2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Struggling Falcons look for turnaround vs Jets

By PAUL NEWBERRY - AP Sports Writer
    2013-10-06 13:10

ATLANTA (AP) - The Atlanta Falcons are hurting - on the field and in the standings.

There's not much they can do about the injuries.

If they don't start winning, they can forget about those Super Bowl hopes as well.

The Falcons (1-3) are two games below .500 for the first time in the Matt Ryan era and mired in their first losing streak since 2009 going into Monday night against the New York Jets.

``There's certainly a sense of urgency,'' said Ryan, in his sixth season as Atlanta's quarterback. ``We haven't started the way we wanted, but we understand it's a long season.''

The Falcons have been rocked by injuries in the opening month. Defensive end Kroy Biermann is out for the year. Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon will miss at least half the season. Running back Stephen Jackson is sidelined for the third straight game with a hamstring injury. Offensive tackle Sam Baker (knee) and linebacker Akeem Dent (ankle) won't play against the Jets, either.

But every team must cope with injuries to some extent, the Jets (2-2) among them.

No one is going to give the Falcons a pass just because they're not at full strength, especially when it's clearly a Super Bowl-or-bust season.

``This is a good game for us to get our ship righted, and get this thing going in the right direction,'' safety Thomas DeCoud said.

The red zone has been the biggest problem.

Atlanta's offense ranks 29th in the league in touchdown percentage from inside the opponent's 20-yard line. Last week's 30-23 loss to New England was especially troubling, as the Falcons produced only one touchdown with six red-zone possessions. They settled for three field goals and were stopped two other times on fourth down, the last of those coming in the final minute when they had a chance to force overtime.

``It's not just one area, not just one group,'' coach Mike Smith said. ``We had some protection issues. We had some routes that weren't run right. We had some drops. We had some missed throws. I can assure you we are addressing it as a coaching staff with our team.''

Injuries have definitely limited the offense when opponents have less ground to cover. With Jackson out and the line shaky, the Falcons aren't much of a threat to score touchdowns with their running game. Receiver Roddy White has been slowed by a slow-healing ankle sprain, allowing coverages to focus on the other receiver, Julio Jones, and tight end Tony Gonzalez.

``Guys start doubling me in the red zone a lot, and sometimes three guys will be on me,'' Jones said.

The Jets have dealt with plenty of injuries to their receivers, though they should be bolstered this week by the return of Stephen Hill from a concussion. Santonio Holmes is still out with foot and hamstring problems.

No matter who's running the routes, Geno Smith must do a better job protecting the football.

The rookie quarterback shares the NFL lead with 11 turnovers, including eight interceptions. He was picked off twice and lost two fumbles, leading to 28 points, in last week's 38-13 rout by the Titans.

``We want to be aggressive,'' coach Rex Ryan said. ``But you don't want to do something to the detriment of your football team. Clearly, turning the football over has been a real problem.''

The Jets addressed the issue in practice, having defenders try to strip the ball away from Smith anytime they got a hand on him. Also, the coaches worked with the quarterback on holding the ball with two hands in the pocket, along with using a more secure grip when he takes off running.

Now, Smith has to take those lessons to the game.

``I'm really emphasizing taking care of the ball,'' Smith said. ``It comes with just preparation, knowing what you're seeing, knowing when you have an opportunity to take a chance down the field.''

The Falcons know it's far too early to raise the white flag.

Twenty-two teams have made the postseason after 1-3 starts under the current playoff format. But the Falcons already trail unbeaten New Orleans by three games in the NFC South and will merely be playing for a wild card if they fall much farther behind the Saints.

``It's still early and we've still got a lot of key guys out,'' Jones said. ``When we find our stride and get this thing rolling, we'll be OK.''

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Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

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Chris MatthewsDec 21 07:32p

The Seattle Seahawks have declared WR Chris Matthews, DL Demarcus Dobbs, WR Kevin Norwood, C Max Unger, OT Russell Okung, TE Tony Moeaki, DL Travian Robertson inactive for Week 16.

Ahmad DixonDec 21 11:52a

The Minnesota Vikings have declared SS Ahmad Dixon, LB Anthony Barr, OT Carter Bykowski, OG Charlie Johnson, TE Kyle Rudolph, CB Shaun Prater, FB Zach Line inactive for Week 16.

Devier PoseyDec 21 11:52a

The Houston Texans have declared WR DeVier Posey, TE Garrett Graham, LB Jason Ankrah, S Josh Aubrey, LB Mike Mohamed, QB Tom Savage, OG Xavier Su'a-Filo inactive for Week 16.

A.J. KleinDec 21 11:52a

The Carolina Panthers have declared LB A.J. Klein, OG Amini Silatolu, CB Carrington Byndom, OT David Foucault, RB DeAngelo Williams, DL Kyle Love, SS Robert Lester inactive for Week 16.

Charles GodfreyDec 21 11:52a

The Atlanta Falcons have declared CB Charles Godfrey, LB James Anderson, OG Jon Asamoah, CB Ricardo Allen, QB Sean Renfree, DL Stansly Maponga, LB Tyler Starr inactive for Week 16.

Jamarca SanfordDec 21 11:52a

The New Orleans Saints have declared SS Jamarca Sanford, DL Lawrence Virgil, LB Moise Fokou, WR Seantavius Jones, CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste, OT Terron Armstead, RB Travaris Cadet inactive for Week 16.

Justin BrownDec 21 11:52a

The Pittsburgh Steelers have declared OG Chris Hubbard, DL Clifton Geathers, CB Ike Taylor, WR Justin Brown, QB Landry Jones, TE Matt Spaeth, SS Troy Polamalu inactive for Week 16.

Clifton GeathersDec 21 11:52a

The Pittsburgh Steelers have declared OG Chris Hubbard, DL Clifton Geathers, CB Ike Taylor, WR Justin Brown, QB Landry Jones, TE Matt Spaeth, SS Troy Polamalu inactive for Week 16.

Carl BradfordDec 21 11:42a

The Green Bay Packers have declared DL Bruce Gaston, LB Carl Bradford, CB Davon House, C Garth Gerhart, WR Jeff Janis, TE Justin Perillo, QB Scott Tolzien inactive for Week 16.

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The Miami Dolphins have declared LB Chris McCain, OT Dallas Thomas, RB Daniel Thomas, CB Don Jones, WR Matt Hazel, OG Nate Garner, WR Rishard Matthews inactive for Week 16.

Arthur BrownDec 21 11:42a

The Baltimore Ravens have declared LB Arthur Brown, DL Casey Walker, CB Chris Greenwood, C Gino Gradkowski, WR Michael Campanaro, OG Ryan Jensen, DL Terrence Cody inactive for Week 16.

Aaron MurrayDec 21 11:42a

The Kansas City Chiefs have declared QB Aaron Murray, RB Charcandrick West, WR Donnie Avery, C Eric Kush, OT Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, CB Marcus Cooper, DL Nick X. Williams inactive for Week 16.

Gary BarnidgeDec 21 11:42a

The Cleveland Browns have declared OT Andrew McDonald, TE Gary Barnidge, RB Glenn Winston, CB Joe Haden, DB K'Waun Williams, WR Rodney Smith, OT Vinston Painter inactive for Week 16.

Chris ConteDec 21 11:42a

The Chicago Bears have declared FS Chris Conte, QB David Fales, OG Kyle Long, PK Robbie Gould, CB Terrance Mitchell, DL Trevor Scott, DL Will Sutton inactive for Week 16.

Dakota DozierDec 21 11:33a

The New York Jets have declared OL Dakota Dozier, SS Jaiquawn Jarrett, QB Matt Simms, FS Rontez Miles, DL T.J. Barnes, WR Walter Powell, OG Wesley Johnson inactive for Week 16.

Alfonzo DennardDec 21 11:33a

The New England Patriots have declared CB Alfonzo Dennard, OG Dan Connolly, RB James White, OT Jordan Devey, WR Julian Edelman, CB Kyle Arrington, RB LeGarrette Blount inactive for Week 16.

Anthony CollinsDec 21 11:32a

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have declared OT Anthony Collins, FB Evan Rodriguez, CB Isaiah Frey, DL Lawrence Sidbury, RB Mike James, WR Robert Herron, WR Solomon Patton inactive for Week 16.

Kelvin BenjaminDec 21 11:22a

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Joe HadenDec 21 11:22a

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Ryan MathewsDec 20 07:22p

San Diego Chargers RB Ryan Mathews (ankle) is inactive Saturday, Dec. 20, for Week 16.

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The San Diego Chargers have declared LB Cordarro Law, DL Damion Square, CB Greg Ducre, WR Keenan Allen, P Mike Scifres, DL Ryan Carrethers, RB Ryan Mathews inactive for Week 16.

Carlos HydeDec 20 07:12p

San Francisco 49ers RB Carlos Hyde (ankle) is inactive Saturday, Dec. 20.

Ahmad BrooksDec 20 07:02p

The San Francisco 49ers have declared LB Ahmad Brooks, OG Andrew Tiller, RB Carlos Hyde, OG Joe Looney, QB Josh X. Johnson, WR Stevie Johnson, CB Tramaine Brock inactive for Week 16.

DeAndre HopkinsDec 20 06:42p

Houston Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins (ankle) will be a game-time decision Sunday, Dec. 21, after not practicing all week.

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