Matt Ryan is 41-21 as the Falcons starting QB Matt Ryan has an outstanding record with the Atlanta Falcons; since being drafted and beginning his career as a starter in 2008. Ryan is also a very durable QB, having only one serious injury and missing a 3 game stretch (missed only 2 starts) during the 2009 season. But the truth is- NFL fans usually have a short term memory, and despite the wins-losses record, some of the Atlanta faithful (including myself) have begun to question Ryan’s ability in the clutch or big game situation. Let me first say this- It is very difficult to win week in and week out vs. ANY team in the NFL, and Ryan still has plenty of time to prove himself at only age 26 (Aaron Rogers didn’t make his first start until he was almost 25), but he will have to deal with the criticism until he proves himself in the national spotlight. The chart below shows Matty Ice’s career record; the red blocks in the ‘WK-Week’ column are for teams that finished with a (+) .500% record (9-7 or better), and the green blocks for are for teams that finished with a (< / =) .500% record or worse. The green blocks in the ‘Opponent’ column are for games Ryan WON as a starter; the red blocks are for games he LOST as a starter. Pretty interesting numbers at first glance; Ryan’s record at home is 24-5 and on the road is 17-16. Inside the division he is 6-2 vs. Carolina, 4-2 vs. Tampa Bay and 2-5 vs. New Orleans; he is winless in his two playoff appearances. Lots of folks believe the Falcons don’t get any love from the media; Matt Ryan still has a lot to prove in order to show that they deserve more attention.
Forbes.com released the 2011 poll results of the The Most Hated NBA Players. The results were surprising with Lebron James finishing #2 behind Kris Humphries, the former hubby of Kim Kardashian (whose marriage lasted a total of 72 days). I decided to give my take; (surprise, no Atlanta Hawks- although it was hard to resist Zaza) only 3 of my top top 10 were on the Forbes list. Here’s my personal list: #10 Tim DuncanMaybe it’s the championships, maybe its his annoying vibe, but either way it’s hard to root for Duncan. #9 Joakim NoahThe former Florida Gator fails to realize two things: (1) college is over, and he’s no longer the top dog and (2) that he desperately needs to do something with the hair. #8 Rajon RondoRondo gets tied in with the Boston rep, but regardless is an annoying and over-hyped Celtics player. #7 Manu GinobiliPest is the first word that comes to mind about the Spurs foreign star. #6 Carlos BoozerLooks like a Miami gang leader or someone that might be in a Pitbull music video; could smile every once in a while. #5 Lebron JamesThe ‘Cleveland Cop-Out’ is fun to root against and continues to own 0 championships…Not 2, not 3, not 4, not 5, not 6, not 7. #4 Ron Artest (Metta World Peace)Needs no explanation, his history speaks for itself. #3 Rasheed WallaceThe face of the NBA’s thug nation; not to mention his face in general. #2 Kevin GarnettHis obnoxious intensity, tenancy for over the top celebrations, court trash talk, and fact that he looks like an alien lands Duncan number 2 behind only another Celtic. #1 Paul PiercePierce topped my list, the NBA’s ugliest and cockiest player is a classless show-boater and cheap-shot specialist; who has no respect for his opponent. Honorable Mention: Jason Terry, Emeka Okafor, Deron Williams, Andrew Bynum, Delonte West
#20 – Jason Heyward Stock: Steady Heyward should be in the top 10; but his “superstar” status was left to question after a major sophomore slump in 2011. #19 – Brent Grimes Stock: Rising Brent Grimes came out of nowhere to become a star in the Falcons secondary; an undrafted FA out of Shippensburg University, Grimes led the league in pass deflections, had 5 interceptions and earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl in 2011. #18 – Tony Gonzalez Stock: Falling The 9x All-Pro future Hall-of-Fame tight end is in the later stages of his career, but still manages to be one of the best players at his position. Gonzalez is one of Ryan’s primary and most reliable go-to guys during his time in Atlanta. #17 – Julio Jones Stock: Rising The Falcons traded 5 draft picks to land Jones, creating one of the most dynamic WR tandems in the NFL. The former Crimson Tide star has plenty of upside and ability to become one of the top receivers in the league for years to come. #16 – Michael Bourn Stock: Rising The Braves All-Star, Gold Glove centerfielder has led the league in steals 3 consecutive years; swiping 174 bases in the time period. His spectacular defense and ability as a table setter will make the Braves much more dangerous in 2012. #15 – Tommy Hanson Stock: Steady Baseball America’s #1 prospect in 2009, Hanson will be a staple at the top of the rotation, likely over the course of the next decade for the Braves. #14 – John Abraham Stock: Steady In 2010 the Falcons 3× All-Pro DE recorded 2 sacks against the Panthers pushing him above 100 for his career. #13 – Dan Uggla Stock: Steady After a rough start to the season; Uggla rebounded in the second half to record a 33-game hitting streak (longest in Braves history) and finish the season with 36 homers. Uggla also became the first second baseman in major league history to hit 30 home runs in four consecutive seasons. #12 – Jair Jurrjens Stock: Rising The 25 year-old starter may not be in Atlanta for long (on the trade block), but it’s hard to argue his ability and confidence on the mound hasn’t met expectations. Jurrjens was arguably the best pitcher in the NL during the first half of 2011, posting a 1.87 ERA and a 12-3 record. #11 – Chipper Jones Stock: Falling Chipper only has a couple years left, but Atlanta’s golden boy- Larry Wayne Jones Jr. continues to produce. In 2011, Jones hit career milestones of 450 home runs and 1000 extra-base hits, and was voted by the players an NL All-Star (his 7th selection). #10 – Josh Smith Stock: Rising It’s hard to believe at age 26, Smith has already been a starter in the league for 7 years. “J-Smoove” was the NBA Slam-Dunk Champion as a rookie, the fastest players in NBA history to reach 1000 blocks (age 24) and is primarily the #1 guy making highlights at The Highlight Factory. #9 – Freddie Freeman Stock: Rising Freeman was a highly regarded going into the 2011 season, but the 22 year old rookie surpassed all expectations; leading the team in hits and batting average, and finishing second on the team in runs, doubles, RBI and OBP. Freeman also played in a remarkable 157 games, displayed a plus glove at first and finished 2nd in NL ROY voting. #8 – Al Horford Stock: Rising The former Florida Gator is one of Atlanta’s few solid draft picks (3rd overall-2008), and is already considered by many to be the cornerstone of the Hawks franchise. In 4 years in the league, Horford’s achievements include NBA All-Rookie First Team (2008), 2x NBA All-Star (2010-2011) and All-NBA Third Team (2011). #7 – Tim Hudson Stock: Steady The ace of the Braves is as steady as they come; In 13 seasons (8 with Atlanta), Hudson has never had a losing record. The past 2 seasons following Tommy John surgery, Huddy has a record of 33-19 with a 3.02 ERA. #6 – Joe Johnson Stock: Falling Since being acquired from Phoenix, Johnson has been the building block in improving the Hawks franchise; helping Atlanta achieve a better record in 4 consecutive seasons from 2006-2010, going from 26-56 in 2006 to 53-29 in 2010. Regarded by most to be the “face of the franchise”, JJ has been a 5x Eastern Conference All-Star, scoring 20+ ppg in 5 of 6 seasons in Atlanta. #5 – Craig Kimbrel Stock: Rising Kimbrel was arguably the most dominant rookie pitcher in MLB history and the most exciting Braves rookie since Andruw Jones; his numbers are flat-out ridiculous. At only age 23- Kimbrel was an NL All-Star, broke the major league rookie saves record (46), led the NL in saves and was 2nd in the majors in appearances. He received all 32 votes for NL Rookie Of The Year, the first unanimous selection since Albert Pujols in 2001. Since his debut, Kimbrel has pitched 97.2 innings- striking out 167 and allowing only 19 earned runs; posting a record of 8-3, 1.75 ERA and a WHIP of 1.07. #4 – Matt Ryan Stock: Rising Ryan has been a 4 year starter for the Falcons; helping the franchise forget about the misery #7 left behind. Matty Ice was the NFL Offensive ROY & Sporting News ROY in 2008, an NFC Pro Bowl selection in 2010 and owns a 42-18 career record / 24-4 record at The Georgia Dome as a starter. #3 – Michael Turner Stock: Steady Since coming to Atlanta in 2008, Turner “The Burner” has made the front office look pretty smart. As a Falcon- Turner has been a 2x All Pro, the NFC Rushing Champion in 2010 and has made a trip to the Pro Bowl twice. #2 – Roddy White Stock: Rising It took him a couple years to get going, but since then #84’s stock has skyrocketed. Since 2007, no other player in the league has racked up more yards than White (5,158); In 2010, he led the league in receptions and was voted to his 3rd consecutive Pro Bowl. Roddy has made his case as one of the league’s top receivers; he owns the Falcons single season record for receiving yards (1389) is on pace to break multiple Falcons career receiver records. #1 – Brian McCann Stock: Steady McCann first burst onto the scene as a rookie, hitting a homerun off Roger Clemens in his first playoff game, he hasn’t looked back since. Since coming into the league, McCann has become a superstar and arguably the best catcher in baseball. B-Mac has been to 6 consecutive All-Star Games, owns 5 Silver Slugger Awards and was named the 2010 All-Star Game MVP. One of the last remaining “Baby Braves”, McCann leads the team in multiple statistical categories on an annual basis.
The Braves have had a quiet off-season thus far; management has made every indication that they aren’t going to make a big “splash” move just for the sake of doing so. Wren & Co. have stated that they are comfortable with rookie shortstop Tyler Pastornicky (part of the Yunel Escobar trade) being the opening day starter, but all signs point to Atlanta signing a veteran (as always) SS to ease the transition, provide a 1 year bridge or fill a platoon with Pastornicky. Most recently, all the talk has been centered around Ronny Cedeño, who played for the Pirates in 2010. Agreeing to a deal with this guy won’t make SportsCenter, but the market isn’t strong right now at the position. The Braves won’t (and SHOULDN’T) commit to a 2-3 year overpriced contract with Jimmy Rollins, the best available guy still out there, who’s production has declined and is undoubtedly headed towards the twilight of his career. Most of the rumors and talk has been centered around Martin Prado and Jair Jurrjens being on the block this off-season. I think the Braves are trying to sell high on both of these guys while they still have some value. Prado isn’t the longterm answer in the outfield, and Jurrjens injury history has the front office falling out of love with both of these guys for the long term. The question constantly being asked is, “why would the Braves trade JJ after such a good year?” and the answer is pretty simple, he is a Scott Boras client that will soon be hitting the free agent market, his value is relatively high right now with the shortage of quality starting pitchers and the Braves are downright LOADED at the position. Right now Atlanta has 8 major league ready starters that would project into almost any rotation in the LEAGUE (Hudson, Jurrjens, Hanson, Beachy, Teheran, Delgado, Medlen, Minor). But hey, can you ever really have enough starting pitching? If the season started today, Atlanta would be satisfied with the roster as-is, but certainly the Braves have a few holes they would like to upgrade if the right opportunity came along. The wish list would include a veteran shortstop, utility infielder, quality bench bat and power corner outfielder. The biggest questions yet to be answered for 2012 are how will Jason Heyward rebound and contribute? Will a full season of Michael Bourn finally give the offense the spark it’s lacked? Will the bullpen be as dominant as it was in 2010? Can Chipper stay healthy and play 120+ games? Those questions have yet to be answered; but regardless the future is bright with Atlanta’s youth movement and foundation of the team being set for many years to come. Let’s go get em’ Braves!
College football needs a playoff system. Here is my solution to the format; 8 teams, each of the “power 6” conferences will receive an automatic bid, the other two bids will be at-large (given to top ranked team in group). Here is my ranking of the power 6 conferences, points are as follows: A (7), A- (5), B+ (4), B (3), B- (2), C+ (1), C (0), C (-1), D (-2). This simple 8 team format would allow everyone at least a shot at the big dance. It’s not perfect, but it gets the job done.