FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- We are now nearing the home stretch for the Falcons' home opener against the Green Bay Packers on "Sunday Night Football," and the excitement in and around the city is growing. Let's get to those headlines.
Today's Early Bird Report includes the Falcons' place on several power rankings as well as a new defensive package that Green Bay is expected to use often on Sunday night.
FALCONS HEADLINES FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY
Sports Illustrated: The food at Mercedes-Benz Stadium is as delicious as it is affordable
Since it first became available to the media and the public, Mercedes-Benz Stadium has drawn rave review for its low concession prices and the variety of food available. With the stadium hosting its first ever NFL regular-season game on Sunday, why not discuss the food one more time? *Sports Illustrated's *Andy Staples attended the Alabama-Florida State game, and he came away from the event thoroughly impressed with the stadium's food.
Not only did he rave about the low prices, but he felt the quality of food was as good as any he had ever seen at an arena. Staples wandered around the stadium with the goal of seeing what he could get with $40. With his money, Staples bought 12 smoked wings and a pulled pork sandwich from Fox Bros., a burger from Molly B's Kitchen – decked out with two ground short rib patties, gruyere, french onion soup mayo, dijon, pickles and carmalized onions – and The Hot Mess from Delia's Chicken Sausage Stand. If you're coming to Sunday's home-opener, you won't need a full wallet to leave with a full stomach.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Logo for Atlanta's 2019 Super Bowl unveiled
The host committee for Atlanta's 2019 Super Bowl has released the logo for the event, according to Tim Tucker of the AJC. Alongside the logo release, the committee also launched their website, www.AtlSuperBowl53.com.
The NFL will also release its logo for the game sometime early next year, which Tucker explains often plays up the Roman numeral attached to the game (LIII for Atlanta) while the local logo focuses more on the site of the game itself.
ESPN.com: Packers 'nitro' defense gives Falcons something to think about
This summer, the Packers have been working on a new defensive alignment they call "nitro," and it's one the Falcons could see a lot of this weekend, according to ESPN's Rob Demovsky. Instead of a traditional nickel package, "nitro" uses two defensive linemen and four linebackers, moving safety Morgan Burnett down to one of the inside linebacker spots.
The 'nitro' package is meant to increase the overall speed on the field for Green Bay's defense, and it was used to great effect against Seattle in Week 1. Demovsky states that the Packers unofficially used "nitro" on 42 of their 49 defensive snaps against the Seahawks. With the speed Atlanta has on offense, Demovsky believes Green Bay will employ 'nitro' early and often.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Mike McCarthy says Falcons' 'speed is apparent'
Falcons coach Dan Quinn has worked hard to incorporate speed into the team's identity. As the AJC's Matt Winkeljohn writes, that approach has been successful thus far. During a conference call on Wednesday, Packers coach Mike McCarthy made note of that speed.
"They have excellent team speed," McCarthy said. "Their linebackers are probably as fast a group as you'll see through the league."
Power rankings: Week 1 didn't move the meter much for the Falcons
While ultimately inconsequential, power rankings are a great source of debate and a way to understand a team's perception from a national perspective. Each week, I will include where the Falcons stand in several notable power rankings.
"Gnarly start in Chicago, as predicted for Atlanta. … The run game was absent against an improved Bears front seven. The defense was unable to force any turnovers or stop the run consistently, leaving an inferior Chicago team within a fourth-and-goal of securing an improbable win."
"It wasn't a pretty opener in winning a close one at Chicago, but a road win is important. Now comes a barometer game this week against the Packers at home."
"The Falcons are 1-0 after holding onto a fourth-quarter lead against the Bears. Possible overreaction: The Bears were just 5 yards away from winning Sunday, and that was with Mike Glennon under center. The Falcons should still be a contender, but no lead is safe until proved otherwise."
"If any one of the Bears' first three throws from the 5-yard line at the end hit the mark (all of them could have been touchdowns), we're freaking out about the Falcons all week. Instead, they won and nobody paid their mediocre Week 1 performance any mind. The Falcons should be happy they didn't play their best and still got a win."
"The Falcons had to hold off the Bears in Chicago, but there will be plenty of excitement Sunday as they welcome the Packers in the home opener at brand new Mercedes-Benz Stadium."
NEWS ON THE FALCONS' OPPONENT: Green Bay Packers
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Packers dealing with injury concerns at both tackle spots
While the Falcons head into Sunday's matchup in good shape on the injury front, the same can't be said about their opponent. Tom Silverstein of the *Milwaukee Journal Sentinel *notes that Green Bay is dealing with some injuries at both tackle positions.
Starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga has been dealing with a sprained right ankle, and he now also appears to be fighting an illness. Backup left tackle Jason Spriggs suffered a hamstring injury against Seattle and is expected to miss several weeks.
BIGGEST NEWS FROM AROUND THE NFC SOUTH
The Charlotte Observer: For offense to click Cam Newton can't please everyone
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is taking a new approach to spreading the ball around this season. Namely, he isn't worried about spreading the ball around this season. According to Joseph Person of The Charlotte Observer,* *Newton says he is going to distribute the ball depending on the play design and that he's no longer worried about pleasing everyone.
USA Today: Adrian Peterson's debut portend major issues for him and Saints
Adrian Peterson's first game with the New Orleans Saints didn't go as planned. The star running back carried the ball just six times for the 18 yards in the Saints' Week 1 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, Peterson's former team. Jarrett Bell of *USA Today *observed that things may have been a little icy between Peterson and his new head coach, Sean Payton, during the game.
ESPN.com: Buccaneers back practicing for the first time since Irma
Tampa Bay was back at practice Wednesday for the first time since Hurricane Irma hit Florida over the weekend. ESPN reporter Jenna Laine spoke with many of the team's players about their feelings during Irma and their hope that Sunday's game against the Chicago Bears will be something positive for the community.
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