Prior to the start of this season, I wrote a statistical analysis of the upcoming Atlanta Falcons’ schedule. Since we are now halfway through the season, I thought this would be a good time to review how they have done thus far. As always, the ultimate determination of success is wins and losses. So far, Atlanta is 5-3 on the season, and they appear to be in good shape to finally break through and have consecutive winning seasons for the first time in franchise history. That’s great news for Falcons fans, but I wanted to dig a little deeper into their performance and analyze their performances compared against their opponents’ averages so far this year. On a game by game basis, these numbers can be misleading, but as more games accumulate, I think it will be good indicator as to the quality of the team.
In this post, I will look at Atlanta’s points scored, points allowed, yards gained, yards allowed, passing yards gained and allowed, and rushing yards gained and allowed. I will compare these numbers with the corresponding averages of their opponents. For example, Atlanta’s points scored for a game will be compared with the opponent’s average points allowed so far this season. Before getting into the individual components, here is a list of the Falcons’ schedule so far this season, with the high level statistics for each game included.
|New England Patriots||10||26||257||199||58||1||445||277||168||0|
|San Francisco 49ers||45||10||477||329||148||2||279||179||100||3|
|New Orleans Saints||27||35||442||281||161||3||437||291||146||4|
It’s interesting to note that although the Falcons have a winning record, they have been outgained overall this season by their opponents. They have offset that with a +4 in the turnover department. They are 5-1 in games where they have won or tied the turnover battle, with the only loss coming at New Orleans. Having perused these numbers, let’s take a look at the comparisons. First, we have the table comparing the Falcons’ points scored and allowed with the corresponding opponents’ averages.
|Atl Pts||Opp D||Opp Pts||Opp O|
|Opp||Score||Avg Pt||Diff||Score||Avg Pt||Diff|
|New England Patriots||10||14.38||-4.38||26||28.13||-2.13|
|San Francisco 49ers||45||21.75||23.25||10||21.75||-11.75|
|New Orleans Saints||27||21.75||5.25||35||37.88||-2.88|
Next is the comparison of total yards.
|Atl Yds||Opp D||Opp Yds||Opp O|
|Opp||Gained||Avg Yd||Diff||Gained||Avg Yd||Diff|
|New England Patriots||257||291.75||-34.75||445||409.25||35.75|
|San Francisco 49ers||477||334.25||142.75||279||285.63||-6.63|
|New Orleans Saints||442||331.63||110.38||437||426.88||10.13|
Then, the comparison of passing yards.
|Atl P-Yd||Opp D||Opp P-Yd||Opp O|
|Opp||Gained||Avg Pa||Diff||Gained||Avg Pa||Diff|
|New England Patriots||199||179.38||19.63||277||295||-18|
|San Francisco 49ers||329||241||88||179||184.25||-5.25|
|New Orleans Saints||281||219.5||61.5||291||282.25||8.75|
And, finally, the comparison of rushing yards.
|Atl R-Yd||Opp D||Opp R-Yd||Opp O|
|Opp||Gained||Avg Ru||Diff||Gained||Avg Ru||Diff|
|New England Patriots||58||112.38||-54.38||168||114.25||53.75|
|San Francisco 49ers||148||93.25||54.75||100||101.38||-1.38|
|New Orleans Saints||161||112.13||48.88||146||144.63||1.38|
In each table, the first column shows the Falcons’ offensive output, the second column is the opponent’s defensive average allowed, and the third column is the difference of the first column minus the second. The fourth, fifth, and sixth columns show the opponents’ offensive output, their offensive averages and the difference of the fourth minus the fifth. So, a positive number in column three is good for Atlanta, while a negative number in column six is good for them. Finally, the bottom row of each of these tables shows the sum of columns three and six. This way, we can tell of the net result of the differences between the Falcons’ actual numbers and the opponents’ averages are positive or negative.
Looking at the first table, as we’d expect from a team with a winning record, the Falcons have a net sum of scoring more points than their opponents average allowing. They also allow fewer points than the average of their opponents so far this season. In total yards gained, they both gain more and allow more than the averages of their opponents. When looking at their passing and rushing numbers, the rushing offense and defense appear to be the strengths of this team. Although earlier in the season, there was some talk of Michael Turner struggling, the rushing game has outperformed the opponents’ defensive averages more than the passing game. And, defensively, the rushing defense has greatly outperformed the pass defense. This may be a reflection of some games where they had an early lead, requiring opponents to pass more. But, since they have a much tougher schedule this year than last, I think some of Turner’s struggles are influenced by the tougher competition as well.
From these numbers, it looks like the main strength of the team is still the offense. But, at the same time, the defense is getting the needed stops. The last two years, the Falcons defense has seemed to epitomize “bend but don’t break.” So, I do think that they will be a good team this year, but as we’ve already seen, they struggle to stop the elite offenses. Those teams don’t make the same types of mistakes that allow the Falcons to get those timely stops against the next tier of competition and lesser competition. I still think that this will be a playoff team, but it may be a year or two away from being a championship contender.