FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The first week of the NFL season has officially come to an end, and the Falcons (1-0) are now tied atop the NFC South division standings with the Carolina Panthers (1-0). A heavyweight matchup with the Green Bay Packers looms on the horizon, however.
Today's Early Bird Report includes some further analysis of Atlanta's season-opening victory against the Chicago Bears and why early performances should be taken with a grain of salt.
FALCONS HEADLINES FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY
MMQB: Despite the win, all is not well for the Falcons
Atlanta begins the season 1-0, which is really the only thing that matters when the NFL calendar flips to Week 2, but Andy Benoit of The Monday Morning Quarterback doesn’t think the win erases any notion of a Super Bowl hangover. Benoit explains that while the defense managed to overcome a situation very similar to the one it was in during the Super Bowl, the offense's performance is cause for concern.
He discusses the struggles Atlanta had running the ball, the lack of downfield passes and the Bears' failure to capitalize at the goal line, but Benoit does eventually come back to say that overreactions can occur after Week 1. There's plenty of time for things to get on track.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: The Falcons' opener was unimpressive, but Week 1 can be deceiving
It's no real stretch to say that Atlanta's initial performance of the 2017 NFL season wasn't what many fans were expecting. A year after averaging nearly 34 points per game, the Falcons offense put just 23 points on the board against the Chicago Bears, a team that finished 3-13 last season. Still, as the AJC's Mark Bradley writes, season-openers can often be deceiving.
Look no further than the Falcons' season-opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last year, which ended in a 31-24 loss. Atlanta scored just one more point in that opening loss than it did in Sunday's road victory and things turned out to be OK in the end. Bradley's main points are that tight end Austin Hooper shouldn't be the Falcons' leading receiver with players like Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu on the roster, and that while it was still a win, the Bears had more than a couple of chances to flip the ending.
ESPN.com: Atlanta's defense subdued Mike Glennon, but Aaron Rodgers is a different challenge
The Falcons' defensive line was plenty active in Chicago. They recorded four sacks – one by Vic Beasley, one by Brian Poole and two by Brooks Reed, including the game-clincher – and pressured Bears quarterback Mike Glennon on several other plays. In taking note of the upcoming game against the Packers, ESPN's Vaughn McClure correctly points out that Aaron Rodgers will provide a much tougher test.
"We've got to do what we did last season," Reed told McClure after the win. "Just contain him. He's such a good player. And they have so many good schemes that you've got to be prepared for something you haven't seen before, especially in Week 2. You've got to be ready for anything. Containing him is going to be big, for sure."
Pro Football Focus: Falcons grades from win against the Bears
Want a way to quantify a player's performance on Sundays? Luckily, the analysts at Pro Football Focus do just that. After the Week 1 matchup between the Falcons and Bears, PFF released its grades for players on both teams and provided some insights on a few key performances, both positive and negative.
The five highest-graded players for Atlanta in the win were: De'Vondre Campbell (86.6), Alex Mack (86.5), Ryan Schraeder (85.8), Brian Poole (82.3) and Austin Hooper (81.3).
NEWS ON THE FALCONS' OPPONENT: Green Bay Packers
Fox Sports: A closer evaluation of the Packers' win against the Seahawks
After taking another look at Green Bay's victory over Seattle, Fox Sports' Ryan Lund came away with a few key observations, most notably: The Packers defense looks much better than it did last year. Lund named defensive lineman Mike Daniels the Player of the Game after he recorded six tackles, three quarterback hurries, two sacks and a forced fumble. Ty Montgomery was another player who Lund highlighted in the performance. The running back finished with 93 total yards and a touchdown.
ESPN.com: Martellus Bennett quickly developing a connection with Aaron Rodgers
The Packers made a key addition to their offense over the offseason, signing tight end Martellus Bennett and giving Rodgers a new weapon in the passing game. So far, that's paying off in more ways than one. As ESPN's Rob Demovsky writes, Bennett not only caught three passes for 63 yards in the Packers' win but he also came to his quarterback’s defense after he believed Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright delivered a cheap shot on Rodgers.
BIGGEST NEWS FROM AROUND THE NFC SOUTH
The Charlotte Observer: Ron Rivera provides early update on Cam Newton's shoulder
According to Joseph Person of *The Charlotte Observer, *Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was unavailable to the media following his team's 23-3 victory against the San Francisco 49ers because of a random drug test. This absence meant that Newton could issue no comment on his surgically repaired shoulder. On Monday, coach Ron Rivera provided that update: "It was fine," Rivera said Monday, according to Person. "He came through it very good."
Newton was 14-of-25 for 171 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in the win.
The New Orleans Advocate: Saints defense dismal in season-opening loss
The Saints have looked to upgrade their defense over the past several offseasons, but their season-opener against the Minnesota Vikings looked all too familiar to Joel Erickson of *The New Orleans Advocate**. *New Orleans' defense allowed Vikings quarterback to throw for 346 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in the 29-19 loss.
Tampa Bay Times: Buccaneers expected to announce they'll play in Tampa on Sunday
In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Irma, it remained unclear whether or not the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would be able to host the Chicago Bears for their season-opener on Sunday, according to the *Tampa Bay Times*’ Rick Stroud. After rescheduling their Week 1 contest against the Miami Dolphins, the team was unsure if logistical problems would prevent them from practicing and playing in Tampa this week. Per Stroud, it appears that things will work out for the Bucs, who are expected to announce soon that they will indeed host the Bears on Sunday.
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