Mark Bradley blog 

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

The great Matt Ryan has never been greater

  • 6:40 pm Sunday, September 7th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
Robert McClain makes a point-saving interception. (John Bazemore/AP)

These short takes are presented as a companion to the Falcons-Saints game column, which can be found on myajc.com.

1. As great as he has been as a Falcon, Matt Ryan has never been greater than he was Sunday. Forget, if only for a moment, the two fourth-quarter scoring drives. (The first to take the lead, the second to force overtime.) Forget the 448 passing yards, which established a franchise record. Forget even his stop-the-presses 15 yards scrambling. Return instead to the final 20 seconds of the first half: The Saints had re-established their 13-point lead and were about to [More]

Live from Falcons-Saints: This ain’t no foolin’ around

  • 11:42 am Sunday, September 7th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
The Falcons have a shot to turn the NFC South upside down. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

A fairly big season for the local 11 (or 53, to be precise) kicks off with a big-time game. More than a few folks think the New Orleans Saints will win the Super Bowl, though I’m not among those. Maybe one or two people think the Atlanta Falcons will be good again, and I am one of those.

The Saints are favored on the road, which doesn’t often happen in the NFL unless you’re visiting Jacksonville. I’m not a bettor, but that seems to me a money-making opportunity. This is a prove-it game for the team that just went 4-12. It [More]

Grantland: The Falcons are Super Bowl contenders

  • 10:05 am Friday, September 5th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
Julio's back. That helps. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

As we know, offseason appraisals of the Atlanta Falcons have run from lukewarm (Football Outsiders projected them to be better but not quite good) to lousy (Pro Football Focus assessed theirs as the NFL’s 30th-best roster). Here’s one, from Bill Barnwell of Grantland, that’s wildly — wildly, I say — encouraging.

Barnwell lists the Falcons as one of the eight teams that can win it all. His reasoning:

I just think it’s shortsighted to write off a team that was so good for so long after one bad year. I can’t really prove that, because there just aren’t many [More]

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 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]

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]