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Early Bird Report 9/13: Falcons' surprising source of inspiration; early Week 2 picks

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Falcons (1-0) continue their preparation for a "Sunday Night Football" showdown with the Green Bay Packers (1-0) on Sunday night, and we are back to bring you the biggest news about the team from around the country.

Today's Early Bird Report includes a story about the Falcons' surprising source of inspiration; what former quarterback Michael Vick had to say about the team's Week 1 performance and a few early predictions.



The Ringer: How a cycling team turned the Falcons into NFC champions

While many are busy comparing the Falcons and their players to other elite teams around the NFL, The Ringer's Kevin Clark says the world of cycling is where the real comparison lies. It's no great secret that Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff is an avid cyclist, and he spent parts of the past two summers with Team Sky, winners of five Tour de France title over the last six years.

In talking with Dimitroff, Clark learned of Team Sky's philosophical approach to cycling: "The aggregation of marginal gains." What this means is that instead of seeking one major thing that could push them over the top, Team Sky's strategy is to build as many tiny advantages into their routine as possible. Applying this to the football field, and you arrive at the Falcons' "1 percent better" mantra. This intense focus on detail has paid off for Atlanta thus far, and it can hopefully generate the type of sustained success as that enjoyed by Team Sky.

Fox Sports: Michael Vick believes the Falcons offense will 'get it together'

Since the clock hit zero in Atlanta's 23-17 victory against the Chicago Bears, seemingly everybody has had an opinion on the Falcons offense. One person who many fans may actually be interested in hearing from is former Falcons quarterback Michael Vick. Now with Fox Sports, Vick joined Colin Cowherd, Jason Whitlock and former Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez to discuss Atlanta’s performance. He believes it's just a matter of time before they start putting more points on the board.

"They'll get it," Vick said. "It may take some time, and we got to give Steve Sarkisian a little bit of credit, I mean, it's his first game. You know, he was playing an emotional game because there has been so much talk about the Super Bowl, and what happened last year, and can they get-- can they get over the hump. … So at the end of the day it's Matt Ryan's offense, and they'll get it together. They just need some time."

CBS Sports: Packers-Falcons will give Atlanta something it hasn't seen in 26 years

This weekend's "Sunday Night Football" matchup between the Falcons and the Packers will provide the city of Atlanta with something it hasn't seen in 26 years. No, it isn't a contest between the Dirty Birds and the Cheeseheads – they played twice last year with the Falcons winning both games. CBS Sports' John Breech notes it will be the first open-air NFL game played in Atlanta since December 1991, weather permitting.

As of now, there's no rain in the forecast for Sunday evening, meaning the roof of Mercedes-Benz Stadium should be open for the first time during the Falcons inaugural regular season game inside their new stadium. The Falcons played in Fulton County Stadium – an open-air stadium – from 1966 until 1991 before moving to the Georgia Dome.

CBS Sports: Experts have Falcons as home underdogs to Packers in Week 2 picks

Although the Falcons and Packers are both coming off of tightly contested wins in Week 1, the NFL experts at like Green Bay to pull the road upset on Sunday. Only two of the six votes cast were for the Falcons in this contest, making them one of only five home teams the experts pegged as true underdogs – the other four are Indianapolis, New Orleans, Jacksonville and the New York Giants.

Pete Prisco, CBS' senior NFL columnist does like the Falcons to squeak out a 31-28 victory, saying: "This is the game of the week between the two teams that played in the NFC Championship Game last year. The Falcons won that with an offensive explosion, but the Packers are improved on defense this time around. It will be closer, but the Falcons will find a way."

NEWS ON THE FALCONS' OPPONENT: Green Bay Packers Packers release Ricky Jean Francois and LaDarius Gunter

Green Bay parted ways with two players on Tuesday, releasing defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois and cornerback LaDarius Gunter, according to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky. Francois signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Packers this offseason but played only six snaps in the team's Week 1 win. Per Demovsky, Gunter was released to clear up a roster spot for receiver Geronimo Allison, who served a one-game suspension last week for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.

Wisconsin State Journal: Randall Cobb in line for a bigger role in Green Bay's offense

After he led the Packers with 13 targets, nine receptions and 85 receiving yards against the Seahawks, wide receiver Randall Cobb is on target to play a bigger role in the offense this season, per Jason Wilde of the *Wisconsin State Journal**. *Cobb missed three games due to ankle and hamstring injuries in 2016, which limited him to only 60 receptions for 610 yards and four touchdowns. Now fully healthy, it seems the Packers have made Cobb a priority.


The Charlotte Observer: Panthers defense looks good but still a work in progress

Just two years removed from putting one of the NFL's best defenses on the field, the Panthers are trying to reclaim that dominance. They got off to a good start in Week 1, limiting the San Francisco 49ers to just three points, but the defense is still a work in progress, according to Joseph Person of *The Charlotte Observer**. *First-year defensive coordinator Steve Wilks saw things he liked in his unit's season-opening performance, but he added it's a defense that's "under construction."

The Times-Picayune: Saints need to find some answers quick with New England coming to town

With the defending Super Bowl champions heading to New Orleans this weekend, the Saints could find themselves in an 0-2 hole if they don't figure out some answers to the problems that plagued them on Monday night, writes *The Times-Picayune*’s Jeff Duncan. In a 29-19 loss to the Minnesota Vikings that was largely non-competitive, the Saints defense allowed Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford to complete 84.4 percent of his passes and come just 15.3 points away from a perfect quarterback rating. Offensively, the addition of running back Adrian Peterson didn't have much of an impact as he and Mark Ingram combined for just 53 yards on 19 carries. Bucs will host Bears at Raymond James Stadium

After assessing the impact of Hurricane Irma, Tampa Bay and the NFL announced on Tuesday that the Buccaneers would host the Chicago Bears at Raymond James Stadium for their Week 2 matchup. The Buccaneers rescheduled their Week 1 contest with the Miami Dolphins in the wake of Irma, and it initially was uncertain whether they would be able to face the Bears at home on Sunday or have to make other arrangements.


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