We’ve finally reached what is arguably the biggest game on the Falcons’ 2017 regular season schedule. The long-awaited Super Bowl rematch is coming up in just a few days. However, these two teams are clearly quite different than when they last met in February. Atlanta’s historic offense has lost some of its potency, and the team as a whole has been playing sloppy football. Meanwhile, the Patriots’ defense has fallen off a cliff, and the team has been struggling to put away even poor teams at home.
Neither of these teams are at the peak of their powers, but this game is huge for both of them. Let’s take a closer look at how these teams compare statistically.
Points/game: Falcons 24.2 (12th), Patriots 28.7 (5th)
Total yards/game: Falcons 378.4 (5th), Patriots 412.0 (1st)
Yards per play: Falcons 6.2 (2nd), Patriots 6.1 (3rd)
Passing yards/game: Falcons 257.8 (6th), Patriots 309.8 (1st)
Passing yards per attempt: Falcons 8.0 (5th), Patriots 8.4 (T-2nd)
Passing TDs: Falcons 6 (T-26th), Patriots 13 (T-3rd)
Rushing yards/game: Falcons 120.6 (11th), Patriots 102.2 (19th)
Rushing yards per attempt: Falcons 4.8 (T-3rd), Patriots 4.0 (T-19th)
Rushing TDs: Falcons 6 (T-3rd), Patriots 6 (T-3rd)
Third Down Efficiency: Falcons 46% (2nd), Patriots 44% (T-4th)
Turnover Margin: Falcons -4 (27th), Patriots +3 (T-8th)
The Falcons, despite two lackluster performances in a row, are still a very good offense. They’re 5th in total yards and 2nd in yards per play, although they haven’t been as effective in scoring (12th). Atlanta has been effective passing the ball, as they’re 5th in passing yards and 5th in yards per attempt, but T-26th in passing TDs. The Falcons are also a strong running team, as they’re 11th in yards, T-3rd in yards per carry, and T-3rd in rushing TDs. Atlanta has been excellent on third down, as their 46% conversion rate is 2nd in the league, but they’ve struggled mightily in turnover margin (-4, 27th).
New England is among the NFL’s best offenses once again in 2017. The Patriots are 5th in points, 1st in total yards, and 3rd in yards per play. They’re arguably the best passing offense in the league, as they’re 1st in passing yards, T-2nd in yards per attempt, and T-3rd in passing TDs. New England has been less effective rushing the ball, as the team is 19th in rushing yards, T-19th in yards per carry, and T-3rd in rushing TDs. They’ve also been very good on third down (T-4th) and have protected the football well (+3 in turnover margin, T-8th).
Points/game: Falcons 21.8 (15th), Patriots 26.5 (30th)
Total yards/game: Falcons 312.4 (10th), Patriots 440.7 (32nd)
Yards per play: Falcons 4.9 (7th), Patriots 6.6 (32nd)
Passing yards/game: Falcons 210.4 (12th), Patriots 324.8 (32nd)
Passing yards per attempt: Falcons 6.1 (T-4th), Patriots 8.6 (32nd)
Passing TDs: Falcons 7 (T-8th), Patriots 14 (T-31st)
Rushing yards/game: Falcons 102.0 (13th), Patriots 115.8 (20th)
Rushing yards per attempt: Falcons 4.3 (20th), Patriots 4.7 (T-26th)
Rushing TDs: Falcons 2 (T-3rd), Patriots 4 (T-12th)
Third Down Efficiency: Falcons 38% (13th), Patriots 43% (26th)
Sacks: Falcons 12 (T-21st), Patriots 14 (T-15th)
I can’t remember the last time the Falcons dominated the defensive statistics like this, but I guess that’s what happens when you play the worst defense in the NFL. Even so, the Falcons are actually a pretty good defense by several metrics. They’re 15th in scoring, 10th in total yards, and 7th in yards per play. Atlanta has been better against the pass this year, as they’re 12th in passing yards, T-4th in yards per attempt, and T-8th in passing TDs. They’ve struggled some against the run, as the team is 13th in rushing yards and 20th in yards per carry, but they’ve done well keeping RBs out of the end zone (3 rushing TDs allowed, T-3rd). The Falcons defense has been solid on third down (38% conversion rate, 13th) and at generating sacks (12, T-21st).
The Patriots—after finishing the 2016 season ranked 1st in scoring defense—are now officially the worst defense in the NFL by many metrics. New England is 30th in points, 32nd in total yards, and 32nd in yards per play. Their biggest weakness is the passing game, where they’re 32nd in passing yards, 32nd in yards per attempt, and T-31st in passing TDs. The Patriots are a little better against the run, as the team is 20th in rushing yards, T-26th in yards per carry, and T-12th in rushing TDs. They’ve been pretty bad on third down (43% conversion rate, 26th), but have been decent at rushing the passer (14 sacks, T-15th).
All signs point to this being a high-scoring affair in Foxborough. The Falcons have struggled as of late, but then so have the Patriots. The difference is that Atlanta has been playing some of the most formidable defenses in the NFL, whereas the Patriots have struggled to put up big numbers against the likes of the Buccaneers and Jets. New England has a big reputation, and they’ll be at home, but this is the weakest defense the Falcons will face this year.
Atlanta shouldn’t have too much trouble moving the ball and scoring against the Patriots. The biggest factor for the Falcons will be if their defense can slow down Tom Brady and the Patriots’ passing attack, and if Atlanta can limit the turnovers that have plagued them through their first five games. This will be a big test for the Falcons, as they’ll need to prove they can actually play four quarters of football to beat teams like the Patriots.
After playing lousy, uninspired football the last few weeks, we need to see the Falcons come out and play hard in this Super Bowl rematch. Getting a win here would be huge for emotional and practical reasons. Here’s to hoping they don’t disappoint, and steal a road win against the defending champions.
Overall Advantage: Push
What do you think about this match-up? Are you excited or are you dreading the game? Do you have hope that the Falcons can get the win on Sunday Night Football?