Well it’s time to eat black-eyed peas, check out the parades and watch more football. The start of the new year also gives us a chance to wonder what will happen in the next 12 months. Here are some predictions.
The Atlanta Falcons will finally win a playoff game, but they’ll falter in the second round. Getting a win in the postseason will be the next logical step in the Thomas Dimitroff/Mike Smith era, but fans will want more when the season resumes in September.
In February we’ll all go nuts on National Signing Day, as 18-year-olds make us believe they will be the savior for our college football teams.
The NFL draft will come and go and the Falcons will be watching the first round from the sidelines. Julio Jones better be great for a long time. They will, however, address offensive line issues in free agency.
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The Hawks will actually command our attention. They’ll shock the NBA by acquiring Dwight Howard from Orlando for Joe Johnson and Al Horford. Yes, I’m being very hopeful with this prediction.
Atlanta will have a good regular season and then face the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals. The Hawks will lose, but they will make it deeper in the playoffs than ever before. The stronger bench (yes, Tracy McGrady) will give Atlanta a legit chance to be one of the best teams in the NBA.
The Braves will finish third in the NL East with 84 victories. The disappointing season will put manager Fredi Gonzalez on the hot seat, which will be unfortunate. But at the end of the year the team will be sold to a non-corporate structure that will make the Braves a priority instead of an afterthought.
The Braves will have the best pitching staff in the NL, but issues on offense will keep the team from doing better. With almost $40 million coming off the books after the 2012 season, Atlanta will be one of the most active teams in free agency next December, giving everyone hope for 2013.
Chipper Jones finishes his career with the Braves with a decent season. He’ll be tempted to return in 2013, but he’ll realize how tough it is to play third base at the age of 40.
The Thrashers … oh, wait … they’re gone.
The Georgia Bulldogs go 11-1 in the regular season and then lose again to LSU in the SEC championship game. Georgia has the easiest schedule in the SEC in 2012, as it once again misses playing LSU, Alabama and Arkansas. The Bulldogs will lose to South Carolina (who might be better next year) in Columbia in October and then win out before falling short again in the conference title game.
Running back Keith Marshall will be the SEC’s top freshman, but this time around fans won’t chuckle as they did this year when Isaiah Crowell won the same award. Marshall will be a consistent force for quarterback Aaron Murray, who will once again throw a bunch of touchdowns.
Alabama and LSU do what they did in 2011… dominate college football.
Georgia Tech will have a normal season under head coach Paul Johnson. They’ll go 8-4 and play in a December bowl game.
Georgia Southern will once again play deep in the FCS playoffs. The third straight impressive season for head coach Jeff Monken will get the attention of a FBS team, and 2012 will be his final season in Statesboro.
When the NFL season rolls around again the Falcons will win 11 games and win one of the wild card spots. How will they do in the playoffs? That’ll have to come in the 2013 predictions.
And, finally, more and more people will realize what a gem Middle Georgia has in the Sports Hall of Fame museum. It will become even more of an attraction in downtown Macon.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com.