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Early Bird Report 10/25: Falcons fall in power rankings; Malcolm Butler praises Julio

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- After their regular day off, the Falcons (3-3) are back up in Flowery Branch to hit the practice fields and get the ship righted. Nobody likes the feeling of losing three straight games, especially the coaches or the players, so trust that they are doing everything they can to correct their mistakes.

Today's Early Bird Report includes several power rankings that we've been following all year and some praise for one Falcons receiver, courtesy of Malcolm Butler.



Power rankings: Falcons continue to slide

After dropping three games in a row, the Falcons have tumbled down the power rankings. There is still plenty of time to regroup for Atlanta, however, and some rankings are more optimistic on this team's chances than others. For our own Wildly Important NFL Power Rankings, click here.

"The offense will be fine. That's what we heard about the Falcons all offseason. With Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman and Julio Jones in place, what difference would it make to go from Kyle Shanahan to Steve Sarkisian in the offensive coordinator role? Not much. Who needs 12.4 points per game, anyway? That's how many fewer points per game these Falcons are scoring under Sarkisian this year. The entire stable of skill players was a nonfactor against the Patriots, lost in the fog of making up for 28-3. Or the Falcons were just lost in a fog. Still, with two other teams in the NFC South falling this past weekend, it's not panic time. Yet."

"The offense just isn't good right now. It's easy to point the finger at Steve Sarkisian, but it's more than that."

"The Falcons had a 72 percent chance to win the NFC South after their 3-0 start, but those odds have fallen drastically after losing three straight. Atlanta's division chances could hinge on the stretch run. The Falcons play five of their last six games against division foes."

"Steve Sarkisian is whiffing as their version of a batting instructor and pitching coach. His ace, Matt Ryan, has hit a skid with Sark's random play-calling."

FiveThirtyEight: The Falcons are in trouble, but the Saints might be back

At this point in the season, Atlanta has a 47 percent chance to make the playoffs, per FiveThirtyEight’s NFL Predictions, which is the lowest that mark has been since the season started. The NFC South has place teams in back-to-back Super Bowls, but Daniel Levitt at FiveThirtyEight doesn't like the Falcons' chances to make a return appearance. According to Levitt, the drop-off in points per game from last season to this season is already tied for the second-most in NFL history. Malcolm Butler on Julio's TD: Give credit where credit is due

One of the highlights from the Falcons' Sunday night matchup with the New England Patriots was an incredible red zone touchdown by Julio Jones. Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler looked to have an interception on the jump ball, but the Falcons' All-Pro receiver ripped the ball away at the last moment. On Monday, Butler shared an Instagram post of the touchdown, giving all of the credit to Jones.

Give credit where credit is due.... #OnToTheChargers

A post shared by Malcolm CB Butler (@mac_bz) on

Patriots coach Bill Belichick also praised Jones for the play.

"The catch Julio made in the end zone -- that's a great play," Belichick said, according to ESPN’s Mike Reiss. "We were right there and he just went up there and made a Julio Jones play that he makes. I don't know how many other guys in the league make that. So, even when we didn't make [plays], we were close."


*New York Post: *Jets cannot afford to let late collapse haunt them

Atlanta isn't the lone team in the NFL that has struggled in recent weeks. It's next opponent very much fits that category. Once a feel-good story for the beginning of the season, the New York Jets have lost two straight, including a late-game collapse against the Miami Dolphins. George Willis of the *New York Post *wrote Monday that the Jets can’t let that loss to the Dolphins derail a promising start.

"It was a game that exposed the Jets," Willis writes. "It exposed their propensity for penalties; exposed their flaws in the secondary; and exposed an offense that can't impose its will late in games. There was a lot of talk about learning how to finish games. For the Jets, that starts with owning the fourth quarter."


*Tampa Bay Times: *Bucs roundtable – does the Bucs' roster have enough talent?

In the midst of a disappointing 2-4 start, the Buccaneers have an important division matchup forthcoming with the hot-and-cold Carolina Panthers. In the week leading up to the game, a group of Tampa Bay Times writers discussed whether or not the Bucs’ roster has enough talent.


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