FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today’s Early Bird Report includes the expert picks for this weekend’s game as well as what the Falcons’ disappointing season could mean for 2019.
Week 14 expert picks:
After the last four weeks, the expert pickers around the country have mostly left the Falcons’ corner. Even with a matchup against the Packers, who have also had a disappointing season, looming this weekend, the Falcons don’t have any support from CBS Sports. All eight of the expert pickers at the site favor Green Bay at home.
Only one of the three experts at Bleacher Report think the Falcons can pull off the road upset, and the site predicts a 30-21 victory for the Packers.
"One of two things usually happens upon a head coach's midseason firing," Brent Sobleski writes. "Either the team receives a short-term boost by playing hard for the interim coach, or it begins to fall apart. It looks like the B/R team believes the former will occur. McCarthy proved to be a hindrance in regards to play-calling this season, while Joe Philbin has the experience to maximize Rodgers through the final four games."
FiveThirtyEight’s prediction model isn’t as out on the Falcons as some of the experts. The site still gives the Packers the edge, but they hold just a 53-percent win probability.
Here are some other articles for Falcons fans to check out today:
ESPN: Six ugly freefalls and what they mean for 2019
There’s no doubt that this season has been extremely disappointing for the Falcons, who entered the year with playoff and Super Bowl aspirations. But Atlanta is far from the only team enduring a disappointing season. ESPN’s Bill Barnwell broke down how things went wrong for six NFL teams and what it could mean for next year.
In talking about the Falcons, Barnwell wasn’t too kind to Atlanta’s defense, which has been hampered by some pretty impactful injuries.
“The story of the 2017 Falcons was a pretty good offense spoiled by an overrated defense that never got off the field, leading to deflated raw totals for Matt Ryan & Co. The story of the 2018 Falcons is ... a pretty good offense spoiled by a wretched defense that never gets off the field, leading to deflated raw totals for Ryan & Co. You can chalk it up in part to the injuries suffered by Deion Jones and Keanu Neal, but the Falcons have fallen from 22nd in DVOA last season to dead last in 2018.”
To read the rest of Barnwell’s piece and his suggestion for the Falcons in 2019, click here.
ESPN: Beasley vows to push through ‘frustrating’ season
Vic Beasley has shown dominant potential at times, but he’s not played at that level with much consistency over the last two seasons. He’s fully aware of that. In speaking with ESPN’s Vaughn McClure, Beasley discussed his frustration and explained how he’s going to continue to work through it.
"There are expectations for certain people, and my expectations are to be a certain-caliber guy, a double-digit sack guy," Beasley told McClure. "That's my expectations for myself. So, it's frustrating. That's frustrating for anybody who sets goals and doesn't reach those goals.
"I wish my production was higher. But all I can do is just go there and continue to put my best effort on the field and try to show each and every coach that I play hard, play for my teammates, and give my best effort."
To read the rest of McClure’s piece, click here.
Week 14 power rankings:
The Falcons continue to tumble down the power rankings after losing their last four games. Be sure to check out Matt Tabeek’s Wildly Important Power Rankings in addition to the ones below.
“The Falcons pulled off the rare feat of losing to not just one but two backup quarterbacks Sunday. The season has been unkind to Atlanta's defense. The Ravens played like a 2018 cover band, shamelessly copying every other offense in running right over the Falcons' front seven. Chalk up another 207 yards on a unit that's allowed 211, 132 and 150 in successive weeks. Baltimore QB Lamar Jackson's abilities pose a unique threat for any opponent. Especially for Deion Jones, who faced a stiff challenge in his first game this season since Week 1. The dude shook off enough rust to make 15 tackles and sack Jackson.”
“It's hard to believe they are this far down. They just haven't looked right this season.”
“We're No. 1 in: Field goals. Matt Bryant and Giorgio Tavecchio are a combined 20-for-20 on field goals this season, making the Falcons the only team in the league that is perfect on field goals this season. But that isn't necessarily a good thing, as it includes the six games in which the Falcons' high-powered offense settled for field goals in the red zone. The Falcons lost five of those six games.”
CBS Sports: 2019 NFL mock draft
Draft season is still a ways away, but the first mock drafts are beginning to become a bit more frequent as the NFL season slowly draws to a close. For the first time in a while, the Falcons could be sitting right up near the top of the draft with the ability to land a premier player in this class. CBS Sports’ Ryan Wilson released a mock draft on Wednesday, and he had the Falcons grabbing defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons with the No. 6 pick.
“We've spent months talking up Quinnen Williams and Ed Oliver, but Simmons has been a disruptive interior force this season,” Wilson writes. “He has just one sack but he spends games in the backfield as evidenced by his 15.5 tackles for loss. In related news: The Falcons' defensive line is among the league's worst, according to Football Outsiders.”
To see the rest of Wilson’s mock draft, click here.
The Ringer: Winners and losers from Week 13
After a loss like the Falcons just had, you may already think you know where Atlanta would fit in an article that separates winners and losers. This one comes with a twist, however, as it’s Mohamed Sanu who is the Falcons player mentioned in this piece. His perfect 6-for-6 career passing mark came to an end Sunday, leaving the Ringer’s Rodger Sherman quite sad.
“It was a great day for every passing non-quarterback except the greatest to ever do it,” Sherman writes. “Mohamed Sanu, the Falcons wide receiver who began his passing career 6-for-6 with 228 yards and three touchdowns, threw an incompletion on a trick play Sunday. He maintains his 158.3 career quarterback rating, but loses his 100 percent completion percentage.
“We can no longer argue that Sanu is literally a perfect passer. We know that it is possible for him to throw a ball that is not caught. I can no longer end paragraphs about his surprising passing success with a cheap joke like “he should start over Matt Ryan,” like I just did for OBJ. Nothing gold can stay, not even trick plays.”
AJC: Sad Falcons somehow this bad on offense
Sunday’s loss to the Ravens was exactly what the Falcons did not want to have happen. It’s not just that they lost the game, but it’s how they lost the game.
A once high-flying offense scored 9 points and gained 131 total yards, while the defense allowed the Ravens to possess the ball for nearly 40 minutes and had three third-down penalties that resulted in first downs.
As Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes in his column, the most surprising aspect of Sunday’s game was how far the Falcons’ offense has fallen in recent weeks.
“The Falcons had slipped offensively before Sunday, but I couldn’t have imagined they could ever be this bad,” Cunningham writes. “Less than two years after this offense was so good, the Falcons need to rethink where it’s going. They have most of the same faces, but they need honest self-evaluations of their coaches and players.”
To read the rest of Cunningham’s column, click here.