In case you hadn’t heard, this team is hot. In their last three games they are:
outscoring their opponents 27-12 (that is scoring 6 more pts than their reg season avg and allowing 7 less)
averaging 130 yards rushing (13 more than their reg season avg)
holding opponents to 2.84 YPC (nearly a full yard off their avg)
getting nearly a full yard more per pass attempt than their avg (7.38 vs. 6.60)
holding opponents to 175 yards passing/game (almost 40 yards below their avg)
allowing a microscopic 4.60 YPA (over a yard below their avg)
Wow. That is dominant. They are playing their best football of the season across nearly every aspect of their game.
I noticed one horrible game for Todd Collins when they played the Giants in Week 15. He 9-25 passing the ball. Aha! What did the Giants do to him? Lots of pass pressure, right? Nope, only two sacks. Turns out, there were terrible winds that day (have you heard how wind can effect a passing game recently?). No trail there to follow.
This team is coached by Joe Gibbs, and if you haven’t heard, he likes to run the ball. In fact, the Skins are 5th in the NFL in rushing attempts, but near the bottom in YPC. What does that tell you? Gibbs will not be swayed from running the ball. I was struck by how many times they have run 30 or more times in a game (10). When they rush less than 30 times, their record is 2-4. By contrast, the Hawks have rushed more than 30 times in a game only six times this year, and they are 5-1 in those games. The only loss coming in this last game against the Falcons.
This commitment to the run has helped to keep most of their games close. Eleven of their games have been decided by less than 10 points. Only eight of the Hawks games fall in that category.
By far the biggest difference between their wins and their losses is their rushing yardage. There is a whopping 45 yard difference. The Hawks difference is around 20 yards. The Skins also average about 20 yards more rushing/game on the road. Odd. You might think they do this because Gibbs is more conservative on the road, rushing more often, but in fact, they rush fewer times on the road than at home.
Three of their past four opponents have attempted at least 40 passes in the game. The Redskins are 6-1 in games when their opponents pass 40 times or more. The Hawks are 2-4 when passing 40 times or more in a game this year. That will something to watch.
Being a running team, the Skins are 8-2 when scoring first. Hmm, but the Hawks are 7-2 when scoring first (their second loss coming in the final game). Getting on the board early will be key.
If this gets to be a shootout somehow (not likely), the Hawks have a huge advantage. The Skins have scored more than 23 pts only five times this year compared to 10 times for the Hawks. The Skins are 2-4 when allowing their opponent to score 20 or more pts, and the Hawks are 29-5 over the past three seasons when scoring 20 or more pts.