Time for a Thursday afternoon run through the headlines from around the division:
For the second straight week, the Falcons will be without perhaps their best defensive player. Coach Mike Smith said linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (ankle) will miss Sunday’s game with New Orleans. The Falcons used a combination of Mike Peterson and Akeem Dent in Weatherspoon’s role against Dallas and it’s likely they’ll do the same thing against the Saints.
Although early talks about renovations to Bank of America Stadium focused on Charlotte officials, Erik Spanberg reports state officials might be willing to get involved.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Running back Darren Sproles (hand) missed another day of practice Thursday and it’s becoming increasingly likely he won’t be ready for Sunday’s game with Atlanta. Although Sproles creates unique matchup problems, the Saints have good depth at running back with Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Chris Ivory. Right tackle Zach Strief (groin) missed his second straight day of practice. If Strief can’t play Sunday, Charles Brown would be the likely replacement.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Greg Schiano has a reputation for being a hard-line coach. A recent anonymous poll of players around the league determined he’s the coach players would least like to play for. But Schiano also has a sense of humor and was able to laugh off the poll.
Dory LeBlanc reports that Tampa Bay’s secondary is having problems on and off the field. The Bucs have had trouble stopping the passing game. The team recently traded cornerback Aqib Talib, while he was serving a four-game suspension, there have been reports cornerback Eric Wright could face a similar suspension and safety Ahmad Black recently was cited -- but not arrested -- for marijuana possession. Safeties Ronde Barber and Mark Barron have played well, but the cornerbacks have struggled. The Bucs don’t have much choice but to go with what they already have for the rest of the season, but I think it’s pretty safe to say the team will have strong interest in cornerbacks in free agency and the draft.