By Matthew Asher
Atlanta’s upcoming contest with the Washington Redskins is one of those games where the statistics and records don’t really match up. Yes, Atlanta is 4-0 and one of only three teams in the NFL still undefeated, but they cannot take the 2-2 Redskins lightly.
On paper, this contest looks like it should be a shootout. Washington is one of the top five NFL teams in three important categories: 30.8 points a game is the fourth most in the league, 421.8 yards of offense a game is the third highest and the Redskins 171 rushing yards per contest is the second most through the first four weeks.
For Atlanta to leave Washington with a 5-0 record, the game plan is simple: slow down the reigning Heisman Trophy Winner Robert Griffin III. Just like when he was the quarterback at Baylor University, RG3 is dangerous both on the ground as well as in the air. RG3 may have only four touchdown passes, but he’s completed almost 70 percent of this throws and given up just one interception while throwing for nearly 1100 yards through four games with a QB rating of 103.2..
RG3’s rushing statistics are equally impressive. He’s currently the team’s second-leading rusher averaging 5.7 yards per carry and tied with his running back Alfred Morris with four touchdown runs apiece.
The reason why this team with its high-powered offense is only a .500 team is because of their defensive struggles. Just like the offense is in the top five in three offensive categories, Washington’s defense is in the bottom five in three defensive categories. Washington gives up just as many points as they have scored (30.8) which is 27th in the league. The defense gives up 415.2 yards each game, ranking them 29th. The majority of those yards given up are through the air with 326.2 each contest, currently the second most in the NFL.
Washington may give up as many points on defense as they score on offense, but Atlanta can’t be thinking about getting cheap scores off of turnovers. Washington currently has a +7 turnover ratio, currently tied for third best in the league. Only New England at +8 and Atlanta at +10 are ranked higher than Washington.
Washington’s struggles on defense is where Atlanta shines. Atlanta’s 31 points a game is the third highest in the league. While Atlanta’s running game is average at best, Matt Ryan has been doing a great job passing the ball to his three primary targets Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez. Although the passing attack averages 267.5 yards, the eleventh best in the league, these three receivers each have three touchdown receptions and have each led the team in receiving yards in at least one game each this season.
While Atlanta’s running attack has not been its strong suit so far this season, there is reason to believe it is improving. Against Carolina last week, Michael Turner finally started getting big runs as he ran for more than 100 yards in a game for the first time this season. Washington gives up just 89 rushing yards per contest which is the tenth best in the league. This means Atlanta may want to start off the game running the ball a little more to wear out the Washington defense in order to allow their passing attack to take control of the game.
However the game ends up, one thing’s for certain: this will definitely be an entertaining contest between two of the league’s great young quarterbacks. The game starts at 1 p.m. Eastern Time.
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Matthew Asher is a freelance writer covering all things Atlanta sports related. His work can be found on Examiner.com.