FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The NFL appears to be wide open this season. With no clear favorites in the conferences, the Falcons have a major statement opportunity in their three-game road trip.
Today's Early Bird Report includes our usual look at the Falcons' spot in the power rankings as well as a thought on what they need to get corrected moving forward.
FALCONS HEADLINES FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY
There no longer seems to be a consensus about the Falcons in the power rankings. For much of the season, most of the rankings had Atlanta around the same spot but after their loss to Miami, the Falcons have become more polarizing. Funnily enough, our own Matt Tabeek's Wildly Important NFL Power Rankings pretty much splits the difference.
"Maybe the Falcons aren't that solid. Julio Jones was out there against Miami on Sunday, and Matt Ryan is the reigning MVP, but for the second-straight contest, they allowed a team with little to zero offense come in and beat them at their place. The Dolphins only threw for 151 yards, but Jay Ajayi's 130 yards on the ground, coupled with Reshad Jones' interception, was enough to ground Atlanta. Put simply: The offense couldn't run a lick in the second half. At least the defense made up for it by letting Ajayi run wild."
"The offense just hasn't clicked and it cost them against the Dolphins. They need a big offensive game against the Patriots this week."
"A lot of attention in Atlanta will be paid to Sunday night's Super Bowl rematch against the Patriots, and for good reason. It's not every day you get a chance to avenge a blown 25-point lead. But this game kicks off a slate featuring four road matches in five weeks, which includes trips to Carolina and Seattle. In other words, this stretch could make or break Atlanta."
"Matt Ryan and Julio Jones don't seem to be right without Kyle Shanahan. They haven't found nearly the explosive offense of last season, and it's not setting up well unless they fire it up before NFC South play."
CBS Sports: The Falcons need to figure it out fast with Super Bowl rematch looming
While CBS Sports' Ryan Wilson isn't ready to admit that there is, in fact, a Super Bowl hangover, he does state that Atlanta is no longer one of the five-best teams in a wide-open NFC. That the Falcons haven't played up to their potential is obvious, but Wilson says the most troubling part of their 3-2 start is that there is no one issue that stands out above the rest.
Wilson says the Falcons loss to the Dolphins was the combination of several low-probability things happening all at once, which ultimately led to their lead slipping away in the second half. With an important game coming up this weekend, how do the Falcons start to get things back on track?
"Resetting should include more (Devonta) Freeman and (Tevin) Coleman; the Falcons came into Sunday's game with the No. 7 offense, but was just 14th in passing while they were third in running, behind only the Chiefs and Titans, according to Football Outsiders," writes Wilson.
NEWS ON THE FALCONS' OPPONENT: New England Patriots
ESPN.com: CB Johnson Bademosi is on the rise among Patriots' newcomers
New England's defense is among the very worst in the NFL this season, but one newcomer to the unit has inspired optimism thus far, according to ESPN's Mike Reiss. Cornerback Johnson Bademosi was forced into action against the New York Jets after Stephon Gilmore missed the game with a concussion. Reiss has been ranking the Patriots' newcomers as the season has gone along, and Bademosi's solid performance against the Jets helped him make a big leap.
BIGGEST NEWS FROM AROUND THE NFC SOUTH
*The Charlotte Observer: *Luke Kuechly at Panthers' practice, but how much did he do?
Carolina Panthers starting linebacker Luke Kuechly suffered his third concussion in as many seasons in the team's loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. According to Joseph Person of The Charlotte Observer*, *Kuechly didn't do much more than watch at the Panthers' Tuesday practice as he continues to progress through the concussion protocol.
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