The AJC’s D. Orlando Ledbetter and Maria Marino discuss Julio Jones’ status for week 15 and what the Falcons need to tighten up as they battle for a postseason berth.
Good morning! The Cover 9@9 is a weekly blog of everything you need to know about the Atlanta Falcons, we published 9 items at 9 a.m. each Wednesday morning.
1. PLAYOFF CHANCES: The Falcons have a 76.2% chance of making the playoffs and need to win 2 of the remaining 3 games to virtually clinch a playoff berth, according to www.makeNFLplayoffs.com.
In the NFC after week 14, the Cowboys are the only team to clinch a playoff berth, have an 89.2% chance of winning the NFC East and have an 86.8% chance of earning a first round bye. Seahawks (96.9%) are the only other team close to clinching a playoff berth. The Lions, Giants, Falcons and Bucs all control their destiny. The 49ers were eliminated after week 11, the Bears after week 13, and the Rams after week 14.
TOTAL 1st Round 1st Round 1st Round Make Record to
NFC Team Name W–L–T BYE HOME ROAD Playoffs Clinch
——————– — — — ——— ——— ——— ——– ———
Dallas Cowboys 11 2 0 0.86824 0.02340 0.10836 1.00000 0-3
Seattle Seahawks 8 4 1 0.26268 0.70640 0.00017 0.96924 1-2
Detroit Lions 9 4 0 0.47874 0.35798 0.06741 0.90414 2-1
New York Giants 9 4 0 0.09828 0.01009 0.74191 0.85028 2-1
Atlanta Falcons 8 5 0 0.15010 0.42952 0.18238 0.76200 3-0
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 8 5 0 0.12362 0.28522 0.28445 0.69329 3-0
Washington Redskins 7 5 1 0.00000 0.00000 0.38657 0.38657
Green Bay Packers 7 6 0 0.01635 0.13110 0.08747 0.23492
Minnesota Vikings 7 6 0 0.00200 0.01383 0.13709 0.15291
Arizona Cardinals 5 7 1 0.00000 0.03092 0.00207 0.03299
New Orleans Saints 5 8 0 0.00000 0.00769 0.00109 0.00878
Carolina Panthers 5 8 0 0.00000 0.00385 0.00098 0.00483
Philadelphia Eagles 5 8 0 0.00000 0.00000 0.00006 0.00006
2. RYAN ON BEASLEY: Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan knows that the defense must improve for the team to be legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
He sees signs of progress on that side of the ball, where eight rookies or second-year players are playing vitals roles.
“Vic Beasley had a monster game and got after those guys,” Ryan said during his weekly radio show on 680 The Fan on Tuesday.
Beasley is tied for the league lead with 13.5 sacks and leads the league with six forced fumbles.
But the Falcons need middle linebacker Deion Jones, weakside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell, safety Keanu Neal and nickel back Brian Poole to keep improving along with second-year players in Beasley, defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, cornerback Jalen Collins and second-year free safety Ricardo Allen.
Although it was hard to tell against the Rams’ woeful offense, Ryan was asked if they defense was getting better.
“Vic for sure, he’s playing at another level,” Ryan said. “I think it’s because his confidence continues to build. That takes time, there is no getting around it. As a rookie you come in and you are thrown into it at all positions and that’s hard. …He’s a quiet guy. He goes about his business the right way day-in and day-out and I think he’s playing at a really high level.”
Neal leads the team in tackles with 87 and Jones is second with 79. Poole is sixth with 46 and Campbell is seventh with 43.
3. RYAN ON SHANAHAN: Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan believes that offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan could be a fine NFL head coach in the future.
“Oh yeah, I think so,” Ryan said when asked on his weekly radio show 680 The Fan if Shanahan would make a good head coach. “I think whenever he does get an opportunity, he’ll do a great job. I hope it’s not for awhile because we’ve got a good thing going on. Whenever he gets his opportunity, he’ll do a great job.”
It’s no secret that it took Ryan and Shanahan a while to get on the same page with the offense.
Shanahan is the son of former NFL coach Mike Shanahan, who guided the Broncos to two Super Bowl titles including Super XXXIII over the Falcons.
“I think he’s a good leader,” Ryan said. “I think he’s got a good feel for talent evaluation and getting the guys that he wants to make it work for him. I think if he ever gets that chance, he’ll do a great job.”
4. FREE AGENCY WATCH: With the signings of right tackle Ryan Schraeder and cornerback Robert Alford to contract extensions, here are the team’s prospective unrestricted free agents for 2017: defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux, quarterback Matt Schaub, linebacker Paul Worrilow, offensive guard Chris Chester, tight end Jacob Tamme, linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, defensive tackle Courtney Upshaw, special teamer Eric Weems, defensive end Dwight Freeney, linebacker Philip Wheeler, offensive tackle Tom Compton, fullback Patrick DiMarco, linebacker LaRoy Reynolds, wide receiver Aldrick Robinson, cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson, tight end Levine Toilolo and safety Kemal Ishmael. Toilolo and DiMarco would appear to be the next in line for extensions. Worrilow, after being demoting, may want to test the open market. Perhaps they might want to reward Upshaw for his play and Kemal Ishmael will have some suitors on the open market. The Falcons have taken care of the players they didn’t want to hit the open market.
5. MORE COLEMAN: After running back Devonta Freeman rushed for 6 yards on six carries, running back Tevin Coleman may get some more action.
Coleman recorded his second multi-touchdown game of the year against the Rams.
He scored his second receiving touchdown of the year and his seventh rushing touchdown, for his ninth total touchdown this season.
6. TURNOVER COUNT: The Falcons won the turnover battle 5-0. Beasley, Paul Worrilow and defensive tackle Courtney Upshaw all had fumble recoveries, and Deion Jones and Ricardo Allen had interceptions. The five turnovers is the most the defense has recorded since week three of 2014 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Falcons are now plus-8 in the turnover differential, which is tied for fourth in the league.
7. RECYCLE WTIH BABINEAUX: Falcons defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux has been named the spokesman for the Novelis’ Recycle for Good.
Each fan that brings 95 cans to the Bud Light tailgate at (lot N and the Yellow lot) before home games will meet Babineaux after the game and be personally thanked.
8. TALE OF THE TAPE: 2016 Regular Season Statistics Rankings:
32.9 (1) Points/Game 19.3 (26)
402.3 (3) Total Offense 314.0 (29)
106.6 (16) Net Rushing Yards/Game 136.9 (4)
295.7 (3) Net Passing Yards/Game 177.1 (32)
29:35 (21) Possession Average 26:21 (32)
26.5 (28) Opponent Points/Game 30.2 (32)
376.3 (28) Opponent Total Offense 415.3 (32)
101.1 (14) Opp. Rushing Yards/Game 170.8 (32)
275.2 (32) Opp. Passing Yards/Game 244.5 (14)
+8 (4t) Turnover Differential -3 (22)
9. DEPTH CHART: The Falcons signed cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson to the active roster on Tuesday, a day after releasing tackle Kevin Graf.
With cornerback Jalen Collins coming off a knee injury, Wreh-Wilson will provide depth in the secondary.
(The team calls it an ‘unofficial’ depth chart. But if they are releasing it, for our purposes that makes it pretty official.)
WR 11 Julio Jones, 16 Justin Hardy, 15 Nick Williams, 14 Eric Weems
LT 70 Jake Matthews, 76 Tom Compton
LG 67 Andy Levitre, 63 Ben Garland
C 51 Alex Mack, 63 Ben Garland
RG 65 Chris Chester, 71 Wes Schweitzer
RT 73 Ryan Schraeder, 76 Tom Compton
TE 81 Austin Hooper, 80 Levine Toilolo, 82 Joshua Perkins
WR 12 Mohamed Sanu, 18 Taylor Gabriel, 19 Aldrick Robinson
QB 2 Matt Ryan, 8 Matt Schaub
RB 24 Devonta Freeman, 26 Tevin Coleman, 28 Terron Ward
FB 42 Patrick DiMarco
DE 50 Brooks Reed, 99 Adrian Clayborn, 93 Dwight Freeney
DT 95 Jonathan Babineaux
DT 97 Grady Jarrett, 91 Courtney Upshaw
DE 94 Tyson Jackson, 77 Ra’Shede Hageman, 54 Malliciah Goodman
LB 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 41 Philip Wheeler
LB 45 Deion Jones, 55 Paul Worrilow, 53 LaRoy Reynolds
LB 59 De’Vondre Campbell
CB 23 Robert Alford, 29 C.J. Goodwin, 38 Blidi Wreh-Wilson
CB 32 Jalen Collins, 34 Brian Poole, 30 Deji Olatoye
S 37 Ricardo Allen, 27 Robenson Therezie, 20 Sharrod Neasman
S 22 Keanu Neal, 36 Kemal Ishmael
K 3 Matt Bryant
KO 5 Matt Bosher
P 5 Matt Bosher
KR 14 Eric Weems, 16 Justin Hardy
PR 14 Eric Weems, 16 Justin Hardy
LS 47 Josh Harris
H 5 Matt Bosher
GAME 13: Falcons 42, Rams 14
GAME 12: Chiefs 29, Falcons 28
GAME 11: Falcons 38, Cardinals 19
GAME 10: Eagles 24, Falcons 15
GAME SEVEN: Chargers 33, Falcons 30 in OT
GAME SIX: Seahawks 26, Falcons 24
GAME FIVE: Falcons 23, Broncos 16
GAME FOUR: Falcons 48, Panthers 33
GAME THREE: Falcons 45, Saints 32
GAME TWO: Falcons 35, Raiders 28
GAME ONE: Buccaneers 31, Falcons 24