If the Washington Redskins want to prove that their pass defense is better than it's given credit for, this is a nice opportunity. Arguably no NFL team has been as efficient through the air this year as the Atlanta Falcons, with quarterback Matt Ryan entering Week 5 as the league's highest-rated passer.
As a result, Washington is a big underdog. But they're reportedly still going to play this game regardless of that fact. All 60 minutes, I believe.
And so here are some keys to the matchup from the Redskins' perspective, along with my prediction.
What Washington must do to win, offensive edition
Hit on some more deep balls. There could be a huge opportunity to do so with Brent Grimes out for Atlanta and Pierre Garcon getting healthier for the 'Skins. Stretching the field and striking deep will likely be necessary because there's a good chance the Falcons score quite a few points.
What Washington must do to win, defensive edition
Somehow stop Matt Ryan, Roddy White and Julio Jones. It'll be an incredibly difficult task with guys like DeAngelo Hall and Cedric Griffin, but someone will have to step up. Oh, and the underrated Josh Wilson will need to play the way he did in the first two weeks.
How Washington can lose
By letting Ryan relax in the pocket and throw comfortably at Hall and Griffin, or whomever is covering Jones or White and isn't named Wilson.
Five most important non-quarterbacks
Ryan Kerrigan, Alfred Morris, Josh Wilson, Cedric Griffin, DeAngelo Hall
Yeah, three cornerbacks. That's how dangerous the Falcons are. If any of those three doesn't play well, they're in trouble. Additionally, they'll need Kerrigan to help ease the pressure on the secondary by creating some of his own on Ryan. And Morris will be needed to provide balance by gaining early-down yards against a struggling run defense.
Injury analysis, Redskins edition
Brandon Meriweather's out, but that's nothing new for this team. They've learned to deal with injuries to Meriweather, Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker in all three layers of the defense. The real concern is how effective Garcon can be. He's their biggest deep threat and should play again with that foot injury, but he's still not close to 100 percent.
Griffin's also been hampered by a hamstring injury. While he's struggled this year, the Redskins really need the veteran corner against this Atlanta team.
Injury analysis, Falcons edition
Julio Jones has a hand injury that affected him against Carolina last week, but he and the team don't seem to be concerned about it. He'll play, but the 'Skins will take any mild injury they can get from that Atlanta receiving corps (without admitting it).
B/R NFC East Blog prediction
This could be a shootout, but—believe it or not—I've got a feeling about the Redskins here. Is it my divisional bias or is there a clear opportunity for RG3 against this secondary?
Sure, the Falcons' defense has a lot of takeaways, but most came in one quarter against the Broncos, and the 'Skins have been very smart with the football. Plus, we all know Atlanta can be had on the ground and Alfred Morris could provide some balance with a big day.
I'm thinking upset.
Redskins 35, Falcons 34
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