The Atlanta Falcons got their first win of the season in Week 3 against the New York Giants, improving to 1-2 with a stretch of easier games ahead on the schedule. The first of those games comes against the Washington Football Team (1-2), who’ve had their fair share of struggles as well.
For a better idea of how these two teams stack up statistically on offense and defense, check out my stats preview for Week 4 right here. Let’s take a closer look at some of the key matchups in this game, as both teams could be missing key players on Sunday.
Falcons OL vs Washington DL
This is likely to be a highlighted matchup every week, at least as long as the Falcons are facing talented defensive lines. Washington’s front may be the strongest test yet for Atlanta’s young offensive line, which got oblierated in Week 1, stabilized a bit in Week 2, and actually had a good game in Week 3. Can their streak of improvement continue this week against an even better opponent?
Washington certainly has much better edge rushers than the Giants, with Chase Young and Montez Sweat forming one of the most dangerous duos in the NFL. On the interior, the Falcons will have to face a strong rotation of Da’Ron Payne, Jonathan Allen, and Matt Ioannidis. Let’s hope that Atlanta’s starting five are up to the task this week, or it’ll be a long, difficult day for Matt Ryan.
Falcons receivers vs Washington secondary
Atlanta’s receivers have simply not been getting it done over the first three weeks of the 2021 NFL season. Some of that likely has to do with the offensive line struggles and the adjustment to a new offensive scheme, but this once formidable group has failed to even find average production thus far. Calvin Ridley has been limited to an abysmal 8.8 YPR, almost half of the 15.3 YPR he posted in 2020. None of Atlanta’s receiving options have even hit 200 yards yet.
It seems likely that Russell Gage will miss Sunday’s game, so we’ll be down to Ridley, Zaccheaus, and Tajae Sharpe at WR. This week presents another excellent opportunity to get the TEs more involved, particularly Kyle Pitts. Washington’s defense has been among the league’s worst against the pass so far, allowing 307 yards per game. CB William Jackson III, Washington’s big free agent addition, has had a rough start to the season. Is this the week that Atlanta’s offense finally gets going?
Falcons LBs vs Washington RBs
We’re still waiting to see the final game status of RB Antonio Gibson—one of Washington’s best offensive weapons—but even if Gibson were to miss the game, there’s still the threat of J.D. McKissic to contend with. McKissic, a former UDFA of the Falcons, is one of the NFL’s most dangerous receiving specialists. Gibson is another dangerous receiving weapon in his own right, and has been among the most effective all-around runners in the league.
The real strength of Washington’s offense is the offensive line, which has allowed just a 3.2% sack percentage. While they’ve been excellent in pass blocking, the run game has struggled at just 3.9 yards per carry. The Football Team will want to eat as much clock as possible to keep their defense off the field, and it’ll be up to Deion Jones and Foye Oluokun to keep the run game and short passing in check. Tight end Logan Thomas is another notable threat the linebackers will have to contend with.
Falcons CBs vs Washington WRs
It appears that Atlanta’s top corner, A.J. Terrell, will return from his concussion after logging consecutive full practices this week. That’s great news for an Atlanta secondary that desperately needs him against Washington’s top offensive threat: wide receiver Terry McLaurin. McLaurin is a dynamic and almost uncoverable receiver at times, and would be a gigantic mismatch against converted safety T.J. Green.
Terry McLaurin is definitely the one to watch, but it would appear that the Falcons match up favorably with the Football Team’s other receiving options. Outside of McLaurin, the other receivers—Adam Humphries, rookie Dyami Brown, and Cam Sims—have combined for 16 catches for 125 yards. Isaiah Oliver and Fabian Moreau will need to handle those players one-on-one so that Atlanta can dedicate safety help to McLaurin.
What are some matchups you’ll be watching when the Falcons take on Washington on Sunday?