The Atlanta Falcons remain in playoff-mode as they take on the tough Washington Redskins in this important conference battle. Here are three key matchups to focus on.
A two-game winning streak suddenly has the Atlanta Falcons hanging around the playoff picture. Given the crippling amount of injuries the team has endured at this point, it is a little remarkable in it’s own right that the Falcons are even in this position. The team sits at 3-4 and across from them in week nine of the season is an NFC East division leading Washington Redskins team that is thriving off the play of their gritty defense and run game led by an all-time great. Let’s take a look at three critical in-game matchups to watch.
Falcons WRs Mohamed Sanu, Calvin Ridley vs. Redskins CBs Quinton Dunbar, Fabian Moreau
With the Redskins having a quality corner such as Josh Norman, Falcons receiver Julio Jones will likely see plenty of Norman and a fair share of double coverage. That of course means plenty of one-on-one battles for the #2 and #3 receiver in Sanu and Ridley respectively.
Dunbar will likely play in this one but he will probably not be at 100% thanks to a shin injury that he suffered weeks back. So far this season, Dunbar has allowed an average of five receptions per game, allows a little over 10 yards per reception, and has given up three touchdowns on the season. The combination of Sanu and Ridley will have plenty of opportunity to produce against the Redskins secondary. Both have combined for 51 receptions and nine touchdowns in 2018. Look for the duo to provide plenty of spark against the good Redskins secondary.
Falcons Offensive Line vs. Redskins Front Seven
The strength of the Redskins defense lies within their front seven, and it is a group that is aggressive and makes life so much easier for their secondary. They are the main reason why the Redskins are second in the league in rushing yards allowed per game and sixth in yards allowed per carry. The group also has 20 of the team’s 21 sacks.
For a few seasons now, the Redskins have been building an underrated defensive line. Rookie defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne has been an integral piece and defensive end Jon Allen is trending upward in his second season.
The Falcons offensive line has not necessarily been playing to the best of their ability this season. Injuries have a hand in that with both starting guards Andy Levitre and Brandon Fusco nursing season-ending injuries. The offensive line has allowed runs to be stuffed either at the line or behind it on 28.9% of their carries, which is dead last in the league. They have also allowed 20 sacks on the season after allowing just 24 all of last season. The line will be tested by the Redskins front seven in both the run game and pass protection.
Falcons Run Defense vs. Redskins RB Adrian Peterson
It is arguably the biggest matchup of the game and will determine how the game ultimately plays out. Washington running back Adrian Peterson has been a rock for the Washington offense this season. Many overlooked his acquisition by the Redskins this offseason—perhaps understandably—but the Falcons can not overlook Peterson and his ability to gash a defense.
Washington is eighth in the NFL in rushing yards per game at 128 and they are fourth in the league in rushing attempts per game at 30. So it’s no secret that Washington will run the football. What the Falcons will have to do in this one is something that has plagued them all season and that is apply sound tackling. Peterson is third in the NFL in carries of 15 yards or more which is a result of defenses unable to get Peterson down on first contact and/or properly wrapping up. Limiting Peterson on his high volume of carries will force Washington to throw more than they prefer. With the Redskins missing a key receiver and their best offensive linemen, that is something they will likely want to avoid.