with DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) it takes into consideration things like an opponent, down and distance, field position, and score. For a more complete and accurate explanation, check the guys out at Football Outsiders where they explain it all here. It’s a far better way of looking at a team than raw counting stats. Is it perfect? No, but it paints a lot more realistic of a picture than say, the stats that tell you the Patriots defense has been the league’s top unit. Psssssst, it hasn’t, and it’s not even close.

So I’ve taken the numbers and matched them up so you can get an idea of what to expect when we have the ball, when they have it, and how the special teams might shake out. If you see red lettering, it means it’s something that’s a Falcons advantage. If it’s blue, then that particular stat and trend would favor the Patriots. If both are colored, then it’s one of those pivotal swing match-ups that will likely determine this game. And if they’re both still the standard text color, then it’s not something either team excels at, or is bad at, but, if one team does get an edge there, it could be vital.

Obviously this is no guarantee of what will happen, or even close. They still gotta strap em up on Saturday night, but I think it can give you a good idea of what to expect. Take these and do what you may, closer to game time I’ll break it down in to what I expect to see Sunday night, and where the Pats will exploit us, but also where we can return the favor.

 

Overall

Atlanta – DVOA 19.6% (3rd), Weighted DVOA 19.8% (4th), Schedule 0.1% (16th)

New England – DVOA 25.3% (1st), Weighted DVOA 34.0% (1st), Schedule -8.0% (32nd)

 

Atlanta Offense – DVOA 25.3% (1st), Weighted DVOA 24.8% (2nd), Schedule -2.5% (2nd)

N.E. Defense – DVOA -1.5% (16th), Weighted DVOA -6.0% (11th), Schedule -7.1% (32nd)

Difference – 23.8%

 

Atlanta Defense – DVOA 8.1% (27th), Weighted DVOA 5.6% (22nd), Schedule -2.0% (24th)

N.E. Offense – DVOA 21.1% (2nd), Weighted DVOA 25.0% (1st), Schedule -0.7% (10th)

Difference – -29.2%

 

Atlanta Net Yards Per Drive – 6.02 (2nd)

New England Net Yards Per Drive – 6.66 (1st)

 

Atlanta Net Points Per Drive – 0.77 (2nd)

New England Net Points Per Drive – 1.11 (1st)

 

Atlanta Net Drive Success Rate – .037 (4th)

New England Net Drive Success Rate – .080 (1st)

When we have the ball:

Running Game –

Atlanta Run Offense – 1.7 % (7th)

New England Run Defense – -23.7% (4th)

 

Devonta Freeman – DYAR 147 (12th), DVOA 6.3% (14th), Success Rate 50% (12th)

Tevin Coleman – DYAR 86 (18th), DVOA 9.7% (12th), Success Rate 45% (25th)

 

Atlanta Adjusted Line Yards – 4.09 (10th)

New England Opponent Adjust Line Yards – 3.69 (11th)

 

Atlanta Power Success – 61% (17th)

New England Opponent Power Success – 63% (14th)

 

Atlanta Stuffed – 22% (23rd)

New England Opponent Stuffed – 17% (21st)

 

Atlanta 2nd Level Yards – 1.3 (7th)

New England Opponent 2nd Level Yards – 1.03 (7th)

 

Atlanta Open Field Yards – 1.2 (3rd)

New England Opponent Open Field Yards – 0.27 (1st)

 

Atlanta Left End ALY – 3.77 (22nd), 16% of 379 runs

New England Opponent Left End ALY – 3.00 (5th), 8% of 323 runs

 

Atlanta Left Tackle ALY – 4.41 (10th), 12% of runs

New England Opponent Left Tackle ALY – 4.09 (17th), 14% of runs

 

Atlanta Mid/Guard ALY – 4.26 (4th), 42 % of runs

New England Opponent Mid/Guard ALY – 3.76 (13th), 57% of runs

 

Atlanta Right Tackle ALY – 4.78 (4th), 13% of runs

New England Opponent Right Tackle ALY – 3.08 (6th), 7% of runs

 

Atlanta Right End ALY – 3.15 (21st), 16 % of runs

New England Opponent Right End ALY – 3.73 (20th), 13% of runs

 

Passing Game-

Atlanta Pass Offense – 53.0% (1st)

New England Pass Defense – 13.9% (23rd)

 

Matt Ryan – DYAR 1918 (1st), DVOA 40.2% (1st), 83.4 (1st)

 

Julio Jones – DYAR 458 (1st), DVOA 31.8% (2nd), Catch Rate 64.3%, DPI 6/132

Mohamed Sanu – DYAR 124 (43rd), DVOA 6.7% (34th), Catch Rate 73%, DPI 1/1

Taylor Gabriel – DYAR 189 (24th), DVOA 36.6 % (1st), Catch Rate 70%, DPI 1/25

Aldrick Robinson – DYAR 90 (55th), DVOA 24.1% (NA), Catch Rate 63%, DPI 0/0

Justin Hardy – DYAR 70 (59th), DVOA 14.8% (NA), Catch Rate 68%, DPI 0/0

 

Austin Hooper – DYAR 107 (11th), 47.1% (2nd), Catch Rate 70%, DPI 1/11

Levine Toilolo – DYAR 84 (16th), 56.8% (NA), Catch Rate 68%, DPI 0/0

 

Devonta Freeman – DYAR 140 (5th), 24.5% (6th), Catch Rate 83%

Tevin Coleman – DYAR 135 (6th), 48.5% (1st), Catch Rate 78%

 

N.E. vs #1 WR – DVOA 3.8% (20th), PA/G 8.4, YPG 73.1 (League Avg 8.4 & 69.8)

N.E. vs #2 WR – DVOA 6.6% (8th), PA/G 6.3, YPG 45.6 (League Avg 6.4 & 49.4)

N.E. vs Other WR – DVOA 5.4% (19th), PA/G 7.0, YPG 50.6 (League Avg 6.8 & 50.6)

N.E. vs TE – DVOA 3.1% (14th), PA/G 8.6, YPG 49.6 (League Avg 7.4 & 54.3)

N.E. vs RB – DVOA 5.7% (20th), PA/G 7.8, YPG 50.3 (League Avg 6.7 & 40.2)

 

N.E. vs Left – DVOA -21.2% (3rd) (Avg -1.3%)

N.E. vs Middle – DVOA 19.3% (17th) (Avg 12.8%)

N.E. vs Right – DVOA 9.8% (29th) (Avg -6.8%)

Deep – DVOA 20.8% (16th); Left -44.5%, Mid 97.6%, Right 39.8% (Avg, 13.0%, 48.3%, 15.1%)

Short – DVOA -4.7% (15th); Left -14.3%, Mid 2.8%, Right -1.2% (Avg, -5.1%, 5.7%, -11.9%)

 

Atlanta Opponents Adjusted Sack Rate – 6.5% (23rd), Sacks Allowed 37

Patriots Adjusted Sack Rate – 5.1% (26th), Sacks 34

Drive Stats-

Atlanta Yards Per Drive – 40.53 (1st)

New England Yards Allowed Per Drive – 28.82 (8th)

 

Atlanta Points Per Drive – 3.06 (1st)

New England Points Allowed Per Drive – 1.42 (1st)

 

Atlanta Drive Success Rate – .778 (1st)

New England Opponent Drive Success Rate – .662 (5th)

 

Atlanta Turnovers Per Drive – .066 (2nd)

New England Forced Turnovers Per Drive – .119 (17th)

 

Atlanta Interceptions Per Drive – .042 (6th)

New England Opponent Interceptions Per Drive – 0.73 (17th)

 

Atlanta Fumbles Per Drive – .024 (3rd)

New England Opponent Fumbles Per Drive – .045 (17th)

 

Atlanta Avg LOS – 28.52 (13th)

New England Opponent Avg LOS – 24.87 (1st)

 

Atlanta Plays Per Drive – 6.15 (13th)

New England Opponent Plays Per Drive – 5.79 (11th)

 

Atlanta Punts Per Drive – .289 (1st)

New England Opponent Punts Per Drive – .452 (6th)

 

Atlanta 3 & Outs Per Drive – .145 (1st)

New England Opponent 3 & Outs Per Drive – .249 (7th)

 

Atlanta Pts/Red Zone – 5.24 (6th)

New England Opponent Pts/Red Zone – 4.55 (6th)

 

Atlanta Avg Score Differential – 4.92 (2nd)

New England Opponents Avg Score Differential – -9.76 (1st)
When they have the ball:

Running Game –

Atlanta Run Defense – 2.5% (29th)

New England Run Offense – -3.4% (17th)

Difference – 0.9%

 

Legarette Blount – DYAR 132 (14th), DVOA 1.5% (18th), Success Rate 44% (28th)

Dion Lewis – DYAR 74 (19th), DVOA 21.1% (NA), Success Rate NA

 

Atlanta Opponent Adjusted Line Yards – 4.16 (25th)

New England Adjust Line Yards – 4.15 (9th)

 

Atlanta Opponent Power Success – 63% (16th)

New England Power Success – 59% (22nd)

 

Atlanta Opponent Stuffed – 19% (18th)

New England Stuffed – 20% (16th)

 

Atlanta Opponent 2nd Level Yards – 1.29 (26th)

New England 2nd Level Yards – 1.10 (21st)

 

Atlanta Opponent Open Field Yards – 0.64 (13th)

New England Open Field Yards – 0.60 (21st)

 

Atlanta Opponent Left End ALY – 3.56 (12th), 13% of 303 runs

New England Left End ALY – 4.88 (7th), 10% of 409 runs

 

Atlanta Opponent Left Tackle ALY – 3.66 (13th), 14% of runs

New England Left Tackle ALY – 3.53 (23rd), 13% of runs

 

Atlanta Opponent Mid/Guard ALY – 4.24 (27th), 50% of runs

New England Mid/Guard ALY – 4.12 (7th), 59% of runs

 

Atlanta Opponent Right Tackle ALY – 4.99 (32nd), 15% of runs

New England Right Tackle ALY – 4.01 (12th), 13% of runs

 

Atlanta Opponent Right End ALY – 3.99 (24th), 9% of runs

New England Right End ALY – 5.48 (3rd), 4% of runs

 

Passing Game-

Atlanta Pass Defense – 11.6% (19th)

New England Pass Offense – 50.5% (2nd)

Difference – -62.1%

 

Tom Brady – DYAR 1295 (5th), DVOA 33.8% (2nd), 83.1 (2nd)

 

Julian Edelman – DYAR 48 (65th), DVOA -8.7% (69th), Catch Rate 62.0%, DPI 1/12

Chris Hogan – DYAR 145 (35th), DVOA 18.1% (11th), Catch Rate 66%, DPI 1/8

Malcom Mitchell – DYAR 131 (39th), DVOA 19.5% (7th), Catch Rate 67%, DPI 2/78

Danny Amendola – DYAR 84 (57th), DVOA 26.8% (NA), Catch Rate 79%, DPI 0/0

 

Martellus Bennett – DYAR 200 (3rd), 34.6% (3rd), Catch Rate 75%, DPI 2/7

 

James White – DYAR 161 (3rd), 19.8% (10th), Catch Rate 70%

Dion Lewis – DYAR -25 (49th), -31.1% (NA), Catch Rate 71%

 

Atlanta Vs #1 WR – DVOA -4.0% (9th), PA/G 8.4, YPG 61.3 (League Avg 8.4 & 69.8)

Atlanta Vs #2 WR – DVOA 6.6% (8th), PA/G 7.6, YPG 58.8 (League Avg 6.4 & 49.4)

Atlanta Vs Other WR – DVOA 5.4% (19th), PA/G 7.2, YPG 55.1 (League Avg 6.8 & 50.6)

Atlanta Vs TE – DVOA 3.1% (14th), PA/G 8.9, YPG 61.4 (League Avg 7.4 & 54.3)

Atlanta VS RB – DVOA 16.7% (26th), PA/G 9.1, YPG 53.5 (League Avg 6.7 & 40.2)

 

Atlanta vs Left – DVOA -8.6% (25th) (Avg -1.3%)

Atlanta vs Middle – DVOA 12.0% (14th) (Avg 12.8%)

Atlanta vs Right – DVOA -6.5% (18th) (Avg -6.8%)

Deep – DVOA 15.2% (12th); Left 19.5%, Mid 69.8%, Right -11.3% (Avg, 13.0%, 48.3%, 15.1%)

Short – DVOA 0.3% (26th); Left 5.5%, Mid 3.8%, Right -5.5% (Avg, -5.1%, 5.7%, -11.9%)

 

Atlanta Adjusted Sack Rate – 5.4% (24th), Sacks 34

Patriots Opponents Adjusted Sack Rate – 4.7% (6th), Sacks Allowed 24

Drive Stats-

Atlanta Yards Allowed Per Drive – 34.51 (26th)

New England Yards Per Drive – 35.48 (7th)

 

Atlanta Points Allowed Per Drive – 2.29 (27th)

New England Points Per Drive – 2.53 (5th)

 

Atlanta Opponents Drive Success Rate – .741 (28th)

New England Drive Success Rate – .742 (5th)

 

Atlanta Opponents Turnovers Per Drive – .117 (18th)

New England Turnovers Per Drive – .046 (1st)

 

Atlanta Opponents Interceptions Per Drive – .070 (19th)

New England Interceptions Per Drive – 0.012 (1st)

 

Atlanta Opponents Fumbles Per Drive – .047 (14th)

New England Fumbles Per Drive – .035 (8th)

 

Atlanta Opponents Avg LOS – 26.08 (3rd)

New England Avg LOS – 30.66 (2nd)

 

Atlanta Opponents Plays Per Drive – 6.29 (29th)

New England Plays Per Drive – 6.23 (7th)

 

Atlanta Opponents Punts Per Drive – .386 (25th)

New England Punts Per Drive – .416 (18th)

 

Atlanta Opponents 3 & Outs Per Drive – .205 (21st)

New England 3 & Outs Per Drive – .238 (27th)

 

Atlanta Opponents Pts/Red Zone – 5.69 (31st)

New England Pts/Red Zone – 5.23 (7th)

 

Atlanta Opponents Avg Score Differential – -8.23 (2nd)

New England Avg Score Differential – 7.41 (1st)
Special Teams

Atlanta – 2.4% (8th)

New England – 2.7% (7th)

 

Atlanta Kickoff – -3.0

New England Kick Return – -2.8

 

Atlanta Kick Return – -1.5

New England Kickoff – 11.8

 

Atlanta Avg LOS after Kickoff – 25.6 (8th)

New England Opponent Avg LOS after Kickoff – 23.46 (3rd)

 

Atlanta Opponent Avg LOS after Kickoff – 24.49 (11th)

New England Avg LOS after Kickoff – 27.10 (1st)

 

Atlanta Punt – 2.2

New England Punt Return – -7.7

 

Atlanta Punt Return – 3.5

New England Punt – 12.2

 

Atlanta Field Goal/XP – 10.9

New England Field Goal/XP – 0.1

 

Atlanta Hidden ST Yards – -4.3 (23rd)

New England Hidden St Yards – 11.2 (4th)

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Filed under Falcons, NFL, Playoffs, Sports

Falcons/Saints, It Runs Deep

It may be underrated nationwide, but make no mistake about it, the rivalry between the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints is as nasty as any in pro sports, maybe sports period. Put quite simply, there may not be two fan bases that hate each other more than the Falcons and Saints.

What started as an innocuous rivalry between two awful franchises who essentially knew that their best chance for satisfying victory every season lie with each other, has developed into a full on 365 day a year cacophony of vitriol, disdain, and pure disgust.

For each person they have a different reason and story for when the hate truly blossomed from a healthy dislike mixed with a tiny bit of compassion into a full-blown disgust for anything relating to the other. I know the very date for me, I know the very place I was sitting, I know the very company I was with, and unfortunately, ESPN likes to constantly remind me of it on a regular basis. Not to mention, so do Saints fans.

You could add up my hatred for the Busch boys, for Jim Leyritz, for the Yankees, the Gators, and the Cowboys, and you’re still essentially putting Pluto next to Jupiter when you compare it to the level of contempt held for the Saints.

I had my hatred for this team, this city, and this state confirmed a couple of weeks ago. I decided to dine at Just Loaf’n. I went due to the fact that there was a scout mob for it, and I’m a cheap bastard. Additionally, in a cruel, cruel twist of fate, and quite possibly God’s cruelest joke on me, cajun food is my absolute favorite cuisine. It’s really not fair.

But I digress.

In any event, I walk into this little restaurant and proceed to the counter to make my order. I’ve never had a muffaletta so I decided this place had the look of something resembling authentic cajun food, so that’s what I ordered. Of course they have no muffaletta bread. So, still trying to stay in the spirit of true cajun food, I order the alligator po’ boy. And of course, they didn’t have any alligator.

So here am I at the counter, my first two options not available, and I’m thinking to myself, “this is why I hate New Orleans”. And if any of you have seen me in a drive through, or at a restaurant when a waiter to comes to take my order, you know I absolutely hate making on the spot decisions about food when I feel rushed. So, it’s safe to say, at this point, I’m not in a very comforting situation. So I make a hurried decision and go with the basic shrimp po’ boy. I’m flustered at this point, so I just out of natural reaction, hand my card over to the lady behind the counter.

Forgetting to use the scout mob. Which was the only reason I’d have set foot in what is turning out to be a truly God forsaken place.

But it gets worse. Upon paying for my food, which was twice what I was expecting, I turn to the right, by the counter, and see one of the most awful creations in the history of man.

This should be illegal in Georgia.

This should be illegal in Georgia.

At this point, I’m like, “Okay God, I get the message, never step foot in New Orleans. I hate it. It hates me. We’re on the same page here”. But no, my punishment wasn’t over yet.

After the less than memorable meal, well memorable in that the special “cajun fries” tasted like they’d been reheated in a microwave, I went to the gas station next door to procure a Mountain Dew.

On Monday morning, while going to work, with said Mountain Dew in my bag, I noticed that my bag seemed to be leaking, and I couldn’t understand why. That is, until I opened and realized everything in my bag (and if you know me, you know I CANNOT STAND when my magazines get crinkled, much less wet, or soiled) was submerged in Mountain Dew. The plastic top to this particular Mountain Dew was punctured, and while laid on its side in my bag, the contents of the bottle poured into my bag, creating a small pond that goldfish could have happily survived in. If only because I assume swimming in a sea of Mountain Dew is a pretty awesome thing.

It took a matter of seconds to remember where I got this Mountain Dew.

Fuck New Orleans.

And while the Saints do have their ring, and I am happy for like one Saints fan on this planet for that happening, though, the joy is tempered the longer we go without one, we still have more wins in this rivalry (49-43), the longest winning streak (10) and the most lopsided victory (55 points). We’ve also won three of the last five and are fresh off a sweep.

So, keep your bounty gate tainted ring New Orleans. When we get one, and we will, you can shut all the way up.

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But before I conclude, I leave with you my 15 favorite games from this underrated, under appreciated tale of two cities.

  1. 1991 NFC Wildcard Game: Atlanta 27 New Orleans 20 in New Orleans – Denying the Saints their first playoff win another year, IN New Orleans?
  2. 1973: Atlanta 62 New Orleans 7 in New Orleans – most lopsided margin of victory in series history
  3. 1991: Atlanta 23 New Orleans 20 OT in New Orleans – It denied the Saints a share of the 2nd best record in the NFC, and set the stage for our beating them in the Superdome just one month later in the playoffs
  4. 2010: Atlanta 27 New Orleans 24 in New Orleans – Overtime games in this series will be the death of me, but overtime wins in their building give me life
  5. 1995: Atlanta 19 New Orleans 14 in Atlanta – Jessie Tuggle, “The Hammer” with an interception near the goal line to seal it. My first in person experience of the Falcons/Saints rivalry
  6. 2002: Atlanta 37 New Orleans 35 in New Orleans – New Orleans, meet Michael Vick
  7. 2008: Atlanta 34 New Orleans 20 in Atlanta – New Orleans, meet Matt Ryan
  8. 2004: Atlanta 24 New Orleans 21 in Atlanta – I was there for this one too when Vick found Crumpler in the endzone late for the game winning touchdown
  9. 1980: Atlanta 41 New Orleans 14 in New Orleans – Beating those guys by 27 in their building during the 1980 magical season? Yeah, c’mon with it.
  10. 1981: Atlanta 41 New Orleans 10 in New Orleans – Following that up by beating them by 31 the next year
  11. 1982: Atlanta 35 New Orleans 0 in Atlanta – second largest margin of victory in series history
  12. 1981: Atlanta 27 New Orleans 0 in Atlanta – the first of consecutive home shutouts against the Saints
  13. 2005: Atlanta 34 New Orleans 31 in New Orleans  – Blowing the lead with 46 seconds left hurt, going down the field to reclaim it with :04 left was exhilarating.
  14. 2012: Atlanta 23 New Orleans 13 in Atlanta – national television defensive dominance of Payton and Breezy boy
  15. 2014: Atlanta 30 New Orleans 14 in New Orleans – Osi waving goodbye to the Saints while strolling into the endzone in their building to finish off the sweep? Give me more of that please.

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Filed under Falcons, NFL, Personal

Don’t Have to Wait on Legal Process to Punish Pro Athletes

I appreciate what Adrian Peterson said. That said, he should not be in uniform this week. Or any week, until he’s had his day in court. Same thing with Greg Hardy, who, actually, HAD his day in court, and same with Ray McDonald. The league needs to suspends these players, with pay, until the legal process plays out.

Suspending them with pay does a couple things across a broad spectrum that make it better than these random indefinite suspensions handed about by commissioner Roger Goodell, and better than letting them continue to play.

For starters, it sends the message that has somehow got lost again, that to play in the NFL, you are held to a higher standard. You can’t put yourself in a position to face such charges.Charges that stem among the most violent, and most despicable in our society are serious matters. If you’re actually being charged with domestic violence, or child abuse, or rape, or anything within that framework, then you’ve put yourself in a really bad situation that jeopardizes your career, and puts your team at risk. No court system is going to come after a high profile athlete with access to high profile attorneys without some decent evidence, the scrutiny and backlash of doing so would undermine political and law careers all over the place. So if there are charges, if there’s smoke, then you don’t get to play until we know there’s no fire, and/or know the extent of the fire.

Suspending the players with pay would likely deter their lawyers from pushing back, and pushing back court dates to maximize their client’s appeal to prospective employers, or their current one. And, by still paying them, if they’re found innocent, you haven’t created an issue where you denied them their money for something the courts say they didn’t do. You avoid grievances and other sticky matters for the NFLPA and NFL to have to dance around.

You also open the door to negotiations with the courts and the NFL. You suddenly are in a hurry to resolve this, because you want back on the football field. So maybe you take a plea, maybe the league outlines a specific plan for you to follow to come back to the league, and you reach an agreement with both the league and the courts, and you get the situation settled in a timely fashion. After all, if you really want to play the game you love, and want to help your team, wouldn’t you want to expedite the process? I guess the issue with this sort of punishment and reaction is you’ll see which guys really only care about that check.

Once the courts have ruled, you can extend the punishment, you can fine them a couple game checks or some other amount, or add to the suspensions. Or, you can consider it time served and chalk it up that way and the whole thing is over.

Don’t think it’s fair they can’t play till then? Too effing bad. Regular people, especially the ones targeted most frequently by law enforcement, get these charges, and they sit, and they sit, and they sit, in jail. They can sit in jail for months waiting on the legal process to play out. And of course, this is because those with the money, and the attorneys, get expedited cases, and preferential treatment.

So other members of society will sit for months waiting to go in front of a judge over a suspended license violation, then be told all they need to do is a pay a fine. Or that their sentence is approximately one fourth the time they spent in jail, but the judge is gracious enough to grant them time served. Never mind the weeks or months spent in jail. Never mind the job lost. Never mind the eviction and repossessions. And yet we’re shocked when they’re back in jail in a few weeks, on more serious charges.

So excuse me, I will not shed one tear, or cry foul one tiny bit because a football player is told he can’t play professional football until his legal matters are settled.

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Filed under NFL

Just Who is my Favorite Sports Team?

Someone asked me recently, of my favorite teams, which is actually my true favorite. My immediate answer was, “Chase Elliott”. But as I sit and think about this question, and how I’d answer if asked again, I think I might reconsider. As I thought, it got me thinking, just which teams ARE my favorite. Which teams would winning a championship mean more for me? And which ones is a championship so unfathomable that perhaps, it falls down the list simply because imagining it occurring is too far fetched for me to even attempt to wrap my arms around how I’d feel. So I’ve thought a lot about this, and I’ve come up with a list, in order, of the 25 things I’d most like to see occur in sports during my lifetime.

1. Atlanta Falcons win Super Bowl- I know I said Chase Elliott was my favorite team/driver, whatever you want to call it, and he is. However, I get to watch him 30 to 36 weekends a year. He’s also young, it’s his first year in major NASCAR racing. There’s going to be plenty of time for that.

The Atlanta Falcons however, are not young. The Falcons are nearing 50 years old, and still no championship. They were instilled as my favorite team growing up because they were my dad’s favorite team. It didn’t hurt that of the stick and ball sports, football is my favorite, and it’s not close. But not only that, the Atlanta Falcons are, besides the Elliotts, the only TRUE professional team based out of Georgia, and the only one based out of Atlanta, the Dream notwithstanding. Yes, the Braves and Hawks call Atlanta home now, but they didn’t originate here.

The Atlanta Falcons are Atlanta’s and Atlanta’s alone. We share no history (though at times, pawning some of this history off on another city wouldn’t exactly stink) with another city, no records, no uniforms, no logos, no anything. They’ve always been, the ATLANTA Falcons.

The day that this team brings a championship to Atlanta is one, that truthfully, I can’t even begin to describe the way I even think I’d feel. And I know what I’d ultimately actually feel would reach far, far beyond what I can conjure up in my mind.

2. Chase Elliott win a Sprint Cup Championship- As mentioned, Elliott is my “favorite”. If this question was posed 11 years ago, I would have put Bill Elliott winning a championship at 1, the Falcons winning a Super Bowl at 2. As much as I loved the Falcons as a kid, they didn’t compare to how much I loved “Awesome Bill”. And now that his son his here? I love the Falcons, but not like I root for this kid. The investment is deep. The history is deeper. The personal meaning, deeper than both together.

Through all the ups and downs of my relationship with my father, there is one constant. An Elliott in a racecar. There’s always an Elliott that we can come together over. Whether it was reminiscing about the good ole days of Bill’s hey day, or even his not so stellar moments, or it’s talking about the incredibly bright future of his son Chase, we will always have an Elliott. And for that, nothing can replace that. And that’s not saying the Falcons aren’t a “me and dad thing”, but it’s not close to our connection to the Elliotts, as I mentioned in a post nearly four full years ago.

So the day Chase Elliott hoists that championship trophy above his head, I’ll remember being there in 1988 at Atlanta International Raceway to watch his dad hoist one, and I hope, when it happens, I’m with my dad.

3. Georgia Tech College Football National Championship- This one is one I almost dropped lower, simply because of the improbability. Not to mention, I was alive for one of these, and despite being only five years old, I actually have vivid memories of Shawn Jones and William Bell running all through Nebraska’s defense in Orlando. However, it’s that improbability that ranks it so high on the list. Everyone knows I pull for Georgia when they don’t play Tech, and because I wasn’t alive for Georgia’s national title, and because there are so many other rabid SEC fans around here, I almost put them higher than Tech on this list. Then I thought, not only does a Tech title put it in the face of THOSE SEC fans, it does it to the Georgia fans I’ve heard nothing but ridicule from for almost the last quarter century. But alas, it’s not going to happen. But I can dream, right?

4. Georgia College Football National Championship- Like I mentioned above, I almost put this above Tech winning one, but it comes in a step below. I know some Tech fans may disown me for that thought, and some may even disown me for having them here, but that’s fine. I like all my home teams. When a team from Georgia plays a team from another state, I want the local boys to whip their ass. Every. Single. Time.

Beyond that though, I love Mark Richt. He’s everything right about college football and receives far, far, FAR more flak than he deserves. Whether it’s people incredulously going on about how he’s, “lost control of the program”, or the players, or to the even more asinine arguments about his lack of a national title, he receives unjust criticism.

The national title argument in particular irks me because it’s so stupid. Because the argument is so ignorant. I’m not here to get into details about that. But, if Richt could win one in Athens, it would shut those people up. And for that reason alone, them winning a national title makes the top four.

5. Chase Elliott Winning the Daytona 500- See above for the reasoning. The Daytona 500, in many ways, is almost the equivalent to a championship, so if Chase can pull that one off, it’s going to be one very, very special day.

6. Atlanta Braves World Series- Yes, we have one. And I was plenty old enough to enjoy and appreciate it. But not as much as I’d enjoy and appreciate it now. All the World Series losses as well that have added up over the years only add to the need for a championship. Hearing it from all these teams who over the past 25 years have made the playoffs, maybe 2 times, maybe three, or even five or six, but have two World Series rings, about how much greater an organization than the Braves they are (though currently employing Fredi Gonzalez gives these claims merit) gets old. A second trophy would shut them up.

7. Chase Elliott Nationwide Championship- It might seem high, seeing as how the Nationwide Series, or Xfinity Series, or whatever it will be next year, is basically the AAA minor leagues of NASCAR. However, unlike other minor leagues, they’re on major TV every week, they’re a multi million dollar sport, and, they’re the second most popular form of motorsports in America. So it’s not your typical minor league circuit. Throw in the fact that for Chase to win one, he’d have to do so at age 18 or 19…. It’d be pretty cool. Plus, with the way sports are around here in Georgia, it might be the closest we get to a championship in the next few years, well, until Chase goes and wins one at the Cup level.

8. Georgia Tech Basketball National Title- They’ve been closer than any other team in this state over the past 15 years when it comes to winning a title, though, you could argue that the 2012 Georgia football team was pretty dadgum close as well. They actually have played for a championship in this century. Nobody else say can say that. So there’s that. But, while I love my Jackets, and am an ardent follower and supporter, basketball just isn’t there with football, NASCAR, and even baseball. Notice, I still haven’t gotten to the Hawks yet. Being a Georgia Tech fan however is hard. We’re outnumbered, and the good times are becoming fewer and farther between. Something to cheer about, period, would be nice. But if Tech is going to win something, while I’d pick baseball first, the odds are much, much better in happens on the hardwood than on the Flats.

9. Kasey Kahne Sprint Cup Championship- Kasey Kahne is here because of Bill Elliott. When Elliott retired following the 2003 season, Kasey Kahne was tabbed to be his replacement in the no. 9 car, and immediately, I became a fan. At this point, there was no sign of a future Elliott coming into the sport, so I had to find a new guy to pull for. That Kasey was a contender off the bat, with so many agonizingly close runner-up finishes (much like Elliott) in his rookie year, pulling for him became easy, and difficult at the same time. Kahne is a guy with a lot of talent, that’s yet to put it all together. Watching him will his way into the chase (NASCAR’s version of the playoffs) this year with a gutty drive at Atlanta was pretty cool. Watching him finally put everything together and win a championship would be downright awesome. For ten years I’ve been a Kahne fan, but he better hurry. Once Chase Elliott arrives on the Sprint Cup circuit, he’s no longer going to be my top dog. Maybe he can pull it off this year, who knows?

10. Atlanta Hawks NBA Championship- I probably dropped them below Georgia State simply because of how infuriated and frustrated I am with the mess this organization is right now. And it’s probably because it’s been such a frustrating and infuriating disaster for so long, that they have fallen so far. Nevertheless, they’re still my team.

11. Georgia Tech Baseball College World Series

12. Kasey Kahne Winning the Daytona 500

13. North Carolina Basketball National Championship

14. Georgia Southern Football Being Ranked

15. Georgia State Basketball Final Four

16. Georgia Basketball National Championship

17. Atlanta Dream WNBA Championship

18. Georgia Tech Basketball ACC Tournament Championship

19. Georgia State Football Conference Championship

20. Kennesaw State Basketball NCAA Tournament Bid

21. Kansas City Royals World Series

22. Detroit Lions Super Bowl

23. North Carolina Football National Championship

24. Buffalo Bills Super Bowl

25. Cleveland Browns Super Bowl

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NFL Power Rankings: Falcons Top Team; Comments on Saints; NFC North Best Division Despite Lions Atrocious Defense? Steelers Done?

1.  Atlanta- Finally, a change of identity, even though the personnel has been screaming for it for a while now, and look at the results. Atlanta has led by at least 20 points in each of its first three games. That’s what good teams do. Even more impressive, they completely put away the two games they played on the road….. in different time zones.

2.  Houston- You could almost call the Texans 1a, as they have the same league leading point differential, but there is one huge deficiency in this team right now that keeps it a spot below Atlanta; special teams. Consider that on three of five kick returns, Trindon Holliday hasn’t made it back to the 20. Worse, Shayne Graham has just 7 touchbacks in 18 kickoffs. Those field position issues add up against good teams.

3.  Baltimore- You know Baltimore is kicking themselves for the way they lost to the Eagles, but the win over New England, especially after a very poor opening of the game, and the Ravens have established themselves as a prime contender. The big difference is the offense this year is getting the job done and performing at an elite level.

4.  San Francisco- Expect Jim Harbaugh to use the loss to Minnesota has a nice teaching tool. Everyone was ready to anoint the Niners as the best team in the NFL after week two. I think the 49ers players were too. I know people were talking about this defense as easily being the leagues best unit after week one, but it’s been surprisingly mediocre thus far in the season.

5.  Green Bay- First they open the season in San Francisco, then we have the replacement debacle. For all that, they went out west against what was expected to be two of the top defenses in the league, and should have won at least one. People forget that against Seattle, Aaron Rodgers had to use a kickers ball on the two point conversion play, and a bogus roughing the passer call wiped out an interception that would have set the Packers up in good scoring position and iced the game. People say it shouldn’t have been close enough for a hail-mary to win the game, and they’re right.

6.  New England- The Arizona loss was disappointing. But to Bill Belichik the loss to Baltimore was the most maddening. Maybe it was because his defense allowed almost as many passing yards to the Ravens as it had allowed in the first two games of the season combined. Facing a quality offense, the Patriots surrendered over 500 yards of offense. That definitely will make for an angry Hoodie.

7.  Arizona- Don’t tell me this is because I’m not buying them. Don’t tell me because I think Miami could potentially beat them this week that I’m not buying them. I fully expect the Cardinals to be around the entire season. But I also know that Kevin Kolb has yet to prove himself as a consistent game manager, as he has successfully been thus far this season. It’s not the defense that needs to show me anything. I just need to know Kolb can keep enabling the defense to force teams into submission.

8.  Chicago- The offense, it has it’s obvious problems. They can’t protect the guy under center, and truthfully, if you’re a Bears player, do you really want to “protect” Jay Cutler? Okay, in the spirit of winning football games, yes. The offense has been dreadful, but no team in the NFL has a better combination of defense and special teams. Even Jay Cutler can’t keep this team from contending all year.

9.  New York Giants- As long as they have Eli Manning, they’re going to contend and be very good. Eli may never put up the gaudy numbers his elder brother has, but he may ultimately be better remembered. The Giants defense has shown some holes, anyone who lets the Bucs score as many points as they did has questions. And, it’s not like the Cowboys offense has been on fire in their two games following the season opener. But generally speaking, Eli and company find ways to win ballgames. No team in football gains more yards per drive than the Giants do.

10.Minnesota- Am I crazy? Don’t forget how close this team is to being 3-0. Okay, it’s equally as close to being 1-2. That said, the one game in which there was no doubt? It came against the 49ers when everyone thought they were head and shoulders above everyone else the best team in the NFL. The Vikings at the moment don’t do any one thing exceptionally well, but they’re solid in most every phase. If there’s one area of their game that could use some substantial improvement, it would be the running game. And that isn’t far fetched to foresee as Adrien Peterson continues his return form a torn ACL.

11.Seattle- They’re 2-1, but everyone in their right mind knows they deserve to be 1-2. That said, they had a chance to win late at Arizona, and defensively dominated the Packers for the first half on Monday night. Offensively, they don’t really have a clue, and eventually that will probably catch up to them. But for right now, you’d be hard pressed to argue that many more than 10 teams in the league are better.

12.Denver- Denver wins at Pittsburgh to open the year and then proceeds to drop two in a row, but only a combined 12 points to the two best teams in the league. So, let’s keep the shovels away from Peyton Manning and the Broncos. The AFC West looks like anything but a treacherous gauntlet, so Denver isn’t going away.

13.Dallas- The Cowboys should be weekly ranked compared to the Cowboys teams of previous weeks. It is absolutely impossible to get a feel for this team, and as long as the coaching staff and core talent remains in place, it will stay as such. They can be world beaters one day, embarrass themselves the next week, and then scratch out a hard fought victory over a team they should have beaten easily. Welcome to Jerry World.

14.San Diego- San Diego fans were probably feeling a bit good about themselves after starting the year 2-0 and just breezing thru Tennessee. Lost in all of that though might have been a dose of reality that could have been served by remembering the victory over the Raiders was aided greatly by the lack of a long snapper for the Silver and Black. Fear not though, the reality check was delivered loud and clear by Matt Ryan and the Falcons this past Sunday afternoon. It will be very interesting to see how they bounce back from this on the road against Kansas City.

15.Pittsburgh- This might be a little bit high, and might be entirely on reputation alone. In fact, I’m positive it is. It is based completely on the fact that I expect them to turn it around, at any time, meaning, I wouldn’t want to play them this week. Wait, nobody does. Perfect. Quick little question though, on what opponent did both Denver and Oakland post their highest scoring game in the young season? If you said Pittsburgh, you win the grand prize. The Steelers defense has been among the leagues worst, particularly against the passing game. Not having Ryan Clark against Denver, okay, I’ll grant them that. But they also got to face the Mark Sanchez led Jets aerial…..we won’t call it an assault, so…..yeah, you get the point, and then the Raiders. And they still rank so poorly. Pittsburgh doesn’t want to admit it, and argues they will use it for motivation, but that defense plain and simple, is old.

16.New York Jets- This team is 2-1? Please, someone explain how. Oh, right, because Miami absolutely had no interest in winning last week, at least kicker Dan Carpenter didn’t. I should punish the Jets more for the win they barely eeked out, but I’ll let them get by on the fact they’ve won two of three games. They haven’t been very good on offense or defense, and their advantage on special teams comes mostly due to Carpenter’s struggles on Sunday. I guess moving Joe McKnight to cornerback is going to solve everything, right? And remember the last high profile passer to struggle with a 50% completion percentage, well, at least you might get 1,000 yards rushing from him. So, I mean if the quarterback can’t hit half his passes, and can’t run, maybe a change there might not be the worst thing.

17.Buffalo- Oh, Buffalo, why did you have to lay that egg in week one? I wanted so much to give you guys a lot of love, but that 48-20 beat down won’t just disappear. Beat New England this week, and then we’ll see what happens. The Bill have recovered nicely, and have discovered that no team in football has a better trio of backs. Some may have thought Tashard Choice is only here because of his relationship with Chan Gailey. No, it’s because he’s a good running back.

18.Detroit- This team reminds me more and more of the early 90s Falcons. They can fling it all over the place with a cannon arm at quarterback, they have big time talent at the receiver position, and a couple backs who can make some plays. But they can’t run when they have to, and they can’t stop a soul to save their life. Consider the Rams and Titans have combined for 64 points against them. Against their other four opponents they’ve combined for 63. Their offense is good enough that they can compete. Good enough to make the playoffs in this improved division? Don’t think so.

19.Philadelphia- It was once said if you turn the ball over, you lose, that simple. Don’t tell the Eagles that. And certainly don’t tell Michael Vick this. He can talk all he wants about his renewed work ethic, and his film study, and his attention to detail. Shut it Michael. He is still reckless with the football, can’t make adjustments at the line, and doesn’t read defenses well. Now, can he win football games? Absolutely. But not when his coach insists on him playing in an offense that ultimately requires quarterbacks that are none of those three things. As long as Andy Reid insists Vick can be a pocket passer, the turnovers will continue, and the losses will soon mount. Vick flourished in Atlanta with the support of a strong running game and an offense built around his talents, even if he didn’t work at them. Maybe it’s Andy Reid’s ego, I don’t know, but he’s mismanaging a dynamic playmaker, and perhaps writing out his own death certificate as Eagles head coach. I mean, for Pete’s sake, Matt Ryan, Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning have been more valuable with their legs this season.

20.Miami- Ryan Tannehill may be in over his head, but he’s not so submerged that Miami can’t wind up a solid football team. They play good defense, and despite giving their rookie quarterback next to nothing to throw to, should be competitive in most games they play. Most games they play won’t be a season opener on the road against a Super Bowl favorite. The Dolphins schedule is ridiculously manageable all the way thru November. There’s a possibility when they play the Patriots in December, they’ve put themselves in the playoff discussion.

21.Tampa Bay- So the Buccaneers have apparently gone from an idiot who had no idea what he was doing (Raheem Morris), to a meat head who wants to make sure everyone knows he knows what he’s doing, and how he’s going to do it. It appears to get as far away from the Morris disaster as possible, the Bucs could have possibly gone too far the other direction. The defense is good, and helps make them competitive, but bottom line, Josh Freeman is not. He still doesn’t get it. The only quarterbacks who have been of more harm to their teams thus far this year are Cutler, Brandon Weeden, and Vick, and thats because each have twice the turnovers Freeman does. Other than that, there may not be a worse starting quarterback in the league. For a fourth year starter, this cannot happen. When you’re dead last in the NFL in passing yards allowed, and 30th in passing yards for yourself, in today’s game, you’re going to stink. This ranking is reflective entirely of the fact they’ve managed to still find a way to be competitive in their two losses.

22.Cincinnati- Sure, 2-1 is nice, but one score wins over the Redskins and Browns don’t equate to a whole lot of respect. Especially in your only real test, you were blasted out of the stadium by the Ravens 44-10. The offense, the passing game in particular, is exciting, and will score points, and will win shootouts with other mediocre to bad teams. But their defense, in particular against the run, won’t let them beat anybody that’s worth their salt. Their run defense isn’t just the worst run defense in football, it’s the worst by a wide, wide margin.

23.Indianapolis- Before the season a Colts fan tried to tell me this was going to be a very competitive team this season, and that a playoff berth may not be in the cards, a 6 or 7 win season that might leave them in the discussion into September was. I told him no way. Beating the Vikings by three, at home, and then losing at home to the Jaguars doesn’t dispel that theory any. Maybe he met competitive in the division, if so, well, competitive to avoid last place? Absolutely, it’s an absolutely horrible division. So, maybe in that sense, yes, they’re going to be competitive.

24.Washington- Will someone please tell Robert Griffin III that every team hits every quarterback? Or at least every quarterback they can get to. Why does he act shocked, or think we should be shocked, that teams are trying to hit him, hit him often, and hit him hard? If I hear one more post game press conference where he talks about how he’s “going to keep getting up”, I swear….Aside from that, he’s been as good as advertised, maybe better. The Redskins have yet to score under 28 points in a game this season. Unfortunately they’ve yet to allow less than 31.

25.Carolina- The discussion over Cam Newton’s leadership abilities not withstanding, there is plenty of cause for concern in Charlotte. Jonathan Stewart back on the field certainly helps, he’s shown again to be a far more effective rusher for the Panthers than DeAngelo Williams has, and that should benefit Newton, who has struggled to find the electricity and magic he had last season. Granted, there isn’t a lot to film wise to figure out Newton. Defenses would adjust, and easily. The question is, can he? This is where the dangers of taking a quarterback number one overall who only played one season, and for all intents and purposes had a very, very limited playbook.

26.Oakland- The come back win against the Steelers was nice, but it’d been better if it had been in the 1970s. As is, that wasn’t a very good Steelers team. What’s more telling is that in their first two games they were perhaps single handedly undone by losing a long snapper to injury, and were embarrassed by a Miami team that has questions galore on offense. Yep, same old Raiders right now. These next two games, at Denver, then at Atlanta, will make or break their season. Lose them both, and the wheels will be off before Halloween

27.New Orleans- I’m so giddy I can’t even talk about it.

28.Tennessee- The Tians are bad, really, really bad. And I’m really having second thoughts about them being here, but they did beat the Lions, so I have to give them credit for that. But if not for an incredible special teams day, that wouldn’t have happened. Remember, they lost their opening two games by a combined 72-23 score. Granted, those were expected playoff contenders New England and San Diego, but even still….. That’s not even remotely competitive. Another long year is coming in Nashville, and I won’t even talk about Chris Johnson.

29.St.Louis- Once again the offense is atrocious, and that’s having played two of the league’s worst defenses already. They play in a division where defense is put on a premium, and while theirs is good, it’s not at the level of the other three. Unfortunately, the other offer more promise to put up points against a quality defense than the Rams do. The Rams have done a poor job of protecting Sam Bradford, and giving him viable weapons to throw to. As a result, we can’t come down too quickly on him, but the clock is ticking.

30.Cleveland- This is perhaps the only offense that’s on the Rams level. It’s a shame too. Trent Richardson is a mighty fine football player at running back. Unfortunately, there are questions all over the rest of the offense. Despite all that, they are 0-3 but with their losses by an average of just six points per game. Does that mean we should expect a rebound? No, it’s a bad football team. But at least they’re worth watching a full game for.

31.Jacksonville- Maybe Maurice Jones-Drew is starting to get his legs under him. The Jaguars can only hope, because he literally is their only hope. You thought Obi-Wan Kenobi felt alone watching Leia’s message? Imagine Jones-Drew looking around the huddle.

32. Kansas City- So am I saying the worst team in football just beat the Saints? Yes, I am. Beating an 0-3 team in overtime means nothing, and right now, beating the Saints doesn’t add a whole lot of credibility either. Congratulations, you joined Carolina and Washington. What stands out more is the fact that they were blown out by both Atlanta and Buffalo. The performance in the first half against Atlanta, and the second half against New Orleans show you what this team can do. But what when you do that for just 1/3 of the season, you start to believe the other side of them is what you’re going to see most often.

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There’s No Shame In Retiring Today Due to Injury Peyton

Peyton Manning has a decision to make. A very difficult decision that even the greatest of professional sports stars all to often seem to wreck up.

To play, or not to play?

For Peyton Manning, yes, he could attempt to return from what clearly is a serious injury, and threat to his well-being, and continue to showcase why he’s one of the finest quarterbacks, if not the finest, to ever play the game.

He could also return, be no longer capable of performing at the ridiculously high level he has throughout his career and beginning tarnishing a legacy. This particular possibility creates a very slippery scope, one where the pride and ego of a man who essentially has been the coach of his professional football teams may feel a drive to come back another year, and another, in a desperate attempt to prove he still “had it”. Such a downhill slide would only further remove the luster of one of exceptional career.

Worse than either of those however, he could return and suffer a debilitating, life altering injury that prevents him from doing all the things he once perhaps took for granted, besides of course throwing touchdown passes. Were this to happen, Manning would suddenly be not only unable to be a husband and father the way he always assumed he could, he’d be vilified by many as a selfish arrogant athlete who put his own ego and desire ahead of that of his family. That’s not exactly a way to be remembered.

Or, Manning could just acknowledge that his time has come. He could hang it up today, and nobody will ultimately really remember that ultimately it was indeed injury that forced him out of the game. They’ll remember that even in his 13th season at age 34, Manning threw for more yards than he had in all but one season prior, and threw for as many touchdowns as he had in all but one previous season. In other words, they’ll remember Peyton Manning in his final year being just about as good as Peyton Manning ever was.

In taking that route though, Manning must accept he has to leave the game on terms other than his own. He must accept that injury, the laws of age, and physics, have taken a toll, and it’s time to move on. Such acceptance is hard for many of us to accept in many aspects of our own lives. You take the egos and pride of high profile superstar athletes, and those who can do it become few and far between.

In fact, the number of athletes who weren’t able to accept it is rather depressing. Instead of retiring and walking away at the top of their games, they hang on, and become trending topics on twitter. And not for adoration and praise, but because they’ve become the punchline of thousands of jokes across the internet.

They become the player our kids look at and laugh, unaware of their former prowess on the playing field. To a generation they became a joke, a nobody. To an entire generation, there is no thought given to the fact that at one time they had reached legendary status of almost mythical proportions. Nope, they’re just the old guy that stinks and needs to be replaced by the new young superstar.

Manning need only look no further than two former superstar quarterbacks with similar ties to see the pitfalls of failing to realize when it’s time to let it go.

Remember the guy who Peyton Manning once wore black high tops to memorialize for? That Johnny Unitas fellow? Of course you do. But do you remember the way his career ended. Let’s hope you don’t. While Unitas struggled at the tail of his career, throwing just 10 touchdowns to 22 interceptions in his final three years, that’s not what the end of his career is remembered by.

Unitas did something nobody thought he would ever do. He did something nobody could have envisioned Peyton Manning do. He put on a helmet with something besides a blue horseshoe on it. No tale of Unitas’ career is complete without that little footnote at the end reminding us that he ultimately did not finish his career with his Baltimore Colts, but rather flailing around unceremoniously as a San Diego Charger.

Just because Baltimore Colts fans had to deal with seeing such an fathomable sight, it doesn’t mean the Indianapolis version must suffer the same fate.

But there’s an even better lesson to be learned from someone linked a bit stronger to Manning.

While not from Louisiana, Brett Favre, like Manning, is a native of the Bayou region in general. A Mississippi kid, the same state where Peyton’s father, and perhaps soon to be more famous younger brother played collegiately, Favre replaced Archie Manning as the hero of the gulf coast region, only to be replaced by Peyton.

Unfortunately for Favre, a lot of the reason Manning has supplanted him is because of…well…Brett Favre.

Favre memorably retired his way out of Green Bay, and into another shade of green in New York with the Jets. There he proceeded to injure his shoulder and along the way lead the entire NFL in interceptions thrown.

Yes, Favre bounced back in 2009 with a season for the ages, but little of that is remembered. What’s remembered his how he had managed to snake his way out of Green Bay into the arms of bitter rival Minnesota through his detour with the Jets.

What is remembered, that with a Super Bowl appearance in his grasp, Favre made one of the dumbest throws in NFL playoff football history. Coincidentally enough, this took place in Peyton’s home town of New Orleans against Archie’s Saints.

During that particular NFC championship game Favre was hit, and hit often. Injuries to his ankle likely would have left him unable to play in the Super Bowl had he not given the football game away (much like he had given away his last opportunity to win an NFC championship game in 2008, against, ironically enough, Eli’s Giants) so maybe the interception was a moot point.

WHat wasn’t though was a once proud warrior, a legendary folk hero, laying on the Superdome turf, beaten, battered, defeated, and through largely the fault of his own.

There was no way Favre would go out that way, everyone knew that. Thus began that slippery slope. Favre tried again one more time with Minnesota. Only to again, be besieged by injury and ineffectiveness.

Over Favre’s final three years, plus one game, the memories are of two blown Super Bowl appearances, two sub-par seasons, and an injury prone old man. Not how you endear yourself to the younger generation.

Beyond that, the ridicule that came with the ever-lasting Favre saga each and every offseason had become so much a part of everyday life, it finally became un-noticed. You think Tim Tebow coverage is a bit excessive now, I think we all know the Favre love-fest and obsession was far worse.

But in reading what you’ve just read, where was the talk about the gun slinger, care free kid who played football, played it damn well, and had a ton of fun doing it? Oh, right, it wasn’t mentioned, it’s long a distant memory.

Don’t let what made you great become a distant memory to a side-show circus where you undermine what was one of the finer careers in professional football.

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Perhaps We’ve All Been Fooled

Trying to put a positive spin on what took place at Soldier Field last Sunday afternoon has proven to be a task too daunting to accomplish. In fact, it’s just downright impossible. The simple fact of the matter is that the Atlanta Falcons were a terrible football team on Sunday, and that is not a good thing considering the Philadelphia Eagles are heading to town.

I don’t know if you remember this or not, but the last two times the Falcons have been on national television at home, things have not gone well. Tony Gonzalez can talk all he wants about how people shouldn’t be writing this team off after one game, but the fact of the matter is this, when the lights are on, and it’s a good opponent on the other side of the line of scrimmage, this team has wilted in big moments against big time opposition.

People harp about the lack of national respect given to the Falcons. Well, when you lose at home on national television twice to close out your season, once in embarrassing fashion, and then open the following campaign with perhaps the worst performance in the Matt Ryan/Mike Smith era (omitting the Eagles game in 2009 in which Chris Redman started at quarterback), you don’t get respect. You don’t deserve it.

Just how bad were they on Sunday? Well, let’s take a closer look.

For starters, no team in the NFL averaged fewer points per drive than the Falcons did. Thirteen drives resulted in ZERO offensive touchdowns, and just two field goals. That’s bad.

Remember, this is a team that over those two games against New Orleans and Green Bay on national television to end the 2010 season, Atlanta averaged a meager 204.5 yards per game in those two, amassing just three offensive touchdowns. One of those, it should be noted, came in garbage time against Green Bay after the team already trailed 42-14.

Three games against three contenders in the NFC and just three touchdowns have been scored. Yes, that’s a problem, a big problem.

The Falcons, with all the talk of being more explosive, were the only team on opening weekend to not score an offensive touchdown.

Mike Smith would have you believe that poor field position contributed greatly to his teams undoing. Well, Lovie Smith might want to argue that point, the Falcons averaged a better starting field position than the Bears did. They managed to score a few points.

Matt Ryan dropped back to pass 52 times on Sunday, yes, 52. The Falcons averaged a whopping 5.3 yards per drop back. That is an unacceptable number for a team who has boasted all off-season of how much more explosive they are going to be.

Sure, Ryan completed 66% of his passes. But when they’re two yards down the field to a running back standing still in the flat with no chance to make a play with the ball, it really doesn’t matter.

If you give me a .300 hitter who does nothing but hit singles, or give me a guy who hits .260 but puts up 40 doubles and 30 home runs, you can keep the guy batting .300.

The same thing with a quarterback. I’ll take a dip in completion percentage if it comes with more plays made down the field.

John Harbaugh told Joe Flacco before Sunday’s game against Pittsburgh that sometimes he needed to try to squeeze the ball in there, trust his receivers to make a play.

In other words, it’s the NFL, your wide receivers aren’t going to be running around wide open, unless of course you’re being covered by Falcons defensive backs. You’re going to have to fit the ball into some tight spaces and small windows. If you aren’t willing to try, you’re not going to be an explosive offense.

With great risk comes great reward. Matt Ryan needs to take more risks.

Perhaps it is actually the fault of the Falcons defense that Ryan doesn’t make big plays. In practice, against the Falcons secondary, Ryan is probably used to having his receivers run around with nobody near them. Perhaps when he takes the field on Sundays, he expects more of the same, and when it doesn’t happen, he takes too many sacks and checks down way too often.

Sure, the offensive line, particular Sam Baker, struggled to protect Ryan, but Ryan doesn’t do himself any favors in the pocket. He has a tendency to hold the ball too long, waiting too long for someone to get open, or not trusting himself to cut it lose. Not all sacks are the responsibility of the offensive line.

Of course, it wasn’t like the offensive was doing anything to warrant anyone rushing to their defense. Yes, Michael Turner hit the century mark, but that was courtesy of 53 yards coming on one carry.

Oh, who is Michael Turner, you ask? Yeah, it would be understandable if you’d forgotten a bit about him. It seems the Falcons have too.

Against Green Bay and against Chicago, Turner carried the ball for a TOTAL of 20 times. Since joining the Falcons, Turner, when healthy, only had one game in a Falcons uniform where he didn’t total at least 15 carries.

Until the last two games that is. For Turner, he’s had 23 games where he’s carried the ball 20 times or more, and yet, has only been handed the ball 20 times total in his last two.

In their last five games, dating back to last year, playoffs included, Turner has found the endzone just twice, carried the ball more than 17 times only once, and has failed to top the 100 yard mark.

I thought the running game was this team’s calling card and bread and butter. If so, there’s not a lot of evidence to support that’s working, or it’s even the case anymore.

One would think that if a team is abandoning the run they’re slinging the ball over the field and attacking down the field. It’s what Green Bay, and New England and New Orleans and Philadelphia do. And it stands to reason, if you’re not pounding other teams with the run, then you’re drying to beat them with the home run, right?

Not Atlanta.

And therein lies the really concerning part. Who is this football team? What is their identity? Do they know? You could easily argue that they don’t.

People were quick to point out that the Falcons offense isn’t really the big problem, that it’s the defense. These are people who are trying to hard not to say anything negative about the franchise quarterback.

I don’t have the access to the film the coaches see, nor do I know what the plays called in the huddle are, nor do I have the ability to see down the field what Matt Ryan sees. So I can’t say if it’s the play calling, Ryan being gun-shy, or the coaches discouraging balls being thrown down the field, or a combination of them all. What I can see though is an offense that’s becoming increasingly anemic, and instills little confidence that it’s truly the offense of a Super Bowl contender.

Atlanta’s defense won’t be confused with Baltimore’s any time soon. However, it’s a good enough unit for this team to win the Super Bowl with an offense that can score some points. The problem is, right now, the offense is not Super Bowl caliber.

All this time Falcons fans, and NFL pundits, experts and analysts all thought the defense was what was keeping this team from taking that next to step to championship caliber.

Maybe, just maybe we’ve all been fooled. Perhaps it’s not. Perhaps it’s the offense after all that’s keeping a Lombardi Trophy from resting up at Flowery Branch.

Perhaps we’ve all been trying to put a band-aid on the wrong wound, and unfortunately, the other one is festering to a point we might not be able to heal it in time.

Sunday night would be a good time for it to start healing, but I just can’t see any reason to actually expect anything to change. If we aren’t going to throw the ball down the field and let guys like Roddy White and Julio Jones go make plays, then Michael Turner needs to be getting the ball 25 times.

Because whatever it is they’re doing right now doesn’t do the number one job of an offense, it doesn’t put the ball in the endzone, at all.

People say you can’t panic after week one, and they’re right. It is just one game. However, the offensive woes of these Falcons are not just a one game blip. These shortcomings have been present for longer than that, its only recently though that they’ve come to light in the manner that they are now.

So no, the panic button isn’t being pushed because of the loss to Chicago. But the finger is on the button because of a recurring theme with this offense that’s beginning to advance from trend, to being the cold hard truth of what this team is.

As fans, we’d be well served to recognize this, and perhaps temper expectations a bit. Does this team have the talent and pieces to be special? It absolutely does. But it’s getting more and more difficult to believe that it will.

They can go a long way to re-instilling that belief on Sunday night. However, if it’s more of the same against the Eagles on national television this weekend, Peter King might really be wishing he could have that Super Bowl pick back. This will be a team who will be lucky to make it a fourth straight winning season.

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