Falcons game not considered a must-win to Ron Rivera and WFT, but it should be

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Falcons game not must-win to Rivera and WFT, but it should be originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Coming off a brutal blowout loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, the Washington Football Team will travel to Atlanta for its Week 4 matchup against the beatable Falcons.

Atlanta notched its first win of the season over the New York Giants in Week 3 courtesy of a last-second field goal, but the Falcons' offense has looked abysmal through three weeks. Additionally, its defense has given up 94 points through three games, the second-worst mark in the NFL.

For Washington, a team with playoff aspirations, Week 4 seems like a game that it must win to get back on track. However, head coach Ron Rivera wouldn't go that far.

"No, I don't [think it's must-win]. There's plenty of football games left to play," Rivera said on Sports Junkies on Tuesday.

"After this week, there's still 13 games," Rivera said. "And then as far as I'm concerned, it's just one at a time. It's one at a time, when you start focusing and worrying about what you have to do, what you got to do, what you must do, you have a lot of stress on yourself."

Rivera is not wrong in his assessment that the season has yet to reach the quarter mark. He's also correct that it'd be foolish to look further than one week ahead, especially when this week's game is by no means a cakewalk for Washington.

But, when looking at the opportunity Washington has in Week 4 against Atlanta from a bird's eye view, the matchup suddenly feels a lot more pivotal.

After the Falcons, Washington hosts a New Orleans Saints team that dominated Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in Week 1. Then, Washington faces the Kansas City Chiefs, Green Bay, and the currently undefeated Denver Broncos before a Week 9 bye. All of those opponents are tougher than Atlanta. The opportunities for wins are harder to come by against a first-place schedule one year after winning the NFC East. 

Things don't get any easier after that, either, as Washington's next four games go as follows: home vs. Tampa Bay, at Carolina, home vs. Seattle, at Las Vegas. Through three weeks, those four clubs are a combined 9-3. 

When Washington's schedule came out -- one that features a gauntlet of elite quarterbacks -- the thinking was that the Burgundy and Gold would just have to stay afloat through the first three-quarters of the year before ending the season with a five-game NFC East stretch. 

In order to do that, Washington can't afford to lose games it should expect to win. They already missed out on a winnable game against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 1 and can't have a repeat of such this Sunday in Atlanta.

While Rivera wouldn't go as far as calling Sunday's game against the Falcons a "must-win," the head coach did say his team must come out with a stronger start after its tough Week 3 defeat.

"To me, I think this is a game you have to play with urgency," Rivera said. "I think you have to understand that every opportunity you get, you got to take advantage of it."

Washington has a golden opportunity this week to get back in the win column against Atlanta. For now, that's all Rivera and his staff is focused on.

"You got to go out there and you got to want to play hard. You've got to go out and you've got to want to win. That's the way we have to approach things," Rivera said. "I don't want to get caught up in all that other stuff. Again, last year we talked about it, let's focus in on what's important. What's important is we're playing Atlanta."