FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- After reflecting on their close road win, the Falcons (3-0) are ready to turn the page and focus on a home matchup against another tough opponent in the Buffalo Bills (2-1). There are a few aspects of the game to sharpen up on for Atlanta, but returning to the friendly confines of Mercedes-Benz Stadium should provide a nice boost.
Today's Early Bird Report includes an introduction to the "Excitement Index," a former NFL player calling the Falcons overrated and some injury news from within the division.
FALCONS HEADLINES FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY
Bleacher Report: Falcons proving they're still the best team in the NFC
While everyone is busy trying to find this year's trendy pick for the best team in the NFC, the Falcons have once against asserted themselves atop the conference. After some criticism of Atlanta in the early portions of this season, Chris Simms and Adam Lefkoe of Bleacher Report explain why the Falcons are still the top dog in the NFC.
Simms has been especially restrained when discussing Atlanta as a returning favorite in the conference, but after the Falcons moved to 3-0, he had this to say: "I'll give you an apology Atlanta. Hands-down, the best team in the NFC right now. I think they're kind of the cream of the crop, they've separated themselves from everybody."
ESPN.com: Seasons that changed over 23 minutes of Week 3 madness
Week 3 was nothing short of wild in the NFL. There were several surprising blowouts that few people saw coming and other neck-and-neck games that were decided within a total of 23 minutes of each other. ESPN's Bill Barnwell shared his thoughts on how those 23 minutes affected the perceptions surrounding the teams involve, including the Falcons.
According to what Barnwell describes as the "Excitement Index," which is based off "the sum of all the changes in a win expectancy chart throughout the game," the Falcons' win over the Lions was the most exciting game on Sunday with an index score of 6.91. Barnwell says that the index doesn't account for the final craziness over the last 10 seconds of the game, which really drives home just how thrilling of a contest it really was.
NFL.com: Three takeaways from Falcons-Lions
Each week, the staff at NFL.com touches on each game from around the league to provide insight and analysis. When discussing the Falcons-Lions game, they had three key takeaways to mention.
The first note was that Matthew Stafford came up just shy of another fourth-quarter comeback. Detroit's quarterback set an NFL record with eight fourth-quarter comebacks in 2016. Second, they note that Devonta Freeman showed he was worth of the large extension he signed in the offseason, gaining 106 yards on 21 carries and looking stronger as the game wore on. Finally, they discuss Matt Ryan throwing three picks after going 309 passes without throwing one. Despite the turnovers, the Falcons' offense still managed 30 points and showed great balance under Steve Sarkisian.
ESPN.com: Donavan McNabb says Falcons are one of the most overrated teams
There are plenty of people around the country who are impressed with the Falcons' 3-0 start, but former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donavan McNabb is not one.
Joining ESPN's First Take on Monday, McNabb shared his thoughts on the Falcons:
"I look at the Atlanta Falcons, to me, (they) might be one of the most overrated teams in the NFL," he said. "We speak so much offensively of what they are able to do, but defensively, how do you allow teams to come back on you? This isn't the first time. Green Bay was able to come back as well on them. If there happens to be a little struggle on offense, can their defense hold enough?"
NEWS ON THE FALCONS' OPPONENT: Buffalo Bills
Democrat & Chronicle: Tyrod Taylor outplayed Trevor Siemian and must continue that trend
When on his game, Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor can be a nightmare for opposing defense. He's an athletic, mobile quarterback who can be surprisingly effective through the air when he's locked in.
Against the Denver Broncos, Taylor turned in a good performance and outdueled Trevor Siemian to help his team win the game. He completed 20 of his 26 pass attempts for 213 yards and two touchdowns. For the Bills to have enduring success this season, Sal Maiorana of the *Democrat & Chronicle *believes Taylor will need to continue that high level of play.
Buffalobills.com: Pass game forcing opponents to think about more than just McCoy?
Buffalo has often relied on star running back LeSean McCoy to set the tone on offense, but the balance that offensive coordinator Rick Dennison established against the Broncos was key to securing the victory, according to Bills Insider Chris Brown.
With a variety of packages, the Bills opened up the passing game and kept the Broncos from keying in on what they were trying to do. Opposing defenses have been able to shut down Buffalo's run game in the past, leaving the Bills one-dimensional. But, as Brown questions, did the Bills do enough in the passing game to give opposing teams more homework to do?
BIGGEST NEWS FROM AROUND THE NFC SOUTH
The Charlotte Observer: Panthers say no structural damage to Kelvin Benjamin's knee
Carolina lost its top receiver early in Sunday's loss to New Orleans after Kelvin Benjamin's left knee was bent backwards on a tackle late in the first quarter. He did not return to the game and underwent an MRI to determine just how significant the damage was.
According to The Associated Press, *that MRI revealed there was no structural damage to Benjamin's knee. The receiver is considered day-to-day, and Panthers coach Ron Rivera said it's too early to tell if he will play this weekend. *
Tampa Bay Times: Buccaneers LB Lavonte David does not have high ankle sprain
Lavonta David suffered an ankle injury after getting rolled up on during the fourth quarter of Tampa Bay's loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. It was initially thought that the star linebacker had a high ankle sprain, which would have sidelined him for 4-6 weeks. Per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times*, *the MRI on David's ankle indicated that his condition is much better than it initially appeared.
Interestingly, NFL.com's Ian Rapoport had a conflicting report off of what is supposedly the same MRI.