FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Falcons are just a couple of days away from getting back onto the field at Mercedes-Benz Stadium for a matchup with the Miami Dolphins. As the weekend draws ever closer, let's go over the top news on the Falcons.
Today's Early Bird Report includes a playoff simulator for fans to mess around with, a debate on which team is the best in the NFC and a recap of the Panther's loss to the Eagles on Thursday night.
FALCONS HEADLINES FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY
The New York Times: How the Atlanta Falcons can make the playoffs
If you're the type of person who enjoys playing around with various win-loss scenarios or spend time wondering what a certain team's chances are of making the postseason, then you're in luck! *The New York Times' *"The Upshot" has a playoff simulator for each NFL team that will explore every possibility and possible path to the postseason.
ESPN.com: Julio says hip OK after the bye week
Falcons receiver Julio Jones provided some encouraging news during his media availability on Thursday. After leaving Atlanta's Week 4 loss to Buffalo with a hip flexor injury, Jones said he'd be ready to go if cleared to play.
"I feel great,'' Jones said. "We just have a plan here. I've been doing it the whole year. So, limited means really nothing. I'll be ready to go.''
Jones was a limited participant in practice on both Wednesday and Thursday.
Fox Sports: Who is the best team in the NFC?
Earlier this week on Fox Sports' First Things First, a discussion began about [which team was the best in the NFC](http://www.foxsports.com/first things first/video/1068045891923). The debate started after Nick Wright was asked whether or not Green Bay was the conference's best team. While Wright agreed the Packers were currently the best team, the concession came with an interesting asterisk.
"If they're not playing Atlanta, they are," Wright said after being asked the question. "Atlanta is the team these guys don't match up well against.
"Green Bay has lost three straight games to Atlanta. Now, all of those games have been in Atlanta – that's just bad scheduling luck that the back-to-back regular season games in Atlanta and then obviously Atlanta had the better record than them last season."
Wright also said he believes the Carolina Panthers are the NFC team with the highest ceiling this season.
NEWS ON THE FALCONS' OPPONENT: Miami Dolphins
The Sun-Sentinel: Five keys for the Dolphins to beat the Falcons
Atlanta enters Sunday's game as favorites over Miami, but there is no such thing as a guarantee in the NFL. *The Sun-Sentinel *outlined five keys for the Dolphins that could help them emerge victorious against the Falcons.
First, the Dolphins must rush for 100 yards. Although Miami is only averaging 74.8 rushing yards per game this season, 31st in the NFL, it is 8-0 when topping 100 yards on the ground since 2016. Second, they must contain Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Third, the Dolphins have to be efficient on third down. Fourth, Miami's offensive line has to win at the line of scrimmage. Fifth, the Dolphins have to win the turnover battle.
The Palm Beach Post: Injury updates after Thursday's practice
DeVante Parker, Miami's leading receiver, suffered an ankle injury in the Dolphins' win over the Tennessee Titans and his status for Sunday's game remains up in the air. According to Joe Schad of The Palm Beach Post*, *Parker was not seen during the media portion of Thursday's practice. Running back Jay Ajayi, center Mike Pouncey and cornerback Byron Maxwell also sat out practice, although Schad believes Ajayi and Pouncey were given a rest day.
BIGGEST NEWS FROM AROUND THE NFC SOUTH
The Charlotte Observer: Eagles defense frustrates Panthers, Cam Newton in Carolina's 28-23 loss
The Panthers fell to the Eagles 28-23 in a Thursday night clash of 4-1 teams. *The Charlotte Observer's *Michael Persinger recapped the loss, saying the Panthers needed quarterback Cam Newton to be Superman, but he came up just short. Newton finished the game with 239 passing yards, one touchdown and three interceptions, while also rushing for 71 yards and a touchdown. Carolina could get nothing going on the ground against Philadelphia, gaining just 80 yards, and star linebacker Luke Kuechly left the game after suffering his third concussion in three seasons.
The Times-Picayune: Saints' trade of Adrian Peterson says more about Alvin Kamara
While many look at the Saints' trading of Adrian Peterson as the final move in what was a failed experiment, Jeff Duncan of The Times-Picayune *sees it as a major endorsement for rookie Alvin Kamara. In his words, "The Saints *love Alvin Kamara."
Through the first four games, the rookie running back has averaged 5.5 yards per carry and has 20 catches for 147 yards, making him the Saints' second-leading receiver.
"He's the most versatile running back the Saints have had in the Sean Payton-Drew Brees era," Duncan writes. "He is bigger than Reggie Bush, faster than Mark Ingram and more elusive than Deuce McAllister.
"He's the perfect back for the Saints' offense and today's NFL, a faster, more explosive version of Pierre Thomas."
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