The Washington Redskins will look to improve on their 3-1 home record as they take on the Atlanta Falcons this Sunday at FedEx Field.

Surprisingly, the Redskins have exerted some dominance in the NFC as they have earned a 5-2 record on the season, and 5-1 against the NFC as a whole. This Sunday will provide another opportunity to knock out an inter-conference foe and improve their standing as a likely playoff participant.

Their opponent, the Atlanta Falcons (3-4), are hoping this game will turn their season around. They currently stand at third in their division and outside of the playoff picture. This game may not be classified as a must-win, but it sure is close. The NFC South is crowded at the top with the Saints (6-1) and Panthers (5-2) pulling away from the pack. Atlanta will likely show signs of desperation and come out guns blazing trying to upset the Skins.   

Can the Redskins defend their home turf? Check out the three keys to the game below.  

1) Real Recognizes Real 

Matt Ryan is off to a strong start this season. He has 15 touchdown passes on the season. (Photo Credit: KEVIN COX/GETTY IMAGES

This Sunday should be entertaining as the Falcons trot out the number seven ranked offense versus the number five ranked defense of the Redskins.

Delving into the stats, you see that the Falcons aren’t as bad as their record portrays. For one, their losses have mostly been against quality opponents. This includes the Eagles, Saints, Bengals and Steelers.

They convert on 50% of their third down attempts; which is second overall in the league. They are also highly effective in the red-zone. Of their 23 attempts within the 20 yard line, the Falcons have scored on 16 of those occasions. Or a rate of 69.6%. This percentage places them at number six overall in the league.

If the Redskins would like to stop the Falcons, they need to continue to smother their opponents. The Redskins currently hold their opponents to a 36.9% conversion rate on 3rd downs, which is ninth in the league.

Ideally, the Redskins will rise to the occasion and improve on their red-zone defense. The ‘Skins have allowed opponents to score on 60% of their red-zone possessions. That can’t happen Sunday. The Redskins need to remain stout and limit their opponents from sustained drives. Which has been a strength this season. In five of their seven games, they have held their opponents to 17 points or less. Do that Sunday and you win.

2) Stop Julio Jones: 

Julio Jones
Julio Jones #11 of the Atlanta Falcons runs after a catch during the first half against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

If you’re simply watching RedZone, Calvin Ridley is getting all the fanfare. But Julio Jones is the workhorse. Through seven games, he averages 116 receiving yards per contest. He’s also being targeted a whopping 12 times per game.

Of these opportunities, Jones pulls in 7.6 catches/game and makes opponents pay when he has the ball. He currently averages a robust 15.3 Yards per reception.

Detractors will argue that Jones hasn’t scored a touchdown this season. But that’s not what he’s asked to do. He is Matt Ryan’s security blanket during tough times, and has shown that he can move the chains in clutch situations.

So far, Jones has played the Redskins twice in his career. He averages 12.5 targets, 7.5 Receptions, and 80.5 yards against Washington. The Redskins would be wise to take away number 11’s ability to get open and force the young Ridley to beat us. Jones is the chain mover, Ridley is the deep threat.  

3) Be the Hammer Not the Nail: 

Adrian Peterson (26) has carried the ball 127 times for 587 yards this season (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The biggest reason that Atlanta is sub .500, is due to their porous defense. Overall, they rank 20th in yards allowed, and wait for it… 30th in rushing touchdowns allowed. This may be a perfect storm for a Redskins offense that is struggling in the passing game, but thriving with the rush.

The Redskins should also be encouraged that the Falcons allow their opponents to convert on 4.8 yards per carry against them. Which puts them at 26th in the league. 

This plays right into the hands of the Redskins, as they have been heavily dependent on the run. So much so, that they are fourth in the league in rushing attempts. They need to assert themselves in the run game and keep Matt Ryan on the sideline. What’s the best way to stop a high octane passing offense? Keep them on the bench. Just ask Aaron Rodgers.

Prediction:

The Redskins realize that the Falcons are vulnerable up front and take advantage of a soft Falcons defense. Gruden will formulate a game plan in which Peterson and company will slow down the game and milk the clock. The Falcons offense can’t score if they are on the sideline. Considering this slow pace of play, the score will be low. My guy says it will be surprisingly low. But the Redskins will win 17-14. 

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