Here's the third and final installment of my list of sportsy-type things that will absolutely, definitely, guaranteed, positively take place over the next 12 months...or not.
I cranked the list up to 11 and each
prediction guarantee is progressively more likely to occur as the numbers fall. In other words, the lower the number, the more likely the events are to happen. (But they're all guarantees, so that shouldn't really matter)
4. Hawks lose in the first round of the Playoffs
Although the NBA team here in Atlanta has gotten off to a better start than some people predicted, there's still more than enough time for the Birds to squander their above average start to the season away.
If the playoffs started today, the Hawks (25-14) would be the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference and playing the Orlando Magic in the opening round.
But there's no need to wait until mid-April to find out the thrilling conclusion to that matchup.
The Hawks' inability to compete against the Magic in the postseason was well-documented last year and will rear its dispassionate head once again come 2011.
PREDICTION: Hawks get swept again by Magic; this time in the first round
3. Richt gets an overdue pink slip
After three consecutive seasons of underachievement and regressing win totals of 10, 8 and 6, the Bulldogs will show signs of improvement next year. Unfortunately for Richt, it won't be enough for him to keep his job.
UGA will go 9-3 in 2011, but will miss out on the SEC Championship (for the sixth straight year) and lose to the Florida Gators (for the ninth time in 11 years).
Despite Richt's off-the-field charm and rugged 'aw shucks-ness', the fact that four different SEC schools have won National Championships in the past five seasons while Georgia continues to slide down the proverbial ladder of relevancy within the conference will be too much for Richt overcome.
Not to mention that little issue his players had off the field this season. Ya know, the 12 players that were arrested since the beginning of 2010. Everything from simple battery to DUIs to missed court appearances, the Bulldog football team has had a knack for getting into trouble recently.
Any way you slice it, the Georgia football program is floundering and the oft-opinionated and eerily nostalgic Bulldog fanbase isn't going to take it anymore.
PREDICTION: After 11 seasons, Mark Richt will be fired.
2. Braves do things they aren't supposed to
With the addition of All-Star second baseman Dan Uggla, the Atlanta Braves now have the power bat that they've been lacking over the past half-decade and will likely be projected as the runner-up in the National League East.
The Philadelphia Phillies' acquisition of former Cy Young award winner Cliff Lee will certainly vault them to the top of many pundits' preseason lists of division champions and that's okay.
Because while the Braves won't win the NL East in 2011, they will sneak into the postseason as the Wild Card and wreak havoc on the Playoff picture.
PREDICTION: Braves (92-70) will advance to the NLCS and lose to a team other than the Phillies. Thus, advancing further in the postseason than that team from Philadelphia...suck on that.
1. Falcons fail to reach Super Bowl
This might be the only prediction I've made that I'll actually be rooting against.
But after hours upon hours of prognostication, I simply cannot see the Falcons defeating the Green Bay Packers on Saturday night.
Yes, the Falcons were able to beat the Pack a few weeks ago—albeit by the scantest of margins (20-17)—and Green Bay is the No. 6 seed coming into the house of pain for teams lacking the services of one Matt Ryan.
The Packers have also struggled to run the football this season and enter the game as 2.5-point underdogs.
But Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the Green Bay passing attack are on fire since week 15. The Packers defense is also one of the best in the league and held Atlanta to only 294 yards of offense in their November meeting.
A facemask penalty and a last-second Matt Bryant field goal allowed the Falcons to escape with a three-point victory during the regular season matchup, but don't expect a similar outcome in their postseason clash.
PREDICTION: The second-greatest Falcons season in franchise history ends against Green Bay (Packers 24, Falcons 20)
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