Time for a Thursday morning look at the top headlines from around the division:
D. Orlando Ledbetter writes that as many as 10 or 11 Falcons have a shot at making the Pro Bowl. The rosters will be announced next week.
Wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones already have over 1,000 receiving yards. Tight end Tony Gonzalez only needs 120 yards to reach that mark. The Falcons have had only one season in which three players had 1,000 receiving yards. That was 1995 when Bert Emanuel, Terance Mathis and Eric Metcalf each had 1,000 yards.
Tom Sorensen writes that the new general manager, not owner Jerry Richardson, should be the one to decide if coach Ron Rivera stays. It’s important for the general manager to be comfortable with the coach. But the timing of the hire might make things a little more complicated. If the Panthers are slow in hiring a general manager after the season and that person ends up not wanting Rivera, it might be too late to make a move because the top coaching candidates already could have jobs.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Quarterback Drew Brees said he’d be shocked if Sean Payton isn’t back coaching the Saints next season. There was a time when I thought the same thing. But, with each day that goes by with continued uncertainty about Payton’s contract situation, the chance of him becoming a free agent seems to grow.
The Saints recently paid a visit to Tulane player Devon Walker, who suffered a spinal injury in September.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Despite their four-game losing streak, the Bucs say this isn’t a repeat of last season when the team lost 10 straight games to end the season and it appeared numerous players gave up. The best way to prove that would be to bounce back and play well in the final two games.
Although quarterback Josh Freeman has struggled recently, offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said the team remains excited about Freeman’s "body of work" this season. But, like the rest of the team, it would be nice to see Freeman finish the season on an upswing.