With both teams hovering right around the .500 mark, the Washington Commanders will travel down South for a meeting with the Atlanta Falcons, which could be a major inflection point for both sides. Let’s take a look at some Commanders vs. Falcons player props, with young talents Terry McLaurin and Brian Robinson Jr. set to take the field this Sunday.
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The Falcons defense has exceeded expectations in many ways early on this season, but there are still definitely ways to attack them so let’s take a look at who might suffer from the matchup, and who could pick up the slack for Washington.
Brian Robinson Jr. Under 59.5 Rushing Yards (-110 BetMGM)
This one can be approached from quite a few different angles, so let’s start with history. Robinson has actually only cracked this seemingly-low number in two of Washington’s five games thus far. Those two came against the Denver Broncos, one of the worst defenses in the entire league if not the very worst, and the other was against the Buffalo Bills, a stronger unit but one that has underperformed in the run game by most metrics. He was held to just 10 yards by the Chicago Bears, granted he only received six carries in a Chicago blowout, but that’s horrible efficiency against yet another horrible defense.
Another angle is to look at the matchups, as Robinson will be going up against the Falcons this week, and they are one of the better run defense units in the league, if not the very best- which some measures say they are. Rushing defense EPA is one of those, as they rank first there, while they’re top 10 by both run defense DVOA and PFF’s grade. Atlanta is allowing under four yards per carry to opposing backs, so it’s going to be tough for him to pick up yardage. It doesn’t help Robinson’s case that he’ll be running behind a Commanders offensive line that ranks 21st in the league in adjusted line yards, so he won’t be getting much help in terms of opening up good lanes.
Lastly, there’s the script. The spread is a relatively tight one, but the Commanders are road underdogs, and if the Falcons finally start to unlock their offensive potential- which they very easily could against a weak Washington defense- this one could get out of hand quickly, and force Washington to the air. In a game where every yard is going to be hard-earned, and the opportunities don’t appear that they will be plentiful, let’s fade Robinson for another unprolific week.
Terry McLaurin Over 4.5 Receptions (+115 BetMGM)
If the Commanders aren’t able to run the ball, they’ll have to go to the air, especially if they fall behind in this one. This is going to be a much better approach against a Falcons defense that ranks 21st in pass defense EPA and 28th in pass defense DVOA, as compared to those sparkling numbers in run defense.
With the league’s 11th best pressure rate despite the 19th highest blitz rate, the failure falls squarely on the secondary, specifically the cornerbacks. Jessie Bates has been outstanding at safety and Dee Alford has played like a true top corner, but beyond them it’s been a bit of a mess for Atlanta’s defensive backs.
With a solid pass rush coming in but not much of an underneath secondary to contend with, the name of the game is quick, easy completions; get the ball out before you get hit. Sam Howell’s average time to throw of 2.90 seconds isn’t necessarily quick, but he’s happy to throw the ball short; his average depth of target of 8.1 yards is fairly low, as over 60% of his passes are either behind the line of scrimmage, or less than ten yards past it.
So that’s where McLaurin comes in. He’s tied with Jahan Dotson for the team lead in short and intermediate targets with 24 apiece, but McLaurin has snagged 21 of those targets compared to just 16 for Doson. He’s caught over four passes in three of the past four games, so he should continue to have the foremost role in this passing offense. In a game where Washington should be going to the air early and often, look for their best receiver to have a good day, as the solid depth of the Commanders’ passing options should prevent him from getting shadowed.
Joey Slye Over 1.5 Field Goals Made (+120 BetMGM)
As always, this isn’t just about the kicker, but the game flow as well, whether or not he’ll be given the chance to hit these kicks. So, let’s take a look at how the ends of drives might look when Washington’s offense is on the field. The Commanders are actually 11th in the league in red zone percentage, turning 61.11% of their trips inside the 20 into touchdowns this year, up from just over 50% a year ago.
Credit to offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy for orchestrating a nice bump in this category, but they’re about to get a tougher test than they’ve had yet, as that surprisingly-plucky Atlanta defense ranks fifth in the league, allowing under 40% of their opponents’ red zone drives to turn into touchdowns. This dovetails perfectly with the notion that the Commanders should be able to move the football with underneath passes, but might struggle to find the big plays.
In a game where they should be playing from behind but not necessarily by a wide margin, Washington will likely be happy to take field goal opportunities. The question is whether or not Slye will hit them, and he’s been perfect on field goals shorter than 40 yards this year, which all kicks from red zone drives are, so he should be able to convert these chances.