FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today's Early Bird Report includes a look at the Falcons' standing in the latest power rankings as well as Ito Smith's mission moving forward.
Here are some other articles for Falcons fans to check out today:
Atlanta's won its latest nail-biter on Sunday, beating Tampa Bay 34-29, but the victory didn't move the needle much in the power rankings. The Falcons rose only slightly in most of them, and there is still work to be done. Also, be sure to check out our own Matt Tabeek's power rankings.
"Even with the clutch win Sunday, the Falcons are probably going nowhere this season, at least in terms of January. That doesn't mean pundits should look past Matt Ryan's play. Last season, in his first campaign with Steve Sarkisian, Ryan didn't approach the level of play he showed in his MVP campaign of 2016. But take a gander at the combined numbers over his last four games: 112 of 153 for 1,432 yards, 12 touchdowns and zero picks. The downside? Both Calvin Ridley and Mohamed Sanu left Sunday's game early. Methinks Atlanta has lost enough players to injury this season. The Chargers are supposed to lead the league in IR every year -- don't the Falcons know that?"
"They have a real chance for a two-game winning streak with the Giants coming to town. The offense has to carry them the rest of the way."
"An injury-riddled Falcons defense is a big reason why Atlanta has struggled. The Falcons' offense ranks in the top 10 in yards per play and Total QBR, but the defense is allowing 32 points per game, second worst in the NFL."
"The Falcons are still good enough to reel off a few wins and get back into the playoff picture, but now they have basically no margin for error the rest of the season."
ESPN: Ito Smith aims to ignite Falcons' run game
The Falcons added yet another notable player to injured reserve yesterday as running back Devonta Freeman will have surgery on his groin. There is hope Freeman could return later this season if all goes well but until then, the Falcons will turn to Tevin Coleman and rookie Ito Smith to carry the load.
Smith is currently on a three-game touchdown streak, and he spoke with ESPN's Vaughn McClure about his goals to help the team moving forward.
"I don't feel any pressure because you just have to keep doing what you're doing," Smith told McClure. "Y'all haven't even seen the surface yet out of the running backs or out of the whole offense. We haven't played a great game yet."
In six games this season, the Falcons have gained over 100 yards on the ground just once. Smith wants to help change that moving forward. Thus far in his rookie season, Smith has 32 carries for 102 yards and three touchdowns.
To read the rest of McClure's piece, click here.
AJC: Falcons hoping to build off second win of season
There's no question the Falcons' second win of the season was a big one. Not only did it come against an NFC South rival, but it stopped a three-game losing streak and built some positive momentum. Moving forward, the Falcons are hoping to keep that momentum rolling and to build upon the foundation they have started.
"For sure, you have to build on momentum," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said on Monday. "What I was looking for coming off the Pittsburgh game (a 41-17 loss), could we play more physical. I wanted to see that part come to life. It certainly took steps in the right direction. Now we have to build on that."
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's D. Orlando Ledbetter wrote more about the Falcons' mentality moving forward, which you can read here.
AJC: Falcons have real shot at playoffs, showed winning formula
Although just 2-4, the Falcons aren't out of the mix. With many teams near the middle of the pack in the NFC, the Falcons could quickly climb up the standings if they can make a run over the next several games. In a piece for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Michael Cunningham explained how the Falcons showed the formula for winning moving forward.
"The Falcons were better defensively against the Bucs," Cunningham writes. "As I wrote after the game, that sounds silly after the Falcons allowed 512 total yards and 8.1 yards per play. But I think the Falcons showed the defensive formula they can use to win games: make opponents work their way down the field in small chunks and get some takeaways."
To read the rest of why Cunningham believes the Falcons can make a run at the playoffs, click here.