FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The opening weekend of the NFL regular season is here, and the Falcons are ready to take the field against the Chicago Bears on Sunday.
Todays' Early Bird Report features a great piece by quarterback Matt Ryan for The Players' Tribune, an argument that the Falcons could miss the playoffs entirely this season and Julio Jones reflecting on the possibility of a 2,000-yard season.
FALCONS HEADLINES FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY
The Players' Tribune: Ryan writes about 'The Hangover'
Are you tired of hearing about Atlanta's Super Bowl loss? You're certainly not alone. Among those who are ready to turn the page is Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. In a revealing and insightful piece for The Players’ Tribune, Ryan expressed his thoughts on that loss and how he and his team are moving forward.
Ryan explains that he and the Falcons aren't feeling sorry for themselves, and they aren't letting the constant reminders distract them from their one mission. As he says, they're ready to take that next step, that final step, and win a Super Bowl.
This piece is definitely worth a read, and if you've got the time to spare, check it out.
Yahoo Finance: The story behind Mercedes-Benz Stadium's low food prices
Among the many reasons why fans are so enamored with the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium are the crazy-low prices at the concession stands. From $2 hot dogs to $5 cheeseburgers, the stadium's food prices are the lowest food prices among the country's major league sports. Daniel Roberts of Yahoo Finance ventured out to learn what inspired the strategy behind the low prices.
Interestingly enough, Roberts learned that the idea partially came from The Masters in Augusta. Held annually, the exclusive golf tournament is known for its low food prices as much as its captivating scenery and top-flight play. Mike Gomes, the VP of fan experience for the stadium, told Roberts that making prices affordable for the fans was always something that Falcons owner Arthur Blank wanted to do.
"Ballparks, arenas, movie theaters all overcharge us, and we all became used to it … that you get gouged," Gomes told Roberts. "And we wanted to say, 'It doesn't have to be what you've always been used to.'"
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Falcons think they have elixir for Super Bowl hangover
Shortly after the Falcons' Super Bowl loss, people began to wonder how that defeat would affect the team in 2017. Coach Dan Quinn has refocused his team, and they are eager to move forward and begin the next season, but very few teams have been able to return to the Super Bowl the year after losing one. The AJC's D. Orlando Ledbetter explained those difficulties in a recent piece, but also illustrated why Atlanta believes its approach is different.
After speaking with some well-respected leaders, across a variety of sports, who have all experienced heartbreaking defeats, Quinn gathered his team and helped them heal and prepare to move forward with their own cure for a Super Bowl hangover.
The Washington Post: Why Falcons could struggle to return to the playoffs in 2017
While many in Atlanta are trying to figure out how the Falcons can return to the Super Bowl, Mike Renner of The Washington Post makes the argument that they might not even return to the postseason.
Unlike many others, Renner's case doesn't rest on the Falcons dwelling on last year's bitter ending. Instead, he actually believes Atlanta will start fast out of the gate but fade down the stretch due to the difficulty of the second half of the schedule, which features all six division games and matchups against the Cowboys, Seahawks and Vikings.
ESPN: Julio on 2,000-yard season: 'It's a possibility'
Few receivers in the NFL seem capable of crossing the almost-mythical 2,000-yard receiving threshold, but Julio Jones is certainly one of them. Jones already holds the second-highest single-season total in NFL history after gaining 1,871 yards on 136 catches in 2015 - Calvin Johnson set the record with 1,964 ayrds in 2012 - but he believes that 2,000-yard mark is achievable, according to ESPN’s Vaughn McClure.
"Can it be done? It's a possibility," Jones told McClure. While he thinks he possesses the ability to become the first receiver in NFL history to cross that barrier, Jones refused to make that a personal mission for the season.
NEWS ON THE FALCONS' OPPONENT: CHICAGO BEARS
Daily Herald: Leonard Floyd leads the Bears' young defenders
Former Georgia linebacker Leonard Floyd made a big splash in his first season in Chicago. Despite playing in only 12 games, Floyd recorded seven sacks, only a half-sack shy of the team lead. The *Daily Herald's *Bob LeGere writes that the Bears must find some impact defenders before they can make a return to prominence, and he believes Floyd has the highest upside.
Chicago Tribune: How the Bears can beat the Falcons
The popular belief among those predicting games in Week 1 is that Atlanta will emerge victoriously in Chicago this weekend. The *Chicago Tribune's *sports writers share that same notion. In their preview of Sunday’s matchup, seven of the staffs' writers gave their predictions, and all seven believe the Falcons will come out on top.
NEWS FROM AROUND THE NFC SOUTH
Associated Press: Panthers hope Julius Peppers can give boost off the bench
After the Carolina Panthers selected him with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft, Julius Peppers spent nine seasons with the organization and quickly became a Pro Bowler and fan-favorite. Now, he's back to finish his career with the Panthers, but it remains to be seen what the pass-rusher has left in the tank. Steve Reed of the Associated Press detailed the hope within the locker room that the 37-year-old Peppers can still provide a nice jolt of energy when he comes off the bench this season.
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