The Washington Redskins look for their fourth straight win Sunday when they host the Atlanta Falcons.
The Redskins sit atop the NFC East and are 5-2 for the first time since 2008 when Jim Zorn’s team started fast but finished 8-8 and out of the playoffs.
Atlanta started 1-4 and appeared to be sinking due to injuries, but won two straight before their bye week.
Sunday’s matchup pits Atlanta’s explosive offense — generating 401 yards per game — against Washington’s second-ranked NFC defense (allowing 322.4 yards).
The Washington defense got stronger on Tuesday with the acquisition of safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix from the Green Bay Packers. Clinton-Dix has 27 tackles, three interceptions and one forced fumble this season.
“My leadership, my hustle to the ball, my effort,” Clinton-Dix said of what he brings to the Redskins. “Being able to go get the ball, create turnovers and take this team to another level man and keep things going.”
The Redskins are allowing 242.3 yards per game, 13th in the NFL. Paring Clinton-Dix with D.J. Swearinger gives Washington a formidable starting safety duo.
Atlanta will likely attack via the pass. Ryan has thrown 15 touchdown passes and two interceptions, and wide receiver Julio Jones is second in the NFL with 812 yards on 53 catches for the league’s fourth-ranked passing attack (317.7 yards per game). Rookie Calvin Ridley has 27 catches for 392 yards.
“I think, at the end of it, both teams are playing true to their style,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn told the team’s website. “When I say both teams are true to their style, that’s why it’s a pretty cool matchup.”
Meanwhile the Redskins are allowing only 80 yards rushing per game and the Falcons are generating just 83.3 per contest. That doesn’t mean the Falcons won’t try to run it.
“We’re going to run the ball, knowing that’s an important part of what we do as well,” Quinn said. “They just happen to be one of the very best a defending it. That doesn’t mean that we don’t go down that road.”
On offense the Redskins boast a rejuvenated running attack thanks to a rejuvenated Adrian Peterson. The 33-year-old took NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors after gaining 149 yards against the Giants.
The Falcons’ defense is ranked last in the NFC in yards allowed and their run defense is ranked 8th in the NFC, giving up 112.7 yards per game.
Washington continues to look for improvement in the passing game. Alex Smith’s passer rating and completion percentage are in the bottom half of quarterbacks and he’s thrown just eight touchdown passes against two interceptions.
“As long as we are winning games, protecting the football, that’s the most important thing,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “Our offense will be able to throw the ball eventually, with success.”
Smith could get well against a Falcons’ secondary that is allowing 306.7 yard per game through the air while opponents are converting 54.1 percent of third downs.
Redskins sitting out practice midweek included wide receiver Jamison Crowder (ankle), guard Shawn Lauvao (calf), wide receiver Paul Richardson (knee-shoulder), running back Chris Thompson (ribs), tackle Trent Williams (thumb-shoulder) and safety Montae Nicholson (neck-hip).
Cornerback Robert Alford (ankle) and kicker Matt Bryant (right hamstring) sat out for Atlanta.
—Field Level Media