The Falcons are rolling in the early goings of the NFL season. Their offense has been explosive, and Matt Ryan has played like the best quarterback in the league. He's thrown for 1,162 yards, 11 touchdowns and only two interceptions en route to a 112.1 QB rating.
Matty Ice was cold and deadly on the Falcons' game-winning drive against the Carolina Panthers Sunday. This is an example of a professional at work:
The team is 4-0 and will travel to Washington this week to take on the Redskins.
The Skins haven't had the early success the Falcons have, but they certainly have to feel good about the play of their rookie quarterback. Robert Griffin III has been better than advertised. He's limited his mistakes, and he's been dynamic with his arm and legs.
The rookie put on his own game-winning drive against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Poise and confidence is not a problem for this kid. His execution is impeccable, and it looks like the massive draft day trade will be well worth it for Washington.
RG3 is one of the biggest reasons the Skins are averaging a league best 175 yards per game on the ground. He's rushed for 252 yards and four touchdowns, and he's also been great throwing the ball. His QB rating is 103.2 and he's passed for 1,070 yards, four touchdowns and only one interception.
His season is shaping up every bit as impressive as Cam Newton's was last year. It could be argued that RG3 is on pace to best Newton's rookie year. He's currently on pace to throw only four picks—that would be simply amazing for a rookie signal caller.
With all of his success the Skins are still only 2-2. Every game has been close, but the team needs their defense to step up if they are going to make some noise in the NFC East.
Here is a closer look at this NFC Matchup;
When: October 7, 1:00 p.m. ET
Where: FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland
Live Stream: Directv Sunday Ticket (Pay Service)
Radio: 790AM and Star 94 in Atlanta, ESPN Radio WTEM 980 AM in Washington, DC
Spread: Falcons (-2.5) per OddsShark.com
The official injury report hasn't been released for either team at this point. However, D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal Constitution is reporting that wide receiver Julio Jones is still hampered by a cut on his hand.
He played with the injury last week, and unless something major happens he'll probably play this week as well.
The Redskins will be without Roy Helu for the remainder of the season. He was placed on the season-ending injured reserved list last week, per Sports Illustrated.
Fantasy Start 'Em, Sit 'Em and Sleeper
I hadn't fully committed to RG3 as a weekly starter until last week, but I'm totally on board now. He's a fantasy-scoring machine with his dual-threat abilities. The Falcons' defense is allowing only 207 yards passing per game, but teams are running the ball well against them.
They rank 29th in the league against the run.
Look for RG3 and Alfred Morris to have solid games in this one. Start them both if you have them.
I love Jones, but until his hand is 100 percent, he won't get you the production you're looking for. I'd sit him unless I was really strapped at the receiver or flex positions.
Leonard Hankerson is a man to watch in this game. He's already equalled his reception total from 2011 in just four games this season. He's a big-play threat, and if the Skins run it successfully, Hankerson could be the beneficiary of a deep ball or two off the play-action.
He is my sleeper pick for this game.
What's At Stake
The Falcons are one of two remaining undefeated teams in the NFC, and they would love to run out to a lead in the race for home-field advantage in the playoffs. A 5-0 start would do wonders in keeping separation between them and the other solid teams in the conference.
As for the Redskins, the NFC East figures to be a rough and highly competitive division all year. The Philadelphia Eagles are 3-1 and in control at the moment. If the Skins hope to stay close they need to win this game.
What They're Saying
Washington's mammoth left tackle, Trent Williams, gutted out a performance through injury in the Skins' Week 4 win over the Bucs. He was injured in the previous game, and there were questions as to whether he'd be able to play.
His presence can't be understated when discussing RG3 and the offense's success. He said this to Brian Tinsman of Redskins.com:
"I was surprised I was even able to go. I could've played a lot better, but I was just surprised I was able to be out there."
In order to remain effective and keep RG3 healthy, the Skins need Williams on the field.
On the Falcons' side, Daniel Cox of AtlantaFalcons.com talks about the Dirty Birds clashing with their second consecutive dual-threat quarterback. He wrote:
Not unlike Atlanta's opponent last week, Cam Newton, RGIII combines a strong downfield arm with game-changing mobility and speed. Against Griffin, the Falcons will look to continue to feature looks on defense that confound QBs and force turnovers.
The difference this week lies in pass protection and the running game. The Redskins' ground attack, and their ability to protect RG3, will present a more daunting task. Atlanta won't be able to approach this game the same way they approached last week's matchup with the Panthers.
Falcons Player To Watch: John Abraham
The Falcons need to get pressure on RG3. They must make him uncomfortable and force him to make decisions on the run. If they can flush him out of the pocket and force him to throw under duress, they should be able to limit his effectiveness.
Abraham is the team's best pass-rusher. He'll have a difficult matchup with Williams, but he is a borderline Hall of Famer with 115 career sacks. He already has three this year, and if he records multiple sacks in this one, the Falcons' chances to win are increased.
Redskins Player To Watch: Fred Davis
If the Falcons blitz RG3, which is very likely, the rookie's best friend could be his tight end. Davis is a very capable weapon up the seams and he could have a solid day.
Look for Davis to have some opportunities to make big plays.
Key Matchup: Abraham vs. Williams
This is the most pivotal one-on-one matchup in this game. If Williams can contain Abraham, he will have neutralized the Falcons' most disruptive defensive player.
If Abraham has a solid day, he will disturb the rhythm of everything the Skins want to do in the passing game.
The Falcons are slight favorites, but I believe the Skins will win this one at home. Their offense is extremely potent, and every week RG3 gets more and more comfortable. The solid rushing attack will slow the pace of this game, which is good since the Skins can't win a shootout.
They will grind their way to a 24-21 win in this one.
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