I love me some numbers, and my numbers tell me something interesting.
With all the talk this year about the Falcons "pick your poison" offense, it would be easy for our defense to fly under the radar. However, Falcons fans were excited when word came down that veteran DC Mike Nolan would be joining the club. It was hoped that he would take this roster of talented, yet underperforming individuals and turn them into a good defense.
And while the defense has had some very good games, I think it's worth comparing them to the defenses that are considered the top defenses in the league. And for my purposes, I'm going to focus on one key statistic: points. I don't care if the opposing offense racks up 500 yards - if they're all for naught because of field goals or interceptions, your defense is doing what it needs to do.
To drill down even further, I'm going to compare our defense to 3 teams that are largely credited with having the best defenses in the league: the Houston Texans, the Chicago Bears and the San Francisco 49ers. On top of that, I'm only going to take into consideration games played against top 12 offenses. Right now, the top 12 offenses in the league (in order of points on the year): Patriots, Texans, Broncos, Bucs, Giants, Saints, Falcons, Redskins, Ravens, Bengals, Lions and Packers. The interesting thing about this list - with the exception of one or two teams, all of these teams are still in the playoff picture.
With those parameters set, let's see how each team has fared against the top 12 scoring teams in the league.
The Texans have played 4 games against top 12 offenses: the Broncos, the Packers, the Ravens and the Lions. Here are the points allowed to each team, along with whether the game was a win or loss:
Denver: 25 (W)
Green Bay: 42 (L)
Baltimore: 13 (W)
Detroit: 31 (W)
Based on those games, the Texans are allowing an average of 27.75 points per game against top offensive teams and they have a 3-1 record.
The Bears have only played 3 games against top 12 offenses: the Packers, the Texans and the Lions.
Green Bay: 23 (L)
Houston: 13 (L)
Detroit: 7 (W)
Based on those games, the Bears are allowing an average of 14.33 points per game against top offensive teams and have a 1-2 record.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers have played 4 games against top 12 offenses: The Packers, the Lions, the Giants and the Saints.
Green Bay: 22 (W)
Detroit: 19 (W)
New York: 26 (L)
New Orleans: 21 (W)
Based on those games the 49ers are allowing an average of 22 points per game against top offensive teams and have a 3-1 record.
The Falcons have played 5 games against top 12 offenses: The Broncos, the Bucs, the Saints (2x) and the Redskins.
Denver: 21 (W)
Washington: 17 (W)
New Orleans: 31 (L)
Tampa Bay: 23 (W)
New Orleans: 13 (W)
Based on those games, the Falcons are allowing an average of 21 points per game against top offensive teams and have a 4-1 record.
Falcons: 4 wins, 1 loss, 21 ppg
Texans: 3 wins, 1 loss, 27.75 ppg
Bears: 1 win, 2 losses, 14.33 ppg
49ers: 3 wins, 1 loss, 22 ppg
Based on this sample set, it's clear that the Falcons not only have a good defense, they have one of the best when going against a top offensive team. In fact, they perform better than the highly vaulted Texans and 49ers defenses, and have a very respectable 4-1 record in those games. While the Bears defense has a better ppg average, it's interesting to note that they only have a 1-2 record against those top teams.
With all the talk about the Falcons new offense, it may be time to shift gears and start paying attention to what our defense has been doing. What do you think? Do you consider this Falcons defense to be one of the better D's in the league?