Early Bird Report: Falcons prepping for both Jameis Winston, Taysom Hill

The top Falcons headlines from around the country 

NFL power rankings – What would teams take back

Most Falcons fans have probably avoided the national power rankings since the team's 0-5 start, but Atlanta is s l o w l y starting to creep back up the lists. Coming off their bye week, the Falcons held steady at No. 24 in ESPN's weekly power ranking.

This week's edition comes with a question of what moment or game would each time like to take back from this season. That question for the Falcons is fairly easy to answer, as ESPN's David Newton did.

"Ever wonder where the Falcons might be today had one of three players fallen on an onside kick in Week 2? It was a comedy of errors and allowed Dallas to complete a comeback from 15 points down in the final five minutes," Newton writes. "It set the tone for head coach Dan Quinn to be fired after a Week 5 loss to the Panthers as well as perhaps for other fourth-quarter collapses that ensued. Not since 1933, according to ESPN Stats & Information research, had a team that scored 39 points and had no turnovers lost. If Atlanta could have that moment back and started the season 1-1, there's no telling where it might be in the NFC playoff picture."

Report: Brees has multiple rib fractures

According to a tweet by ESPN's Ed Warder, Saints quarterback Drew Brees has multiple rib fractures on both sides of his body as well as a collapsed lung. Those injuries put Brees's status for Sunday's game in serious doubt, and there appears to be at least a chance that the Saints shut down their future Hall of Fame quarterback for the rest of the season before the playoffs.

Raheem Morris explained Monday that the Falcons would be preparing to face both Saints quarterbacks and there's no guarantee one would receive substantially more playing time than the other.

"They're pretty fortunate with their quarterback situation," Morris said. "Then, obviously, you know Sean Payton and Pete Carmichael, who they are and what they are and how they go about their business, they will plan diligently enough to get those guys ready to play against us, and we have to prepare for both. There's no doubt about that."

Winston replaces Brees after rib injury

Fresh off their bye week, the Falcons will begin preparations for the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. It's the beginning of the toughest stretch of Atlanta's schedule, which also includes games against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Kansas City Chiefs and Las Vegas Raiders.

While there are many questions the Falcons will need to answer in their final seven games, there's a major question for New Orleans this week. Starting quarterback and future Hall of Famer Drew Brees was unable to finish the Saints' 27-13 victory against the San Francisco 49ers after sustaining a rib injury.

According to ESPN's Mike Triplett, coach Sean Payton said Brees will undergo an MRI and X-rays to reveal the full extent of his rib injury. The Saints signed former Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston this offseason, and it was he who filled in for Brees in the second half.

"Winston completed 6 of 10 passes for 63 yards with no touchdowns and no turnovers," Triplett writes. "Fellow backup Taysom Hill also played one series at QB, running the ball four times for 36 yards with a lost fumble. The Saints' defense and special teams did most of the heavy lifting, with defensive backs Malcolm Jenkins and Patrick Robinson each intercepting passes and undrafted rookie receiver Marquez Callaway recovering two fumbled punt returns.

"The Saints have not specified who would replace Brees if he can't start next Sunday's home date with the Atlanta Falcons -- though Winston would appear to be the leading candidate based on his role with the team and the way the Saints used Teddy Bridgewater ahead of Hill in a similar situation last year."

Gurley still proving he can be featured back

Perhaps not the game-changing force he was at the start of his career, Todd Gurley has been everything the Falcons could have wanted when they signed him to a one-year deal this offseason. A steady and reliable presence in the backfield, Gurley ranked fifth in the NFL with 584 rushing yards and second in the NFL with nine touchdowns through the Falcons' first nine games. Gurley's well-rounded skill set is something the Falcons have appreciated, a feeling that ESPN's Michael DiRocco wrote about.

"The best thing he has done for us right now really is in protection," interim head coach Raheem Morris said of Gurley. "When he has a chance to go out there and protect Matt [Ryan] and keep the hits off him so Matt can make some of the throws down the field, that's really been nice to see and a really nice addition that you don't know you're necessarily getting when you get a really good runner like that."

Falcons hope to have Ridley back after bye

Calvin Ridley was unable to suit up in the Falcons' 34-27 win against the Denver Broncos due to a foot injury, but he may be in better shape coming off the bye week. According to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Falcons are hopeful that Ridley's mid-foot sprain had time to heal during the bye. In his third season, Ridley leads the Falcons with 43 catches for 657 yards and six touchdowns.

Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and Denver Broncos with top photos from Week 9 | Salute to Service game

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