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Zopf: Falcons fans hard to understand

Still holding on to hatred of Philly QB Vick

POSTED: January 12, 2011 4:53 p.m.

Falcons fans never cease to amaze me.

While driving home from watching Sunday’s wild card games, and a day after the 7-9 Seahawks shocked everyone outside of Seattle with a 41-36 win over the defending champion New Orleans Saints, I looked at my wife and said, “I bet everyone in Atlanta is pulling for the Eagles today.”

I was wrong.

When we arrived home, I moseyed over to my neighbor’s house to watch the end of the Packers-Eagles game.

The scenario was simple: if Philadelphia won, the hometown Falcons would host the Seahawks, a team that’s about as good as their record shows. On the other hand, if the Packers won, the Falcons would host Green Bay, a team most pundits had penciled into the Super Bowl prior to the slew of injuries it suffered this year.

Most fans, especially those of a franchise that has reached only one Super Bowl in its history, would want the easiest route to get there. Not the lifelong Falcons fans I encountered.

Season ticket holders for more than a decade, these fans were pulling for the Packers. They didn’t care that the Falcons barely beat Green Bay during the season or that the Packers were clearly a bigger threat than Seattle. They only cared about one thing: Getting Michael Vick out of the playoffs.

Even after three years of being removed from the city and its team, and after a year in which he showed his dynamic playmaking ability was not lost inside a cell in Leavenworth, Vick is still a hated man.

“I don’t care if we play the Packers, I want Vick to lose,” was one comment I heard.

“Who cares if the Packers are better, we beat them before, and I want Vick to suffer,” another person said.

Wow.

Now, I know the hurting Vick put on the Falcons and this fan base was almost on par to what he did to those dogs in Virginia, but let’s get serious people. Vick paid his dues, came back to the NFL and revived a career that most believed had gone down the toilet. And believe it or not, he actually made the Falcons better because of it.

I don’t want to rehash all the negatives surrounding Vick and his incarceration, but had he not been tied to dogfighting, and had the Falcons not voided his contract, this year’s group won’t be poised to make its first Super Bowl run since 1998.

With Vick, the Falcons don’t have the luxury of Bobby Petrino quitting which led to the hiring of Mike Smith, one of the most underrated coaches in the NFL.

With Vick, the Falcons don’t draft Matt Ryan, who’s quickly becoming one of the 10 best signal callers in the league.

With Vick, the Falcons are still a mediocre team with a fan base questioning whether or not he’ll ever lead the team to the promised land.

In a roundabout way, Vick could still lead the Falcons to the Super Bowl.

But first, they have to get past Green Bay. And that won’t be easy.

As fans feared the possibility of playing the Saints this Saturday, they seemed to forget about the Packers; no one around here gave them a second thought. Their main concern was the Saints, and in a close second, Vick.

Now that both of the Falcons’ most-hated rivals are out of the picture, it’s time the delusional fans realize how much of a challenge Green Bay will be Saturday night.

Their offense, which is led by the annoying, yet extremely talented Aaron Rodgers, has the capability of scoring at the drop of a hat and keeping up with the Falcons.

Their defense, led by Clay Matthews, shut down the Eagles last week and can turn mistakes in to turnovers faster than Vick’s fall from grace.

The Packers are good. They’re very good. But are they as good as the Falcons?

At first glance, yes they are. The one edge Atlanta has is that it’s playing at home, where the team is 19-2 under Ryan.

But right now, the state of Georgia looks more like Wisconsin, and I think the snow outside might be a bad omen for the Falcons.

As the flurries started to fall last Sunday and The Snowpacolypse was about to shut down the state for a few days, the Packers were dispatching the Eagles and setting up the opportunity to stop the Falcons’ run to the Super Bowl.

My heart, with the possibility of attending the NFC Championship Game depending on this game, hopes it doesn’t happen.

But my instincts say it will.

Packers 21, Falcons 17.

Jonathan Zopf is a sports writer for The Times. Follow him at twitter.com/gtimesjzopf or contact him at jzopf@gainesvilletimes.com.



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