After dispatching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday Night Football, the Atlanta Falcons have had a long week to prepare for the Philadelphia Eagles this weekend.
Atlanta is leading the NFC South and boasts the most dangerous offense in the NFL, but the Falcons defense is still a work in progress. Meanwhile, Philadelphia has an elite front seven on defense but lacks much in the way of offensive firepower.
Who will come away with the victory on Sunday afternoon? For a possible hint, let’s see how these two teams match up by the numbers.
Points/game: Falcons 33.9 (1st), Eagles 25.2 (10th)
Total Yards/game: Falcons 429.2 (2nd), Eagles 333.4 (24th)
Passing Yards/game: Falcons 315.0 (2nd), Eagles 225.6 (27th)
Passing TDs: Falcons 23 (1st), Eagles 9 (T-22nd)
Rushing Yards/game: Falcons 114.2 (10th), Eagles 107.8 (17th)
Rushing TDs: Falcons 9 (T-8th), Eagles 8 (T-13th)
Third Down Efficiency: Falcons 42% (10th), Eagles 33% (31st)
Turnover Margin: Falcons +3 (T-8th), Eagles +6 (5th)
Points/game: Falcons 28.8 (28th), Eagles 18.1 (7th)
Total Yards/game: Falcons 381.1 (26th), Eagles 325.5 (6th)
Passing Yards/game: Falcons 289.9 (31st), Eagles 218.4 (7th)
Passing TDs: Falcons 23 (31st), Eagles 12 (T-14th)
Rushing Yards/game: Falcons 91.2 (7th), Eagles 107.1 (18th)
Rushing TDs: Falcons 7 (T-15th), Eagles 4 (T-3rd)
Third Down Efficiency: Falcons 45% (28th), Eagles 37% (10th)
Sacks: Falcons 20 (T-12th), Eagles 23 (T-5th)
It’s becoming somewhat of a weekly theme: the Falcons dominate the offensive stats and their opponent dominates the defensive stats.
That is holding true this week, as there is no better all-around offense than the Falcons. Atlanta is 1st in points/game, 2nd in total yards, 2nd in passing yards, 1st in passing TDs (23!) and 10th in rushing yards. The Falcons are no worse than 10th in any major stat.
Meanwhile, Philadelphia is a below average offense in most stats aside from points/game (which is likely buoyed by defensive and special teams scoring). They’re downright awful on third down, converting only 33% of their attempts (31st). The Eagles are, however, slightly better than Atlanta in turnover margin at +6 on the year (5th).
On defense, Philadelphia is clearly the better unit. They’re top-10 in points (7th), total yards (6th), passing yards (7th), sacks (T-5th), and rushing TDs allowed (T-3rd). Atlanta is pretty awful in most stats, but particularly so in passing yards (31st) and passing TDs allowed (31st). Atlanta is actually better than Philadelphia in one major stat, however: rushing yards. The Falcons are 7th in the league, while the Eagles are 18th.
This is an interesting match-up on paper, and was once thought to be a showdown between two playoff-caliber teams. The Eagles have struggled over the last few weeks, but they’re still a great team on defense. However, the Falcons have proven that no defense can truly stop them for four quarters, even on the road.
Atlanta will likely try to run the ball early and often to take advantage of the Eagles’ below-average run defense. If they can find success there, the Falcons will use the run to set up play-action against Philadelphia’s weak secondary. Atlanta struggles the most on offense when the run is taken away—if Philadelphia can’t do that, it’s going to be a long day.
Philadelphia will use Darren Sproles in the passing game to take advantage of Atlanta’s weakness against pass-catching backs. Outside of Sproles and perhaps Zach Ertz, however, the Eagles don’t have many options. The Falcons are likely to put up 28+ points, and it will be up to Philadelphia to match or exceed that total.
The numbers seem to favor the Falcons, who have so far found plenty of success against teams that lack strong offenses. Atlanta’s defense isn’t good, but when Matt Ryan and Co. are putting up nearly 34 points a game, they don’t need to be.