Early Bird Report: NFL expert predicts a thrilling Falcons win vs. Eagles

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Today’s Early Bird Report includes a prediction that the Falcons will bounce back at home in a thrilling shootout.

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Since Dan Quinn’s arrival in 2015, the Falcons have only twice lost their first game of the season. Those Week 1 losses occurred in 2016 and 2018, and Atlanta rebounded both times with a win in Week 2.

The Falcons find themselves in a familiar situation, and they have a tough matchup with the Eagles on Sunday in their first regular season game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Atlanta doesn’t want to fall to 0-2, but to avoid that they’ll need to be an Eagles team that has won the past three games between these two teams.

CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco believes in the Falcons in their prime-time matchup this weekend, predicting them to upend the Eagles and win a 33-30 thriller.

“This should be a fun shootout,” Prisco writes. “The Falcons looked lifeless last week in the first half in their loss to the Vikings. The Eagles did as well, but rallied in the second half to beat the Redskins. The Falcons can't handle going 0-2 to start the season, so they will find a way to win a shootout. Matt Ryan gets the best of Carson Wentz.”

To see the rest of Prisco’s picks for Week 2, click here.

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

AJC: It’s only one loss but Falcons better get better

Atlanta’s performance in its season opener was not what anyone had hoped for. It’s understandable for many fans to feel deflated after the loss in Minnesota, but there’s precedent with this team that something better might be around the corner.

In a recent column for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Mark Bradley illustrated the similarities between the Falcons’ opener this season and their performance in a Week 1 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2016 – the year they reached the Super Bowl.

“Today’s intent, however feeble, is to underscore the only good things about the Falcons’ Sunday in Minneapolis – it’s over, and it counts as only one loss,” Bradley writes. “Maybe this was the dress rehearsal for the new staff that the preseason didn’t allow. Maybe these coaches will go to school on what Zimmer did to them. Maybe they the Falcons rise up against the Eagles, although Doug Pederson has made a habit of wrong-footing these guys, too.

“If you’re a Falcons fans, the only reason to feel slightly good today is the memory of 2016. That season started badly – and ended horribly – but in between it was sublime. And that’s it. When it comes to optimism, that’s all I’ve got.”

The team and coaching staff are ready to flush their lackluster Week 1 performance and focus on the upcoming home opener against the Philadelphia Eagles, and it appears Bradley is to. The Falcons have had similar starts to seasons before, can they rebound as they have in the past?

If you’d like to read the rest of Bradley’s column, click here.

NFL.com: Week 2 power rankings

Following their loss to the Vikings, the Falcons have taken some heat in the power rankings. After entering the season ranked No. 16 in NFL.com writer Dan Hanzus’ rankings, Atlanta slipped to No. 23 heading into their first home game.

“Bury-the-ball game for the Falcons,” Hanzus writes. “Dan Quinn's team wasn't sharp on either side of the ball against the Vikings, but it was the offensive line -- a unit in which the team invested heavy resources in the offseason -- that should present the most concern for the Falcons going forward. Matt Ryan was sacked four times and hit on seven other occasions, and the line created little daylight for running backs Devonta Freeman and Ito Smith. Things went from bad to worse after the game, when Atlanta learned rookie guard Chris Lindstrom -- one of two O-linemen picked by the Falcons in the first round -- suffered a broken foot that will send him to IR. It won't get any easier when a very tough Eagles team comes to Mercedes-Benz Field next Sunday night. Quinn will begin to take some heat if Atlanta pulls another no-show.”

To see the rest of Hanzus’ Week 2 power rankings, click here.

ESPN: Takeaways from Week 1

The Falcons began their 2019 season with a 28-12 loss on the road to the Vikings, and the reactions were as rapid as always. There were plenty of takeaways from Atlanta’s performance in Week 1, including a need to tight up the run defense, which Vaughn McClure wrote about for ESPN.

“Sure, the Falcons had costly turnovers, allowed too much pressure on quarterback Matt Ryan and couldn't get receiver Julio Jones involved against two-man coverage,” McClure writes. “But fixing the run defense has to be a primary point of emphasis moving forward. With Dan Quinn coordinating the defense, the Falcons surrendered 172 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns to the Vikings. They failed to set the edge, which needs to be fixed before facing guys like Alvin Kamara, Christian McCaffrey or even Miles Sanders and Jordan Howard of the Eagles next Sunday night. ‘We've got to go back to work and address it if we want to have a good defense,’ defensive tackle Grady Jarrett said. ‘Teams are going to do that against us, they're going to attack the edge.’"

To read the rest of ESPN’s takeaways from Sunday’s games, click here.

NFL.com: What we learned from Sunday’s Week 1 games

Atlanta’s run defense wasn’t the only national media takeaways from Sunday. NFL.com’s Grant Gordon wrote about the Falcons-Vikings matchup, and he had plenty to say about the start to the game for both teams as well as Julio Jones catching his first touchdown pass. But he also had a point to make about the running backs in this game.

“Running backs Dalvin Cook of the Vikings and Devonta Freeman of the Falcons each returned to action following injury-shortened seasons looking to rebound for teams looking, much the same, for returns to form following playoff-less 2018 campaigns,” Gordon writes. “The contrasting outcomes for the backs - who each attended Miami Central High - were very much emblematic of their teams' fates and outlooks going forward. Cook was simply outstanding in his return. It was on the second drive that he began to shine with two carries covering 40 yards, including a 19-yard split around left end to the pylon. Cook concluded his statement-making return with 21 carries for 111 yards and two scores and provided reason to believe he can still be the back everyone expected him to be before he was derailed after four games in his rookie season. Perhaps more importantly, Cook could revitalize a rushing attack largely absent last year when the Vikings stumbled. Freeman had less than 19 yards rushing in his return. He was stifled and frustrated. Just like the Falcons as a whole. As the returning RBs went, so to did their teams.”

To read the rest of Gordon’s takeaways, click here.

Pro Football Focus: ReFocused – Falcons vs. Vikings

As they do after each game, the analysts at Pro Football Focus had their immediate evaluations. While they don’t have the player grades right after each performance, they are able to provide a valuable glimpse of their first impressions. On the Falcons’ side, Grady Jarrett was a clear standout in this game.

“Any doubts about Grady Jarrett resting on his laurels after his big offseason contract extension evaporated quickly,” PFF writes. “He may have ended up on the losing team, but his performance on the interior was a tour de force of defensive tackle play, as he got into the backfield against both the pass and run, while picking up a forced fumble on his quarterback sack.”

To see the rest of PFF’s reactions to the Falcons-Vikings game, click here.

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