FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today's Early Bird Report includes a big rise in the power rankings for the Falcons and a reflection on the 2018 season.
Week 17 power rankings
"Two straight wins for the Falcons, who are trying to make their 2018 campaign respectable. Despite the cruddy record, and all of the injuries, Atlanta has only been outscored by 11 points this season, which indicates that Dan Quinn's outfit will be a leading candidate to rebound in 2019. What stuck out from Sunday's win was the balance the offense struck, passing for 233 yards while piling up 194 on the ground. The offensive line performed, allowing a lone sack of Matt Ryan, while the offense as a whole averaged a robust 8.9 yards per play. Three in a row? If they can win at Tampa."
"Dan Quinn is coming back next year, but what changes are coming to his staff?"
"Non-QB MVP: WR Julio Jones. The six-time Pro Bowler's value extends beyond the numbers, although Jones currently leads the league with 1,539 receiving yards (104 catches). Jones constantly draws extra defensive attention, which opens up one-on-one opportunities for his teammates. And his incredible catch radius means Matt Ryan doesn't have to throw every ball perfectly."
Here are some other articles for Falcons fans to check out today:
ESPN: A lost season for the Falcons
Entering the 2018 season, there was a lot of expectations for the Falcons. Coming off of back-to-back playoff appearances, Atlanta was once again projected to be a Super Bowl contender. That, obviously, did not happen and there are plenty of reasons why. ESPN's Vaughn McClure discussed the year with several players, breaking down what went wrong and the areas that could be addressed in the near future.
"I think it all comes down to any scheme will work if everyone's doing the right thing and working hard and getting better, and on the same page," Falcons center Alex Mack told McClure. "I think it's more about how players perform with the plays that are called and getting a groove and moving forward than it is pure X's and O's.
To read the rest of McClure's piece, click here.
AJC: Falcons show they still have talent
The Falcons have good individual talent on their roster even if injuries have sapped some of that talent this season. In their win against the Panthers, the Falcons showed a glimpse of that overall talent. As Michael Cunningham writes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, it was a nice reminder that the talent on hand is still enough to win football games.
"The Falcons overcame their mistakes because they were too good for the Panthers," Cunningham writes. "There were even signs they've recaptured some of the spirit that animated them during their Super Bowl season, but that had gone missing as they struggled this year."
To read the rest of Cunningham's column, click here.