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Early Bird Report: How the expert pickers responded to the Falcons' loss

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today’s Early Bird Report includes how the expert pickers reacted to last week's loss and what they think of the Falcons' chances this week as well as some innovative college plays that NFL teams should steal.

Week 11 expert picks:

Despite losing on the road against the Browns, the Falcons are heavy favorites in the eyes of CBS Sports this weekend against the Dallas Cowboys. Seven of the eight experts at CBS Sports picked the Falcons to win on Sunday, including writer Sean Wagner-McGough who thinks the Falcons’ offense will rebound from last week.

“Before losing to the Browns, the Falcons were beginning to look like the kind of team that could sneak into the playoffs as the NFC's sixth seed,” Wagner-McGough writes. “They'd won three games in a row. The Cowboys, on the other hand, were playing poorly enough that serious questions about Jason Garrett's job status were being raised.

“I think we'll see the Falcons' offense play well at home and the Cowboys struggle to keep pace on the road against an offense that is still averaging 27.1 points per game even after last week's debacle in Cleveland. The Cowboys, even after their 27-point outburst in Philadelphia, are scoring just over 20 points per game.”

Bleacher report is unanimously selecting the Falcons to win at home, predicting a 28-24 victory for Atlanta.

“The key for me is that Dallas is coming off an uncharacteristically strong road performance and is likely to regress, while the Falcons are coming off a terrible road performance and are likely to bounce back at home,” Brad Gagnon writes. “No way am I betting on the Cowboys to beat two talented teams in a row on the road, which is why I'll take Atlanta so long as I'm not giving up more than a field goal in what should still be a close game."

FiveThirtyEight’s prediction model is also favoring the Falcons this week, giving them a 62-percent probability of beating the Cowboys.

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

ESPN: 8 innovative college plays NFL teams should steal

The NFL is a copycat league is one of the oldest clichés around, but it’s true, nonetheless. More frequently, though, the pros are dipping into the college ranks to cherry pick plays and concepts that would be successful on Sundays. In a piece for ESPN+, which means you’ll need a subscription to read, Matt Bowen breaks down eight innovative college plays that NFL teams should steal sooner rather than later.

I recommend checking this piece out for a small glimpse into how coaches might think about incorporating other plays into their offenses. You can read the piece, here.

Week 11 power rankings:

NFL.com: No. 16 (Last week: No. 12)

“Mentioned in the Game Picks column that this matchup felt like a trap game for the Falcons. Most coaches don't seem to subscribe to the "trap game" theory, or (probably) the conspiracy theory that Neil Armstrong's moon landing was actually shot on a soundstage. Your friendly writer is here to tell you that at least one of those theories is based on truth. Atlanta simply couldn't stop Baker Mayfield or Nick Chubb in Cleveland, acting as an equal-opportunity benefactor when it came to giving away free yards. Mayfield went 17 of 20. Chubb gained over 170 on 20 ... carries. Dear Deion Jones, please come back. Soon.”

CBS Sports: No. 18 (LW: No. 14)

“That was a crippling loss to the Browns. They can't afford another loss the rest of the way - and even then it will be tough to make the postseason.”

ESPN: No. 18 (LW: No. 16)

“51.9. That's the percentage of third-down conversions for Falcons' opponents, second worst in the league behind the Bengals (56.2). You're not going to have much success if you can't get off the field. The Falcons hope part of that issue will be solved with the expected return of Pro Bowl linebacker Deion Jones from foot surgery, considering Jones is one of the best coverage linebackers in the game.”

MMQB: No. 14 (LW: No. 12)

ESPN: Even Brian Urlacher is eager for Deion Jones to return

The Falcons brought Deion Jones off of injured reserve Tuesday, and while it remains to be seen when the Pro Bowl linebacker will actually suit up for a game, there are plenty of people eagerly awaiting his return, including a Hall of Famer at Jones’ position.

Former Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher is a big fan of Jones, and he explained why that is in a conversation with ESPN’s Vaughn McClure.

"He's already a star, dude,” Urlacher said. “He's the fastest middle linebacker in the NFL. He can cover anybody. He's great in the run game. He's so athletic. He's one of the guys I really love watching play."

Jones is a heat-seeking missile in the middle of the Falcons’ defense, and his ability to defend the pass makes him an extremely valuable player in today’s NFL. Whenever he does return for game action, the Falcons will be better for it.

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

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