FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Both Atlanta and New York are looking to get back in the win column after a stretch of disappointing games. For the Falcons (3-3), executing on third down and in the red zone will be key. For the Jets (3-4), carrying their momentum into the fourth quarter is something they could benefit from. Whichever team can accomplish their goal may just emerge victoriously on Sunday.
Today's Early Bird Report contains some picks for this weekend's game as well as a look back at what might have been had the Jets and Falcons made different coaching hires in 2015.
FALCONS HEADLINES FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY
Week 8 picks:
Despite losing three straight games, the Falcons still have the support of the experts over at CBS Sports. Five of the seven writers who provided their picks for Week 8 favor the Falcons over the Jets on Sunday. Senior writer Pete Prisco is among those at CBS who like the Falcons' chances, as he predicts a 28-17 victory on the road, saying: "The Falcons are playing consecutive road games and they haven't looked good at all on offense. The Jets have played competitively this season, but this could be a bad spot. I think the Atlanta offense gets it going here. Falcons take it."
FiveThirtyEight also gives the Falcons the edge in this one, although not as decisive as we've seen in recent weeks. According to the analytics site, Atlanta has a 60 percent probability to emerge with a victory against New York.
NJ.com: Falcons' Dan Quinn on Jets pursuing him in 2015: 'Things worked out as they should have'
Prior to the start of the 2015 season, both the Jets and the Falcons were in the market for new head coaches. Each team interviewed Todd Bowles and Dan Quinn, two of the top defensive coordinators in the NFL at the time. New York pulled the trigger on Bowles, while Atlanta had its guy in Quinn. Now, the two coaches will meet head-to-head, and Quinn was asked about what might have been during a conference call on Wednesday.
"Things worked out as they should have," Quinn said, according to Darryl Slater of NJ.com. "Todd is doing a great job there, and I'm really happy here."
NEWS ON THE FALCONS' OPPONENT: New York Jets
ESPN.com: Jets aim to continue AFC East's mastery of struggling Falcons
The Falcons are 0-3 this season against the AFC East, and the Jets are looking to make it a clean sweep for their division. Previewing Atlanta for the upcoming matchup, ESPN writer Rich Cimini named several players to watch on offense and defense. It should come as no surprise who he picked on either side of the ball; Cimini named Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman and Julio Jones on offense and Vic Beasley, Deion Jones and Keanu Neal as the guys to watch on defense.
Here's what Cimini had to say about Freeman: "He has the kind of speed and elusiveness that could cause real problems for the Jets, who struggle against shifty backs. The 5-foot-8 dynamo is ninth in rushing yards (425) and has five rushing touchdowns. And the dude doesn't fumble."
*New York Post: *Jets drafted two building-block players just like they did in 2006
In the 2006 NFL Draft, the Jets found two key pieces of their team for the next decade in offensive linemen D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold. *New York Post *writer Brian Costello believes the team did the same thing in this year's draft, nabbing safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye. Adams, a first-round pick out of LSU, and Maye, a second-round pick from Florida, have looked like veterans in the back of New York's defense so far. Adams has two sacks thus far and tipped a Jay Cutler pass that was intercepted last weekend. Maye has two interceptions already and, per Pro Football Focus, has allowed just 35 yards on 253 coverage snaps this season.
BIGGEST NEWS FROM AROUND THE NFC SOUTH
*The Charlotte-Observer: *Panthers' Cam Newton abruptly leaves press conference
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has had a few run-ins with the media in recent weeks, and that continued on Wednesday after he suddenly walked out of a press conference upon being asked about the lack of big plays the offense has generated. Newton originally answered the inquiry by saying, "Next question," according to The Charlotte-Observer's Scott Fowler, and then left after another reporter started asking another question.
Per Fowler, Panthers spokesman Steven Drummond said of the incident afterwards: "Cam didn't intend to be discourteous toward any specific media member. In his mind, after answering questions for nine minutes, he had fulfilled his obligations."
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