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Early Bird Report: Expert picks for Falcons vs. Buccaneers; Damontae Kazee growing at free safety

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today’s Early Bird Report includes expert picks for the Falcons-Bucs game as well as Damontae Kazee’s growth at free safety.

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Week 6 expert picks:

The Falcons return home after a tough road loss, and they’re in need of some momentum at this point in the season. With four losses, the expert pickers around the country aren’t as high on the Falcons as they were when the season started. The Falcons hold a slim majority over the Bucs among the six CBS Sports experts who submitted picks by Thursday morning with four votes in favor of Atlanta.

Never one to jump off a bandwagon, Pete Prisco continues his DiMaggio-esque streak of picking the Falcons. Prisco foresees another shootout occurring in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and he has the Falcons coming out on top 41-36.

“Expect a lot of points in this one since both defenses have major issues,” Prisco writes. “Jameis Winston will make his first start here for the Bucs, and it's a depleted defense he will be facing. But Matt Ryan will have a good day as well. In the end, the Falcons will win it in a wild shootout.”

The prediction model at FiveThirtyEight often favors the home team and it does so here, giving the Falcons a 67-percent win probability, which is among the higher numbers for home favorites.

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

AJC: Damontae Kazee starting to slide into free-safety mode

After a strong preseason, there were questions about how the Falcons could find ways to get second-year safety Damontae Kazee on the field. Due to injuries, Atlanta hasn’t had to find ways to get him involved. Instead, they’ve relied on him heavily to play the centerfield free-safety role in the defense.

Now with a few starts under his belt, Kazee is getting a good feel for the role he’s assumed, which D. Orlando Ledbetter covered in a piece for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“Kazee is doing a good job when you take in all of the considerations and the factors that you had him at nickel and he’s going back to play free safety and the combination of he’s playing it full-time,” Falcons defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel said. “You are going to see his growing pains, and you’re going to see his talent.”

ESPN: 11 midseason trade ideas and why they make sense

Given the injuries that have plagued the Falcons from the jump this year, there has been constant speculation about whether or not Atlanta would or should bring in a well-known player to fill into one of those spots. Dan Quinn has repeatedly emphasized his belief that the Falcons can find answers with the guys they have in the locker room, but ESPN’s Bill Barnwell threw out a midseason trade suggestion for Atlanta in a recent piece.

Barnwell offers up the scenario that the Falcons trade a 2019 sixth-round draft pick to the Oakland Raiders in return for safety Karl Joseph.

“Joseph looked like a game-changing playmaker before struggling to find his way in Oakland, and at 25, he still should have time to develop,” Barnwell writes. “Any team acquiring him would get to see how he performs over the next few months before deciding whether they want to pick up his fifth-year option. The Falcons have a desperate need at safety after losing Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen to season-ending injuries, and while Joseph is not going to be the plug-and-play solution Earl Thomas would have been, his athleticism would make the former 14th overall pick a high-upside solution in the second half of the season for a flailing Falcons defense.”

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