FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today's Early Bird Report includes the Falcons' standing in the latest power rankings as well as their chance to push for the postseason after the bye.
The Falcons have now strung together back-to-back wins for the first time this season, and they enter their bye week with some momentum. That momentum didn't really carry over into the national power rankings, however, as Atlanta had just a slight bump from Monday night's victory.
"Would you believe the Falcons are still in the thick of the wild-card race? They're not exactly sitting pretty at 3-4, but the Packers own the No. 6 seed right now at 3-2-1. Who would've thought Monday night's affair would go scoreless for the first 25 game minutes? That was the case -- until a deep ball produced the evening's first score. Not to Julio Jones or Odell Beckham Jr. or Mohamed Sanu or Sterling Shepard or Calvin Ridley. Nope -- Marvin Hall. Marvin Hall, who had 64 receiving yards coming into the game, nearly equaling that total on one Matt Ryan moonball. Oh, and one more for the road: How about Dan Quinn's backup kicker connecting from 50 and 56 yards?"
"At 3-4, they are still alive after beating the Giants Monday night. That offense will keep them in a lot of games."
"With Devonta Freeman out until at least the final few weeks of the season, the Falcons will be leaning on Coleman, who is averaging 3.8 yards per carry -- but does have four touchdowns (two rushing, two receiving) in seven games."
"After the bye week, the Falcons go on the road for three out of four, but they can still claw their way back into the race. Some might say they already have."
Here are some other articles for Falcons fans to check out today:
AJC: Falcons aren't great but, after bye, they can grind way to playoffs
Injuries have sapped what many considered to be one of the NFL's most talented rosters heading into the season, but the Falcons have persevered over the last two weeks. They enter their bye week now with a 3-4 record and, as Michael Cunningham writes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, with a chance to make a push at the postseason during the second half of the season.
"In the parity-obsessed NFL the idea is to hover around break-even and look for some good luck," Cunningham writes. "That's why it misses the point to dismiss Falcons victories over the Giants and Bucs because those opponents aren't very good. It's difficult to beat anybody in the NFL, and the Falcons did it two weeks in a row, in different ways, and with different players providing key plays …
"The Falcons can help their cause by winning at Washington (4-2) after the bye. They'll go there with a top quarterback and a defense that's improving in performance and health. The Falcons aren't a great team yet this season, and probably won't be, but they still can grind their way to a postseason bid in the NFC."
To read the rest of Cunningham's piece, click here.
ESPN: Saints going for it with Eli Apple trade
The Saints made news on Tuesday by trading a pair of draft picks for Giants cornerback Eli Apple, who the Falcons faced in their win on Monday night. ESPN's Mike Triplett views this move as a sign that the Saints are all-in on this season, and they currently sit atop the NFC South with a 5-1 record after beating the Baltimore Ravens and their No. 1-ranked defense.
"The Saints identified the cornerback position as their biggest weakness on a 5-1 team that sure looks ready to make a Super Bowl run," Triplett writes. "And they decided they needed to maximize this opportunity while they're close enough to taste it."
To read the rest of Triplett has to say, click here.
NFL.com: Ryan, Falcons defeat Giants, keep playoff hopes alive
Atlanta earned a big win heading into the bye week by knocking off the New York Giants on Monday night and building on the momentum it created against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
As is the case after each game, NFL.com published several takeaways from the game. This time, writer Jeremy Bergman was the one sharing his insights from the contest.
"If it wasn't for Atlanta's sub-.500 record, [Matt] Ryan would be right there in the MVP conversation," Bergman writes. "The 2016 Most Valuable Player is completing 71.1 percent of his passes and averaging 333.6 yards per game with a 15:2 TD-to-INT ratio. Even in this pass-happy, quarterback-friendly era we're living in, those numbers stand out as something special."
Bergman's other key takeaways from the game included the Falcons keeping their playoff hopes alive behind big performances from kicker Giorgio Tavecchio and Julio Jones as well as Grady Jarrett's return bolstering Atlanta's defense.
To read the rest of Bergman's notes from the game, click here.
ESPN: Julio Jones' offseason work with Terrell Owens is helping now
Before arriving in Flowery Branch for training camp, Julio Jones made news by working out this offseason with Hall of Famer Terrell Owens. One of the most physically imposing wide receivers in NFL history, Owens knows a thing or two about winning against defenses with size, speed and skill. Now, fresh off his fourth 100-yard game of the season, it's clear that offseason work is paying off for Jones.
"T.O.'s work ethic, everything about him, what he stands for ... he was a pro for so long," Jones told ESPN's Vaughn McClure. "He played into his mid-30s. And just his regimen, it's always good to learn and keep bettering yourself."
McClure wrote more extensively about Jones' offseason work with Owens, which you can read here.