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Early Bird Report 9/20: Falcons make a big jump in power rankings; Saints make a trade

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Falcons (2-0) return to the practice fields today, ahead of another great matchup with the Detroit Lions (2-0) this Sunday at 1 p.m. ET. While they're ready preparing to compete on the road, we're busy bringing you the top news surrounding the team from around the country.

Today's Early Bird Report includes the Falcons' climb in various power rankings as well reasons to believe the 2017 Lions' defense is for real.



Power Rankings: Falcons sit atop a pair of rankings

It seems as though a vast majority of those who watched the Falcons beat the Packers on Sunday night came away thoroughly impressed. But how would that change their opinion of the Falcons standing in the NFL, as a whole? Judging by this week's roundup of power rankings, it had a major positive impact. For the most wildly important rankings, Matt Tabeek – who is impervious to flattery – has you covered.

"Wonderful performance from the Falcons, even with the late nervousness Sunday night. Agreed wholeheartedly with Cris Collinsworth, who aptly pointed out the Falcons were decidedly more confident in playing man coverage ... especially with a healthy Desmond Trufant."

"They still haven't quite clicked on offense yet, but it's coming. When it does, watch out."

"Falcons fans can drop any concerns about Steve Sarkisian running the offense. FPI has the Falcons as the second-rated offense so far this season, and Matt Ryan is averaging nearly 10 yards per pass attempt. The Falcons are just the fourth Super Bowl loser to start the next season 2-0."

"We have to acknowledge that Kyle Shanahan's new team hasn't scored a touchdown, while the Falcons with Steve Sarkisian calling plays looked like a machine for most of Sunday night. While not taking anything away from Shanahan's remarkable 2016 season, maybe his departure wasn't that big of a deal if you still have Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman and Julio Jones."

"Matt Ryan and Julio Jones haven't even exploded yet, and their offense has hummed along thanks to more great running from Devonta Freeman. The fast young defense is happy to have its old glue guy back at cornerback, Desmond Trufant."

The Rich Eisen Show: Matt Ryan shares how Navy SEALS helped Falcons prepare for 2017 season

Falcons coach Dan Quinn has had a unique approach to the team's offseason training over the past couple of years, employing the help of the Acumen Performance Group, a collection of former Navy SEALS. Joining *The Rich Eisen Show* this week, Matt Ryan discussed how the training regimen prepared the Falcons for this season.

"That was one of the things Dan (Quinn) had us do during the offseason was have a group of Navy SEALS from a company called APG come in." Ryan told Eisen. "We had worked with them before, but just from a standpoint of mentally being able to move on to the next mission or the next opportunity, whatever it may be, really there's nobody better to pick their brains than the SEALS. The group of guys that we've gotten to know the last two years, I think have really helped our team with that." Hall of Famer Jason Taylor expresses great love for Quinn

Before arriving in Atlanta to become the Falcons' head coach, Dan Quinn forged his reputation as one of the best defensive minds in football. One such stop along the way was in Miami, where Quinn worked with the Dolphins' star defensive end, Jason Taylor. While Quinn has said he learned a great deal from Taylor, who is now in the Hall of Fame, that is nothing compared to the praise Taylor relayed to ESPN's Vaughn McClure.

"We worked well together, and I loved, loved, loved playing for Dan Quinn," Taylor told McClure. "I knew right from the beginning he was going to be a head coach. Couldn't understand why he was coaching me as a D-line coach and not being a coordinator.

"I love him to death. I'd run through a wall for him."

NEWS ON THE FALCONS' OPPONENT: Detroit Lions Lions' stingy defense vs. Falcons' top-10 offense

Sunday's game will be one of strength vs. strength, according to Brendan Savage of The Falcons' offense is averaging 368 yards so far this season, which is eighth-best in the NFL. Detroit's defense, meanwhile, allows just 289 yards per game, the seventh-least in the league. While the Falcons' defense and the Lions' offense have been solid through the first two weeks, this weekend could come down to each team's true strengths.

Detroit Free Press: 2-0 start proves Lions' defense is for real

Through two games, the Lions have shown they can rush the pass and create turnovers – two critical components of a successful defense. According to Dave Birkett of the *Detroit Free Press*, *the players on Detroit's defense know that this is no fluke. "Oh yeah, it's for real," cornerback Darius Slay told Birkett. The emergence of defense end Ziggy Ansah, who was limited by an ankle injury last season, has played a big part in this fast start. Against the Giants, Ansah recorded three sacks, two more than he had all of last season. * **

BIGGEST NEWS FROM AROUND THE NFC SOUTH Panthers tight end Greg Olsen eligible to come off IR on Nov. 26

The loss of a Pro-Bowl tight end Greg Olsen is a big one for the Panthers' offense. Although he was placed on injured reserve Tuesday, Olsen is eligible to come off of IR on Nov. 26, according to ESPN’s David Newton. Olsen underwent surgery on Monday, and if he returns to action this season, it's likely the Falcons will face him at least once this year, during their regular-season finale against the Panthers on New Year's Eve.

The Times-Picayune: Saints trade linebacker Stephone Anthony to Dolphins

The New Orleans Saints traded linebacker Stephone Anthony to the Miami Dolphins on Tuesday, according to Herbie Teope of *The Times-Picayune**. *While the Saints' announcement of the move stated that they were receiving an undisclosed 2018 draft pick in return for Anthony, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that the Dolphins were trading away a 5th-round pick.


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