Bill Shanks

Big year coming in Georgia in 2017

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart went 8-5 in his first season with the Bulldogs.
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart went 8-5 in his first season with the Bulldogs. AP

New Year’s Day is the day when we start anew. We vow to eat healthier, exercise more and hopefully, at the same time, watch more sports. And perhaps when we sit down to eat our black-eyed peas, Sunday we’ll make a few predictions of what’s to come in 2017.

Well, here is my look into the crystal ball for the new year. Don’t save this and throw it up in my face 12 months from now. My mediocre football predictions each week in the fall prove I’m not The Amazing Kreskin.

Let’s start with football, as in the first few weeks of 2017 we’ll have several big games. I’ll go out on a limb and predict Alabama as the champion in college football. It’s smart to go with Alabama until it proves you shouldn’t.

The Atlanta Falcons are actually going to play in January this year, and they’ll win a second-round game to get to the NFC championship game. But that’s where it will end. I hope this will be wrong, but I’ll gladly accept this as the next step in their process.

Dallas and Oakland will play in February’s Super Bowl. Derek Carr will make a miraculous recovery from his broken leg and lead the Raiders to a championship. What a story that would be to end the NFL season.

Next season, however, the Falcons will have the best team in the NFL. I’m not kidding. The defense has gotten better, and with the addition of one more defensive player through free agency and in the draft, Atlanta will be the team to beat for next year’s Super Bowl.

The Hawks will get out of this funk they have been in the last month and finish above .500 and earn the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. But they will not advance past the first round. Paul Millsap will leave, and the Hawks will have a new significant new starter going into next season.

The Braves will have a respectable season and go 85-77. They’ll be in the wild card race until late in the season and win the fans back. Brian Snitker will prove the team made a great decision in making him the full-time manager.

Several pitching prospects, specifically Sean Newcomb and Max Fried, will do so well the Braves will trade Bartolo Colon and Jaime Garcia. Dansby Swanson will be the NL’s Rookie of the Year with a great season.

In June, the Braves will take another pitcher with the fifth overall pick in the first round. You can never have too much pitching.

We will complain and gripe about how long it takes all of us from Middle Georgia to get to SunTrust Park, but when we realize how great it is and what an event it will be to go to Braves games again, we’ll stop complaining.

The Los Angeles Dodgers will beat the Boston Red Sox in the World Series, as all that Guggenheim money will finally produce a championship.

Back to college football, with Georgia Southern bouncing back with a better season next year. The offense will be what the fans want it to be, and the Eagles will be 7-5. But that’s it. Mercer, with a new quarterback, will not beat Auburn or Alabama, but it will get rich losing those games.

Georgia will bounce back from the mediocre 8-5 season and win the SEC East. It might be by default in that still weak division, but the Bulldogs will get to the SEC championship bame and lose to Alabama. Georgia’s offensive line will be better, helping the team to a 10-2 regular-season record.

Jacob Eason will improve with that stockier line of scrimmage in front of him, but Houston County product Jake Fromm will get playing time. Trent Thompson will be mentioned as one of the best defensive players in the nation. Everyone will finally get off Kirby Smart’s back.

Georgia Tech will struggle early with a new quarterback, but Paul Johnson’s bunch will still shock Tennessee in the first game of the season. The Yellow Jackets will finish 9-3 and be strong contenders for a division title.

There are better things to come in Georgia sports for us in 2017, and that gives us a lot to look forward to for the new year.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on “Middle Georgia’s ESPN” – 93.1 FM in Macon and 99.5 FM in Warner Robins. Follow Bill at and email him at