The Falcons are 6-1 and everybody’s unhappy . . .
Skinny: 6-1 (2nd place, NFC South). Last week: defeated Tennessee 10-7. Next week: Home vs. Tampa Bay (2-4).
Overreaction narrative: “The offense stinks. Matt Ryan looks average. We’re doomed, I tell you, doomed!”
Reality check: Let me start with Ryan. I agree – he hasn’t been great. He had his third two-interception game of the season against the Titans and completed less than 60 percent of his passes for the second time. At times, he does great things (as evidenced by the fact the Falcons have won four games in the fourth quarter) but at other times he just looks off. Some have been critical of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan – and yes, I have no idea what prompted Shanahan to NOT give the ball to Devonta Freeman on either of two plays from the Tennessee six-inch line when the Falcons were trying to expand their lead in the fourth quarter. Shanahan called for a handoff to fullback Patrick DiMarco on third down (no gain) and a pass to tight end Jacob Tamme on fourth down (Ryan forced it into coverage, the ball was tipped and intercepted by Avery Williamson in the end zone). Sometimes, simple is better near the goal line. Ask the Seattle Seahawks. But overall Shanahan is doing a good job in the offense and players should get more comfortable in the zone-blocking scheme as the season goes on. That said, the Falcons rank fifth in the NFL in total offense (403.1 yards per game) and fourth in scoring (27.6). So slow your roll about how bad Shanahan is. One other thing: Tennessee’s defense is pretty good.
Skinny: 3-5, 1-4 (seventh in ACC Coastal). Last week: upset No. 9 Florida State 22-16. Next week: at Virginia (1-2, 2-5).
Overreaction narrative: “Great win but I still want to fire Paul Johnson.”
Reality check: First, Paul Johnson is not getting fired. Nor does he deserve to be. Tech came into the season with high expectations and has had a mostly miserable season, losing five straight before the Saturday night miracle. But I mentioned this in “short takes” following the win over Florida State and I believe it’s worth repeating: Johnson’s teams, while they have the occasional dud, give players the belief they can win big games. They have won many: Florida State three times, Clemson five times, Georgia twice and No. 4 Virginia Tech in 2009, among them. There is no excuse for five straight losses. But credit Johnson for making his players believe they could win Saturday and had something to play for this season despite the fact conference title hopes were dead. Even when you take out the implausible ending of Lance Austin returning a blocked field goal 78 yards for the winning touchdown, Tech outplayed FSU for much of the evening and was surprisingly strong defensively. Under Johnson, Tech wins games that often nobody thinks they will. Now it needs to win games everybody thinks it should with far more consistency.
Skinny: 5-2, 3-2 (second in SEC East). Last week: Off. Next week: in Jacksonville vs. Florida (6-1, 4-1).
Overreaction narrative: “We beat Missouri. Big whoop. We’re still dead.”
Reality check: Yeah, probably. Nothing in Georgia’s 9-6 win over Missouri suggests this team will finish strong. It’s still a team with a one-dimensional offense with limitations at quarterback and a defense that hasn’t beaten a strong opponent. But these are the facts: If Georgia sweeps Florida, Kentucky and Auburn (road) in the next three weeks, it wins the East and will play for the SEC championship. Do I see that happening? No. This isn’t a great Florida team but it’s far better than the one that steamrolled the Bulldogs for 418 yards rushing in a 38-20 upset last year. The Gators destroyed then-No. 3 Ole Miss 38-10 and in its last game gave No. 6 LSU problems in Baton Rouge, losing only 35-28 despite having quarterback Will Grier suspended earlier in the week for violating the NCAA’s drug policy. Backup quarterback Treon Harris wasn’t always accurate against LSU but he threw for 271 yards and two touchdowns against LSU. He can make plays. This is another game when the Dogs’ quarterback issues can come back to bite them. If I’m Mark Richt, I don’t give Greyson Lambert a lot of rope in this game. Georgia’s best chance for a win is for the defense to come up with its best effort of the season and shut down Florida.
•Recent ramblings • Georgia Tech has unforgettable moment in otherwise forgettable season • Short takes on Georgia Tech’s miracle win over Florida State • Weekend Predictions: Falcons win, Jackets lose, ACC miserable • (Full column) Rick Pitino should lose job, culpable for Louisville mess • Rick Pitino may not survive latest claims regarding strippers, recruits • Overreaction Monday: Would Richt give Ramsey another look? • Misery like this shouldn’t happen at Georgia Tech • Short takes: Tech’s run of bowls, non-losing ACC seasons will end • Falcons flash some of their ugly past in loss to Saints • Short takes: Falcons still plagued by poor pass rush, turnovers • Weekend Predictions: Spurrier, Cubs, Playboy…and Georgia can still win SEC East! • Spurrier changed face of SEC, and then he walked out the back door • Health would be Spurrier’s only good excuse for retiring in middle of season • Florida quarterback suspended for PEDs — and claims of, ‘I didn’t know’ ring hollow • Overreaction Monday: Chubb’s loss isn’t Georgia’s only problem • There goes Chubb, there goes a loss, there goes Georgia’s season • Short takes: After loss, Georgia is trailing even Kentucky in SEC East • It’s too late to save season but Sefolosha deserved to hear words, ‘Not guilty’ • Weekend Predictions: No fantasy, Chihuahuas will rebound (I think) • Braves may have a plan but it will be a while before masses buy in • Here’s your Depressed Braves Fan viewing guide to the postseason • Overeaction Monday: Now is not time to make decision on Richt • Falcons 4-0, Freeman 7 TDs — who didn’t see that coming? • Short takes: An easy Falcons win, and this is a team to take seriously • Richt and Georgia fall off stage again when it matters most • Short takes: Georgia’s reality check — there’s a problem at quarterback • Georgia needs win over Alabama to alter perceptions • Weekend Predictions: Nothing sinister here – Dogs over Bama • Georgia hired Jeremy Pruitt for games like this • Nationals are a more attractive mess than the Braves • Overreaction Monday: Georgia may be 4-0 but season starts now • Georgia now can prepare for opponent that matters most: Alabama • Short takes on Georgia’s win over Southern • Weekend Predictions: Lilly takes the lead and likes Falcons • Falcons’ fourth-quarter fizzles absent so far under Dan Quinn • Braves have been more adept at building off field than on it • Overreaction Monday: Are things as they seem with Falcons, Dogs, Jackets? • Georgia chases away Spurrier demons with dominating performance • Short takes: Lambert says, ‘I just had to go through a rough patch’ • Georgia can’t blow game, Tech can’t blow chance