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By the Numbers Stats Preview: Seahawks at Falcons

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The divisional round showdown between Atlanta and Seattle is upon us. Who has the edge statistically on offense and defense?

Atlanta Falcons v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

The time has finally come: the Falcons have made the playoffs, and after enjoying a first-round bye, must host the Seattle Seahawks in the Georgia Dome.

Last time these teams met, they produced one of the best games of the season. After the way that game ended, many fans hoped the Falcons would get a chance to set the record straight in the postseason. Well, their chance has arrived.

These teams have come a long way from their first match-up in Week 6. Here is a link to the stats preview the last time these teams played. Since then, Seattle has lost arguably their best defensive player in FS Earl Thomas. Atlanta has since lost star CB Desmond Trufant, but is otherwise healthy heading into the game.

This game is huge for both teams. Let’s see how they match-up by the numbers.

Offense

Total Points/game: Falcons 33.8 (1st), Seahawks 22.1 (18th)
Total Yards/game: Falcons 415.8 (2nd), Seahawks 357.2 (12th)
Passing Yards/game: Falcons 295.3 (3rd), Seahawks 257.8 (10th)
Passing TDs: Falcons 38 (2nd), Seahawks 23 (18th)
Rushing Yards/game: Falcons 120.5 (5th), Seahawks 99.4 (25th)
Rushing TDs: Falcons 20 (T-3rd), Seahawks 13 (T-16th)
Third Down Efficiency: Falcons 42% (11th), Seahawks 38% (16th)
TO Margin: Falcons +11 (T-4th), Seahawks +1 (16th)

Atlanta, as we’ve become strangely accustomed to, dominates the offensive statistics once again. The Falcons are clearly the NFL’s most dangerous offense (1st in scoring, 2nd in total yards), and part of that comes down to balance (3rd in passing, 5th in rushing). They’re above average on third down (11th) and have been one of the best at protecting the football (T-4th in TO margin). To put it plainly, Atlanta’s offense is capable of out-scoring anyone.

Seattle’s offense has improved from earlier in the season, and is now largely a league-average unit. The Seahawks are 18th in scoring and 12th in yards. They’ve been better at passing (10th) than rushing (25th) this year, but looked dominant on the ground against Detroit. They’re about league average on third down (16th) and in turnover margin (16th). Seattle’s unit is good enough to get the job done if the defense plays well, but not good enough to win in a shootout.

Advantage: Falcons

Defense

Total Points/game: Falcons 25.4 (27th), Seahawks 18.2 (3rd)
Total Yards/game: Falcons 371.2 (25th), Seahawks 318.7 (5th)
Passing Yards/game: Falcons 266.7 (28th), Seahawks 225.8 (8th)
Passing TDs: Falcons 31 (28th), Seahawks 16 (3rd)
Rushing Yards/game: Falcons 104.5 (17th), Seahawks 92.9 (7th)
Rushing TDs: Falcons 15 (T-18th), Seahawks 16 (T-22nd)
Third Down Efficiency: Falcons 42% (26th), Seahawks 39% (12th)
Sacks: Falcons 34 (T-16th), Seahawks 42 (T-3rd)

While Atlanta has been improving statistically on defense, they’re still in the bottom-third in most categories. The Falcons are 27th in scoring and 25th in yards. They are worse against the pass (28th) than the run (17th), and have actually allowed fewer rushing TDs than Seattle (15 to 16). Atlanta has improved it’s pass rush, and the Falcons 34 sacks are good for T-16th in the NFL. While the Falcons defense isn’t what anyone would consider “good”, they’re capable of making key stops and creating turnovers.

Seattle is not quite the dominant defense of yesteryear, but they absolutely remain a top-10 defense by almost every metric. They’re top-5 in scoring (3rd), total yards (5th), passing TDs (3rd), and sacks (T-3rd). The Seahawks are also top-10 in passing yards (8th) and rushing yards (7th). This is a quality unit that is still dangerous even with the loss of Earl Thomas.

Advantage: Seahawks

By the way the stats shake out, this looks like a match-up between one of the best offenses and one of the best defenses. But while that is still true, it’s important to look past the numbers as well.

Since Earl Thomas has been out, the Seahawks pass defense is no longer the dominant force it was. Teams are not afraid to throw the ball deep anymore, which puts more pressure on the front seven to get home. This is particularly problematic for Seattle because Matt Ryan has been among the best deep passers in the league this season, and the Falcons’ offense is known for creating explosive plays.

Another big issue for Seattle is the home/road split they’ve displayed towards the end of the season, and historically in the playoffs. The Seahawks have a bad (some might say worst in the NFL) offensive line that is incredibly inexperienced. They’ve struggled badly on the road, and a fired-up home crowd in the Georgia Dome could certainly add to their issues. Seattle is also 4-7 in the divisional round historically, and 1-7 on the road. That doesn’t exactly bode well for them.

Going by the numbers, I’d say the Falcons have a slight edge overall, if only because of the dominance of their offense. If Seattle’s defense doesn’t clamp down on Atlanta’s high-powered attack early, the Seahawks are in danger of getting out-paced. It’s unlikely that Seattle’s offense is capable of putting up 30+ points on the road.

This game very nearly went Atlanta’s way in Week 6, and Seattle was a healthier team then. They were also at home, coming off a bye week. This time around, Atlanta is at home, coming off a bye week, and Atlanta is certainly the healthier team. We should expect a close, hard-fought game, but Atlanta has the edge.

Overall Advantage: Falcons

What do you think about the match-up? Do you feel confident, terrified, or both heading into Saturday’s game?