While the Falcons (3-7) remain in the playoff hunt, they face a long gauntlet in the NFC

Cover 9@9: Falcons playoff chances are at less than 1% 

1. Did someone say playoffs? If the Falcons run the table and get to 9-7, can they make the playoffs?

Their chances of making the playoffs are less than 1%, according to the New York Times’ playoff simulator.  

There are too many teams with at least eight wins — San Francisco (9), New Orleans (8), Green Bay (8), Minnesota (8) and Seattle (8) — in the NFC. 

Dallas and Los Angeles Rams trail the front-runners with six wins.

Now, if the Falcons hadn’t lost to the Titans and Cardinals (missed extra point), they’d be 5-5 and in position to chase to the front-runners.

 

2. Sanu update: Patriots wide receiver Mohamed Sanu has caught 14 passes for 108 yards and one touchdown in three games with his new team.

The Falcons traded Sanu to New England on Oct. 22, a week before the trading deadline and received a second-round draft pick. 

3. Riley update: Eagles linebacker Duke Riley is contributing on special teams. 

The Falcons sent Riley, a former third round pick, to the Eagles for safety Johnathan Cyprien on Sept. 30

The Falcons were looking for safety help after Keanu Neal went down. The Falcons also sent a sixth-round pick to the Eagles and received a seventh-round pick in return. 

Riley has played in six games and has one fumble recovery and two tackles. In the 17-10 loss to the Patriots on Sunday, Riley played three defensive snaps (4%) and 23 special teams snaps (79%). 

Cyprien played one game against the Texans before going on injured reserve

4. Turnover chain: Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians was quick to point out why his team has had its struggles this season and brings a 3-7 record into Sunday’s game against the Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“There’s no secret, it’s turnovers,” Arians said Monday to the Tampa media. “This team, we have a gift habit. We keep giving away points in games and then we try to fight our way back.”

The Bucs have lost five of their last six games, including last week’s 34-17 defeat against the Saints, and have been hurt by the play of quarterback Jameis Winston and his receivers. Winston, who has an NFL-high 18 interceptions this season, sailed one high pass against the Saints that was returned for a touchdown by safety Marcus Williams.

Tight end O.J. Howard took his eye off another Winston pass while looking for a hit from a defender and a bobbled ball turned into an interception. 

“When you make those kind of mistakes, you’re not going to win against a really good football team,” Arians said. “It’s been a habit, but it’s one that we have to break.”

The Bucs are a minus-10 in turnover margin, which is 29th in the league. 

5. Bucs weapons: But the Bucs are not devoid of offensive weapons for Winston to choose from.

Wide receivers Chris Godwin leads the team with 63 receptions and veteran playmaker Mike Evans has 58 catches for 993 yards. Both have seven touchdowns. 

The Bucs don’t think the Falcons will be armed with detailed information on Winston since former head coach Dirk Koetter is now the Falcons’ offensive coordinator. 

“I think, it’s a different offense,” Arians said. “He knows the guy. I would imagine he’s saying just the same old stuff. But I don’t think right now, they are changing anything defensively because they are playing really good and playing fast.” 

6. Koetter angle: Koetter went 19-29 as the Bucs coach from 2016-18 and also was their offensive coordinator in 2015. He discounted the connection, too. 

“I’m worried about our team, but except for the two games a year when we play them, I’m a Jameis fan,” Koetter said. 

7. Falcons have simplified things on defense: After blasting New Orleans 26-9 and the Panthers 29-3, the Falcons have the Bucs’ full attention. 

“Division opponent on the road,” Arians said. “A team that’s similar to us. They are playing really well right now. Kind of found their stride after the open date. A lot of changes coaching-staff wise. They are playing with a lot of energy and it’s showing on tape.”

The Bucs have noticed some changes in the 1-7 Falcons vs. the 2-0 Falcons after the bye week. 

“They simplified it defensively,” Arians said. “They are playing really, really fast and they are not very complicated. The front four is teeing off and doing a heck of a job. Offensively, they are moving the ball and scoring points.” 

8. Film review: Here’s a look at the film review of the Falcons’ 29-3 win over the Panthers. 

9. Depth chart: The Falcons are holding out hope for quick returns for tight end Austin Hooper (knee) and running back Devonta Freeman (foot sprain), who both missed the Carolina game.

Both were still listed atop the official depth chart released by the team on Tuesday

“As for Hoop and Free we’ll see where we are as we go through the week,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said on Monday. “Both of them are definitely trending in the right way. If they are able to participate some of Thursday or Friday that would be a good sign. If they are not, I wouldn’t (play them) without two weeks of practice.”

NFL media has reported that Hooper will miss four games. The Falcons are hoping he heals faster. 

The team moved Damontae Kazee from backup cornerback to the starting free safety spot. 

Here’s the depth chart of the Buccaneers’ game: 

OFFENSE

WR 11 Julio Jones, 83 Russell Gage, 13 Christian Blake 
LT 70 Jake Matthews, 73 Matt Gono 
LG 68 77 James Carpenter, 64 Sean Harlow
C 51 Alex Mack, 71 Wes Schweitzer 
RG 68 Jamon Brown 
RT 76 Kaleb McGary, 74 Ty Sambrailo 
TE 81 Austin Hooper, 80 Luke Stocker, 87 Jaeden Graham 
WR 18 Calvin Ridley, 14 Justin Hardy, 17 Olamide Zaccheaus, 15 Brandon Powell
QB 2 Matt Ryan, 8 Matt Schaub 
RB 24 Devonta Freeman, 23 Brian Hill, 38 Kenjon Barner, 32 Qadree Ollison
FB 40 Keith Smith

DEFENSE

DE 98 Takkarist McKinley, 99 Adrian Clayborn 
DT 97 Grady Jarrett, 95 Jack Crawford 
DT 96 Tyeler Davison, 94 Deadrin Senat 
DE 93 Allen Bailey, 50 John Cominsky 
DE 44 Vic Beasley, 91 Jacob Tuioti-Mariner 
LB 59 De’Vondre Campbell, 54 Foyesade Oluokun 
LB 45 Deion Jones, 53 Jermaine Grace
CB 26 Isaiah Oliver, 20 Kendall Sheffield
CB 21 Desmond Trufant, 33 Blidi Wreh-Wilson, 28 Jordan Miller,
SS 37 Ricardo Allen, 41 Sharrod Neasman 
FS 28 Damontae Kazee, 36 Kemal Ishmael, 35 Jamal Carter 

SPECIALISTS

K 7 Younghoe Koo
KO 7 Younghoe Koo
P 9 Ryan Allen 
LS 47 Josh Harris H 9 Ryan Allen 
KOR 38 Kenjon Barner 
PR Kenjon Barner

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About the Author

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