The Falcons are on a roll--it’s undeniable. Matt Ryan was named NFC Offensive Player of the Month for September, and rightfully so, considering he finished the month with 1,162 passing yards, and a QB rating of 112.1. The team boasts a 4-0 record and a remarkable +10 turnover ratio. All of that being said, last Sunday’s matchup against the Panthers was not exactly four quarters of inspired football.
What will it take to beat the Redskins and remain undefeated after Sunday’s game? Let’s take a look at both sides of the ball.
Falcons Offense vs. Redskins Defense
A balanced offense is always a good thing. Over the past two games, against the Chargers and the Panthers, the Falcons offensive line has shown improvement in run blocking, and the ground game has been more successful. Michael Turner had a huge game last week against the Panthers, as is his tradition. The Redskins have statistically been pretty good against the run this season, but they also have a pass rush that can be disruptive. Redskins OLB Ryan Kerrigan has 3.5 sacks on the year so far, and establishing an effective running game on Sunday will help keep that at bay--a priority after the breakdown in pass protection we witnessed against the Panthers last Sunday. Tyson Clabo will be under a lot of pressure to hold off Kerrigan.
Julio Jones is recovered from his hand injury, and Roddy White has been fantastic. Let’s face it--these guys are hard to cover, and when you factor in Tony Gonzalez, Harry Douglas, and the receiving abilities of the Falcons RB corps, the Falcons have a lot of options against the Redskins, whose pass defense is currently ranked 31st in the league for yards allowed. Washington’s coverage should not be so great as to prevent Ryan from releasing the ball quickly, while the pocket is still clean.
Falcons Defense vs. Redskins Offense
The Redskins have had a great deal of success running the ball, and the Falcons have not had a great deal of success stopping the run. The Falcons are currently 29th in the league against the run, and the Redskins are 2nd in the league in rushing yards per game, with 171. Alfred Morris, the Skins leading rusher, and QB RGIII are both difficult to stop. The Panthers certainly exploited the Falcons run defense weaknesses last week, racking up 199 yards rushing, and I would expect the Redskins to attempt to do the same. (In related news, here's hoping Corey Peters is back after the bye week.)
RGIII is having a very good rookie season, but it is his rookie season. One of the main advantages of the Falcons defense under Mike Nolan is that it's difficult to read, and should be particularly challenging for a rookie to decipher. Griffin's deep ball, which he doesn't throw often, is vulnerable, and Griffin also has a tendency to hang in the pocket and take sacks. He has been sacked 9 times so far this season. Ron Rivera's game plan against the Falcons defense was pretty successful, but because the Redskins have a similarly strong rushing game, surely Mike Nolan has schemed effectively to limit the Redskins offensively.
In other news...
With bye weeks now in play, plus several frustrating injuries around the league, many of us are dealing with serious fantasy football struggles. May this image remind us all that it could be worse.
The Falcons can expect to face an energetic home crowd in FedEx Field on Sunday. RGIII and Redskins have given them something to really get excited about so far this season. The Redskins are also looking to break a seven-game home losing streak, so they have a lot on the line this week.
The Falcons are executing extremely well, and with a great deal of confidence. Even when they don't play their best football, like last week against the Panthers, they are still able to execute plays to win. I expect this trend to continue, and expect the Falcons to execute well enough to win on Sunday.
What are you looking for from the Falcons and the Redskins on Sunday?