Another great year. Atlanta Falcons 2017 record prediction.

American football is my favorite sport. While I do enjoy watching the Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Hawks, and Nashville Predators a lot, they’re not football teams. Still, a taste of the next NFL season was given to with the release of the 2017 schedule. I now know not only the opponents of my Falcons but also their order.

I see us doing very well again. Steve Sarkisian doing well as offensive coordinator. He’s experienced and hasn’t had those drinking issues that some fear come up in some time. And don’t sell short the notion that Kyle Shanahan has been given a bit too much credit as we used the no huddle offense a lot, which required Matt Ryan to sometimes run the offense.

I do still see our offense regressing somewhat from the dizzying highs of 2016. But experience for our young defense and the additions of Dontari Poe and a pass rusher and/or safety in the draft should boost our defensive play that was already at a very high level in the latter half of the regular season and in the playoffs Thus, the team will be more balanced, which should work in our favor.

Without further ado, here’s how I see the games going.

Week 1: @Bears

The NFL has made everybody look bad. A trip to Chicago, not the Super Bowl rematch with the Patriots, is our first game.

Mike Glennon, a quarterback who couldn’t win the starting job from Josh McCown or Jameis Winston is Chicago’s quarterback. Some think he’s only filler until another quarterback coming out of the draft develops. Makes perfect since. Anyway, they can’t put many points on our defense with an even worse offense than last year. Their so-so defense will stop this from being a 30-point drubbing, but just barely.

But I’ll say this for Glennon: He has the most distinctive neck in the NFL.

Result: 37-10 (1-0)

Week 2: vs. Packers

Rematches of all of our postseason games are scheduled. This one is on the big stage of Sunday Night Football. With no Eddie Lacy and the Pack appearing to have lost as much on defense as it has gained, this remains the most quarterback-dependent team this side of the Colts, so it’s a good thing they have Aaron Rodgers. Regardless, Dan Quinn will be 5-0 when coaching against Green Bay because of there mediocre defense, and history inconsistency in warmer climates. If this were in snowy Lambeau, I’d probably chalk this up as a loss.

Result: 31-24 (2-0)

Week 3: @Lions

This time we do have to play in a cold environment. No sweat, we get the Lions, who can’t seem to beat above .500 opponents other than the Packers, who Matthew Stafford still has a losing record to. We got this!

Result: 34-26 (3-0)

Week 4: vs. Bills

OK, we always seem to have this one game against lesser adversaries who press what strengths they have to prevail (Bears ’14, 49ers ’15, Chargers ’16, all division rivals ’12). I’ve got this as that game. LeSean runs for a dollar, five dimes, some pennies and a pair of touchdowns on us while a defense that should be better with Rob Ryan out of the picture stops us from responding to every score.

Our reaction to losing to the Bills.

Result: 26-30 (3-1)

Week 5: bye

Yeah, our bye comes already. Earliest bye since 2013. We got banged-up into oblivion that year. I hope that’s not an omen…

Week 6: vs. Dolphins

I’m sorry, I don’t see this as the surging team that others do. The AFC East got a very easy schedule and weak conference last year that enabled Miami to make the playoffs while beating next to nobody significant. The reality is that while their defense is fine, their offensive line will limit them until it is addressed.

Result: 27-13 (4-1)

Week 7: @Patriots

Ah, yes, the Super Bowl rematch. It may not have kicked the season off, but the NFL did put it in prime time.

I think we’ll actually win this time. We’re hungry for revenge and really, we would’ve won the Super Bowl if the pressure on Tom Brady hadn’t been stopped due to our defense getting tired on account to offensive line injuries and Shanahan’s curious decision to not go for a game-winning field goal. This time, the pressure never lets up and we know better than to try to convert third and forever in field goal range. But it will give us a feeling of “two little, too late.”

Result: 26-20 (5-1)

Week 8: @Jets

With a defense of past-their-prime players and Josh McCown as the likely starting quarterback, the J-E-T-S are ready to T-A-N-K! It goes without saying that we’ll beat them. The admirably passionate fans in Metlife Stadium will nonetheless cheer hard until midway through the second quarter, though.

Will Fireman Ed keep the crowd going?

Result: 38-7 (6-1)

Week 9: @Panthers

Ordinarily, three straight road games would be brutal, but we have performed exactly the same on the road as at home for three straight seasons. Throw in an opposing quarterback who was allowed to play through a torn rotator cuff and the fact that sub-par Matt Kalil will be charged to protect Cam from Vic Beasley, and this is another win.

And yes, seven games have gone by before the first single divisional bout. Guess the NFL thinks we’re shoo-ins to win the South.

Result: 24-10 (7-1)

Week 10: vs. Cowboys

Thought to have been a classic shootout pitting Matt Ryan and Julio Jones against the best offensive line in football, cheap Jerry Jones has ruined that idea by allowing a couple starters to walk. Dallas still does fairly well this year because it has a lot of remaining talent, but not enough in this one.

Result: 31-21 (8-1)

Sorry, Dak, but you can’t count on this kind of protection this time.

Week 11: @Seahawks

Oh, God. A trip to Centurylink Field. It’s not the West Coast trip or Seattle with Eddie Lacy (who cheerleading coach Pete Carroll might not be able to discipline into keeping his weight down anyway). It’s how many breaks the ‘Hawks seem to get at home by the refs. Bribery? Remarkably loud home crowd that officials won’t defy. I dunno. I just know that this team that is pissed off at what we did to them in the playoffs and hammering the final nail in the coffin of their dynasty. So they will play dirty and get away with it!

My game plan? Matt Ryan just needs to avoid injury on this Monday night from the late hits Michael Bennett will deliver. Throw picks if you have to, just live to fight another day.

Result: 20-34 (8-2)

Week 12: vs. Buccaneers

I still don’t think Jameis Winston is a very good quarterback, even with DeSean Jackson, but Tampa Bay’s defense is really good and was the reason for the team’s late season push in 2016. I don’t disagree with the hype they’re getting. I also see them beating us.

Result: 13-20 (8-3)

Week 13: vs. Vikings

With a declining Adrian Peterson seeming poised to leave the Vikings, this team has one of the worst offenses in the league. Defense is another story, but I don’t see a loss here.

Result: 21- 13 (9-3)

Week 14: vs. Saints

I think New Orleans’ days of owning us are at an end. First of all, we’ve swept them twice in three seasons. Second, they don’t have Brandon Cooks anymore which will hurt their offense bad. Third, inept general manager Mickey Loomis is still there, so I don’t see their defense not being awful. I hope the Saints keep him forever.

“Can’t believe I convinced Benson that if I got another year, I could out-negotiate Bill Belichick in a trade! Damn I’m smooth!”

Result: 31-27 (10-3)

Week 15: @Buccaneers

As both these teams are road warriors, here’s the game in this rivalry that we win.

Result: 30-21 (11-3)

Week 16: @Saints

After their anniversary bash was ruined last year, and now having lost three straight to us, the Saints will be playing their best football of the year. Drew Brees throws an overtime touchdown to win it.

Result: 34-40 OT (11-4)

Week 17: vs. Panthers

Sadly, Cam Newton is probably out by this time because he’s said to probably not be 100% for awhile into the season. And again, he’s recuperating behind Matt Kalil. I think we win either way.

Not saying I want cam to be knocked into the IR. It’s just my honest conclusion.

Result: 27-6 (12-4)

So I have us going 12-4 and getting a top two seed. Will we bring a Super Bowl to Atlanta this time? There have been a number of teams (Cavaliers,Clemson football, North Carolina basketball) redeeming championship game losses the very next year. I’m far from calling it, but we’ll see. RISE UP!!!

SWEEEEEEP!!! Predators-Blackhawks (Round 1) recap.

Preds sweep ‘Hawks!

Well, that’s an unexpected pleasure!

Favored to win the Stanley Cup once again, It goes without saying that the Chicago Blackhawks were expected to win this series with the Nashville Predators. So what actually happened? We proceeded to win all four games, two of which were blowouts! Whoa!

Me? These games are often close so I thought we had a chance. But I knew that we had to win one of the first two games in Chicago. Sure enough, we did that in game 1 with a shutout of the Blackhawks. We then followed that up by crushing Chicago 5-0!

There sure was.

At that point, we seemed favored to win the series. Then Chicago took a 2-0 lead in game three. I’m like, “Oh, shit! If Chicago wins, we have a series!” And you can’t give a team like the ‘Hawks a chance to come back. So Chicago is starting to open the door. But then Filip Forsberg slams the door with two goals and gets the Nashville crowd (no Chicago invasion this time) to chant his name. And then rising star Kevin Fiala bolts the door shut in overtime. A 4-1 win in game 4 and that’s all she wrote!

So how did we do it? I’m happy to report that the late regular season surge we were on has continued. First of all, Pekka Rinne is playing out of his mind! His save rate so far in the playoffs is crazy! Three goals in four games! That’s one way to beat a #1 seed — stop them from scoring goals.

No explanation needed.

Despite his stats and the apparent opinion of the home crowd in game 4 (“Crawford! Crawford! Crawford… YOU SUCK!!!”) Corey Crawford did a good job himself. But Chicago was outpaced throughout this series, particularly by defensemen like P.K. Subban and Roman Josi. Even when we couldn’t get the puck, like we couldn’t in game 1, we were logjamming them and making it difficult for them to get a good shot. Throw in decent scoring and you understand how we got the sweep.

If the truth be told, we dominated that stat sheet in the 2015 series against Chicago as well. Even in the one stat that matters, both of the blowouts in that series favored us. We just didn’t capitalize on our opportunities. We did this time. And so we get the sweep and advance to the second round.

“I am Forsberg, destroyer of goalies!”

We’ve got a bit of rest as we wait for the Blues to (probably) close things out against Minnesota. That could make the difference in whether we make the third round or not, but for now, I’m going to enjoy this moment. Welcome to Smashville!

NCAA Football 12

What happened to this series? Oh right, the players got wind of the fact that EA was using their likenesses in these games to profit without giving them any credit. The case is still in the courts. Not that the students aren’t totally in the right, but this has disappointed many because it means that Madden’s little brother is in the day care center for now.

Anyhoo, before the eventual release of another of these games (whether it’s next year or in five years), I think I’ll review one of last of them. While it does have the college football feel, it’s ultimately sunk by a number of flaws. Every problem Madden gets criticized for (grating load times, ridiculously dumb Computer-controlled teammates, etc.) are even worse here.

Not what this Alabama fan likes to see.

Plot: N/A

Graphics: 3 out of 10

The models and stadium landscapes don’t look so good. Un-detailed and unsophisticated, they look outdated even for a late PS3/X360 era title.

All this would merit a 6, except that the load times are a nightmare. I’m more patient with them than the average gamer, but even bringing the save file for your fictional scholarship or coaching career takes awhile. The Maddens of the original Playstation didn’t take this much time loading, and they couldn’t even do convincing people in the stands!

Sound: 7 out of 10

Commentary’s reasonably good. I also like the loud “smack” sounds that happen after a tackle. Very satisfying.

When you drop a pass on third down… you really drop the ball.

Gameplay: 7 out of 10

One thing to note: if you think it’s easy to score touchdowns in Madden, think again. Long runs and deep balls are not hard in the NCAA Football series. This is true to real life. Because of the simplicity and fast pace of college schemes, making it physically harder on defenses and easier for quarterbacks to figure out, 80-90 cumulative points in a close game is quite common. So it makes sense that scoring can come quick and easy here. Remember, though, that the opposition will find it just as easy to score on you.

Other than that, this is Madden with a smaller playbook. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You have less options, but you’re unlikely to be overwhelmed by these options.

Three plays. Decisions, decisions…

The one issue is starting a career as a player instead of a coach is a chore. Your computer-controlled teammates are absolutely horrible. Quarterbacks throw picks and ignore open guys, receivers don’t honestly fight for the ball, defensive backs blow coverages, ect. This is a problem with Madden, but it’s a much bigger problem here.

Challenge: 4 out of 10

To be true to life, playing a career against Computer opponents can’t help but be unbalanced in its difficulty. This is because there is a huge gap in college football parity. You see, schools are not equal in how prestigious they are and how much money they spend on the football program.

In game terms, there are opponents that are just too easy. Others are modestly challenging.

10-0 Florida in the first quarter is the Georgia-Florida rivalry, all right.

Overall: 5 out of 10

I’m sorry, but this series is way overrated. Even if you’re a college football fan (as I am), these games aren’t great. If the NCAA Football series comes back after EA resolves its legal dispute, there are definite improvements to be made.

We’re here with momentum after all. Hawks-Wizards (round 1) preview.

Well, now I feel blissfully stupid.

Not long ago, I stated that the Atlanta Hawks had become an awful basketball team that was rebuilding on account of not being a contender yet, but was having a lost season or two as the consequence of that rebuild. We were playing absolutely atrocious basketball! In particular, we actually lost twice to the Nets.

But then something happened: the team turned around in our last five games. First, we beat Boston, which wound up getting the #1 seed in the East. Then we blew the Cavs out of Cleveland despite being banged-up. Then we played them again and overcame a 26-point deficit in the fourth quarter to win again. Then there were lesser opponents in the Hornets. We smashed them! We did lose the last game, but with second-stringers playing because we were already thinking about the playoffs.

This match-up, to be exact.

What happened? First, we stopped turning over the ball with reckless abandon. Second, we starting shooting straight. Dennis Schroder actually seems like a starting point guard now. Third, Dwight Howard hasn’t been committing so many fouls anymore. The last one is a biggie. Without those blunders, it’s a lot easier to see how good he is at getting rebounds and playing defense.

So now we’re hot coming into the playoffs against a division rival. Personally, I hate the Celtics, Heat, and Hornets more, but the Wizards will do. They beat us last time, but we were in the awful stretch I was just talking about. Of course, the Wizards are not last year’s mediocre team. No, they’ve won forty-nine games, thus seem to be one of the few threats to the Cavs’ third straight Eastern Conference title.

Maybe but none of this will be remembered if they don’t win now.

Having said that, we have been beating great teams. The way we’ve been playing, we shouldn’t be counted out of this series.

This series does mean something for both teams. We met the Wizards two years ago in the playoffs and won 4-2. That hasn’t been forgotten by either team. So maybe we got ourselves a rivalry here. True to Atlanta!

Start at the top and work down. Predators-Blackhawks (Round 1) preview.

The Nashville Predators are now in the playoffs. But it didn’t come as easy as most had figured. The acquisition of P.K. Subban was expected to boost us to a Central Division Championship and Stanley Cup contender-ship. Instead, we have the same record and pretty much the same strong defensive play and inconsistent offensive play as last season.

Funny thing is, we’re essentially starting at the top of the mountain. The Chicago Blackhawks are my most hated hockey team. Ever since we stopped being in the same division as Detroit, the ‘Hawks have been our top rivals. But though we may not like it, they are the kings of hockey with three Stanley Cups so far this decade. Wouldn’t surprise me if they make it four right now.

Not saying I would like that.

Who concerns me the most about the Blackhawks? Pretty much the whole team, but here’s the top dogs: near impenetrable goalie Corey Crawford, the swift Patrick Kane, and the general that is Joel Quenneville.

That said, am I scared of the Blackhawks? No! The players tell the press that they’re not scared. I believe them. We have never been afraid of the Blackhawks. We beat them our fair share of the time. We can win this series. The psychological boost of beating possibly the best team in the NHL would go a long way towards winning the Stanley Cup.

Meantime this rivalry is on!

Will we do it? Pekka Rinne and (and Juuse Saros, although he won’t be playing) has been tending our goal well lately. He’s allowed more than three goals just twice and less than two three times in his last ten games. Despite the phenomenal talent of Corey Crawford, that’s good enough to do the job on defense.

Trouble is, we haven’t been so good on offense. Sometimes we score a lot, sometimes there’s only a vertical line on the scoreboard. I hope guys like Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen can deliver here.

We have to step up in these situations.

So yeah, much respect to the run Chicago has put together, but they’re still rivals and in our way. Welcome to Smashville!

Trump’s first international crisis

This didn’t take long.

Less than three months into the Trump administration, we are in a serious foreign policy situation. In response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gassing his own people, we have launched many missiles at that country.

Before I continue, I’d like to take a moment to mock Brian Williams for calling this “beautiful.” Who other than dictators consider war to be beautiful? Answer: newsmen who want the big ratings war creates. But few are stupid enough to let this destructively selfish opinion be known.

I know you’re still lamenting that ratings bonanza that an ebola outbreak would’ve gotten you.

People have, as usual when it comes to politics. formed a mix of opinions. Progressives have viewed this as having the potential to start another disastrous war not too long after Iraq ended.

Conservatives’ reaction has been… hypocrisy. They say that this is a complicated matter because it could lead to disaster yet that there are consequences to doing nothing about these strongmen. A few even go farther, blaming Barack Obama’s alleged weakness abroad for Assad feeling confident in gassing his own people. Why’s this hypocritical? Because the right mostly advised against intervening in Syria back when Obama considered it four years ago.

For those who think I’m being a nitpicker in this, when has the right ever hesitated when it comes to Al Gore and other environmentalists who use high-energy machines? Flip-flopping between the war/peace positions of George Patton and Abbie Hoffman as politically convenient deserves no less criticism.

But, yeah, an environmentalist driving a SUV does look bad. Let it never be said that I can’t learn anything from the other side.

Looking past the political divide and opportunistic media, I can see the possibility for disaster, good things, and a big, fat, zilch.

When we bomb countries, it can stoke tensions in a hurry (see the aforementioned war in Iraq, which created additional terrorism as it convinced the Arabs that America had gone crazy). On the other hand, these dictators are men of big mouths and tiny dicks. This kind of thing certainly can intimidate them.

And then there’s the cases of the bombing that only produces a standoff. I can remember numerous times that we bombed pre-war Iraq to keep its tyrant, Saddam Hussein from overstepping his bounds. Beyond that, nothing really happened.

Well, there was the South Park version of Saddam.

One thing that does worry me is that President Trump ran on an anti-war platform and is contradicting it before he would have had time to give the matter careful thought. That is not an encouraging sign of strong decisiveness.

Dracula: Dead and Loving It

Leslie Nielson as Count Dracula
Peter MacNicol as Thomas Renfield
Stephen Weber as Jonathan Harker
Amy Yasbeck as Mina Seward
Harvey Korman as Dr. Seward
Lysette Anthony as Lucy Westenra
Mel Brooks as Dr. Abraham Van Helsing

Back in the 1990’s, one of the most frequent comedy stars was Canadian actor Leslie Nielson. He really had a knack for this genre. His acting, timing, and sense of humor were always just right, and I enjoyed all the movies that he headlined. Well, OK, Mr. Magoo kind of sucked, but we all have ups and downs.

All vampires must have wild hair, one way or another.

Here Nielson teams with director/star Mel Brooks, whose career hadn’t been the same since the bomb that was Life Stinks. Like many Brooks movies, Dracula: Dead and Loving It is a parody of another movie. Although it came not too long after Bram Stoker’s Dracula, it seems more the ancient, trend-setting Dracula from 1931. In any case, Dead and Loving It is a very funny, underrated lampooning of the horror icon.

The acting is really good. Despite his advanced years, Nielson generally played caricatures of action heroes. Here he is instead playing the most famous of vampires, Dracula. He takes to this role like a fish to water, and his version of the majestic Dracula voice is a funny parody. Other standout performances include Peter MacNicol as a bumbling idiot under Dracula’s control, Mel Brooks as a wise but eccentric old doctor, and Lysette Anthony as a seduced, unsuspecting victim of Dracula.

Of course, what drives a comedy is the humor. Thankfully, Dracula: Dead and Loving It is a pretty funny spoof. The humor focuses on lampooning the aforementioned 1931 classic, right down to mocking numerous lines, like when Dracula says “children of the night” before motioning to bat shit and adds, “what a mess they make.” And this movie has perhaps the most hilarious death scene ever!

And believe it or not, it’s not this.

The critical reception to this movie was surprisingly negative. But then again, it was for a lot of Brooks’ movies. And really, comedies just don’t have the same luck with the critics that dramas and comic book adaptations do. Maybe the critics just take things way too seriously?

At any rate, I personally find Dracula: Dead and Loving It to be a fine parody worth seeing even today.

If you saw this in your neighborhood, you wouldn’t think it was a dance. You’d dial 911.

Overall: 8 out of 10