Washington Redskins (2-2) at Atlanta Falcons (4-0)
The Falcons are a surprising 4-0, one of 6 undefeated teams left in the NFL. However, when you look at the teams they’ve played, it’s not that surprising. They’ve played Philadelphia, the NY Giants (both of whom they barely beat), Dallas (without Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Greg Hardy, Randy Gregory, George Selvie, Rolando McClain, among others), and Houston. Despite that, they rank just 4th out of the 6 remaining undefeated teams in terms of rate of moving the chains.
Their offense has been great, with the offensive line playing much better than they have in recent years and, largely as a result of that, 2nd year running back Devonta Freeman has broken out and given them the complement to their strong passing game that they’ve lacked for a while. They rank 2nd in rate of moving the chains, but their defense is still a huge problem, as they rank 22nd in rate of moving the chains allowed. They rank 8th in rate of moving the chains differential as a result.
That’s definitely not bad, but it means they’re not quite as good as their record would suggest, especially when you take into account their weak schedule. The Redskins, meanwhile, are better than their 2-2 record suggests, as they rank 5th in rate of moving the chains differential. They haven’t exactly played a tough schedule either (Miami, St. Louis, NY Giants, Philadelphia) and I’m not sold and them as a top team or anything yet, after they finished 25th in rate of moving the chains differential last season, but I’m not sold on the Falcons being a top team yet either, after they finished last season 23rd in rate of moving the chains differential, and I think the Redskins might be the toughest opponent the Falcons have faced thus far this season.
The Redskins’ offense still has problems and they’re missing key players on both sides of the ball (wide receiver DeSean Jackson, cornerback DeAngelo Hall, cornerback Chris Culliver, and tight end Jordan Reed), but their defense has played very well, ranking 5th in rate of moving the chains allowed. The Redskins spent a lot of money trying to fix their defense this off-season and it seems to have worked, as has the switch from Jim Haslett to Joe Barry as the defensive coordinator. This line is way too high at 7.5.
The Falcons are also in a bad spot, with a trip to New Orleans on Thursday Night Football on deck. Favorites are 41-64 ATS before Thursday Night Football since 2008, as having a game upcoming in a few days can make it hard for a favorite to focus 100%. The Redskins aren’t in a good spot either, with a trip to the Jets on deck (where they are expected to be 6 point underdogs). Underdogs of 6 or more are 71-95 ATS since 2010 before being underdogs of 6 or more. However, like I said, the Redskins don’t deserve to be underdogs of this many points here and, if they play well this week, they could easily be underdogs of fewer than 6 next week. They’re an underrated team who should cover this spread.
Atlanta Falcons 23 Washington Redskins 20
Pick against the spread: Washington +7.5