|Tony Gonzalez is the second-leading receiver on the Falcons with 26 catches for 265 yards and three touchdowns. |
Falcons at Redskins – Week 5
Where: FedEx Field, Landover, Md. (grass, outdoors)
When: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (FOX)
Spread: Falcons by 3
Forecast: 70 percent chance of rain; temperatures in the low-50s.
Records: Falcons (Overall: 4-0, NFC South: 1-0); Redskins (Overall: 2-2, NFC East: 0-0)
Past results: Two most recent meetings -- Nov. 8, 2009: Falcons 31, Redskins 17. Dec. 3, 2006: Falcons 24, Redskins 14. Series record: Redskins hold series edge 14-6-1.
What matters: Coach Mike Smith has broken the regular season into four quarters so the Falcons don't get distracted by their early success or look too far head. Not much more could've gone right for Atlanta through the first four games, which includes benefitting from a favorable schedule. One week after preparing for Cam Newton, the Falcons will take on Robert Griffin III, the most comparable player in the league to Newton. Atlanta got burned by Newton's speed last week and will need to be ready for RGIII. Mike Nolan's rush defense ranks 29th in the NFL, allowing 146 yards per game. Griffin III is averaging 5.7 yards per rush and has run for 234 yards and four touchdowns in four games. It's imperative the Falcons contain the rookie in the pocket, especially after allowing 14 plays of at least 10 yards last weekend against Carolina.
Who matters: Matt Ryan won NFC Player of the Month for his near-flawless play in September. He threw for 11 touchdowns and just two interceptions, can lay claim to the highest quarterback passer rating in the NFL (112.1) and got superb play from his deep wide-receiving pool. The Falcons have become an excellent mixture of promising young players combined with talented veterans. Second-year man Julio Jones is still recovering from a hand laceration suffered two weeks ago, but with White and Gonzalez, the passing attack hasn't diminished whatsoever. The two veterans have combined for 53 catches and six touchdowns and were key in last week's thrilling comeback victory over the Panthers. Gonzalez, 36, hasn't had fewer than five catches in any of the four games and has become Ryan's safety blanket on third-down passes.
Key matchups: Sean Weatherspoon and Stephen Nicholas vs. RB Alfred Morris. Aside from TE Fred Davis, the Redskins don't have a lot of talent at the skill positions, which explains Washington's heavy reliance on Morris. The rookie is the Redskins' top rusher with 376 yards, just 142 yards more than Griffin III. The two have formed the second-best rushing attack in the NFL (171 ypg). Limiting Morris falls to Weatherspoon and Nicholas, who've combined for 61 tackles, two forced fumbles, an interception and two sacks as the outside linebackers. The two have anchored first-year coach Mike Nolan's defense and allowed scores on just 26 percent of opponents' possessions, the fourth-best mark in the NFL.
Injuries of note: Jones says there's nothing to worry about heading into Sunday's game regarding his injured hand. “I'm fine. I'm ready to go,” he told Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
Jones suffered the hand laceration two weeks ago against San Diego and had just one catch last week vs Carolina. He denied his hand caused his poor showing and claimed that the Panthers' double-team -- which freed fellow receiver Roddy White -- is what hampered him.
CB Chris Owens has been practicing this week after missing the past two games with a concussion. Coach Mike Smith said he'd have to earn his starting position back in Atlanta's nickel package.
Connections: Defense coordinator Mike Nolan worked in the same capacity for the Redskins in 2000 when they were 8-8 and missed the playoffs by losing four of their last five games.
Stat you should know: Falcons K Matt Bryant has been automatic, nailing all nine of his attempts, including last week's 40-yard game-winner. Bryant has made his past 22 field-goal attempts, and since 2009, he leads the NFL with an 89.9 percent success rate on kicks.
Record watch: TE Tony Gonzalez is seeking his 183rd consecutive game with at least one reception, the longest active streak in the NFL.
Looking ahead: The Falcons host the 1-3 Raiders next, and if they can find a way to beat the Redskins in Washington this weekend, have a chance to head into their bye week 6-0. The Redskins host the upstart Vikings on Oct. 14.
Prediction: Falcons 27, Redskins 21
For more Falcons coverage, follow Mike Singer @CBSFalcons.