Atlanta Falcons Blog

Atlanta Falcons blog by D. Orlando Ledbetter, the pro football and Atlanta Falcons reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Cover 9@9: Falcons are 76.2 percent playoff certainty

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

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.

                                  ----Win-Division----  -Wildcard

                         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:

Falcons                             49ers

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

REPORT CARD: Falcons handled their business against woeful Rams

GAME 12: Chiefs 29, Falcons 28

5 things we learned from the Falcons' loss to the Chiefs

Falcons still control their playoff destiny

PHOTOS: Falcons have a bad day at the office

Matt Ryan tormented by Berry's big interceptions

Beasley becomes a double-digit sacker

GAME 11: Falcons 38, Cardinals 19

5 things we learned from the Falcons' win over the Cardinals

MARK BRADLEY: The Falcons keep getting better as they go

Julio Jones gets calls this time

Taylor Gabriel continues scoring streak in win over Cardinals

Coleman scores TD in return from injury

Falcons' offensive line 'stepped up to the task'

GAME 10: Eagles 24, Falcons 15

5 things we learned from the Falcons' loss to the Eagles

Ryan, offense slowed down to a crawl

Perkins stalls key drive with costly penalty

Defense gets blown of the line of scrimmage

Keanu Neal can expect fine but Falcons' biggest issue is injuries (Trufant and Tamme)

Falcons go into bye week wrong way -- beat up by Eagles

What Dan Quinn had to say after the loss to the Eagles

What Matt Ryan had to say after the loss to the Eagles

What the Falcons had to say after the loss to the Eagles

PHOTOS: Falcons fall to the Eagles

5 things we learned from the Falcons' rout of the Bucs

GAME SEVEN: Chargers 33, Falcons 30 in OT

5 things we learned from the Falcons loss to the Chargers

Dan Quinn's gamble with house-money backfires

6 penalties 'unacceptable' for Falcons offensive line

Philip Rivers confounds Falcons with short passes: 'He picked us apart'

Matt Ryan's late-game interception leads to overtime loss

PHOTOS: Chargers rally to beat Falcons

GAME SIX: Seahawks 26, Falcons 24

5 things we learned from the Falcons loss to the Seahawks

MARK BRADLEY: The Falcons didn't win, but they made one guy believe (me)

MARK BRADLEY: The Falcons got jobbed but did themselves proud

Matt Ryan's turnovers were costly

What Dan Quinn had to say after the 26-24 loss to Seattle

Seattle slows down Falcons' running backs Freeman, Coleman

Ryan Schraeder, offensive line rebounds in second half

Julio Jones: 'It was just a missed call'

What the Falcons had to say after the 26-24 loss to Seattle

What Matt Ryan had to say after the 26-24 loss to Seattle

Richard Sherman non-commital on pass interference non-call

PHOTOS: Falcons at Seahawks in Seattle

GAME FIVE: Falcons 23, Broncos 16

5 things we learned from the Falcons upset of Super Bowl champs

MARK BRADLEY: The Falcons rock a rookie in the Rockies

What Dan Quinn have to say after the win over Denver

Coleman amassed 163 yards to power the offense

Vic Beasley has breakout game with 3.5 sacks

Kemal Ishmael moved to linebacker, led team in tackles

What the Falcons had to say after the win over the Broncos

Photos: Falcons battle the Broncos

GAME FOUR: Falcons 48, Panthers 33

5 things we learned from the Falcons' 48-33 win over the Panthers

Tweetcap: Falcons 48, Panthers 33

Old pro Freeney shows new trick with Falcons

Falcons' rookie Neal holds on vs. Olsen

What Julio Jones had to say after the 48-33 win over the Panthers

What Dan Quinn had to say after the 48-33 win over the Panthers

What Matt Ryan had to say after the 48-33 win over the Panthers

Alford battled; Collins to return

Early view in NFC South isn't what most expected; Falcons on top

GAME THREE: Falcons 45, Saints 32

5 things we learned from the Falcons' 45-32 win over the Saints

Falcons, Saints protest with unity circle before game

REPORT CARD: Falcons earned high marks for drubbing Saints

What Dan Quinn had to say after the 45-32 win over the Saints

What Matt Ryan had to say after the 45-32 win over the Saints

What the Falcons had to say after the 45-32 win over the Saints

Keanu Neal makes strong debut for Falcons

Falcons' Deion Jones runs for glory, not survival, in return home

AJC POWER RANKINGS: Falcons best in NFC South?

GAME TWO: Falcons 35, Raiders 28

5 things we learned from the Falcons' win over the Raiders

Trufant's heads-up play saves the day

Tight ends help to power offense

Weatherspoon plays strong in first start since 2013

Matthews, Schraeder held Mack sack-less

JEFF SCHULTZ: Falcons put on offensive show and win

What Matt Ryan had to say after beating the Raiders

What Dan Quinn had to say after the win over the Raiders

GAME ONE: Buccaneers 31, Falcons 24

5 things we learned from the Falcons' loss to the Bucs

No sacks for new-look Falcons pass rush

Julio Jones not worried about his ankle injury

Falcons have a case of the "no-huddle" blues

REPORT CARD: Falcons can't 'gift' opponents 17 points

FILM REVIEW: Beasley missing in action

AJC'S NFL POWER RANKINGS: Where are the Falcons?

Hageman charged is domestic violence case


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About the Author

D. Orlando Ledbetter is the Atlanta Falcons beat writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.