Team: Atlanta Falcons
2017 Record: 10-6 (3rd, NFC South)
2018 Record: 3-4 (t-3rd, NFC South)
Outlook: 2017 marked the second consecutive year in which the Falcons had their season ended by the eventual Super Bowl champs.
Coming off the devastating loss to the Patriots at the end of the 2016 season, Atlanta put together a solid 10-6 year. Although that was only good enough for third place in the NFC South, the Falcons beat the Rams in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, then fell in a 15-10 battle against the Eagles.
In theory, the Falcons boast weapons all over the field, with Matt Ryan, Tevin Coleman, and one of the best receivers in the NFL (if not the best) in Julio Jones. Still, Atlanta has struggled a bit since offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan left to become the head coach of the 49ers. A groin injury that put Devonta Freeman on IR this year did some additional damage. The Falcons were down offensively last season, finishing in the middle of the pack in points. Atlanta currently ranks a respectable 11th in PPG.
The much bigger problem is the defense. Last season, Atlanta’s defense actually carried the Falcons more than once, led by Pro Bowlers Deion Jones and Keanu Neal. Atlanta’s defense held opponents below 21 points on nine occasions in 2017. This time around, Jones and Neal are both on injured reserve, and the Falcons have given up at least 29 points in four of their seven games so far. They rank 30th in the league in scoring defense, a big part of the reason Atlanta has sputtered to a 3-4 record. Like the Redskins, though, the Falcons also don’t turn the ball over much.
How Worried Should We Be?: Somewhat worried. Washington needs to play well, but this game is winnable, especially at home. I was always a little concerned that Julio Jones could have a monster day against Greg Stroman and the Redskins’ secondary. I don’t think any other individual player on a 2018 Redskins opponent worries me more than Jones does. That said, Washington’s defense is really coming into its own. The addition of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix via trade this week is another boost, although Clinton-Dix will likely be somewhat limited this Sunday as he adapts to the Redskins’ defensive schemes.
There’s no question the Falcons move the ball almost as well as anyone when they’re clicking. But they have yet to recapture the offensive magic of 2016, and, meanwhile, the Redskins defense seems to be finding a little magic of its own.
I’ll say this, though—if Washington’s passing game can’t get on-track against the Falcons, we should all be worried. Alex Smith hasn’t topped 200 yards passing in almost a month. He hasn’t had a 300-yard game all year. He had five in 15 games for the Chiefs last year. Meanwhile, the Falcons have surrendered over 300 yards in five of their past six games. Granted, having a consistently good running game makes that less important, but, if Washington’s resistible force can’t overcome Atlanta’s moveable object this weekend, it doesn’t bode well for the rest of the year.
How worried should the Redskins be about the Falcons?
This poll is closed
Not too worried