Washington vs. Falcons Odds, NFL Picks, Week 4 Predictions: Which Disappointing Team Will Cover This Spread?
Joshua Bessex/Getty Images. Pictured: Washington Football Team DE Chase Young
Washington vs. Falcons Odds
|Time||1 p.m. ET|
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After a ruthless defense led it to the playoffs in 2020, Washington has performed far below expectations to start the season. We’ve seen other teams like the Chiefs start slow, but the difference is they’ve also still shown signs they can meet their potential — and that has not been the case for Washington as its defense has struggled to live up to its previous level of play.
Atlanta is in a similar boat. Year after year we have seen the Falcons struggle on defense but have a strong enough offense to keep them relevant. So far this season, the offense has fallen far short of those standards.
Washington and Atlanta have both struggled to meet expectations early on. With each struggling, this could be a get-right spot for either. Let’s take a deeper dive to determine which is most likely to seize the opportunity.
Washington’s Defense Hasn’t Met Expectations
In a surprise turn of events, the offense has been the part of the team making Washington look functional over the first three weeks.
Washington is lacking playmaker options, and neither Taylor Heinicke nor Ryan Fitzpatrick is the long-term answer at quarterback. But, if not for a 400-yard performance and last-second field goal against the Giants, Washington is likely 0-3.
The one area in which Washington’s offense excelled last season was in pass protection. It has been able to maintain that same level of production, but has been unable to translate that to passing-game success. Against the Giants, we saw Heinicke look like a legit NFL starter. However, his follow-up performance against the Bills earned him an abysmal 39.8 grade from PFF.
Washington’s success will depend on which version of Heinicke shows up, and signs point in his favor this week. Atlanta’s defensive backs have struggled in coverage, particularly on the outside. This puts star wide receiver Terry McLaurin in a favorable matchup and should help create easy throws for Heinicke.
While the defense has struggled, the Football Team’s front four has succeeded in creating pressure, ranking fourth in pressure rate at 29.9%. All the pressure created up front has been offset by struggles from the defensive backs, though. And making matters worse, No. 3 corner Benjamin St-Juste is still working through concussion protocol.
Fortunately, against the Falcons, there is only one main concern on the outside — and that is Calvin Ridley. Slowing him will likely fall on the shoulders of William Jackson III. Jackson has struggled this season, earning a PFF grade of 49.7, but there is reason to believe in a bounce back. In his four previous seasons, Jackson graded as a top 26 corner in three of them.
Matt Ryan Could Have Big Day For Atlanta
Coming into the season, the question for the Falcons was how their offense would hold up without Julio Jones. In recent years, Ridley showed the potential of a top wide receiver, and Atlanta also brought in tight end Kyle Pitts to fill the void of the No. 2 receiver. Pairing the receiving threats with new head coach Arthur Smith seemed to be like all the right moves to replace Jones.
Unfortunately, that has not been the case.
Through their first three games, the Falcons offense sits at fourth-fewest in points per game and fifth-fewest in yards per game. Their rushing offense struggles, too, but that has been a re-occurring issue year to year. They currently rank 23rd in yards per carry, but that’s an improvement on the past two years.
This means the blame for the offensive struggles rests with the passing attack. Per PFF, in all facets of the passing game — passing grade, pass block grade and receiver grade — the Falcons rank below-average. The most life they have shown from a receiving perspective has been the play of journeymen Cordarrelle Patterson out of the backfield.
There is hope against Washington and its struggles to stop the pass. However, Atlanta’s line will have to keep Matt Ryan upright if it is to take advantage of those struggles.
Defensively, Atlanta has shown improvement over last season, with its yards per play dropping from 6.5 to 5.9. This may only be an improvement from terrible to bad, but it was enough to hold off the Giants last week.
The next step for the Falcons defense to take is in the turnover department. This season, Atlanta has yet to record an interception. This could be its chance against a gambling quarterback to create some turnovers and put the offense in good field position.
This game is a close one as both teams have underwhelmed to this point. The question comes down to if you trust Washington’s defense to shape up or the Falcons offense.
The Football Team’s defense has struggled, but the signs of life from the pass rush are there, even with Chase Young playing poorly. The only area they need to improve is on the backend, and their starters have shown in previous years they can be a solid unit. Even if the defensive backs get back to average play, it should be good enough given their pass rush.
As for the Falcons, the new system and figuring things out post-Jones has not gone well. Their next three leaders in targets are their running backs and Pitts. It is hard to imagine much changing until they start using their rookie tight end like the Swiss army knife he is.
It may be risky to trust Heinicke, who looks like the second coming of Fitzpatrick, but I like Washington’s defense to bounce back and control this game.
Pick: Washington -1.5 (-110) | to -2.5