December 15, 2019

Washington Redskins Game 5 Preview: at Atlanta Falcons

The Washington Redskins face maybe their biggest test yet this season at the Georgia Dome vs. the first-place Atlanta Falcons. The Redskins look to build momentum off of their biggest win of the season, a 23-20 victory over division foe Philadelphia. The Falcons look to remain undefeated on the year and repeat the performance they had vs. the Houston Texans, which they won handily, 48-21.

The Falcons are one of the NFL’s biggest surprises thus far, carrying a 4-0 record behind a potent offensive attack. The Falcons’ offense is led by QB Matt Ryan, WR Julio Jones, and RB Devonta Freeman. Jones and Freeman have combined for 11 TDs in the first 4 games, and the Falcons are 5th in the league in total offense, averaging 403 yards per game. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that former Redskins’ Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan, now with Atlanta, will draw up a great game plan vs. his former team.

The Redskins will look to control the game and time of possession as they have all year while sustaining long drives in order to keep the ball out of Ryan’s hands. The Redskins still hold the league’s top rushing offense at almost 140 YPG, and will rely heavily on the three-headed monster of Alfred Morris, Matt Jones, and Chris Thompson to alleviate some stress in the passing game for Kirk Cousins.

Injuries have been cruel to Washington in 2015, and they will most likely be playing without some very key pieces vs. Atlanta. CB DeAngelo Hall has still not practiced fully since injuring his toe vs. St. Louis, and CB Chris Culliver is unlikely to play with his injured knee. WR DeSean Jackson’s hamstring is still not ready for game speed either and Jordan Reed was put into concussion protocol to go along with his injured MCL and ankle. There is a chance Jackson and Hall will be active on Sunday, but it is more likely that all 4 of the aforementioned will be in street clothes on the sideline.

Key Matchups

Julio Jones vs. Redskins Secondary   

This matchup will likely determine whether the Redskins have a chance in this game. The Redskins’ defense has been among the best in the league thus far, but has still given up the big play at times. Julio Jones is a big play waiting to happen, and he has the ability to turn a 5 yard out route into a 55 yard TD. With Culliver and Hall out, it will be up to Bashaud Breeland, Kyshoen Jarrett, Trenton Robinson, and Dashon Goldson (among others) to get the job done on the back end.

Jones will likely be double-covered, or at least have over-the-top safety help for most of the game. The secondary must also keep its eyes on Leonard Hankerson, a former Redskin and the Falcons’ #2 WR, and Devonta Freeman catching the ball out of the backfield. However, Jones should be the number 1 priority for Joe Barry and his staff in preparation for this game.

Kirk Cousins vs. Atlanta Defense

Leading up to this game, the main focus for Redskins fans has been this high-powered offense from Atlanta. This is because the Atlanta defense is below average, and the offense is a juggernaut. The Atlanta pass defense allows over 300 yards per game, and should give Kirk opportunities to make some good throws for some big gains. Atlanta’s style seems to be outscoring the opponent more than stop their offense, even with a new defensive-minded coach in Dan Quinn.

Cousins is looking to continue to improve and play with more confidence. Kirk will be challenged by the absence of his favorite target in 2015, TE Jordan Reed, and will have to be creative in spreading the ball around. The Falcons will score, and Kirk is going to have to throw well and not commit turnovers in order to match them.

Redskins’ “Stud” of the Week

WR Jamison Crowder

The rookie from Duke had a break-out game vs. the Eagles after he replaced Andre Roberts as the starting slot WR in Jay Gruden’s offense. With Jordan Reed out of the picture for the time being, Kirk will look to Crowder on more short possession throws. Cousins has to have confidence in Jamison after his spectacular grab on 3rd and long late in the Philadelphia game. Crowder finished the game with 7 cathches for 65 yards, and we should expect a similar performance Sunday at the very least.

Staff Predictions

Seamus Kane: Redskins 24, Falcons 28

I hate being the Negative Nancy that picks against the ‘Skins every week, but I have to this time. Julio Jones will tear up the depleted Washington secondary for a couple of scores, and a solid game by Cousins and the offense will not quite get it done.

 

Neil Dalal: Redskins 16, Falcons 23

The Redskins did something they had not done in a long time last Sunday, comeback to win after blowing a lead. The Falcons are catching the league by storm and playing up to their potential so Washington could ill afford shooting themselves in the foot (specifically with penalties) against a better opponent. It would take near flawless play to stay competitive on the road but think Cousins will continue playing well. Still think it would be too good to be true that they would be able to pull off the upset

Eric Hobeck: Redskins 23, Falcons 21

Atlanta does damage through the air but a late field goal puts the Redskins above .500.

David Nichols: Redskins 14, Falcons 27

With the offensive firepower the Falcons have, I don’t see the Redskins keeping up with them this week. Success is going to come in fits and spurts for the Skins this season. Last week was a success, despite doing all they could to lose the game. It’s a work in progress and there will be some lumps still to take. This week will be one of those lumps.

About Seamus Kane

Seamus Kane is a Staff Writer for District Sports Page covering the Redskins and Wizards. A native of Silver Spring, MD, Seamus grew up in the area all his life rooting for the Redskins, Nationals, Wizards, Caps, and Terps. He graduated from the University of Maryland in 2014 with a degree in American History and now lives in Washington, DC. His favorite DC sports legend is Hall of Fame cornerback Darrell Green, and his favorite DC sports moment was Ryan Zimmerman's walk-off in the first-ever game at Nationals Park, a game which he attended. You can follow Seamus on Twitter @ShamelessKane

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