ATLANTA, DEC. 16 -- Other than the Ricky Sanders-Deion Sanders matchup and the prospect of Gerald Riggs bowling over some of his ex-teammates, the Washington Redskins will be most interested Sunday in Jamie Morris's Watchman. At the same time they play the 3-11 Atlanta Falcons here (4 p.m., WUSA-TV-9), the Los Angeles Rams take on the New York Jets in Anaheim, and the Redskins will either live or die by L.A. A Rams victory would eliminate Washington from the playoff wild card chase. "Go Jets!" punter Ralf Mojsiejenko said. He and other Redskins might want to stay particularly close to running back Morris, who keeps his portable TV in his duffel bag. "We'll be cognizant of the Rams game," quarterback Mark Rypien said, "but if you worry too much about that and not the matter at hand, you can get in trouble." It's all moot if Washington falls to the Falcons, who have an interim coach (Jim Hanifan) and the inside track on next spring's leadoff pick in the college draft (worse-off Dallas forfeited its pick by taking quarterback Steve Walsh last summer). Atlanta actually is playing a fiercer brand of football under Hanifan, who has borrowed every available Knute Rockne technique. Regular coach Marion Campbell saw an inevitable firing coming and retired three weeks ago, but Hanifan entered the locker room the following week carrying a stick of dynamite. He exhorted the team "to be explosive on every play." One by one, the players came up to touch the dynamite before their game against San Francisco and they led the mighty 49ers, 10-6, at halftime. What's more, Joe Montana got hurt. But Steve Young entered, completed 10 straight passes and the Falcons fell, 23-10. Before the next game against Minnesota, Hanifan showed up with three hand grenades -- one each for offense, defense and special teams. The Falcons trailed the Vikings by only three points in the third quarter before everything blew up in their faces, 43-17. This week there's a three-foot disarmed bomb -- painted in Falcons colors -- sitting in their locker room, courtesy of Hanifan's retired Army colonel cousin. "Jim's going to keep doing this until we get the point," a Falcons player said. Atlanta's running game is currently dormant -- on pace to finish with the worst rushing total of the 1980s -- but the team refuses to lament the Riggs trade last draft day. Riggs, having missed four full games and most of three others, still has more rushing yards (728) than his Falcons replacement, John Settle (667). Atlanta has rushed for more than 80 yards only four times this season. Riggs is eager for a full day's work against his old team but must play second fiddle to Earnest Byner, who is surging as a do-it-all runner-receiver. Riggs is pegged to take about 10 to 12 carries. In return for Riggs, the Falcons received Washington's No. 2 pick in 1989 (and drafted tackle Ralph Norwood, who doesn't play) plus the Redskins' No. 1 in 1990 (which should be in the range of 18th overall). Whoever coaches next year's Falcons will have a busload of starting No. 1 picks to work with: cornerback Bobby Butler (1981), offensive lineman Bill Fralic (1985), nose tackle Tony Casillas (1986), linebacker Tim Green (1986), quarterback Chris Miller (1987), linebacker Aundray Bruce (1988), cornerback Sanders (1989) and wide receiver Shawn Collins (1989). But "I won't use that as bait when I'm talking to candidates," General Manager Ken Herock said. The last time Atlanta searched for a head coach it interviewed every big name under the sun -- Dick Vermeil, Terry Donahue, etc. -- and had conversations with Giants Coach Bill Parcells and Denver Coach Dan Reeves. Sentiment remains that the Falcons need a big-name coach to help fill the about-to-be-built Georgia Dome (capacity 70,000). Notre Dame's Lou Holtz has been rumored a candidate. Herock is expected to grant an interview next week to Duke's Steve Spurrier, but Atlanta may hire a current NFL assistant -- maybe 49ers quarterback coach Mike Holmgren or Redskins assistant head coach/offense Joe Bugel. Herock is a former partner of the Raiders' Al Davis, and reportedly consulted Davis about his coaching choice. Considering Davis nearly hired Bugel two years ago and that Bugel and Herock attended high school together, Coach Joe Gibbs may lose his valuable partner. "I think Kenny's probably waiting until after the season," Bugel said today. "Hopefully we'll talk." Atlanta's top rookie, Deion Sanders, will get his first look at Washington's "Posse" and is expected to cover the Redskins' swiftest receiver, Ricky Sanders (no relation). Some believe he has had an ordinary first season, but Sanders leads the Falcons with five interceptions. The defensive system under Campbell was complex and taxing, and Sanders said he still hasn't mastered all the schemes. "I'm the type of guy, I just want to go out there and guard my man and everyone else choose a man and whoever gets beat, they get beat," he said. He was told by Campbell to drop back seven yards and play passive defense. Under Hanifan, he may be pressing receivers at the line. But Sunday could be more of a historic day for Ricky Sanders and his wide receiver partners Art Monk and Gary Clark. Clark has 1,021 receiving yards for the season; Monk needs 14 yards and Sanders 66 to reach 1,000 and form the second such trio on a team. The only group to do it was the Chargers' John Jefferson, Kellen Winslow and Charlie Joiner in 1980. That year, San Diego's play-caller was assistant coach Joe Gibbs. Rypien likes to spread the football around, so Monk and Sanders should have their opportunities. Rypien's resurgence has corresponded with Gibbs's personal challenge to the Posse four weeks ago to carry the team. Rypien has been sharp the past month, but so have the wide receivers. As for the Falcons' passing game, Gibbs said, "Their quarterback {Miller} is more experienced than ours." But Miller is seldom protected. His best offensive lineman, Fralic, will oppose defensive end Charles Mann. His left tackle, veteran Mike Kenn, was tortured last week by Minnesota's Chris Doleman. Before the game, Redskins are sure to huddle at Morris's TV for the score of the 1 p.m. Green Bay-Chicago game. Besides the Rams having to lose twice, the Packers must lose once for Washington to sneak into postseason play. "Hey, we're shooting to be 10-6," Gibbs said today. "It'd be a miracle" to make it, "but one miracle's already happened -- the Rams losing that game to San Francisco Monday night when they led by 17."