Four trips to the playoffs in the Mike Smith-Matt Ryan era, four losses prior to the final hurdle for the Falcons. As for the Patriots, they are accustomed to winning Super Bowls, but that has not been the norm of late. After losing last year’s Super Bowl in the final seconds, the Pats went down one game earlier this time around.
For several others, as well, Friday has not come soon enough (all odds provided by Sportsbook.ag).
Atlanta Falcons. Three years. Twice with home-field advantage. Zero Super Bowl appearances. Hmmmm…sounds a lot like an Atlanta sports team. Well, it is! The Falcons at least managed to win one playoff game, when they squandered all of a 27-7 fourth-quarter lead before rallying to beat Seattle, 30-28. But blowing all of a 17-0 advantage over San Francisco proved to be too much to overcome last weekend in the Georgia Dome. As a result, Atlanta will be watching another Super Bowl at home. Meanwhile, the team (which is not expected to have Tony Gonzalez next season) is +1600 to hoist the Lombardi Trophy in 2014.
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New England Patriots. The Falcons may have lost in more heartbreaking of fashion, but they at least put up a respectable showing as four-point underdogs. New England, on the other hand, went into the AFC Championship as a -9.5 favorite home favorite over Baltimore and got completely manhandled (mainly in the second half). This is somewhat hard to believe, but the Patriots have not won a Super Bowl since the 2004 season. Tom Brady and company are +600 favorites to win it all next season.
Darrelle Revis. An interesting football trade rumor popped up on Wednesday, with the Jets reportedly open to unloading their star cornerback. Revis took to Twitter one day later and commented that he was “speechless” over the possibility of being dealt. It should be a chaotic first few days (and maybe weeks and months) for new general manager John Idzik, who was introduced on Thursday. New York, which is considered to be in rebuilding mode even if it doesn’t trade Revis, is a +5000 longshot to win Super Bowl XLVIII.
Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers have lost four in a row and eight of their last 10. They are eight games under .500 at 17-25. They are four games out of being in the playoffs as the eighth and final Western Conference seed. They have defeated only one team with a winning record since Christmas Day. It’s dark times in Los Angeles (at least for Laker Nation), and nothing suggests Dwight Howard’s return (cleared to play on Friday) will make a drastic difference. The Lakers’ precipitous decline has them at +2000 to win the West and +4000 to win the NBA title.
Martin Prado. On Thursday morning, Prado woke up once again as a key piece of another Braves team expected to contend for the NL East and even the World Series. He was also Chipper Jones’ penciled-in successor at third base. By Thursday afternoon, Prado was arguably the best player on the rebuilding Diamondbacks, who shipped Justin Upton to Atlanta—where he will pair with his brother, B.J., in the outfield. It could be a long year for Prado and the D-Backs as part of a loaded NL West that includes the Dodgers and 2012 World Series champion San Francisco. Arizona is +5000 to win the 2013 Fall Classic while the Braves are +1400.
One-loss teams. It’s one of those years in college basketball. You know, the kind in which it seems like every single team in the nation wants nothing to do with the No. 1 ranking. Indiana had it at the start, Duke took over for a while, Louisville had all of one week there, Michigan was one win from getting there, and now Duke is giving it up one more time. The Blue Devils got destroyed at Miami on Wednesday, 90-63. Arizona could have gained some ground, but the Wildcats fell at home to UCLA on Thursday, 84-73, also suffering their second loss of the season. Michigan is a +500 favorite to win the National Championship; Duke has slipped to +800.
Maria Sharapova. Sharapova had been marching through the Melbourne draw with record ease, having dropped a mere nine games through her first five matches. With Serena Williams out of the tournament, it was all right there for the Russian to capture her second Aussie title. But then she ran into Li Na, and Sharapova lost by the same 6-2, 6-2 scoreline with which she had won her quarterfinal match. Instead of another installment of the Sharapova vs. Victoria Azarenka rivalry, it will be Li facing the world No. 1 on Saturday. Azarenka is a -145 favorite to successfully defend her 2012 title.
Roger Federer. It was not a good semifinal span for No. 2 seeds. After Sharapova succumbed to Li, Federer — who put up a much better fight — went down to Andy Murray. Federer’s loss (a grueling five-setter) was his first to Murray in a Grand Slam, although the Swiss did get clobbered by the Scot in the Olympic gold-medal match. Murray advances to Sunday’s final against Novak Djokovic.
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