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Early Bird Report: Falcons drop again in power rankings; grades from the loss to the Bengals

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today's Early Bird Report includes the Falcons' latest position in NFL power rankings as well as a new report card after watching the coaches film.


Power rankings:

The injuries the Falcons have sustained on defense have been apparent on the field in each of the last two weeks, and they were a major talking point in this week's power rankings. The Falcons lost ground in each power ranking after their loss to the Bengals, including our own Matt Tabeek’s.

"Falcons supporters aren't going to like this low ranking, especially with the painful way the team has lost three games this season. The problem is that Dan Quinn doesn't possess the personnel he needs on the back end. On that note, what was CB Isaiah Oliver thinking on the A.J. Green touchdown? The guess is that he was concerned about the running back leaking out of the backfield. Yet, Mark Walton was 10 yards from paydirt. Oliver must get depth in that situation, forcing Andy Dalton to attack the tightest of windows between the corner and the safety. If Dalton did dump it to Walton, Oliver (or whoever else) would have had plenty of time to make the tackle. With under 10 seconds remaining, the clock could've struck midnight on the Bengals, too. Ugh."

"Their season could be on the line this week at Pittsburgh. Their defense just isn't good enough with all the injuries."

"WR Calvin Ridley, 148 snaps out of 251 (59 percent [of team's snap count]). According to Elias Sports Bureau research, Ridley's six TD receptions are the most by a rookie in his team's first four games of a season in NFL history."

"The Falcons are a hard-luck 1-3, but they're 1-1 in division games and will have chances to make noise in a very interesting NFC South race."

Here are some other articles for Falcons fans to check out today:

AJC: Film review report card

The reaction in the immediate aftermath of a game, win or lose, is often different from the reaction that occurs after re-watching a game with a new perspective or the benefit of hindsight. That's why D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution issues a second set of grades after watching the coaches film of the Falcons' most recent game.

He did just that on Tuesday, reviewing the Falcons' last-second loss to the Cincinnati Bengals and providing a new report card. Unsurprisingly, the Falcons' pass offense, which gained over 400 yards and 21 points, received the highest grade from Ledbetter, a B-plus.

"[Calvin] Ridley, Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu were all special," Ledbetter writes. "Ridley had two touchdown catches. He put a wicked double-move on Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick on his 30-yard touchdown catch. Sanu caught 6 of 9 targets for 111 yards and Jones caught 9 of 12 targets for 173 yards, which was inflated by the 49-yard gain on the last play of the game. Tight end Austin Hooper caught one of his two targets and rambled for 19 yards."

The Ringer: Week 4 NFL winners and losers

Although the Falcons' defense has given up over 35 points in each of the last two games, it's the offense that The Ringer's Rodger Sherman names as a loser in his weekly NFL winners and losers piece from Week 4. Of course, Sherman's reason for naming the Falcons' offense as a loser is because they've been playing light's over the past three weeks and are only 1-2 in that time.

"The Falcons might be the most fun team to watch, since every game is a thrilling shoot-out," Sherman writes. "They might be the best fantasy bet in the league, with a whole squad of wide receivers, running backs, and tight ends all feeding out of a generous stats buffet. But playing offense for them has to be existentially dreadful—no matter how well they do, a loss is incoming."

To read the rest of Sherman's piece on NFL winners and losers, click here.

AJC: Falcons head to Pittsburgh, their season on the brink

The aforementioned defensive injuries have put the Falcons early on in the season. In some ways, it's forced the team to alter its identity on the fly. But a 1-3 start have left them in a precarious situation as they prepare to head up to Pittsburgh to play the Steelers. It might be too early to say their season hangs in the balance, but Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes, momentum is a tricky thing.

"The Falcons have lost three coin flips, and the narrow Carolina victory saw Cam Newton's pass hit a Panther receiver's hands in the end zone on the final play," Bradley writes. "You can say that the Falcons have been ridiculously unlucky, and you wouldn't be wrong. Still, luck rarely favors a team that can't defend. If you get unlucky enough early enough, your season could be done before fortune can turn."

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