After their win last week against the Houston Texans, the Atlanta Falcons will attempt to start a winning streak as they host the Washington Commanders on Sunday. After a blowout loss to the previously winless Chicago Bears, the Commanders will be looking to bounce back and provide a touch matchup against a conference opponent.
The matchup will likely be decided by the play of Desmond Ridder and Sam Howell, but there is numerous x-factors that could eventually determine who walks away with the victory. We’ll start by looking at an offensive weapon that the Falcons utilized well last week.
1. Keeping Kyle Pitts Involved in the Offense
After struggling to connect with Ridder throughout their first four games, Kyle Pitts took off last week with seven receptions for 87 yards. The most important part is that four of those receptions came on scoring drives for the Falcons and 3 of them helped the team gain first downs before adding points.
If the Falcons want to pick up the win this week, it’ll be important to keep Pitts involved in the offense and allow him the opportunity to be an outlet for Ridder throughout the game. The Commanders' defense was torched by Chicago, and they could face similar issues if Pitts gets off to a strong start during this game.
2. Containing the Commanders’ Offensive Weapons
The Washington Commanders might be 2-3, but their offense has numerous weapons that can cause problems for defensive coordinators. Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, and Curtis Samuel are three receivers who can put up big numbers if the defense is caught slipping, and Brian Robinson Jr. already has four touchdowns this year.
Tight end Logan Thomas could also provide trouble for the defense, so it’ll be on all three levels of the Falcons to put together a strong game and prevent Washington from getting ahead early. The defense almost let the team down last week when they let the Texans score a late touchdown but got bailed out by a field goal that saved the game for Atlanta.
3. Scoring Early and Often
Since beginning the season, the Falcons have scored 7 points in the first half against Carolina, 9 points against Green Bay, 3 points against Detroit, 0 against Jacksonville, and could only muster 7 points in the first half against Houston last week. In total, the Falcons have only scored 26 first-half points this year, which typically isn’t a mark for success.
If the team wants to become a serious contender for a playoff spot, they’ll have to avoid falling behind early and this week against Washington could be a great opportunity. If Ridder and running back Bijan Robinson can get the offense moving down the field early and often, the team can take a strong lead and run their preferred offensive system after that.
A few months ago, I predicted the Falcons would win this matchup, and I still stand behind that choice. The Commanders' play last week inspired no confidence and Desmond Ridder seemingly turned a corner against Houston with his strongest game of the season. The three factors mentioned above could decide not only this matchup but how the rest of the Falcons’ season turns out though.