Checking the Atlanta Falcons Numbers Halfway Through the Season

Redskins Falcons Football

AP Photo/Erik S. Lesser

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.


Score Score Offense Offense Offense Offense Defense Defense Defense Defense
Opp Tm Opp TotYd PassY RushY TO TotYd PassY RushY TO
Miami Dolphins 19 7 281 213 68 0 259 163 96 4
Carolina Panthers 28 20 371 220 151 2 440 296 144 2
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
Chicago Bears 21 14 253 185 68 2 373 290 83 3
Dallas Cowboys 21 37 298 174 124 3 414 299 115 1
New Orleans Saints 27 35 442 281 161 3 437 291 146 4
Washington Redskins 31 17 306 125 181 1 312 176 136 1
Total 202 166 2685 1726 959 14 2959 1971 988 18

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
Miami Dolphins 19 25.5 -6.5 7 24.13 -17.13
Carolina Panthers 28 24.5 3.5 20 18.5 1.5
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
Chicago Bears 21 23.88 -2.88 14 22.5 -8.5
Dallas Cowboys 21 19 2 37 27.13 9.88
New Orleans Saints 27 21.75 5.25 35 37.88 -2.88
Washington Redskins 31 19.25 11.75 17 14.13 2.88
Sum Difference - - 32 - - -28.13

Next is the comparison of total yards. 


Atl Yds Opp D
Opp Yds Opp O
Opp Gained Avg Yd Diff Gained Avg Yd Diff
Miami Dolphins 281 341.38 -60.38 259 309 -50
Carolina Panthers 371 303.88 67.13 440 325.13 114.88
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
Chicago Bears 253 326 -73 373 332.38 40.63
Dallas Cowboys 298 336.5 -38.5 414 404.5 9.5
New Orleans Saints 442 331.63 110.38 437 426.88 10.13
Washington Redskins 306 286.25 19.75 312 298 14
Sum Difference - - 133.38 - - 168.25

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
Miami Dolphins 213 246.88 -33.88 163 158.13 4.88
Carolina Panthers 220 181.75 38.25 296 172.13 123.88
New England Patriots 199 179.38 19.63 277 295 -18
San Francisco 49ers 329 241 88 179 184.25 -5.25
Chicago Bears 185 206.5 -21.5 290 241.88 48.13
Dallas Cowboys 174 233.5 -59.5 299 265.88 33.13
New Orleans Saints 281 219.5 61.5 291 282.25 8.75
Washington Redskins 125 159.88 -34.88 176 199.25 -23.25
Sum Difference - - 57.63 - - 172.25

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
Miami Dolphins 68 94.5 -26.5 96 150.88 -54.88
Carolina Panthers 151 122.13 28.88 144 153 -9
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
Chicago Bears 68 119.5 -51.5 83 90.5 -7.5
Dallas Cowboys 124 103 21 115 138.63 -23.63
New Orleans Saints 161 112.13 48.88 146 144.63 1.38
Washington Redskins 181 126.38 54.63 136 98.75 37.25
Sum Difference - - 75.75 - - -4

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.

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