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The AJC’s Top 50: Nos. 6-10

The landscape of Atlanta sports changed in 2017.

Literally.

Stadiums were raised, razed and renovated.

There were many more significant moments in sports involving the city, it’s teams and people connected to our region.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution compiled and ranked a list of the 50 biggest moments in Atlanta sports for the year. Over 10 days, we will reveal the list in ascending order, five at a time, until it culminates with the biggest and most defining moment on Dec. 26.

Today: 6-10.

10. Matt Ryan named MVP

On the eve of Super Bowl LI, quarterback Matt Ryan was named the NFL MVP and become the first Falcon to win the award. Ryan got 25 of the 50 votes, while Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, his Super Bowl opponent, finished second with 10. Ryan posted career bests in completion percentage (69.9), yards (4,944), touchdowns (38), and QB rating (117.1). He also threw touchdowns to a league-record 13 different players and had a career-low seven interceptions.

9. National Anthem protests

What Colin Kaepernick started became a huge deal during the 2017 NFL season. Kaepernick, who remained out of the league, protested social injustice and police brutality by kneeling during the National Anthem. A small number of players joined the protest. However, President Donald Trump ignited a league-wide response when he called for players who protested to be fired and called them sons of bitches. The next week, protests and signs of solidarity were rampant across the league. Falcons Grady Jarrett and Dontari Poe knelt before a game against the Lions. The Falcons linked arms during the playing of the anthem the next week against the Bills. The social protest made its way across different sports and levels. Kennesaw State cheerleaders knelt during the anthem on Sept. 30 and were later not allowed to come onto the field until it had been played.

8. John Schuerholz inducted into Baseball Hall of Fame

John Schuerholz will go down as one of the greatest general managers in baseball. He began his career in the Royals organization and led the team to a World Series title in 1985. He joined the Braves late in 1990 and led the team to 14 straight division titles beginning in 1991. The run included a World Series title in 1995. Schuerholz watched Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Bobby Cox inducted in 2014 and John Smoltz inducted in 2015. He joined them in the Hall of Fame on July 30. He remains with the Braves organization as a front office advisor.

7. Georgia wins SEC Championship

Payback never meant more to Georgia. After a lopsided regular-season loss to Auburn, Georgia’s one and only defeat, the teams met again for the SEC Championship on Dec. 2 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Georgia earned its first conference title since 2005 with a 28-7 victory. The win also earned the Bulldogs a berth in the College Football Playoffs as the No. 3 seed. They will play Oklahoma next month with a chance to return to Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the national championship game. But that will be 2018 news.

6. Falcons win NFC Championship

The Falcons left little doubt that the franchise’s second trip to the Super Bowl was imminent. They scored early and often en route to a 44-21 victory over the Packers on Jan. 22. Ticket booked for Houston, site of Super Bowl LI, for a meeting with the Patriots. Matt Ryan threw for 392 yards and four touchdowns. He connected with Julio Jones for 180 yards and two touchdowns. The game had special significance in that it was the last game to be played at the Georgia Dome. The building would be imploded later in the year as the Falcons move into the $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The list so far:

6. Falcons win NFC Championship

7. Georgia wins SEC Championship

8. John Schuerholz inducted into Baseball Hall of Fame

9. National Anthem protests

10. Matt Ryan named MVP

11. Falcons win divisional playoff

12. Atlanta United make playoffs

13. Braves hire GM Alex Anthopoulos

14. Hawks make over front office

15. Braves hit with substantial penalties

16. Hawks hire GM Travis Schlenk

17. Atlanta United sets MLS attendance record

18. Kyle Shanahan out/Steve Sarkisian in as Falcons OC

19. Philips Arena begins major renovation

20. Georgia Tech makes NIT final

21. Georgia reaches No. 1 in College Football Playoff rankings

22. Atlanta United gets first win

23. Mercedes-Benz Stadium roof problems

24. Hawks trade Dwight Howard

25. Atlanta United play first game

26. Braves finally find deal for new spring training home

27. Georgia Tech fails to make bowl game

28. Braves pick up 2018 option on Brian Snitker

29. Hawks blow up roster in youth movement

30. Freddie Freeman breaks wrist after MVP-caliber start

31. Hawks eliminated from playoffs by Wizards

32. Devonta Freeman signs big contract

33. Falcons’ PSL sales become issue

34. Brian McCann wins World Series with Astros

35. Falcons draft Takk McKinley

36. Hawks draft John Collins

37. Deshaun Watson leads Clemson to national championship

38. Tour Championship double winners

39. Sergio Garcia wins Masters

40. Brad Keselowski wins Atlanta NASCAR race

41. Hawks open practice facility

42. Ascension of Braves’ Ronald Acuna

43. Kennesaw football wins conference, goes to playoffs

44. Georgia State takes over Turner Field

45. John Isner wins fourth BB&T title

46. Georgia Swarm win National Lacrosse League title

47. Matt Stafford gets NFL-record contract

48. Braves release of Bartolo Colon

49. Rams hire Dunwoody’s Sean McVay

50. Warrick Dunn in Falcons Ring of Honor

Links

Day One

Day Two

Day Three

Day Four

Day Five

Day Six

Day Seven

Day Eight

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