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Early Bird Report 11/22: Falcons among top 10 in power rankings; Saints add cornerbacks

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Falcons have slowly begun to climb in the power rankings after winning three of their last four games, but they face a short week and an upcoming division matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Today's Early Bird Report includes a look at the power rankings and the Buccaneers' quarterback situation.



Week 12 power rankings: Falcons make a move into the top 10

After several weeks of resting just on the fringe of the top 10 in many of the power rankings, the Falcons are firmly among the top teams after their win in Seattle.

"Another win for the Falcons, who have strung together three wins in four games. What if Julio Jones catches that ball in Carolina? The Monday nighter in Seattle might not have been a signature performance, as the Seahawks did everything they could to lose the game. That said, Atlanta took advantage of opportunities when it mattered, bolstered by a few excellent calls by OC Steve Sarkisian. Matt Ryan has really picked his game up over this winning stretch, posting a rating of 100 or higher in each of the three victories. Then there is Adrian Clayborn, who is dunking on quarterbacks enough to make Dominique Wilkins' legs tired. All of it adds up to the Falcons landing at No. 9."

"They've won two in a row and now have three straight at home, starting Sunday against the Bucs. The offense is just fine now."

"The Falcons were 6-4 through 10 games last season and ended up in the Super Bowl. There's still a lot of work left for Atlanta to repeat last season's success, but a win in Seattle on Monday night was a step in the right direction."

"The Falcons needed a win in Seattle, and they got it in dramatic-but-well-earned fashion. They have been good in NFC play as they try to get back into the playoffs. Surviving the noise, they are built to make plenty more of their own." NFL's best and worst quarterbacks from Week 11

Although Matt Ryan failed to reach 200 yards through the air – ending his NFL record streak at 64 games – he put together an extremely efficient performance against the Seahawks. According to ESPN's Hank Gargiulo and Seth Walder, Ryan was the league's best quarterback in Week 11. They broke down why is game was so impressive in a feature piece, but here is part of what they had to say about Ryan, who earned a 94.4 QBR grade.

"Ryan didn't put up the gaudiest raw stats in Monday's win over the Seahawks -- he was held to under 200 passing yards -- but this is a perfect example of where Total QBR shines. The yards themselves don't tell the full story; some context is needed. If those 195 yards come in high-impact ways -- say, on third-down conversions -- then a quarterback's play is particularly valuable. That coupled with the fact that QBR is a rate stat and Ryan didn't have a ton of action plays explains how he topped the leaderboard this week. He was most excellent on third down in Atlanta's three-point win over Seattle."

Here are some additional Falcons headlines from Tuesday:


*Tampa Bay Times: *Has this former Buc become a pass-rushing force?

With their first-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected one of the top pass rushers coming out of college, Iowa's Adrian Clayborn. After four seasons, the Buccaneers let Clayborn go in free agency, and he has since blossomed with the Atlanta Falcons.

Greg Auman of the *Tampa Bay Times *evaluated Clayborn's success in recent games seeking to determine if the former Bucs first-round pick has become a pass-rushing force. An incredible six-sack performance against the Dallas Cowboys gave Clayborn a new career high with eight sacks so far this season, and he recovered a fumble for a touchdown in the win at Seattle. With Fitzpatrick playing well, no need for Bucs to rush Winston back

Tampa Bay has already announced Jameis Winston will not be available for Sunday's game against Atlanta, but with Ryan Fitzpatrick playing well in his stead, ESPN's Jenna Laine says there is no reason for the Bucs to rush back their franchise quarterback. Fitzpatrick is 2-0 since taking over as the Bucs' starting quarterback and has earned praise for his decision-making.

"Ryan made really good decisions," Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said, per Laine. "We didn't turn the ball over. We say every week in our meetings [if] we don't turn it over, we've got a great chance to win. Not only did we not turn it over, we were plus-5 [in turnover margin]. It starts with that. He made really good decisions."

Here is some more news on the Falcons' upcoming NFC South opponent:


*The Charlotte Observer: *How Shaq Thompson is making a name for himself

Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis are well-established stars at linebacker for the Panthers, but Shaq Thompson has quietly made a name for himself as the third member of that group. A first-round pick in 2015, Thompson's versatility has helped him make an impact in all facets of the game on a very good Carolina defense.

"You've got Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly," Thompson said, according to *The Charlotte Observer’s* Joseph Person. "Then you add me in there, who's quietly doing something. I just come out here and do my job. That's what the biggest thing is – be productive and do your job."

*The Times-Picayune: *Saints sign cornerback Dexter McDougle

One day after signing cornerback Sterling Moore, the Saints made another addition to their secondary, according to Herbie Teope of *The Times-Picayune**. *New Orleans signed Dexter McDougle to their roster, placing defensive end Alex Okafor on injured reserve to make room for the move. McDougle was originally a third-round pick with the New York Jets and has played in 28 games, earning five tackles and one defended pass.

Here are a few more stories from around the division:


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