It's four weeks into the season and while the Falcons are 4-0, it hasn't been easy. Atlanta has defeated four quarterbacks with Pro Bowls on their resume so far this season and while it ends this week, their opponent is no less exciting or daunting. Washington's rookie QB Robert Griffin III was expected to make a splash this season after being a first-round pick and the second QB taken in the draft, but how competitive he's made the Redskins this early in the season has been a little surprising.
Not unlike Atlanta's opponent last week, Cam Newton, RGIII combines a strong downfield arm with game-changing mobility and speed. On his way to helping the Redskins to a 2-2 mark on the season, the rookie has put together four solid games and compiled a 103.2 QB rating, tops among NFL rookies and fourth overall in the entire league. Griffin is completing 69 percent of his passes and his 252 rush yards and four touchdowns are tops among all NFL quarterbacks. In fact, his four rushing TDs are tied for the most of any player in the NFL.
Against Griffin, the Falcons will look to continue to feature looks on defense that confound QBs and force turnovers. Griffin has only thrown one interception this season, but what he faces in Atlanta's D may be his stiffest challenge to date. The Falcons' seven interceptions ranks third in the NFL and their 10 turnover margin is tops in the league. Under Mike Smith, when the Falcons win the turnover battle, Atlanta is 31-2.
The Falcons' own QB, Matt Ryan, has been the unquestioned leader to begin the hot start to the season. He leads the NFL with a 112.1 QB rating. In his career, the Falcons are 27-0 when he has a 100-plus rating, including all four wins this season. When he passes for three or more touchdowns, the Falcons are 14-0. He's accomplished this feat three times this season.
Atlanta last faced the Redskins in 2009, a 31-17 win. The Falcons have won two straight against the Redskins dating back to 2006. The Redskins hold the all-time edge between the two franchises with a 14-6-1 record.
Although slowed by a hand injury in the last two games, Julio Jones looks to continue his strong play on the road early in his career. In nine career away games, Jones has 51 catches for 919 yards and eight touchdowns. He's recorded 100 or more receiving yards in six of the past eight games on the road and against Washington he could extend his road games with a touchdown streak to six. Additionally, he has six receiving touchdowns in his past four road games, including three this season in two road trips.
Julio Jones has played big to open this season and his 413 receiving yards is fourth in the NFL and second in the NFC. Since 2007, his 498 receptions are the most in the NFC.
Against Washington's tough run defense (89 yards per game allowed), Devonta Freeman could have a tough day. In their last meeting, Turner had 166 rushing yards with two TDs. Last week he rushed for 103 yards and when he breaks the 100-yard mark, his team is 9-0. Under Smith, when the Falcons have a 100-yard rusher, they are 15-3.
Vic Beasley Jr. had one sack and a forced fumble against the Panthers last week. He has three sacks on the season and one in each of the past two games. His 115 sacks are the most among active players in the NFL and he's brought down Redskins QBs 2.5 times in his last three meetings against Washington. The Redskins have allowed Griffin to be sacked 11 times this season, tied with Atlanta and Philadelphia for the eighth-fewest.