Category Archives: Professional

Will The Dirty Birds Rise Up Or Fall Short?

BrettGreenberg 

Staff Reporter

After the Atlanta Falcons 2016 season, all the National Football League (NFL) experts, analysts and fans labeled the 2017 Atlanta squad as a lock for the playoffs and the National Football Conference (NFC) favorite to reach the Super Bowl. The team returned all 22 starters and gained experience both for the veterans and young players. The NFC South division was not predicted to be a challenge for this young and fast team full of freakish athleticism.

The team got off to a hot start winning their first three games, but not convincingly enough for the beloved fans of the Falcons. The team edged out a win over the Lions and the Bears on two blown calls. The team went on to defend their brand new stadium and look like their 2016 selves in a 34-23 win over Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.

Everything was going as planned, but the next three weeks of the season proved to be Matt Ryan and the rest of the team’s first challenge as they dropped the next three games and fell to a  3-3 record for the season. The prolific offense of 2016 was just not there, with arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL, Julio Jones, not having much success on the field and especially not in the endzone with zero touchdowns. This team was written off as a bust and believed to have 2016 labeled as a fluke season. Then came the month of November, where the Falcons won three out of their four matchups and all was well. Julio Jones was getting back to his freak self, Matt Ryan was playing great and the young and rather inexperienced defense was growing with each game.

Throughout week twelve of the season, the Falcons nursed a 7-5 record. In any other division in the NFL, the Falcons would likely be a lock for the playoffs, but unpredictably, the NFC South is perhaps the strongest division in the league with the 9-3 New Orleans Saints winning nine out of their last ten and the Carolina Panthers who are 8-4. The Saints are on fire and do not seem to have any plans to hit the brakes and hope to finish out the season as the winner of the NFC South and get a home playoff game. The Carolina Panthers are looking for a Wild Card berth.

Although the Falcons are one game back from the division leader and currently hold a spot in the wild card game, they control their own destiny and have an opportunity to win the division or throw away the season. The Falcons have three games remaining on the schedule, all of which are against division foes. The team plays the division leader, the New Orleans Saints one time, the Carolina Panthers one time and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers one time.

The Falcons control their own destiny. So if the coaching staff can put the players in positions to succeed, and if the players can do even half of what they did back in 2016, this 2017 team has zero reason to not be in the playoffs and even go back to the Super Bowl. This team has an abundance of young talent while also being fortunate enough to have seasoned veterans.

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Protesting on NFL Sideline Wrong?

RithikDoddla, Staff Reporter

In response to President Donald Trump’s tweet which said that NFL players who do not stand for the national anthem should be fired, all 32 NFL teams have had their own unique responses in the season’s third week. Some teams kneeled and locked arms before the national anthem while other teams showed these signs of protest while the national anthem was playing. There were even teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers who remained in the locker room for the singing of the national anthem. With each team protesting in its own way, fans were left to either support them or oppose them.

NFL fans had a wide range of responses to the protests. They ranged from cheering in support in the stands to insulting with expletives on social media. A remarkable reaction occurred during the Dallas Cowboys versus Arizona Cardinals game where the crowd loudly booed the Cowboys, as they kneeled and locked arms. Ratings for week three games on NBC, CBS and Fox decreased by four percent.

The latest ESPN polls embodies that American citizens are divided over this issue. Overall, 39 percent of people agreed with the movement with 24 percent strongly approving. Fifty-one percent of the respondents, however, disagreed with the movement with 38 percent showing strong disapproval. ESPN also recorded the race of the people surveyed and found that 54 percent of African Americans strongly agreed and 48 percent of Caucasians strongly disagreed. These protests may be receiving more support from African Americans because, after all, the players are kneeling to voice opposition for police brutality against African Americans.

ESPN also took another poll on viewers’ interest in watching the games after the protests. Fourteen percent of the people say they are more interested because of the protests, 40 percent say they are less interested and 43 percent say it has had no impact on their interest of the game. People who are less interested most likely feel that way because they may be bothered by the kneeling as they believe kneeling does not show respect to the national anthem. Among the avid NFL fans surveyed, 48 percent believe protests have had no impact on their interest and 31 percent believe is has made them less interested. This is significant because that means about a third of the hardcore NFL fans who watch football every Sunday are greatly disturbed by the “take a knee” movement.

Roger Goodell, the NFL Commissioner, held a meeting recently with NFL teams’ owners on instigating a rule requiring all players to stand for the national anthem. This has angered many players because the players feel they are exercising their right to protest and are using their platform to make a statement. Arizona Cardinals safety Antoine Bethea has expressed his displeasure to the NFL Network, claiming that it has become a national issue just because President Donald Trump tweeted against it. Bethea explained how the movement started last year with Colin Kaepernick and the NFL and its fans had no issues with it, respecting players’ opinions. The NFL has yet to make a statement on whether or not they plan on requiring players to stand. It will be interesting to see how players and fans respond if the league does decide to permit kneeling.

Falling Falcons?

RithikDoddla, Staff Reporter

Coming into the season, the Atlanta Falcons had high expectations, as they were bouncing back from arguably the worst Super Bowl loss in NFL history. The team took a motivated approach to the loss by studying that game’s film intensely in order to improve. Except for offensive guard Chris Chester and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, the entire offense returned for the 2017 season. The defense looked to be much stronger, as they had cornerback Desmond Trufant returning from an injury and acquired defensive tackle Dontari Poe in free agency. Going into the season, many people thought the Atlanta Falcons had the most talented roster in the league.                                  

During the season opener, the Falcons did not play as well as expected since they barely escaped the Chicago Bears by dropping a game-winning touchdown in the last seconds. Fans believed it was just a fluke, as the team bulldozed through the Green Bay Packers, one of the best teams in the NFL the following week. In week three, the Atlanta Falcons once again lucked out against the Detroit Lions after a last second touchdown that would have won the Lions the game was overturned. The Falcons’ luck finally came to an end as they played terribly against the Buffalo Bills and failed to put together a game-winning drive in the last minutes of the game.

Coming off this terrible loss, the Atlanta Falcons’ rest days are much needed. It gives Coach Dan Quinn a chance to regroup his team and prepare them to come back stronger than ever. Fans should not worry as Atlanta has had multiple slow starts and ended up playing the rest of the season exceptionally. Last year they opened the season with a loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-24 but still managed to make the Super Bowl. Something notable is that after their bye week, Atlanta lost only one game until the Super Bowl.

Fans are currently left wondering if the Dirty Birds’ 3-2 record is well deserved and if the team will be able to achieve great heights this season. These fans should not forget that the Falcons arguably have the best offense in the league and a young, fast and athletic defense. Julio Jones is unstoppable on the field and Matt Ryan is red hot coming off an MVP season. Vic Beasley is out to protect his sack title and Deon Jones is ready to lead this defense after having the most tackles among rookies last season. Overall, the Atlanta Falcons’ roster is absolutely stacked and more motivated than ever. The team emphasized how diligent they have been working as they have their eyes on the Lombardi Trophy. The Falcons’ should bounce back after the bye week and once again be the best team in the NFL.

 

Bring Hockey Back

MatthewKohn, News and Sports Editor

In the past year, Atlanta has become the focal point of the sports world. A mesmerizing new football stadium was built to replace the old Georgia Dome, a new baseball field was built in Cobb County and Atlanta is now home to a Major League Soccer team. At this point, all that’s missing is a hockey team.

Back in 2011, the Atlanta Thrashers moved to Winnipeg, Canada and became the Jets. Unfortunately for Atlanta at the time, the owners were losing money due to an ongoing lawsuit with a former partner, forcing them to sell the team. It’s possible that if the Thrashers had better ownership, they would still be playing in Philips Arena.

After seeing Atlanta United, the new soccer team, pull record attendance numbers, it’s time to believe that supporting a hockey team is also feasible. Georgia is the most populated state in the country without a team in each of the four major sports, and Atlanta is definitely a city that would be able fill a stadium and support a hockey team. I know of many people at Chattahoochee alone who would love to go see professional hockey games but don’t have the chance to and instead have to settle for the semi-pro Gwinnett Gladiators.

The whole “Atlanta is not a sports town” knock needs to be put to rest. Atlanta has hosted some of the biggest sporting events, including the college basketball final four, the SEC championship game and the Olympics. They will even host the Super Bowl in 2019. Atlanta is also home to a team in three of the four major sports. The final step in completing the quadfecta is having a hockey team come back to Atlanta.

 

Hawks Crash in Playoffs

MatthewKohn, Staff Reporter

On the night of April 28, John Wall and the Wizards eliminated the Hawks from the NBA playoffs. Despite the season ending earlier than we would have liked, it is hardly a disappointing year for the Hawks. Atlanta has now made the playoffs for 10 straight years, which is the second longest active streak in the NBA, only behind the San Antonio Spurs. The fact that the Hawks have made the playoffs for 10 straight years is not only astonishing, but it also shows great consistency, something hard to come by in sports.

The past season for the Hawks should excite fans for years to come. Even though the Hawks have lost four of their five starters from the great 2014-15 year, from when they were number one in the Eastern Conference, they still were able to play well and compete in the East. The Hawks lost DeMarre Carroll, Al Horford, Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver in the past two years, but there have been multiple other players that have stepped up into their spots to provide the team with quality minutes. One in specific is Tim Hardaway Jr., who came in and helped the team with great defense and the ability to score in large spurts. Also, Dennis Schröder stepped in where Jeff Teague left and played very well as the team’s starting point guard.

Next season is promising with the amount of young talent the Hawks have on their roster. Hardaway expects to continue and improve on his great year and become the star that the Hawks are in need of. Also, Dwight Howard will help be a veteran presence on an otherwise very young roster. If the Hawks are also able to re-sign Paul Millsap to a contract, they will not be at risk of losing yet another one of their starting players. Also, Kent Bazemore will be hungry for a comeback year after a disappointing season. They also hold three draft picks in this year’s loaded draft in June.

Even though the Hawks season is over, but there is still much to be excited about if you are a Hawks fan. The Hawks seem to be just a piece or two away from becoming an elite team again. If they are able to find someone in free agency or in the draft that can have an immediate impact, then the Hawks can expect to compete for the top spot in the Eastern Conference in years to come.

Stadiums Gone Wild

KatieHeissenbuttel, Sports Editor

After a year of building Atlanta’s new stadiums, Suntrust Park is complete and ready for the Braves upcoming season, while Mercedes-Benz stadium is still under construction. However, reports indicate that the new Atlanta Falcons stadium will be done in time for the 2017 season.

The Braves have had many fields to call home over the course of one hundred and three years: South End Grounds, Braves Field, Milwaukee County Stadium, Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, Turner Field–and now Suntrust Park. On March 6, 2017 the Atlanta Braves posted a video on Facebook of the new Suntrust Park, with the caption “Ladies & gentlemen, we have a field!” With the new stadium opening this spring, the tickets are likely to be in high demand.

Another element sure to boost ticket sales is the Battery Atlanta. Ready to welcome fans and visitors on Opening Day of 2017, the Battery will be the preeminent sports and entertainment venue in the country. The Battery will redefine the traditional model of a “live, work, play” development into a “play, work, stay” destination, with SunTrust Park as its crown jewel. The entirety of the project will create a lively shopping and entertainment district accessible 365 days a year. Another bonus of the Battery Atlanta is there is the Omni Hotel right next to the ballpark.

One major concern that people had with this new park was the lack accessibility. To address this issue the Braves will offer over 11,000 parking spaces, Uber and bus transportation.

As of now Mercedes-Benz stadium is still under construction, they are almost completely finished with the glass windows and the outside of the stadium. Home of the largest video board in professional sports, fans won’t miss a moment. Mercedes-Benz Stadium is going to be spectacular, with a Falcon wing-like exterior that utilizes the latest in innovative and transparent building materials, providing a breathtaking view of the city. Also the stadium will include a retractable roof, a 360-degree HD video Halo board, an exterior fan plaza, a 100-yard bar, a technology lounge and more than 21,000 parking spaces. In addition to being located near three Marta stations, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium will incorporate the latest in sustainable advancements related to design, construction and operations, water conservation, renewable energy, energy usage reduction and alternative transportation.

Falcons owner Arthur Blank commented, “We focused from the beginning on building a unique fan experience at Mercedes-Benz Stadium with a goal of helping those who visit to leave the stadium with great memories shared with family and friends, not aggravation and frustration about their experience.” The overall construction of Suntrust Park and Mercedes-Benz Stadium will be an improvement to Atlanta, and will house many more events to make memories.

Johnny Manziel’s Path of Self-Destruct

PaulBurke

Johnny Manziel is the living, breathing embodiment of “work hard play hard.” Since his days at Texas A&M, and being known as the first true freshman to win the Heisman, “Johnny Football” has had a daily struggle balancing the two as a professional athlete. After being dumped by two agents, getting charged for assault and causing over $20,000 worth of damage in a rented house, it is safe to say that Manziel may just be “playing” too hard. Surprisingly, these antics are only the most recent and are more or less an accumulation of previous mistakes. It is no secret that Manziel struggles with substance-abuse and self-image as he continues down a path of self-destruct, disregarding advice from coaches, teammates and the media to join rehab.

 

So where has “Johnny Football” gone? Where is the Manziel who could scramble out of the pocket and launch a 60-yard touchdown pass on the run? Not in the NFL. After being drafted by the Browns with the 22nd pick of the 2014 draft just two years ago, Manziel’s life has seemingly only gone downhill. Being drafted in the first round, Manziel not only became a paid professional athlete, but also received a multimillion-dollar signing bonus simply for his name being called out by Roger Goodell. Manziel was now a professional athlete, and rich.

 

Fast forward two years, Manziel has played in less than a full game of football, is unwanted by every team in the NFL, and has been caught drinking in Las Vegas casinos each weekend, even after being told to remain sober. Manziel’s problem may be even bigger than some of us realize as he was reportedly seen at one of his many casinos wearing a facial disguise in order to continue his binge drinking without the scrutiny of the media.

 

Will we ever get a look at the great “Johnny Football” again, or will Manziel remain the drunken drug addict he is today? Whichever he chooses, Manziel has to keep in mind: with great power comes great responsibility.