The AJC’s D. Orlando Ledbetter and Noah Coslov chat about Julio Jones’ situation for week 17, Matt Ryan’s MVP candidacy, and why it’s beneficial for the Falcons to host the Saints on Sunday.
FLOWERY BRANCH -- The Atlanta Falcons (10-5) are set to host the New Orleans Saints (7-8) at 4:25 p.m. on Sunday in the last regular-season game in the history of the Georgia Dome.
Here are five things to know about the Falcons, the 2016 NFC South Champions, on Thursday:
1. Vick to return for Georgia Dome finale?: Former Falcons wide receiver Brian Finneran, a broadcaster on 680 the Fan, has been talking on-air about the invited guest list of former players for the regular-season finale for the Georgia Dome. The Falcons (10-5) are set to play the Saints (7-8) at 4:25 p.m. Sunday, and the team has invited several players to take part in a ceremony. The team acknowledged that there will be a ceremony, but does not plan to release a list of the invited players, which
very likely includes former quarterback Michael Vick, who played for the Falcons from 2001-06. Vick, who was selected No. 1 overall in the 2001 draft, electrified the fan base, energized the team and sold out the Georgia Dome.
2. Vick wants to retire as a Falcon. Vick would like to retire as an Atlanta Falcon. Vick, who didn't play during the 2016 season despite the league-wide lack of depth at quarterback, would have to be re-signed to ceremonial one-day contract. He expressed his desire to radio host Marc James on the Jim Rome show on CBS Sports Radio on Dec. 12. He also revealed that he stays in touch with Falcons owner Arthur Blank.
3. Gabriel has foot injury. Falcons wide receiver Taylor Gabriel (foot) did not practice on Wednesday. Also, tight end Austin Hooper (knee) and defensive end Dwight Freeney (rest) did not practice. Lineabacker De'Vondre Campbell (concussion) returned to practice, but was limited. Cornerback Robert Alford (toe), wide receiver Julio Jones (toe), safety Keanu Neal (ankle) and left guard Andy Levitre (hip) were limited. Tight end Josh Perkins (neck) fully participated.
4. Ryan hopes to play well into his 30s like Brees. Saints quarterback Drew Brees has reached an intersection of all-time greatness and continued relevance that is rare for a 37-year old quarterback. Brees is on the back end of a career that may lead to his eventual enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Yet on Sunday at the Georgia Dome the Falcons still will be most concerned with slowing Brees, same as always during his 11 years with the Saints.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, 31, also is playing at a high level and Brees is proof that it’s possible to do so for several more years.
5. Therezie blending in with Saints. Former Falcons defensive back Robenson Therezie
is blending in with the Saints after being claimed off waivers.
The Falcons were hoping that Therezie would make a big jump in his second season with the franchise.
GAME 15: Falcons 33, Panthers 16
5 things we learned from the Falcons win over the Panthers
NFL playoffs: Falcons clinch NFC South title
Third-and-21, no problem for Coleman
What Dan Quinn had to say after the win over the Panthers
GAME 14: Falcons 41, 49ers 13
5 things we learned from the Falcons' win over the 49ers
What Matt Ryan had to say about the win over the 49ers
PHOTOS: Falcons win over the 49ers
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