ATLANTA FALCONS (4-0)
at WASHINGTON REDSKINS (2-2)
Kickoff: Sunday, 1:00 p.m. EDT
Line: Atlanta -3, Total: 50
The high-flying Falcons look to start their season with a fifth straight victory when they visit the Redskins on Sunday.
Robert Griffin III gets his toughest challenge yet against a Falcons defense that’s playing very well under first-year coordinator Mike Nolan, allowing just 19.0 PPG. Atlanta has effectively contained Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers so far this year, and they’re coming off a game against a dual threat quarterback (Cam Newton), beating Carolina last week. Griffin has already led the ‘Skins to two road wins, but they played terribly in their only home game so far, a 38-31 loss to Cincinnati. Their suspect pass defense will have its hands full against WRs Roddy White and Julio Jones.
Can the Falcons start the season with their fifth straight victory? For the answer, connect to The Platinum Sheet for all the StatFox Experts picks for every NFL game throughout the 2012 season and playoffs.
Atlanta has scored at least 27 points in each of its four victories, thanks mostly to Matt Ryan who leads the NFL in QB rating (112.1) by completing 69.4% of his passes for 1,162 yards, 11 TD and just 2 INT. He has spread the wealth of passes mostly between three players, targeting Roddy White, Julio Jones and TE Tony Gonzalez in excess of 30 times each this season. That has resulted in each of the three players scoring three touchdowns this year. RB Michael Turner has really picked up his game in the past two games, following up dud performances in Weeks 1-2 (74 yards on 28 carries) into two productive ones (183 yards on 27 carries, 69 yards on five catches). Turner exploded on the Redskins when he last faced them in 2009, rushing for 166 yards and 2 TD. The Falcons have been better than expected in defending the pass (207 YPG allowed, 8th in NFL), especially after losing starting CB Brent Grimes for the season in Week 1 with an Achilles injury. However, the run-stop unit has been one of the worst in football, allowing 146 rushing YPG (fourth-most in NFL).
Griffin’s statistics are truly remarkable for a rookie quarterback on an average team. He has scored eight touchdowns already, completing 69.4% of his passes (same rate as Ryan) for 1,070 yards (8.6 YPA) and just one interception in 124 pass attempts. He and fellow rookie Alfred Morris (376 rushing yards, 4.6 YPC, 4 TD) have comprised 89 percent of the league’s second-best rushing offense (171 YPG). Unlike Atlanta, which has three main receivers, the Redskins have seven players with at least seven catches so far this year. TE Fred Davis leads the team with 15 catches, but has not yet scored a touchdown. WR Pierre Garcon is their most explosive weapon, but his injured foot is still causing him to play a limited snap count. Washington’s defense has had an awful time trying to stop its opponents. The Redskins rank second-to-last in passing defense (326 YPG), allowing 20 gains of 20-plus yards already this season. They have also been unable to put forth a strong pass rush, tallying just seven sacks over the four games.