FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Following their Thursday night victory over the Saints, the Falcons have an extra day to prepare and recover this week before facing the Buccaneers on "Monday Night Football." Falcons coach Dan Quinn said on Tuesday that he was pleased with the energy the team displayed during their initial walkthrough practice of the week.
Today's Early Bird Report includes the Week 15 power rankings as well as the Falcons bucking the trend when it comes to NFL attendance. Enjoy!
FALCONS HEADLINES FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY
Week 15 power rankings: Falcons' win doesn't impact power rankings
Although Atlanta secured a big victory on Thursday night against New Orleans, it didn't change much in the minds of those who compile the weekly power rankings. The biggest jump for the Falcons after Week 14 was three spots, and they still remain right at the fringe of the top 10. For our own Wildly Important NFL Power Rankings, click here.
"Sloppy game became a sloppy win, and that's A-okay for Atlanta. The Falcons desperately needed a W to stay ahead in the wild-card race -- at the least -- and to have any chance at the division crown. While Deion Jones' performance was central to the win (as predicted in the picks last week), Adrian Clayborn's fourth-quarter sack of Drew Brees was huge. Clayborn's clutch takedown was the consummate effort play, and might have been an integral piece to saving the season. What a season for that guy, right?"
"That might have been a season-saving interception by Deion Jones of Drew Brees late last week. If they win out, they win the division."
"The Falcons' pass rush was dependent on Vic Beasley Jr. last year, but others are getting more involved, which has resulted in a sack rate up nearly two full percentage points from 2016. Most notable is veteran Adrian Clayborn, who at 29 years old has set a career high with 9.0 sacks."
"The Falcons survived the Saints for a monumental victory, but their work is far from done. There's a road rematch against that team in Week 16, plus a home sequel with the Panthers in Week 17. Matt Ryan needs to get hot before it's too late."
Atlanta Business Chronicle: Falcons buck NFL's shrinking attendance trend
While attendance around the NFL is down this season compared to this time in 2016, the Falcons have seen a bump in fans coming to home games, according to Jonathan Munshaw of the *Atlanta Business Chronicle. *Per Munshaw, an average of 71,649 fans have attended the seven home games at Mercedes-Benz Stadium this season, which signals a 2.6 percent increase from the attendance in the Georgia Dome at this point in 2016.
Twenty teams around the NFL have seen their average attendance decrease through the first 14 weeks of the season, and the Falcons are one of just nine teams who have increased their average attendance in that time.
Here is more news on the Falcons:
- *AJC: *Julio set to move up Falcons' all-time receptions list
- *The Sun Herald: *NFC South comes down to 3-game season, who ya got?
NEWS ON THE FALCONS' OPPONENT: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
*Tampa Bay Times: *Bucs promote rookie LB Riley Bullough to active roster
The Falcons may be the first team to play against "Hard Knocks" star Riley Bullough in a meaningful game. According to Greg Auman of the *Tampa Bay Times, *the Bucs promoted the rookie linebacker, nicknamed "Joe Dirt," to the active roster on Tuesday. He is expected to contribute on special teams moving forward.
ESPN: Bucs' Brent Grimes waiting until after season to decide on future
Former Falcons and current Bucs cornerback Brent Grimes has not made any decision regarding his future in the NFL, according to ESPN's Jenna Laine, and will not give any serious thought to the matter until after the season. A four-time Pro Bowler, Grimes continues to play well despite being 34 at a position where athleticism is paramount.
Despite missing three games this season, Grimes is tied for the team lead with three interceptions. Last year, Grimes led the NFL with 17 pass breakups and intercepted four passes.
Here are some more articles on the Falcons' upcoming opponent:
- *Tampa Bay Times: *Could report of rift relate to Winston's damaged brand?
- ESPN: Bucs' Martin believes he was benched for fumbling
BIGGEST NEWS FROM AROUND THE NFC SOUTH
ESPN: Newton, Panthers sometimes 'overcome coaching' to win
The Panthers earned a big home victory against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, and starting quarterback Cam Newton said he did a few things he wasn't supposed to do. According to ESPN's David Newton, the Panthers' star quarterback explained that sometimes a team has to overcome its own coaches.
"Everything that I was told not to do I did,'' Newton said off throwing off his back foot and across his body for a touchdown. "Throwing across your body, those are the same plays similar to the Monday night game where it got overturned as an interception.
"But sometimes you have to overcome coaching.''
ESPN: Saints won't let bitter taste linger
Although Thursday night did not go the Saints' way, the NFC South leaders won't linger on the defeat, according to ESPN's Mike Triplett. Instead, they are focused on the opportunity that still lies ahead of them.
"I think a lot of guys felt like we should have won that game. A lot of guys had some real ill feelings towards that game. So definitely add that to our preparation this week to go out and make it a point to win this game and then get on to our last two," defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins told Triplett. "Overall it's the beauty of this game, especially at this point: There's always another week to go out and prove yourself."
Here is more news from around the NFC South:
- *The New Orleans Advocate: *Saints fan sues for refund over player protests
- *The Charlotte Observer: *Panthers playoff primer enough to make fans scream
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