NFL rookies rule in Atlanta

Bobby Curran
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Friday - December 26, 2008
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I heard one of the NFL pundits queried on whether a team could best overcome a rookie coach or a rookie QB, and the answer was the quarterback.

In the case of the Atlanta Falcons, the answer should have been both of the above.

Head coach Mike Smith seems like he’s been at it a long time, and many of the NFL’s starting signal callers would love to be able to show off the poise and results of QB Matt Ryan.

That Atlanta is in the playoffs and could win the NFC South with a win and a Carolina loss in the final game of the regular season on Sunday is nothing short of remarkable.

Many thought the Bobby Petrino-Michael Vick double body blow would set the Falcons back five years.

The truth is that Atlanta is better off with both of their replacements.

And the off-season acquisition of RB Michael Turner is looking like sheer genius. Consider that even if Atlanta goes in as a wild card, they’ll play at Arizona. If they win the South, they receive a bye.

Either way they’ve got an excellent chance to be around in mid-January.

One team that should count its blessings this holiday season is the San Diego Chargers. Three weeks ago they were 4-8 and looking at the prospect of watching the playoffs on TV.

And if their division was even half decent, that’s where they’d be.

But the poor play of Denver means that a win at home against those same Broncos will give the Chargers the AFC West title at 8-8.

The irony is that the Chargers could cause some trouble if they do get in. You can’t help but think that they could beat anyone in the league if they fulfill their preseason expectations on any given Sunday.

And then there’s the N.Y. Jets, who were once 8-3 and glancing behind at the rest of the AFC East.

Look again.

Now, after losing three of their last four and appearing inept in the process, they are hanging on by a thread and need something akin to a miracle to make the playoffs.

The word out of New York is that if the Jets are on the outside looking in, they will be searching for a new coach and a new QB. Eric Margini is watching his offense implode and the quarterback he signed off on, Brett Favre, is looking his age and falling prone to bad decisions.

For all college basketball lovers, the last eight-team Rainbow Classic begins Saturday with Hawaii meeting Colorado State in the opening round. Overall there will be 12 games played over four days. The Rainbow Warriors are playing better than at any time this season and are a lot of fun to watch. Junior swingman Rod Flemings is becoming worth the price of admission himself. He’s already the WAC’s leading scorer, and those numbers have been compiled while he’s been on one leg and poorly conditioned as a result.

As we head to the new year, a heartfelt thank you to all of the volunteer coaches who work with our children. Young lives are so positively affected by the countless hours you devote to their development. Your mentoring to our young people provides a framework for their future success on and off the playing field. Here’s wishing all of you a joyous and wonderful New Year!

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