Practically no one could have predicted that Washington and thewould both be division leaders entering their Week 5 matchup at the Georgia Dome on Sunday afternoon.
The two teams were a combined 10-22 last year and few considered them even fringe contenders entering this season. Yet, it's the second week of October and Washington (2-2) is tied for first place in the NFC East while Atlanta (4-0) is atop the NFC South.
Washington has alternated wins and losses in the first four weeks of the season, and is coming off a much-needed comeback win over thelast Sunday. The dramatic victory over their division rival has given them a massive boost of confidence heading into a tough part of the schedule. After Sunday's game in Atlanta, they head to MetLife Stadium next week to face the , meaning they have to somehow navigate back-to-back road contests against teams which are a combined 7-1.
Picked by some to be the worst team in the league, Washington has shown real promise and growth this season -- notably the development of ESPN's Total QBR metric, sandwiched between and Philip Rivers. The team also leads the NFL in rushing yards (558) and is third in yards per carry (4.4).at quarterback and the emergence of a physical run game. Cousins has a top-10 completion percentage and ranks 13th in
The Falcons are 4-0 for the fourth time in franchise history, and with the league's easiest remaining schedule (per Football Outsiders), has a real chance to reach double-digit wins this season. Of the Falcons' remaining 12 games, just two are against a team currently with a winning record, and both of those games are against the .
Perhaps the biggest reason for the turnaround has been a revitalized Falcons offense under new coordinator Kyle Shanahan. After struggling on the ground for several seasons, they've finally been able to establish their running game thanks to Shanahan's dynamic zone-blocking concepts.
has been the league's breakout star with his physical running style and ability to explode through holes at the line of scrimmage. He has an NFL-best seven rushing touchdowns, becoming the first player in the modern era to score at least three rushing touchdowns in each of his first two starts.
What makes the Falcons' offense so dangerous is that they also mix in an explosive vertical passing game, making them so difficult to gameplan for.and are completely destroying secondaries on Sundays. Despite a relatively quiet day last week against the Houston Texans, Jones still leads the league in receptions (38) and is tied for the most receiving yards (478). Ryan ranks fifth in Total QBR, and has completed 7 of 8 passes targeted 20 yards or more downfield.
Although it's still early, the Falcons right now have to be considered the favorite or co-favorite in the NFC South (along with Carolina) and a legitimate playoff contender. They need a win on Sunday against Washington to show that their 4-0 start is no fluke, and that they're able to take care of the opponents they are supposed to beat.
How to Watch
When: 1 p.m. ET
Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta
Announcers:, Ronde Barber, Jennifer Hale
Online: NFL Game Pass