Matt Ryan should have a bounce back game this week. (Credit bloggingdirty.com)
A month ago, I didn’t believe it was possible for a team to have more of a disastrous season than the Atlanta Falcons. They were getting blown out on a weekly basis and were becoming the “punch line” of the league. Now after three competitive games and other teams faltering, they have earned back some respect. For the first time in a few months, they are actually favored to win a game. That is obviously attributed by the collapse of the Washington Redskins.
When I was working on my season predictions, there wasn’t any doubt in my mind that Washington was going to regress. They made no upgrades to their flaws in their secondary or receiver core, along with playing a more difficult schedule. It would have been a major surprise to see them win even nine games. For them to be already eliminated and have issues within their organization is a major surprise. You would think that they would be fully behind a player that they invested so much in Robert Griffin III.
Instead Mike Shanahan continues to make it blatantly obvious that he wants to be fired. The team has quit on him and this franchise clearly needs new management. It may be a miserable season for Atlanta fans, but at least the future is looking up. The team has a good nucleus of young talent and has a top five draft pick locked up. Meanwhile in Washington, they have to go through another rebuilding process and are being laughed at by St. Louis fans.
Time to throw downfield
It has been quite some time, since Atlanta has faced a defense that had a terrible secondary. Due to their success last year, they have faced plenty of talented defenses this year. They finally play against a secondary that misses tackles constantly and have poor chemistry. Even without Julio Jones, I’m expecting Matt Ryan to be aggressive in this matchup. They are in the dome and he’ll have plenty of opportunities to take advantage of Washington’s deficiencies.
Roddy White has been rejuvenated over the past two weeks finally getting some of his explosiveness back. He’s still playing injured, but he’s now an asset rather than a decoy like he was earlier in the season. As inconsistent as he may be, Harry Douglas’ speed could lead to a few 20 yard plays or more. Josh Wilson has been abused on a weekly basis this year, while Brandon Meriweather and Reed Doughty are liabilities in pass coverage as safeties. Why Washington has two poor cover safeties in their starting lineup is beyond me. Barcarri Rambo was supposed to be an upgrade, but he has been a massive disappointment this year due to missed tackles and being out of position in
As long as the offensive line can contain Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan, they should have success all game long throwing the ball downfield. Orakpo and Kerrigan are a solid duo, but Atlanta has faced far greater challenges this year. I’d be confident in Matt Ryan’s shoes, considering it won’t take long for his receivers to get open against this secondary. It’ll be interesting to see how many times Ryan throws at DeAngelo Hall. Hall’s days of being a top five corner are long gone, but he’s actually played well at times this year. His matchup with White should be fun to watch.
The Kirk Cousins experiment
It came to me as a big surprise that Cousins is actually starting this weekend. I said above that they invested so much in Griffin. Now they are making him into the scapegoat. What about the lack of receiving options or the below average offensive line? I’ve already explained how bad their defense has been, yet it seems like Shanahan continues to point the finger at Griffin. The whole situation is bizarre to me based on how quickly it escalated. It’s not like Griffin is turning the ball over at an Eli Manning rate.
Cousins showed flashes last year that he can be a competent quarterback. He isn’t afraid to throw the ball downfield and is pretty accurate from what I’ve seen. The issue with Cousins is that he’s fairly immobile, which is never good for a young quarterback. You’ll see Mike Nolan channel up plenty of blitzes similar to last week against Green Bay. Also Cousins tends to stare down his receivers far too often, which is an issue for most young quarterbacks.
There is some major upside to Cousins, but it’s still mind boggling on why Griffin was benched. The issues that evolve around Washington have to do with many other positions, before the actual quarterback situation. If it weren’t for Griffin’s speed, they would likely be in the top five of sacks allowed this season. Cousins should have a productive game this Sunday because he is throwing against one of the worst defenses in the league.
If Jordan Reed recovers from the concussion he suffered a few weeks ago, he’ll likely be Cousins’ favorite target. Atlanta has struggled covering tight ends all year long and you know how young quarterbacks lean on their tight ends as a safety blanket. I’m just not sure what is being accomplished by starting Cousins, unless they are looking for draft picks in the off-season and want to showcase him. If that’s not the case, this situation makes absolutely no sense to me.
Players to watch
Barry Cofield: He is one of many nose tackles that don’t get enough credit for their contributions. Cofield is a load to block and constantly gets into the opponents’ backfield. Similar to many defensive tackles, he has issues finishing plays due to how shifty running backs can be. He is one of the true leaders on their defense and will play a huge role in slowing down Steven Jackson.
William Moore: He has stepped up his play over the past few weeks, after going through an inconsistent spurt. Moore tends to be over aggressive, which leads to missed tackles or a blown coverage. I’d still label him as the tone setter for their defense. They feed off his ruthless style, whether it’s a big hit (as long as he isn’t being penalized) or forcing a turnover like he has in the past two weeks. With Alfred Morris still running hard, they will need him to make open field tackles to stop Morris from getting in the open field.
It’s hard to see Atlanta losing this game for once. They should score 30 points this game, with Roddy White and Steven Jackson playing like their usual selves With only three games left in his career, Tony Gonzalez will be fired up as well and should reach the end zone in this game. Who can forget his 13 catches last year against Washington? I’m still expecting this to be a competitive game, because Washington still has a few explosive playmakers on offense.
Alfred Morris has proven to be a load to stop and it doesn’t seem likely that Atlanta’s front seven will have much of an answer for him. Pierre Garcon will get his catches and turn them into big gains. If Jordan Reed plays, that’s another issue for Atlanta’s defense. Eventually Kirk Cousins’ limitations will come back to haunt him. He’ll make a mistake or two, which will cost Washington the game. Atlanta wins 31-24 and the “drown for Clowney” campaign takes a minor setback.
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