FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Week 5 action kicks off with the Buccaneers facing the Patriots on "Thursday Night Football," but the Falcons are in the midst of a bye week and will get to enjoy watching some NFL football this weekend instead of taking to the field themselves.
Today's Early Bird includes some thoughts on why there is no reason to be worried about the Falcons, and Cam Newton's troubling comments during a press conference.
FALCONS HEADLINES FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY
NFL.com: Matt Ryan's place in the Week 5 QB Index
Each week, NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal releases his "QB Index," which is a ranking of each starting quarterback in the league. Entering Week 5, he explains that this is the first ranking where each player's position is determined solely by what they've accomplished in 2017.
After four games, Matt Ryan, the league's reigning MVP, is rated as Rosenthal's sixth-best quarterback. He's completing over 65 percent of his passes for 1,109 yards with five touchdowns and five interceptions. Here's what Rosenthal had to say of Ryan:
"Some of Ryan's good fortune from his MVP season has flipped, with three of his five interceptions bouncing off receivers' hands. The Falcons still lead the NFL in yards per drive, with Ryan not looking that different than a season ago."
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Four games in, there isn't much about these Falcons not to like
Although the Falcons have yet to play to their potential, they reached the bye week with a 3-1 record, which was their record after four games in 2016. As AJC columnist Mark Bradley writes, there are plenty of arguments to be made that Atlanta could be 1-3 or even 4-0, but that's more of a reflection of the league than the team. In the NFL, there are rarely blowouts and no single game is a sure thing.
Most expected last year's stellar offense to take a step back, while the young and talented defense continued to improve. So far, that’s exactly what Bradley has seen happen.
"Football-wise, that was always going to be the story of this season: Can a better defense offset the loss of Kyle Shanahan? (Here we stipulate that, even had the offensive coordinator returned, the Falcons weren't likely to be any better at moving and scoring than they were, last year having been a harmonic convergence.)," Bradley writes. "Early returns have been encouraging. You can go a long way with a top-five offense and an almost-top-10 defense, which is what – yes, it's a small sample size – the Falcons have."
BIGGEST NEWS FROM AROUND THE NFC SOUTH
ESPN.com: Cam Newton laughs at female reporter following her question
The biggest news from the NFC South came off the field Wednesday, as Carolina quarterback Cam Newton made an ill-advised comment during a press conference. According to ESPN’s David Newton, the Panther's star quarterback was asked by Charlotte Observer reporter Jourdan Rodrigue about receiver Devin Funchess embracing the physicality of his routes, to which he responded: "It's funny to hear a female talk about routes."
Following the incident, the Panthers released a statement saying that Newton and Rodrigue had a conversation where he expressed his regret over his choice of words. According to Rodrigue, no such apology was made.
"This afternoon, I did my job as an NFL beat writer and asked Cam Newton a question about one of his receivers. I was dismayed by his response, which not only belittled me but countless other women before me and beside me who work in similar jobs," Rodrigue said, according to ESPN. "I sought Mr. Newton out as he left the locker room a few minutes later. He did not apologize for his comments."
NFL.com: What to watch for in Patriots vs. Buccaneers on 'TNF'
Two prime playoff contenders clash on "Thursday Night Football" in Week 5 as the New England Patriots head south to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Previewing the matchup, Marc Sessler of NFL.com shared eight things fans should watch for.
Among his eight topics, Sessler mentions the long list of injuries to Tampa Bay's defense, which includes Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander. He also calls running back Doug Martin, who is fresh of his three-game suspension, a "bona fide X-factor" for the Buccaneers.
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