Let’s take a look at the top headlines from around the division:
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Mark Cook writes that the Bucs likely will release cornerback Eric Wright sometime this offseason. No surprise there. Ever since Wright’s suspension for using a banned substance voided his guaranteed salary for 2013, it’s been pretty obvious Wright’s on his way out of Tampa Bay. The Bucs can free up $7.75 million in salary-cap space by releasing him.
In this radio interview with Mike & Mike, coach Greg Schiano previews the playoffs by talking about the Falcons, Vikings, Redskins and Broncos. He makes them all sound like Super Bowl contenders.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. reportedly will interview for the spot as head coach with the Chicago Bears on Thursday. Carmichael is sort of a quiet guy, but he’s recognized as one of the best offensive minds around the league and it could be his time to take the next step.
Joseph Person writes that the fate of coach Ron Rivera remains a mystery. That may be cleared up soon. Rivera is supposed to meet with owner Jerry Richardson soon, perhaps as early as Thursday. If Richardson is making a move, he better act fast. Other teams already are interviewing candidates for their vacancies.
We’ve talked a lot about how the Falcons have increased their use of screen passes since the arrival of offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. Quarterback Matt Ryan said the screen game has become an extension of the running game. He has a good point. Atlanta’s running game hasn’t done a lot this year. But, if you factor in the screen passes that have been thrown, the performance of the running backs becomes a little more impressive.
There’s been a lot of talk about how the Falcons are a different team than they were in 2010 when they also went 13-3 and held the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. That team got beat by Green Bay. Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon said the lessons learned from that painful experience are what make this team different from the 2010 squad.