Early Bird Report 10/9: Grading the Falcons' 4-game start; Parker injured in Dolphins' win

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The bye week is officially over and the Falcons are back to their regular game preparation in anticipation of a home matchup with the Miami Dolphins (2-2) on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.

Since they were off this weekend, today's Early Bird is a bit lighter than usual. It includes team grades from the first quarter of the season and a breakdown of the Dolphins' 16-10 win over the Titans.

Enjoy!

FALCONS HEADLINES FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Falcons' quarterly report card

With a quarter of the 2017 season in the books for the Falcons, we've got a clearer picture of the makeup of this team. Despite a few more mistakes than Atlanta would like, the offense is still among the league's best while the defense continues to develop and has looked sharp at times thus far. Over the bye week, the AJC's D. Orlando Ledbetter gave his assessment of the Falcons over their first four games and graded their performance.

Ledbetter's grades were mostly favorable. His lowest grade went to the Falcons' passing attack, which received a "C-plus." That's a fair grade given the team's early struggles through the air, but with that talent in that unit, things should be expected to improve. Atlanta's run and pass defense each received a "B" for their performance up to the bye week. Ledbetter notes that the pass rush has been active and the secondary has been solid, but the Falcons have missed a number of tackles.

Atlanta's run offense earned an "A" from Ledbetter, who says both Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are off to strong starts. The blocking up front, particularly from center Alex Mack, has been sharp in the run game.

NEWS ON THE FALCONS' OPPONENT: Miami Dolphins

Sun Sentinel: Ten thoughts on Dolphins' 16-10 win over Titans

Miami's win over Tennessee wasn't pretty, but it moved the Dolphins to 2-2 on the season as they prepare to face the Falcons in Week 6. The Dolphins gained 178 total yards in the victory – 100 rushing, 78 passing – and forced two turnovers. Dave Hyde of the *Sun Sentinel *shared 10 thoughts from Miami's win.

Hyde begins his list by mentioning Jay Cutler's poor outing – 12-of-26 for 92 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He praises Miami's stout run defense, which limited Tennessee's power run game to just 69 yards and an average of 3.5 yards per carry. Also of note for the Dolphins' defense was a sack-fumble by linebacker Kiko Alonso that was returned 38 yards for a touchdown by safety Reshad Jones.

ESPN.com: Dolphins WR DeVante Parker believed to have ankle sprain

Miami receiver DeVante Parker left Sunday's game with an ankle injury and did not return to action. ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported that a source told him Parker suffered a sprained right ankle in the victory. Parker was the Dolphins' leading receiver entering the game with 18 receptions for 230 yards and a touchdown to start the season.

BIGGEST NEWS FROM AROUND THE NFC SOUTH

The Charlotte Observer: Eight Panthers standouts who paved way to 27-24 win over Lions

Carolina played one of its best games of the season to edge Detroit on the road Sunday and move to 4-1 on the year. Scott Fowler of *The Charlotte Observer *highlighted eight players who had a large role in securing the victory.

First on his list was quarterback Cam Newton, who was 26-of-33 for 355 yards and three touchdowns against the Lions, putting together his best game of the season. Tight end Ed Dickson also received a shout-out for his five-catch, 175-yard performance in place of the injured Greg Olsen. On the defense, linebacker Thomas Davis, defensive tackle Kawann Short and defensive end Julius Peppers all made big plays in the win.

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