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Early Bird Report: Experts picking against Falcons on the road; midseason NFL awards

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today’s Early Bird Report includes a look at the expert picks heading into Week 9 as well as some midseason awards picks.

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Week 9 expert picks:

The Falcons return to action this weekend with a road game against the Washington Redskins. Atlanta has yet to win on the road this season, which is perhaps why Washington has a slight edge among the expert pickers at CBS Sports, with four of the seven pickers selecting the Redskins. Senior writer Pete Prisco continues his streak of selecting the Falcons, however.

Bleacher Report is bolder on the Redskins this weekend as all three expert pickers believe Washington will win at home.

"Washington has quietly gone about its business and established itself as the NFC East's best team," Bleacher Report’s Brent Sobleski writes. "It also improved this week with the addition of safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix just before the league's trade deadline. Defense may be optional around the rest of the league, but Washington is stout on that side of the ball, especially along the defensive interior. Da'Ron Payne Payne and Jonathan Allen can derail the Falcons offense since Atlanta is down to its third and fourth starting guards."

FiveThirtyEight’s prediction model gives the Redskins a 55-percent win probability on Sunday, but the Falcons have among the highest win probabilities for a road team this weekend.

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

NFL.com: Davenport expected to miss about a month

According to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport, Saints rookie pass rusher Marcus Davenport is expected to miss around a month due to a toe injury.

"Davenport would not confirm timeline to me but his right foot is in a boot," NFL Network's Jane Slater reported from practice Wednesday, per NFL.com. "He tells me his big toe is banged up and is still seeking opinions on it. He was able to ride the bike today and did finish the Vikings game with it by 'playing differently.'”

CBS Sports: NFL midseason awards

We’ve reached the midpoint of the 2018 NFL season, which means many in the national media are reflecting on the firsts half and thinking about the early contenders for end-of-year awards. Among those who CBS Sports writers tabbed for possible candidates was Falcons receiver Calvin Ridley, who Ryan Wilson picked as his choice for Offensive Rookie of the Year.

“It was unclear what kind of impact Ridley would have as a rookie since he'd be sharing snaps with Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu,” Wilson writes. “But through seven games, the first-round pick has 27 receptions for 392 yards and six touchdowns. He ranks first in value-per-play among all wideouts, and is seventh in total value, ahead of Mike Evans and the aforementioned Jones, who is still searching for his TD in 2018.”

Week 9 power rankings:

After taking the week off, the Falcons still rose slightly in a couple of power rankings. They will likely make a bigger jump if they manage to knock off the 5-2 Redskins on the road this weekend. Also, be sure to check out Matt Tabeek’s Wildly Important Power Rankings.

NFL.com: No. 20 (Last week: No 20)

“How about a week off for the most banged-up team in pro football? Many of the Falcons' key parts are currently on IR, yet there are those (Mohamed Sanu, Matt Bryant and Grady Jarrett, to name a few) who just needed a bye to get healthier for Atlanta's meeting in Washington with the upstart Redskins. 

Side note: Who would want to face this Falcons attack come playoff time? Not it!” 

CBS Sports: No. 17 (LW: No. 21)

“They come off their bye with a tough game against the Redskins. That will be a big challenge for their offense.”

ESPN: No. 17 (LW: No. 19)

“Third-down defense could really haunt the Falcons this season if they don't get it corrected immediately. They are allowing opponents to convert 54.1 percent of third downs, which ranks second to last in the league; in the Falcons' 41-17 loss to the Steelers in Week 5, Pittsburgh converted 75 percent. In two of the Falcons' three wins, they've held opponents under 46 percent on third down.”

MMQB: No. 15 (LW: No. 15)

“The Falcons started rolling before the bye week and could still be dangerous in the second half.”

ESPN: Redskins’ Adrian Peterson still a ‘beast’ in Falcons’ eyes

For all of the talk heading into the Falcons matchup with the New York Giants about rookie running back Saquon Barkley, the back they are about to face has been even better this season.

Adrian Peterson has turned in a vintage performance for the Redskins thus far in 2018. He has carried the ball 127 times for 587 yards, fifth-most in the NFL, and four touchdowns. For comparison’s sake, Barkley is seventh on the list with 519 yards this season.

There’s no doubt that Peterson is among the best running backs in the league when he’s playing the way he’s capable, and he’s played that way a lot this season. ESPN’s Vaughn McClure talked to a few Falcons players and coaches about Peterson, and the respect is certainly there.

"No. Not at all. He's a beast," Brooks Reed told McClure when asked if he was surprised by Peterson’s play. "He's just one of those special players that come around once in a while. I know he's a really tough guy. He's very resilient -- work ethic off the charts. He's come back from a bunch of injuries and outperformed expectations every time. I think he's still got a lot of gas in the tank, for sure."

To read the rest of McClure’s piece on Peterson, click here.

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