FLOWERY BRANCH - Joe Horn insists that the Atlanta Falcons have far more at stake than building momentum for 2008.
Conventional wisdom might dispute Horn's positive spin. The Falcons (3-8) were outscored by a combined 42 points in home losses the last two weeks, due mostly to injuries that have worn down the offensive line.
But Horn shrugs off excuses. He still believes Atlanta can end the regular season with five straight wins and squeak into the playoffs.
'Anything can happen,' Horn said this week. 'If we listen to our coaches, if we don't beat ourselves with mistakes and we follow every assignment, there's no reason why we can't put together a big run.'
A four-time Pro Bowl receiver now in his 12th NFL season, Horn wants his younger teammates to realize every week brings another chance to prove critics wrong.
He wants to do as much when the Falcons play Sunday at St. Louis (2-9). After signing a four-year contract as a free agent last spring, Horn has yet to prove that he was worthy of $7.5 million in guarantees.
A hamstring injury left him inactive the last three games, but Horn's productivity - 18 catches for 165 yards and no touchdowns - is way off the numbers he and the team envisioned.
'You just have to keep things in perspective,' Horn said. 'This is football, and so many factors go into the outcome of every game, of every play. I know I can give this team a big boost the last month of the season, and I know we'll be able to hold our heads high and say we did our best.'
Linebacker Michael Boley, who's having a breakout season with a team-high 101 tackles, three sacks, six pass breakups, two interceptions and free forced fumbles, was upgraded to probable after practice on Friday.
The third-year veteran was limited earlier this week with a tender elbow.
Coach Bobby Petrino also moved tight end Alge Crumpler (ankle, knee) from questionable to probable after the four-time Pro Bowl selection joined Boley in participating fully in the 90-minute workout.
Quarterback Byron Leftwich (tailbone) is likely to be designated on Sunday as the No. 3 emergency backup behind Joey Harrington and Chris Redman.
Keep it fresh
The NFL's contract with Reebok includes stipulations that every team is subject to the same on-the-field code for uniforms and equipment.
Morten Andersen, however, has played so long that the league allows him to wear a 1970s-era facemask that the 47-year-old kicker calls 'Good Friend.'
But playing on four teams in five years through 2004 (Falcons, Giants, Chiefs and Vikings), Andersen used a new color on the equipment at each club. The facemask has worn Atlanta's black paint the last two years.
'I don't even know who made it,' Andersen said, 'but as you can see, it's got purple coming from the Vikings, gray from the Giants and white from the Chiefs. I do have an extra one at the house in case something were to happen to this one.'
Look at the pack
Petrino reminded his players this week that Green Bay had a 4-8 record before winning its last four games in 2006.
Despite losing at Dallas on Thursday night, the Packers' 10-2 record gives them a good chance of earning a first-round bye and a home game in the NFC's divisional round of the playoffs.
'We have shown improvement and we have to keep working at it,' Petrino said. 'I'd like to get a run together. I told the team to look at the situation the Green Bay Packers are in. A year ago at this time, they were (struggling) and pieced (some) wins together. We have to take it one at a time, but we want to finish the season with momentum.'
SideBar: Falcons at Rams
When: Sunday, 1 p.m.
Where: St. Louis