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Washington Commanders vs Atlanta Falcons Preview: 3 matchups to watch

The Washington Commanders host the Atlanta Falcons

NFL: Chicago Bears at Atlanta Falcons Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Commanders were coming off their best win of the season against the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday Night Football. They went from facing the #1 team in the NFL in primetime to facing the worst team in the league on the road. Some fans thought that had trap game written all over it after the high the team was riding. That didn’t happen, and Washington dominated the Houston Texans and flew home with a 23-10 win, and a 6-5 record.

They are coming into this game as home favorites, and the line has moved from -3 to -4 since it opened. The Atlanta Falcons will be missing TE Kyle Pitts which will furth limit their passing game. You can check out the odds for this one courtesy of our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook.

Matchup 1: Marcus Mariota vs Washington’s defense

Marcus Mariota was one of the handful of free agent QBs some Washington fans were looking at before the team made another trade for a veteran QB nobody else wanted. Mariota went on to sign a 2-year, $18.75 million deal with the Atlanta Falcons. He has been what most people thought he would be when they moved on from Matt Ryan and went bargain shopping.

Marcus Mariota is averaging 170.7 yards, 1.2 TDs, .6 INTs through the air per game, along with 33.8 yards, .4 TDs on the ground. Mariota also has 8 fumbles on the season, losing 3 of them. The Falcons are not going to beat you through the air, and if Washington can stuff Atlanta’s run game, it’s going to be a long, painful day for Mariota.

Matchup 2: Slow down Atlanta’s run game

Washington’s defense has been shutting teams down over the last 6 games, and they will face a multi-headed running game when they host the Atlanta Falcons. They have three rushers who have 330+ rushing yards over their 11 games, including QB Marcus Mariota(372). Those 4 rushers have combined for 11 TDs on the ground. The Falcons are lead by RB Tyler Allgeier, another rookie Washington will need to limit.

Washington is allowing the 6th fewest yards per game in the NFL(103.1). They are also allowing the 8th lowest yards per carry in the league(4.2). They completely shut down the Texans offense last week, and held a very good rookie RB(Dameon Pierce) to 8 yards.

Matchup 3: Avoid missed opportunities in the red zone

I’ve enjoyed watching Joey Slye boot the ball through the uprights as much as the next guy, but Washington is going to need to get 7 instead of 3(or 0) more often if they want to continue winning and working towards a wild card spot in the playoffs. The Falcons are averaging 23.5 points over their 11 game season. Washington is averaging 22.4 points over Taylor Heinicke’s 5 game run, with a couple of defensive scores thrown in that run.

Offensive Coordinator Scott Turner will have to take advantage of a Falcons defense that has seen a lot of action in the red zone this year. They have allowed 25 red zone touchdowns this year, and Washington will need to be aggressive early and often. The team has been working at not wasting time at the end of halves, or during important drives. They need to have that aggressive mentality throughout the entire game to break opposing teams, and not allow them to chip away at the lead in the 4th quarter.