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Early Bird Report: Calvin Ridley boosting Falcons offense; NFC South a 'must-watch' division

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today’s Early Bird Report includes the NFC South’s emergence as a “must-watch” division as well as praise for Calvin Ridley’s performance.

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Entering the season, the NFC South was highly regarded as one of the most competitive divisions on paper. Through the first three weeks, that expectation is playing out.

The Falcons are last in the division with a 1-2 record, but their two losses have come against the Philadelphia Eagles and New Orleans Saints by a combined 12 points. ESPN’s Dan Graziano was in attendance for the overtime shootout against the Saints, and he came away from that game with the impression that every NFC South game this season is a must-watch affair.

“The NFC South had three playoff teams last year,” Graziano writes. “So far this year, only the 1-2 Falcons have a losing record, and their losses are to the Philadelphia Eagles and Saints. No other division has more than two teams with winning records so far. Which is why every game between two NFC South teams is must-watch, and every division win a huge relief.”

Here are some other articles for Falcons fans to check out today:

The Ringer: Ridley is the piece the Falcons had been missing

As part of his “Starting 11” piece, which details all of the main takeaways around the NFL in Week 3, The Ringer’s Robert Mays had some praise for Falcons rookie Calvin Ridley. Mays writes that Ridley looked like the missing offensive piece for Atlanta on Sunday after he caught seven passes for 146 yards and three touchdowns.

“His route-running ability is already more fine-tuned than you’ll see from most young players,” Mays writes. “With Julio Jones attracting so much attention on the other side of the field, Ridley is often left in man-to-man coverage, and he’s shown just how much of a problem he can be in those situations.”

NFL.com: What we learned from Sunday’s Week 3 games

The Falcons-Saints matchup was undoubtedly one of the most entertaining games of the weekend, as it often is, and it featured two very potent offenses duking it out to the end. It’s no surprise then that NFL.com’s Herbie Teope focused on the teams’ offenses in his rundown of the game.

“Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan shredded an overmatched Saints pass defense, which entered the game ranked 29th in the league, by completing 26 of 35 passes for 374 yards and five touchdowns,” Teope writes. “Ryan got in a groove early and found a weakness in the Saints' secondary in cornerback P.J. Williams, who was matched up against rookie wide receiver Calvin Ridley. With Williams in coverage, Ryan and Ridley connected for two touchdowns, one coming from 75 yards. Ryan also connected on a 58-yard pass with wide receiver Julio Jones and a touchdown pass to wide receiver Mohamed Sanu. On the game, Ryan found eight different receivers to pace a potent Falcons' offense to 407 total yards.”

To read the rest of Teope’s recap of the action, click here.

CBS Sports: Week 3 NFL grades

CBS Sports’ John Breech provided grades for each team’s performance in Week 3, and the Falcons fared pretty well despite their loss. Breech gave Atlanta a B-, which was the highest grade any losing team received from Week 3.

“The good news for the Falcons? Their offense seems to have figured out their red zone problems,” Breech writes. “The bad news? Now their defense can't stop anyone. The Saints totaled 534 yards and scored a touchdown on five of their six trips to the red zone, including the game-winning TD in overtime. This game marked the first time since 1993 that the Falcons allowed more than 530 yards of offense in a home game, and not surprisingly, that also came against the Saints.” 

To see the rest of Breech’s grades, click here.

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