It Doesn't Count But You Can Get On It: Redskins vs. Falcons In Preseason Action

Matthew Jordan

Monday, August 8, 2016 8:31 PM UTC

Monday, Aug. 8, 2016 8:31 PM UTC

The first full week of exhibition games begins with the Redskins visiting the Falcons on Thursday night. Join expert capper as he finds a valuable NFL pick for this match.

Washington Redskins vs Atlanta Falcons

Redskins What To Watch For
The most unlikely division winner in the NFL last year had to be Washington, which had been 4-12 and last in the NFC East in Coach Jay Gruden's first season in 2014. Gruden essentially put his job on the line at this time last summer by giving the starting quarterback job to Kirk Cousins and essentially banishing former NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Robert Griffin III. It proved wise as Cousins led the NFL with a 69.8 completion percentage top go with 4,166 yards and 29 TDs. He was markedly better at home than on the road. The Redskins finished 9-7 and hosted Green Bay in the wild-card round. The Skins jumped out to an early 11-0 lead but then were overmatched  by Aaron Rodgers and Co. in a 35-18 loss.

The Washington front office chose not to give Cousins a huge extension, and he instead will play on a one-year, show-us-you-can-do-it-again franchise tag. So Cousins will either be mega-rich after this season or likely be on the market.

The Skins said goodbye to Griffin III this offseason as well as leading rusher Alfred Morris. Thus I have serious questions about their tailback situation with Matt Jones and Chris Thompson atop the depth chart. Washington's first-round pick in this year's draft was TCU record-breaking receiver Josh Doctson, but you won't see him on Thursday. He's dealing with a minor Achilles injury and out a couple of weeks.

Washington's biggest offseason acquisition was Panthers Pro Bowl cornerback Josh Norman, and that fills a huge need. Carolina surprisingly rescinded the franchise tag on Norman, and the Redskins were the first team to host Norman on a recruiting trip and never let him leave. That Washington defense already has suffered a major injury as outside linebacker Junior Galette  tore his right Achilles' tendon and is done for the year. He missed all of last year after tearing his left Achilles' tendon. Guy has talent as shown by his 10 sacks and 45 tackles in 2014 with New Orleans. Second-year Preston Smith will be counted on to step up in Gillette's spot.

The Redskins were 3-1 last preseason. At home, they beat Detroit (21-17) and lost to Jacksonville (17-16). On the road, they won at Cleveland (20-17) and at Baltimore (31-13). Washington was 3-1 ATS on NFL odds, failing to cover vs. the Jags. 


Falcons What To Watch For
This is the first game of the final season for Atlanta in the Georgia Dome, which really isn't that old compared to some other NFL stadiums as it opened in 1992. And it was renovated just 10 years ago for about $300 million. But the Falcons are moving to a glorious new Mercedes-Benz Stadium next year that will be the envy of about 28 other league owners. The Mercedes-Benz Stadium will have a retractable roof and if you haven't seen the look of it, I recommend you Google it.

Last year was the first in Atlanta for head coach Dan Quinn, formerly the Seattle defensive coordinator. And Quinn was the NFL Coach of the Year favorite through five weeks in 2015 as the Falcons were 5-0. But if you looked close, it was a bit of fool's gold as they beat the Eagles by just two, the Giants by four, the Cowboys without Tony Romo and the Redskins by six in overtime. The only really impressive win was 48-21 over Houston.

The wheels fell off starting in Week 6 as the Falcons lost seven of their next eight and would finish 8-8. The highlight the rest of the way was a 20-13 home upset of Carolina in Week 16 that ended the Panthers' shot at a 16-0 regular season.

Atlanta's offense was pretty good last year, with Julio Jones having one of the best seasons in NFL history by a receiver with 136 catches for 1,871 yards (both No. 2 in league history in a single season) and eight scores. Running back Devonta Freeman had a breakout season with 1,061 yards rushing and 11 scores to go with 73 catches for 578 yards and three TDs. I think it's fair to say that Jones and Freeman will both be taken quite early in your upcoming fantasy football draft. Matt Ryan was No. 5 in passing yards in 2015 with 4,591 but did have a few too many turnovers. The offense will add a starting center in free-agent Alex Mack (Browns) as well as a new No. 2 receiver in Mohamed Sanu (Bengals). Roddy White, who holds every Falcons receiving record, was released.

Defensively the Falcons were mediocre. The team signed a few middling free agents on that side of the ball -- including this week former Cardinals pass-rushing linebacker Dwight Freeney, who had eight sacks in limited time last year -- and used three of their top four draft picks on defense, led by Florida safety Keanu Neal in Round 1.

Atlanta was 2-2 last preseason, beating Tennessee (31-24) and Baltimore (20-19) at home and losing at the NY Jets (30-22) and Miami (13-9). The Falcons were 2-2 ATS on NFL picks, covering vs. the Dolphins and Titans.

For what it's worth, the Falcons lead the Redskins 9-6 in preseason meetings, but the teams haven't played since 2004. Go Falcons and 'under.' I like Atlanta here simply because it's home and thus perhaps its starters stay in a tad longer. 


Free NFL Picks: Falcons-149 & under 37 -110
Best Line Offered: Falcons-149 at Heritage & under 37 -110 at 5Dimes

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