The Washington Redskins are not a great football team, but they have been legitimately great at one thing in particular over the last month or so: Stopping opposing running backs. In succession, Washington has shut down Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott, and a high-powered Carolina rushing attack,
That’s why I’m not particularly optimistic that Atlanta’s going to get the ground game going against Washington, though that’s not how they’re going to win this game in the first place. They’re 30th in the NFL in rushing yards per game with a pretty anemic 83.3, and neither Tevin Coleman or Ito Smith has been able to get it going consistently behind an offensive line that hasn’t exactly distinguished itself.
Why is Washington so good, though?
Chiefly, it’s the strength of this 3-4 front. The line is sturdy and features excellent rookie Da’Ron Payne, the linebackers are good and fast enough to clean up mistakes, and the secondary is solid in run support. Atlanta will try to test them—Steve Sarkisian has made it clear he’s not just going to have Matt Ryan sling it all game, no matter how tempting that has to be—but this will probably go down as one of their worst weeks on the ground.
The good news for Atlanta is that this is not an imposing pass defense, though there’s enough pass rushing punch here to make you nervous. Atlanta will have to avoid wilting on the road but should be able to put up points against Washington is they can just avoid the temptation to run right into the teeth of this defense.