Atlanta Falcons (3-4) at Washington Redskins (5-2)
The Redskins were on my overrated list at the beginning of the week, just because I didn’t think their 5-2 record was indicative of how they’ve played. They’ve benefitted from a 3-0 record in games decided by 7 points or less and a +7 turnover margin, but turnover margins are highly inconsistent week-to-week, so they can’t keep relying on that to win them close games, and they rank just 22nd in first down rate differential at -0.91%.
Given that, I was shocked when they opened as mere 1.5-point home favorites over a banged up Falcons team. The Redskins are not as good as their 5-2 record, but they still have a solid team. The Falcons, meanwhile, are incredibly banged up on defense, missing safeties Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen and linebacker Deion Jones, three of their best defensive players from a defense that had the 3rd fewest adjusted games lost to injury in 2017.
As a result, they rank dead last in first down rate allowed, giving up a first down or touchdown on 45.18% of defensive snaps. They’ve allowed 180 first downs and 26 offensive touchdowns through just 7 games, which puts them on pace for 411 first downs and 59 offensive touchdowns allowed on the season, both of which would be the most since the 1981 Baltimore Colts. Their offense has played well, ranking 8th in first down rate at 40.27%, but that’s not enough to keep up with what their defense is allowing (28th in first down rate differential) and they aren’t healthy on that side of the ball either, with running back Devonta Freeman and starting guards Andy Levitre and Brandon Fusco out indefinitely.
This line suggests the Falcons are better than a solid Redskins team, but they haven’t shown that in recent weeks, with their only recent wins coming by a combined 8 points against the Buccaneers and Giants. I have the Redskins 4 points better than the Falcons in my rankings right now, suggesting they should be favored by about a touchdown. The Redskins have a big injury with left tackle Trent Williams injured, but backup Ty Nsekhe has played alright in his absence in recent years and the Redskins also get a big mid-week addition with safety HaHa Clinton-Dix coming over in a trade with the Packers, in the middle of arguably the best season of his career. In a game where they basically just need to win to cover, the Redskins are an obvious Pick of the Week choice in a 13-game week.
Washington Redskins 27 Atlanta Falcons 20
Pick against the spread: Washington -1.5
Confidence: Pick of the Week