Mark Bradley blog 

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Have the once-meek Falcons gotten too mean?

  • 11:38 pm Saturday, August 23rd, 2014 by Mark Bradley
"Play with composure!" Smitty whispers. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

I preface this by saying that exhibitions are no predictor of what happens when teams start playing games for real. I write knowing that, two games into September, this could fall under the heading of “never mind.” That said …

Twenty-nine penalties have been assessed against the Atlanta Falcons in three preseason games for a total of 268 yards, and that’s not counting infractions that offset or were declined. (On their final snap of the 24-17 loss to Tennessee on Saturday, they were flagged for two violations, neither of which was accepted.) But here again we offer a caveat.

As sloppy as [More]

The fickle finger of Johnny Football: What it means

  • 10:47 am Tuesday, August 19th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
This sort of gesture is A-OK. (Evan Vucci/AP)

In most cases, it would be wrong to make too much of a gesture made in the heat of competition. In the case of Johnny Manziel, the middle finger he flashed toward the Washington Redskins’ bench during Monday’s exhibition game — repeat, exhibition game — is too much in keeping with his persona to be dismissed as a one-off. This being Johnny Football, you half-expected as much.

Having seen Manziel in person as he directed the epic Texas A&M comeback against Duke in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, I consider myself a convert. Before the 2013 season, I wondered if the 2012 Heisman [More]

From SI: Petrino and Grantham aren’t getting along

  • 10:18 pm Monday, August 18th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
"All these guys? They hate me already." (Garry Jones/AP)

Well, that didn’t take long. According to an SI.com report by Pete Thamel and Thayer Evans, the odd Louisville couple that is Bobby Petrino (once the Falcons’ coach) and Todd Grantham (recently Georgia’s defensive coordinator) has already had a falling out. Who among us didn’t see this one coming?

Write Thamel/Evans:

Sources with ties to the Cardinals’ football program and Petrino said there’s significant friction between Petrino and Grantham. The two have feuded often since Grantham’s hiring in January — so much that one source insists Petrino would have already gotten rid of Grantham if not for his guaranteed five-year contract [More]

The Falcons play and win and don’t look awful

  • 11:02 pm Friday, August 8th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
Matt Ryan completed six passes and called it a night. (David Goldman/AP)

So: Did the Atlanta Falcons look bigger? Tougher? Meaner? Are they ready to “rectify with a vengeance,” as general manager Thomas Dimitroff hopes? Is one exhibition victory over the Miami Dolphins cause to fire up the Super Bowl Express?

Nah.

They looked OK. Not great, not awful. Just OK. They didn’t take a lead until the second half, and by then both starting quarterbacks were long gone, neither having played beyond the first quarter, neither having thrown an incompletion. The Dolphins took the opening kickoff and drove to a touchdown. The Falcons answered. That was it for both No. 1’s, and that [More]

Football Outsiders thinks Falcons will rebound!

  • 6:30 am Monday, July 21st, 2014 by Mark Bradley
A healthy Julio Jones could make a difference, don't you think? (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Recent appraisals of the Atlanta Falcons haven’t been kind. Pro Football Focus rated theirs the 30th-best roster in the 32-team NFL. In its yearbook, Sporting News ranked them third in the four-team NFC South and 24th in the whole wide NFL. But today we offer glad tidings from an improbable source.

A year ago, Football Outsiders sounded the earliest alarm that the 2013 season wouldn’t be kind to the Falcons, rating their “mean projection” at an NFC South-worst 7.6 wins, which sounded mighty low for a team that had just gone 13-3. (As it turned out, even Football [More]

Sporting News: Falcons third in division, 24th in NFL

  • 9:39 am Wednesday, July 9th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
"One word of advice, men. Don't buy that Sporting News yearbook." (Curtis Compton/AJC)

As faithful readers — and perhaps some unfaithful ones — know, I’m a major fan of preseason predictions, and not just mine. (Especially not mine.) There was a year when Sporting News, which historically has produced first-rate annuals for all the big sports, didn’t publish a single one, and I was beyond consolation.

I’m happy to report that Sporting News is again back in the yearbook business, and it was with great delight that I bought its Pro Football edition over the weekend. (I also bought Phil Steele’s idiosyncratic college football annual, of which I’m also enamored and which [More]

ESPN survey: Matt Ryan is a second-tier quarterback

  • 9:08 am Thursday, July 3rd, 2014 by Mark Bradley
He wears No. 2, and he's ranked in Tier 2. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

In the effort to rank the NFL’s quarterbacks, Mike Sando of ESPN Insider has conducted a survey of 26 front-office types. For the Atlanta Falcons, the good news is that Matt Ryan ranks No. 8 overall. (Though he’s tied with three others for the eighth spot.) The sobering news is that some of those FO types are quoted, albeit anonymously, as feeling chilly toward Matty Ice.

Sando’s ranking groups five quarterbacks into the top tier: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Andrew Luck. The second tier begins with Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger. Thence cometh the Iceman. [More]

A bad early loss: Weatherspoon out for the season

  • 9:26 pm Tuesday, June 10th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
They aren't celebrating in Flowery Branch tonight. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

You might recall that Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus just rated the Atlanta Falcons’ roster the third-worst in the NFL. You might also remember that Monson labeled only three Falcons defenders as “above average.” Now comes word that one of those three — linebacker Sean Weatherspoon — ruptured his Achilles tendon and has been lost for the 2014 season.

Falcons coach Mike Smith announced Tuesday night that Weatherspoon was running “with our medical staff” during one of those essential OTA’s — an organized team activity, which is a fancy term for a post-Memorial-Day-but-pre-Fourth-of-July practice — when the injury [More]

Do the Falcons have the NFL’s third-worst roster?

  • 8:05 am Friday, June 6th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
"We're No. 30! We're No. 30!" (Kent D. Johnson/AJC)

Pro Football Focus is a numbers-driven Web site that serves a different function than Football Outsiders, a numbers-driven Web site often referenced here. Football Outsiders mostly takes a macro view of advanced analytics; Pro Football Focus goes micro. PFF’s analysts attempt to do as coaches do, reviewing tape — or video, this being the 21st Century — and assigning grades to players.

As we know, football is less a game of individual statistics than baseball, which is almost entirely a game of individual stats. But PFF makes the brave attempt to rate every player at every position, offensive linemen [More]

Football Outsiders: Falcons worst in NFC South

  • 8:07 am Wednesday, May 21st, 2014 by Mark Bradley
Protective headgear is needed when reading a Football Outsiders projection. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

As noted, my favorite predictions — to read, if not to make — are those steeped in advanced analytics. Regarding football, the place to go for advanced analytics is Football Outsiders, which I’ve referenced many times. And it was, you might recall, Football Outsiders that sounded the loudest alarm ahead of the Atlanta Falcons’ 2013 crash.

(In its 2013 Almanac, Football Outsiders set the Falcons’ “mean projection” at 7.6 wins, the lowest of any team in the NFC South. The Falcons hadn’t won fewer than nine games in any of the previous five seasons and had just gone 13-3. [More]