1. The no-spin zone: The Falcons have several players who are eligible to come off of short-term injured reserve.
After placing Cordarrelle Patterson on injured reserve, the Falcons have nine players on the list.
Long snapper Beau Brinkley (Achilles), defensive tackle Marlon Davidson (knee), tight end John FitzPatrick (undisclosed), linebacker Deion Jones (shoulder), guard Jalen Mayfield (lower back), cornerback Isaiah Oliver (knee), running back Damien Williams (ribs) and defensive tackle Vincent Taylor (Achilles).
Jones, Oliver, Davidson, Mayfield and FitzPatrick are eligible to come off of short-term injured reserve.
Falcons coach Arthur Smith said that Oliver is closest to returning to action. He immediately would help the secondary at nickel back.
Mykal Walker is playing well in Jones’ old linebacker spot, but Jones likely could help in the 4-3 defense the Falcons have been running with Troy Andersen at linebacker.
“There’s a lot of different scenarios that could pop up, but most importantly is the health of the player that’s on IR,” Smith said. “Where they’re at medically and mentally with it, that’s a big part of it, too.”
The Falcons are permitted to have eight players return from injured reserve and/or the reserve/non football injury/illness list. An individual player can return from injured reserve a maximum of twice per season.
“So, I don’t get a lot of timelines, everybody’s body is different,” Smith said. “Sometimes you get unnecessary narratives on guys, somebody says, ‘hey, I had that injury, that’s a two-to-three-week injury.’ Well, what if it takes a guy four weeks, there’s nothing wrong with that, or if a guy comes back after a week, is he some kind of superhero? It’s all relative.”
The Falcons could get a boost if Davidson is healthy. Mayfield appears to have lost his starting job to Elijah Wilkinson, but could add some depth along the line.
“I feel really good, and we got a really good medical staff and sports-performance staff, and those guys that are all in there, they’ve been working,” Smith said.
Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter
2. Battle for first place: Tampa Bay (2-2) is set to face the Falcons (2-2) in what will be an early-season battle to determine first place in the NFC South at 1 p.m. Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.
The Buccaneers have lost their past two games.
The Bucs posted road wins over the Cowboys (19-3) on Sept. 11 and the Saints (20-10) on Sept. 18. The Bucs have lost two at home to the Packers (14-12) on Sept. 25 and to the Chiefs (41-31) on Sunday.
“The goal is to win the division,” Falcons left tackle Jake Matthews said. “That’s the first thing. You do that, you’re guaranteed a playoff spot.”
The Falcons, after losing to the Saints and the Rams have posted wins over the Seahawks and Browns.
“Those are our expectations as a team,” Matthews said. “You have to take things one week at a time. That is what is at stake this week. Winning is the ultimate thing. Being atop the division after that would be a huge bonus.”
3. Series history: This will be the 58th meeting of the two teams. The Bucs lead the series 29-28 and have won the past four meetings.
“It’s going to be a huge challenge, but that’s why you play this game,” Matthews said. “We’re looking forward to it.”
4. Where’s the Bucs’ run defense?: The Bucs’ normally stout run defense was creased for 189 yards and two touchdowns on 37 carries by the Chiefs. With rushing success of first downs, the Chiefs consistently converted manageable third downs.
The Chiefs were 12-of-17 on third downs, including 8-of-9 in the first half as they built a 28-17 lead.
“Missed tackles, blocking assignments and they played tougher than us and they played better than us,” Tampa Bay coach Todd Bowles said to the Tampa media Monday.
5. Run-happy Falcons: The Falcons are averaging 168 yards rushing per game, which ranks fourth in the NFL. The Falcons are averaging 5.13 yards per carry, which ranks sixth.
“I think they’ve done a great job,” Bowles said of the Falcons’ retooled offense. “Their run schemes are outstanding, probably one of the tops in the league.”
The Falcons (55.5%) are running the ball more than 30 other team in the leagues. Only the Chicago Bears (67%) have a higher percentage.
“(Falcons quarterback Marcus) Mariota does a good job of running the offense,” Bowles said. “They have a lot of pieces to use. Obviously the tight end (Kyle Pitts) is great, they’ve got a first-round receiver (Drake London). They’ve got a lot of pieces and the offensive line is very tough, so they’ve been running the ball on everybody.”
6. Hicks makes a difference: The Bucs have been without defensive tackle Akiem Hicks (foot injury) for the past two games. When next to Vita Vea, they make for a stout tandem in the middle of the Bucs’ defense.
“Obviously, we want him back as soon as possible, but we want him healthy,” Bowles said. “We’ll see how he moves.”
The Falcons are looking forward to facing the Bucs’ defensive front.
“They’ve got a really good (defensive) line and good linebackers,” Matthews said. “It’s going to be one of our biggest challenges. I think the film speaks for itself ... throughout the years, they have constantly proven it. That’s been one of the reasons why they’ve been such a good team. It’s going to be a challenge. I can’t say it enough, that we’re looking forward to it.”
Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter
7. Julio Jones update: The Bucs offense, which is led by quarterback Tom Brady, has been out of sync early in the season.
He’s tried to lean on running back Leonard Fournette and wide receivers Mike Evans and Russell Gage. Legendary Falcons receiver Julio Jones has played in two games for the Bucs and has four catches for 76 yards and no touchdowns.
“Their defense is playing very well,” Bowles said. “They do a good job keeping you off balance.”
Credit: Atlanta Falcons
Credit: Atlanta Falcons
8. Hometown Huddle: Falcons players participated in the annual Hometown Huddle, an in-park clean-up project at Anderson Park on Atlanta’s Westside, on Tuesday. The Falcons and Cigna worked with Park Pride to coordinate the park cleanup.
9. Depth chart: With running back Cordarrelle Patterson placed on injured reserve, rookie running back Tyler Allgeier ascended to the No. 1 spot on the official depth chart for the Tampa Bay game, which was released by the team Tuesday.
Caleb Huntley, who was signed to the 53-man roster from the practice squad, is listed as the No. 3 running back behind Allgeier and Avery Williams.
Here’s a look at the depth chart:
QB – Marcus Mariota, Desmond Ridder
RB – Tyler Allgeier, Caleb Huntley Avery Williams
FB – Keith Smith
WR – Drake London, Bryan Edwards, Jared Bernhardt
TE – Kyle Pitts, Parker Hesse, Anthony Firkser, Feleipe Franks
D. Orlando Ledbetter, Esq is the award-winning Atlanta Falcons beat writer for the newspaper, has been on the staff since 2003. Every day D. Orlando strives to provide inside in the Falcons and the NFL. He finds the most joy in providing insight into the team, the coaching moves, the offseason business moves, the draft and the games.