The Atlanta Falcons could be closer to full strength on defense the next time they take the field.
Coach Mike Smith said Monday linebacker Sean Weatherspoon and defensive tackle Peria Jerry could return to practice late this week, increasing their chances to play Sunday at New Orleans.
Weatherspoon, one of the team's leading tacklers, missed Sunday night's 19-13 win over Dallas with a sprained right ankle. A first-half knee injury knocked Jerry out of the game.
The Falcons (8-0) remain the NFL's only unbeaten team.
The loss of Weatherspoon robbed the defense of one of its big-play leaders. He has 60 tackles, three sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery and had 10 or more tackles in four of the team's first seven games.
Smith said Weatherspoon is making progress in his recovery.
''This is basically his eighth day of intensive treatment and we're hoping we're going to be able to get him out,'' Smith said. ''He progressed well through the first week and we're just going to ...