FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today's Early Bird Report includes some thoughts on the Falcons from those at the Super Bowl as well as expert picks for the Big Game.
FALCONS HEADLINES FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY
*AJC: *Patriots, Eagles not as down on Falcons as Atlanta folks might be
Sunday's Super Bowl between the Patriots and the Eagles may be near the very bottom on the list of matchups Falcons fans would like the see. Each team brought Atlanta's season to an end the past two years, and there certainly remains a bitter taste.
Up in Minnesota to cover Super Bowl LII, Jeff Schultz of *The Atlanta Journal-Constitution *discussed the state of the Falcons with some of the players, coaches and media members in attendance. They don't seem to be nearly as down on the team as some Falcons fans.
"They were a different style of offense this year," NBC's Tony Dungy told Schultz. "They were fast-paced and fast-break all of last year. This year they were relying on their defense a little more, trying to be what coach (Dan) Quinn wanted. But I think they're growing. Coach Sarkisian is learning those guys and they're learning him. It's still evolving."
Schultz also spoke with Patriots safety Devin McCourty and Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham, who both reaffirmed that the Falcons are a good team that their teams just happened to get the better of on the night they played.
When Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz spoke with Schultz, he reaffirmed an idea that Falcons head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff touched on during their end-of-season press conference. The team's struggles at various points this year were due less to scheme flaws than a slip in execution.
"Schemes don't stand on their own," Schwartz told Schultz. "It's a little bit like a catcher calling for a pitch. You can call for a fastball all you want, but if the guy doesn't have a good fastball that day or he's not a good fastball thrower, you're not going to call a good game. A good catcher keeps that in mind and a good coach keeps that in mind. ... We had confidence in our matchups and our ability to create stops and you saw that in that game."
Here are more articles for Falcons fans:
*USA TODAY: *Arthur Blank not amused by Patriots' jab at Falcons
BIGGEST NEWS FROM AROUND THE NFL
Super Bowl picks: Experts make their selections for the Big Game
Super Bowl Sunday is just a couple of days away, and the expert picks are in. The eight experts at CBS Sports are nearly split between the two teams, but the Patriots get a slight edge with five picks against the three in favor of the Eagles. Senior writer Pete Prisco is also among those picking the defending champs, giving the Patriots a 24-21 edge over the Eagles.
His logic is simple: You don't bet against the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
ESPN's panel of experts are also siding with the defending champions. Only two of the 10 experts believe the Eagles will pull the upset on Sunday, giving the Patriots an 8-2 edge in the voting. Of the 18 experts who sent in a pick at NFL.com, only five picked the Eagles to emerge as champions. While the Patriots are the heavy favorites in terms of number of people picking them to win, most see this game coming down to the wire with a very slim margin of victory.
Here are some more articles from around the league:
The Ringer: The Super Bowl 52 Super Bag
*Sports Illustrated: *Rob Gronkowski cleared concussion protocol
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