Bradley’s Buzz: Sending best wishes to Matt Ryan, former Falcon

First rule of sports writing: no cheering in the press box. But we scribes are, for the most part, human beings. Let’s just say it wouldn’t displease me if Matt Ryan had a big season.

He’s sometimes described as a borderline Hall of Famer. That’s incorrect. He’s a Hall of Famer, period. He’s top 10 in career passing yards, passing touchdowns, completion percentage and fourth-quarter comebacks. He was the 2016 MVP. He should have been Super Bowl MVP: His passer rating that fateful night was 144.1; Tom Brady’s was 95.2.

He took a team in the deepest of disarrays – its franchise quarterback went to prison – and led it to five consecutive winning seasons, four resulting in playoff berths. He missed three games over 14 years. He’s the greatest player in Falcons annals by some distance. Per Pro-Football-Reference, his career Approximate Value is 203; the second-highest Falcon is Mike Kenn at 139.

Ryan missed three games as a pro. He didn’t ask to be traded until his organization tried and failed to acquire Deshaun Watson. Now he’s a Colt.

The AFC is loaded with excellent clubs – Bills, Chiefs, Chargers, Ravens, Bengals, Titans – but Indianapolis was the best team not to make the playoffs last year. It had everything but a big-time quarterback. (Carson Wentz no longer qualifies.) Now it has one.

We all wished Freddie Freeman well, but it’s hard to feel the same warmth toward his new team. The Braves will surely need to beat L.A. again to win another World Series. Ryan is in a different conference. The Colts and Falcons aren’t scheduled to meet. The Falcons aren’t apt to make the playoffs. It will do no harm to send best wishes to No. 2, now in blue.

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About college football in the ATL

Two intriguing games will be staged in this city Saturday. Georgia State plays host to North Carolina, which is notable in itself: Power 5 teams don’t often grace the stadiums of Group of 5 opponents. (This is GSU’s first-ever hosting of such a blueblood.) The adventurous Tar Heels were spared overtime in Boone, N.C., only after Appalachian State failed on a 2-point conversion that would have tied the game at 63-all. Sixty-two points were scored in the fourth quarter.

The Panthers lost their opener 35-14 at South Carolina. They outgained the Gamecocks but were undone by two blocked punts. It has been a while since the Heels stopped anybody; opponents averaged 32.1 points last season. They’re favored, though not by a lot (-7.5 points). Let’s stamp “upset alert” on this one before it even starts.

Georgia Tech faces Western Carolina, which scored 52 points in an opening victory over Charleston Southern. This is among the few games in which the 2022 Jackets will be favored. Should they lose Saturday night, it could be a while until they win – their next three games: Mississippi here, at UCF, at Pittsburgh – and an 0-5 start might force AD Todd Stansbury to do something he’d rather not do, meaning fire Geoff Collins with 3-1/2 years remaining on his contract.

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About the Braves’ weekend opponent

After eight games against deep-dish losers, the Braves travel to Seattle to face the Mariners, who should make the playoffs as a wild card. Not since 2001, with a team that included Edgar Martinez, Ichiro Suzuki and Bret Boone, has this club reached postseason. That year it won 116 games, a modern-day record. It lost in the NLCS to the Yankees. In those days, everybody lost to the Yankees.

Felix Hernandez, known as King Felix, spent 15 years with Seattle. For some of that time, he was baseball’s best pitcher. He never worked a playoff game. The closest he came was in 2014. On the regular season’s final day, he beat the Angels and lowered his ERA to an MLB-leading 2.14. Didn’t matter. Oakland shut out Texas to clinch the wild card.

King Felix joined the Braves for spring training in 2020. Then COVID hit. He opted out of the season. He hasn’t pitched a big-league game since 2019. It’s assumed he’s retired, though he’s only 36.

Oh, and the Braves? They’ve won seven in a row. They’re a half-game behind the Mets.

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About MLB rules changes

I’m agnostic about the shift, which MLB moved to ban today. I’m thankful beyond measure for the enforced pitch/hit clock, whereby dallying batters and pitchers will be assessed actual penalties. A decent nap could be had in the time it took David Ortiz, the beloved Big Papi, to ready himself. According to Brooksgate, the Braves’ Kenley Jansen averages 29.8 seconds – that’s a shot-clock violation in the NBA – between deliveries. He’s third-slowest among MLB pitchers.