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Early Bird Report 10/20: Falcons can exploit Patriots defense; what's up with the offense?

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Falcons are ready to embark on their first trip of the three-game road stretch, but there is still plenty of great content out there for you to catch up on.

Today's Early Bird Report includes a look at what happened to the Falcons' dominant offense as well as a reason why they can exploit the Patriots' defense.



The Ringer: What happened to the Falcons' world-destroying offense?

The Falcons' offense hasn't put many points on the board in recent weeks and everyone is trying to figure out what's wrong. The Ringer's Robert Mays is the latest to attempt to figure out “What happened to the Falcons world-destroying offense?”

Mays notes that some of the numbers indicate that Atlanta's offense is actually having success on offense, despite the low point totals, but it's a far cry from the domination the unit displayed last year. Much of that can be placed upon the passing game, which has been much less successful on first down than it was in 2016. Most commentaries on Atlanta's offense end with the notion that the problems can be corrected and if they are, the unit should once again be a force. Mays' is no different.

"Some of this group's issues (such as Ryan's troubles with the deep ball) may persist over the long term, but on the whole it seems as if the problems that are plaguing the Falcons' passing game are fixable. Atlanta still has all the makings of the league's scariest offense; if it can make a few adjustments, it should be right in the mix to contend in a wide-open NFC. As the Falcons prepare to visit a Patriots team with a shoddy pass defense, this may be just the week for that version of Atlanta's passing game to emerge."

CBS Sports: Patriots defense is trending up, but can be exploited by underperforming Falcons

As has been mentioned this week leading up to Sunday's matchup, the Patriots are having issues on defense while the Falcons' offense hasn't yet performed up to the standard it set last year. In his preview of the upcoming matchup, CBS Sports' Sean Wagner-McGough says the Falcons should be able to exploit the Patriots’ defense.

"If I had to offer a prediction, I'd bet on the Falcons' offense winning the matchup against the Patriots' defense," Wagner-McGough writes. "They'll put up a ton of yards and score a lot of points. The Patriots' defense is trending in the right direction and the Falcons' offense is trending in the wrong direction, but the Falcons' offense is more talented than the Patriots' defense. The Falcons aren't going to struggle on offense forever -- evidenced by their DVOA ranking -- and the Patriots' defense is going to give them plenty of chances. Expect the Falcons to put up points. The Patriots' defense has benefited by two favorable match ups in recent weeks. This isn't a favorable match up." 


*Boston Globe: *Bill Belichick doesn't see a team that's struggling

Although the Patriots are 4-2 and atop the AFC East, many have been quick to point out that this team doesn't resemble the one that hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in February. Flaws on defense have been prominent through the first six games this season, which have taken attention away from an offense that is once against among the league's best.

As is to be expected, Belichick has defended his team at every turn, but his comments about progression carry a lot of merit.

"It's incomprehensible to me that anyone can think a team that practiced for six months and played 19 regular-season and postseason games and triple-digit practices, five months later, after not playing a game and having a fraction of that type of experience, can be anywhere close to the level of execution they were five months before that after all the things I just listed," Belichick said on a conference call, according to Anthony Gulizia of the *Boston Globe*. "It's impossible in my view."

The players in the locker room are echoing their coach's stance on the matter, including safety Duron Harmon.

"The best teams know how to make those adjustments faster," Harmon said. "They don't allow the same things to continue hinder and hurt them. That's what we're trying to do. You're trying to get out of the position of making the same mistakes so you can just progress and learn from them. Something that can be a weakness at one point could a be a strength."

BIGGEST NEWS FROM AROUND THE NFC SOUTH Bucs' Jameis Winston on playing Sunday: 'I'm ready'

Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston is still recovering from and AC joint sprain in his throwing shoulder, but he is ready to get back onto the field, according to’s Marc Sessler.

"My thought process is to play," Winston reportedly told the media. "I'm ready. When it's time to let me go, I'm ready."

Despite his optimistic comments, Tampa Bay Times reporter Greg Auman says Winston "didn't look today like a quarterback expecting to play on Sunday."


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