Sunday features an NFC matchup that looks to be an exciting game featuring differing philosophies. The Redskins lead the all time series 14-9-1, but the Falcons have dominated as of late, winning 5 straight heading back to 2006.
The Falcons are coming off their bye week, but beat the Giants 23-20 in week 7. Previously, the Falcons were dominated 41-17 by the Steelers in week 5, and beat the Bucanneers 34-29 in week 6.
The Redskins defeated the Giants last week in a low scoring affair 20-13. They beat the Panthers 23-17 in week 6, and survived the Cowboys 20-17 in week 7.
Bovada currently has the Redskins as 1.5 point favourites, with an O/U total of 47.5.
In spite of all the turmoil the Falcons have faced, Matt Ryan continues to be dominant. Ryan has thrown for 2335 yards, is averaging 8.9 yards per attempt, has completed over 70% of his passes, and owns a 15-2 TD-INT ratio. He has been under a fair amount of pressure, but shows nice poise and decision making while continuing to attack downfield. His top target, Julio Jones, has caught 53 balls for 812 yards but is yet to find the endzone. Calvin Ridley and Mohamed Sanu have provided nice #2 options, combining for 716 yards and 9 TDs on 51 catches combined. They have somewhat struggled to run the ball following Devonta Freeman’s injury, but Tevin Coleman and Ito Smith provide enough of a threat to keep opposing defenses honest.
The defense has gotten pressure from a variety of players, with Takk McKinley, Vic Beasley, Grady Jarrett, and Jack Crawford each having 19 or more pressures. Outside of Damontae Kazee’s 3 interceptions, the secondary has been more bust than boom with Robert Alford and Brian Poole struggling in coverage.
Injuries and Inactive Watch
G Brandon Fusco (ankle) – placed on IR, K Matt Bryant (hamstring) – questionable
The Redskins definitely have an identity with Adrian Peterson in the backfield. Peterson ran for 146 yards and a TD on 26 carries last week against the Giants, and also added a receiving TD. Alex Smith continues to be pathologically conservative, completing 20/32 passes for 178 yards and a TD. Smith plays mistake free, but does not give the Redskins a downfield threat. He attempted just 2 passes of 20+ yards, missing on both, and threw just 6 of 10+ yards total, completing 3 for 52 yards. Jordan Reed and Josh Doctson were the go to targets last week, with Doctston catching 5 balls for 49 yards and Reed catching 7 passes for 38 yards.
The Redskins defense is becoming one of the top units in the league. They have a variety of pass rushers in Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith off the edge and Matt Ioannidis up the middle. Ioannidis had 3 sacks last week, while Kerrigan and Smith had a sack each as well. DaRon Payne and Jonathan Allen clog running lanes up the middle and allow Mason Foster and Zach Brown to stuff runs at the line. In the backend, Josh Norman is not what he used to be, but is still a viable zone corner capable of stepping in passing lanes. D.J. Swearinger has turned into a playmaker, picking off 2 passes last week.
Injuries and Inactive Watch
WR Jamison Crowder (ankle) – questionable, CB Quinton Dunbar (hamstring) – questionable, RB Chris Thompson (ribs) – questionable, OT Trent Williams (thumb) – questionable
The Redskins defense is tough, but the Falcons air attack can neutralize that. Running the ball is going to be a challenge against a tough Redskins front 7, but there are holes in the secondary they can exploit. The Falcons need to be creative regarding when they take their shots downfield, as the Redskins pass rush can be disruptive.
We know the Falcons can put up points, but the Redskins will play more of a ball control game, taking a couple shots a game, and pounding the ball with Peterson. I don’t think the Falcons are equipped to hold Peterson down for long, and I see another big game for him on the horizon. Linebackers and safeties are the strong part of the Falcons coverage, so Alex Smith will have to get the ball outside to Josh Doctson and Paul Richardson. We think the Redskins do enough to keep up on the scoreboard here, and their defense has the capability to get some huge stops down the stretch and possibly force a turnover or 2. We will take the Redskins to cover at home.
Final Pick: Redskins (-1.5)