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Early Bird Report: Falcons given slight edge in expert picks; Julio Jones resumes Alabama rivalry

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today’s Early Bird Report includes expert picks for Week 4 as well as Dre Kirkpatrick and Julio Jones resuming their Alabama rivalry.

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Week 4 picks

The Bengals are a relatively quiet 2-1 team as they prepare to face the Falcons this weekend. They are coming off a loss to the Panthers, but their performances in the first two weeks of the season has apparently earned the respect of those in the national media. Five of CBS Sports’ eight expert pickers believe the Bengals can win on the road in Week 4. Senior NFL writer Pete Prisco remains in the Falcons’ corner, however, picking the Falcons to win by a touchdown at home.

“This will be a shootout,” Prisco writes. “The Bengals are having issues on defense – such as being last in the league on third down – and the Falcons are now without three starters. That means plenty of points. Matt Ryan will have another big day to pull this one out for the Falcons.”

ESPN’s expert pickers went in the complete opposite direction from CBS Sports’. Eight of the nine experts who picked this game for ESPN think the Falcons will get the victory at home.

FiveThirtyEight’s prediction model also give the Falcons the nod at home, saying Atlanta has a 68-percent win probability against the Bengals.

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

Associated Press: Kirkpatrick and Falcons’ Jones resume Alabama rivalry

Julio Jones and Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick have plenty of familiarity with one another despite never squaring off in an NFL game. The two crossed paths at Alabama, where Kirkpatrick saw first-hand what type of athlete Jones is.

''I just know that competitive nature me and him had when I was down there,'' Kirkpatrick told Joe Kay of the AP. ''It's like me and A.J. (Green). Sometimes me and A.J. are about to kill each other in practice.''

AJC: Manuel demands better tackling from the defense

The Falcons did not provide a lesson in proper tackling against the Saints, and it certainly factored into the lost. Defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel was not pleased with his unit’s performance in that aspect of the game, which he made clear to the media on Wednesday.

“Tackling is effort,” Manuel said. “It’s you versus the other guy. You have to want to. I think, just from that standpoint, there were a lot of finishing opportunities out there for us to capture and we didn’t.”

D. Orlando Ledbetter wrote in greater detail about the Falcons’ tackling woes and their effort to clean that up, which you can read here.

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