FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Falcons are taking full advantage of their extra day to prepare for a big Monday night matchup with the Seattle Seahawks. While they do their thing, let's take a look at some headlines.
Today's Early Bird Report includes the Falcons' rise in the power rankings as well as how the Seahawks could replace Richard Sherman on Monday.
FALCONS HEADLINES FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY
Week 10 power rankings: Falcons on the fringe of the top 10
Sunday's win over the Cowboys was arguably the Falcons' most convincing of the season. They played well on both sides of the football and never relinquished momentum after grabbing hold of it in the second quarter. The weekly power rankings reflect Atlanta's solid performance, making the Falcons big climbers. For our own Wildly Important NFL Power Rankings, click here.
"Seen many Falcons games over the years. Never caught an Atlanta pass rusher racking up six sacks. Not Vic Beasley. Not Patrick Kearney. Not Chuck Smith. Not Rick Bryan, Mike Pitts or Al Richardson, or any dude on the "Grits Blitz," as top-of-the-line as Leeman Bennett's defenses were. Maybe Claude Humphrey did it, but teams didn't keep reliable sack numbers in the early 1970s, when he rocked. What Adrian Clayborn produced Sunday was nothing short of awesome, no matter who it came against. Chaz Green is in the NFL. Clayborn beat him five times. Then he beat backup Byron Bell, too. Clayborn was bigger than Matt Ryan, Julio Jones or anyone else in that win over Dallas."
"They seemed to get the offense back on track against Dallas - especially by running it well -- but now face a brutal road game at Seattle."
"No team has a more difficult remaining schedule than the Falcons. They still have a trip to Seattle, two games against the Saints and home games against the Vikings and Panthers. If there's any reason for hope, it's that they have four home games left, and two games against the 3-6 Buccaneers."
"Devonta Freeman won't play Monday against the Seahawks, but if the Falcons defense plays like it did against the Cowboys, Atlanta has a great chance to spring an upset in Seattle."
ESPN.com: Sorting through the wild NFC playoff field
The best NFC teams are beginning to separate themselves from the pack, but there are currently more in contention for a spot in the playoffs than playoff spots available. ESPN's Bill Barnwell tried to make sense of the crowded NFC field, and he currently believes the Falcons will be left on the outside looking in.
"The Falcons have a three-game homestand after their trip to Seattle, but two of those games are against the Vikings and Saints, who are among the best teams in football," Barnwell writes. "It's not realistic to expect Clayborn to look like J.J. Watt after eating an invincibility star for the rest of the season, but if the defense starts looking like the unit from its playoff run of last season, the Falcons are still within shouting distance of mattering in the NFC."
NEWS ON THE FALCONS' OPPONENT: Seattle Seahawks
*The News Tribune: *What the Seahawks may do for now – and for later – to replace Sherman
The loss of top cornerback Richard Sherman is a big blow to Seattle's defense, but the Seahawks have to move on without him. Gregg Bell of *The News Tribune *detailed what Seattle might do to replace Sherman in both the short term and the long term.
Obviously, the short term is of more importance to the Falcons, and Bell believes it will be veteran corner Jeremy Lane who steps into Sherman's role.
"Lane, 27, has started 19 games and played in 62 during his NFL career, all for Seattle," Bell writes. "He's been the Seahawks' primary nickel back inside in recent seasons, and that role is why the team signed him to a four-year, $23 million extension before the 2016 season. He had a poor '16 season in coverage and penalties."
The other option that Bell mentions is newly-signed veteran Byron Maxwell, who was drafted by the Seahawks in 2011, the same year they drafted Sherman.
BIGGEST NEWS FROM AROUND THE NFC SOUTH
NFL.com: Drew Brees: 'I don't plan on leaving New Orleans ever'
Drew Brees is in the final year of his contract with the Saints, and while the club is reportedly still unsure about the quarterback's status moving forward, he has made it clear he doesn't want to leave. According to NFL.com's Nick Shook, Brees joined *Hardwick & Richards *on XTRA 1360-AM and explained his feelings about remaining with the Saints.
"I'll handle 2018 when 2018 gets here, but right now I'm in the moment, I'm in 2017," Brees told the radio show, according to Shook. "We're trying to get a little bit better each and every week. I feel like we've got a great opportunity ahead of us and I don't plan on leaving New Orleans ever."
Panthers.com: Curtis Samuel to undergo season-ending surgery
The Panthers will be without one of their top rookies for the remainder of the season, according to Max Hanson of the team's official website. Wide receiver Curtis Samuel, the team's second-round draft pick, will have season-ending surgery on his left ankle after sustaining an injury in the Panthers' Monday night win against the Dolphins. Samuel put together a strong showing against the Dolphins prior to his injury, catching five passes for 45 yards in the first half.
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