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Early Bird Report: Falcons getting serious love from expert pickers; Matt Ryan and Julio Jones chasing records

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today’s Early Bird Report includes a look at the expert picks for the Falcons-Giants game on “Monday Night Football” as well as Atlanta’s new normal with injuries.

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Week 7 expert picks:

The Falcons have been favored in most of their games this season, despite their slow start, and that continues in Week 7. Seven of the eight experts at CBS Sports like the Falcons to beat the Giants on “Monday Night Football” with Jason La Canfora, who has the worst record among CBS’ expert pickers as the lone dissenting voice.

FiveThirtyEight’s prediction model is also heavily in the Falcons’ corner on Monday night. Atlanta has an 80-percent win probability per FiveThirtyEight, which is the best win probability for any team in Week 7.

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

AJC: Alas, for Falcons and Freeman, this injury is the new normal

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Steve Hummer provided his thoughts on the Falcons’ latest announcement that Devonta Freeman would join the list of players on injured reserve. While the news is certainly tough to hear for many fans, to Hummer, it’s a sign of the new normal for this team and Freeman.

“In this injury-cursed season, the news of Freeman’s impending surgery was among the least shocking developments, because doing without him has, regretfully, become the new normal,” Hummer writes. “It could remain that way. The ground isn’t getting any softer. And so much of his pay will count against the Falcons salary cap for at least two seasons yet that there is no simple way to move on if the injuries keep compounding. This is a real pickle, although front office types might employ a choicer word or two.”

To read the rest of what Hummer has to say, click here.

ESPN: Predicting the NFL’s next record-breakers

Falcons fans have been lucky to watch two of the best players at their respective positions play together for the better part of the last decade. Julio Jones and Matt Ryan have steadily etched their name in the team’s record books, and they may have a chance at some all-time NFL records before things are all said and done. ESPN’s Bill Barnwell took a look at which players could break some notable records in the coming years, and both Ryan and Jones are leaders in a category.

Using Bill James’ “Favorite Toy formula,” Barnwell notes Ryan has a 14.4-percent chance to claim the NFL’s all-time passing yards record at the end of his career. Jones, meanwhile, has a whopping 40.2-percent chance to top Jerry Rice’s all-time receiving yards record.

“Another wideout who has been blessed to spend his entire career with one quarterback is Julio Jones, who inexplicably can't find the end zone but is already up to 707 receiving yards in six games this season,” Barnwell writes. “Jones is on pace for 1,885 receiving yards (and zero touchdowns) in 2018, which would get him to 10,939 yards before turning 30. That would be the best mark in league history for a player through his age-29 season.”

To read the rest of Barnwell’s piece, click here.

ESPN: Ito Smith aims to ignite Falcons’ run game

The Falcons added yet another notable player to injured reserve yesterday as running back Devonta Freeman will have surgery on his groin. There is hope Freeman could return later this season if all goes well but until then, the Falcons will turn to Tevin Coleman and rookie Ito Smith to carry the load.

Smith is currently on a three-game touchdown streak, and he spoke with ESPN’s Vaughn McClure about his goals to help the team moving forward.

"I don't feel any pressure because you just have to keep doing what you're doing," Smith told McClure. "Y'all haven't even seen the surface yet out of the running backs or out of the whole offense. We haven't played a great game yet."

In six games this season, the Falcons have gained over 100 yards on the ground just once. Smith wants to help change that moving forward. Thus far in his rookie season, Smith has 32 carries for 102 yards and three touchdowns.

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

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