In every game, there are the games within the game that decide the outcome. The matchup between Washington and Atlanta is no different. Here are three matchups that are critical for the Falcons this afternoon:
1. OT Tyson Clabo/Sam Baker vs. OLB Ryan Kerrigan: The Redskins will be missing their other OLB Brian Orakpo as well as 3-4 DE Adam Carriker. It adversely affects their ability to rush the quarterback. However, they still have a very good pass rusher in Ryan Kerrigan. Both of Atlanta’s offensive tackles will have their hands full with this guy. If they can keep Kerrigan off of quarterback Matt Ryan, the Falcons offense will move very well throughout the day.
2. OLBs Sean Weatherspoon & Stephen Nicholas vs. QB Robert Griffin III: Weatherspoon and Nicholas are going to not only stop the traditional run and play effectively in the short and intermediate passing game, but they are also going to be required to keep an eye out for RGIII when he decided to take off and run. These two guys will be Atlanta’s best option for stopping RGIII before he gets a bunch of yardage, and if they play well in all three of those areas, the Falcons defense can be successful.
3. Defensive Coordinator Mike Nolan vs. QB Robert Griffin III: Even though he’s a rookie, I don’t think there’s much doubt that RGIII is Washington’s best player. He is also still a rookie, and is more prone to mistakes than veteran players. On the other hand, RGIII has only turned the ball over once on the season, and looks far more advanced at quarterback than a traditional rookie. It will be crucial for Nolan to do a good job disguising his defense, giving Griffin false reads and forcing him to make bad throws. If he rolls out vanilla defenses, which is unlikely, Griffin will move the ball extremely well against the Falcons. It will be interesting to see if Nolan throws everything under the kitchen sink at the rookie QB.