Week 15 is here, and the 8-5 Falcons have yet another primetime match-up—this time on Monday Night Football. That’s actually great for Atlanta, who enjoy a “mini-bye” of sorts coming off a Thursday night game, and their opponent is also arguably the easiest remaining on their schedule. Tampa Bay just fell to 4-9 after a disappointing loss to Detroit, and saw any hope of avoiding a losing season disappear.
Even though the Buccaneers aren’t a playoff contender, they are a divisional opponent and these games always have the potential to be weird. Let’s take a closer look at how Atlanta and Tampa Bay compare statistically after 14 weeks.
|Points/game||22.6 (16th)||20.3 (21st)|
|Total yards/game||363.5 (9th)||353.5 (12th)|
|Yards per play||6.0 (3rd)||5.5 (13th)|
|Passing yards/game||246.6 (12th)||262.0 (6th)|
|Passing yards per attempt||8.0 (T-4th)||7.3 (T-13th)|
|Passing TDs||18 (T-19th)||21 (T-12th)|
|Rushing yards/game||116.8 (11th)||91.5 (T-26th)|
|Rushing yards per attempt||4.4 (T-7th)||3.7 (T-27th)|
|Rushing TDs||11 (T-11th)||6 (T-26th)|
|Third Down Efficiency||46% (1st)||39% (16th)|
|Turnover Margin||-5 (25th)||4 (11th)|
The Falcons have been disappointing on offense in 2017—in large part due to a slew of turnovers—but are still an above-average unit in most respects. Atlanta is 16th in scoring, 9th in total yards, and 3rd in yards per play. Through the air, the team is 12th in yards, T-4th in yards per attempt, and T-19th in passing TDs. The Falcons’ rushing attack is currently 11th in yards, T-7th in yards per carry, and T-11th in TDs. Atlanta is the best third down offense in the league through 14 weeks (46% conversion rate), but turnovers have been their Achilles’ heel (-5 margin, 25th).
Tampa Bay has been a below-average offense overall this season, in part due to some injuries and in part due to poor play. The Bucs are 21st in scoring, 12th in total yards, and 13th in yards per play. They’ve been good in the passing game, as they’re 6th in yards, T-13th in yards per attempt, and T-12th in TDs. Tampa has been miserable on the ground, however, coming in T-26th in yards, T-27th in yards per attempt, and T-26th in TDs. The Bucs have been about average on third down (39% conversion rate, 16th) and have been good at limiting turnovers (+4 margin, 11th).
|Points/game||20.1 (9th)||24 (22nd)|
|Total yards/game||319.8 (7th)||389.3 (31st)|
|Yards per play||5.1 (9th)||6.1 (32nd)|
|Passing yards/game||211.5 (6th)||276.1 (32nd)|
|Passing yards per attempt||6.6 (T-5th)||8.0 (T-30th)|
|Passing TDs||17 (10th)||20 (T-17th)|
|Rushing yards/game||108.3 (12th)||113.2 (17th)|
|Rushing yards per attempt||4.3 (T-23rd)||4.2 (T-17th)|
|Rushing TDs||8 (T-8th)||14 (T-29th)|
|Third Down Efficiency||39% (17th)||48% (32nd)|
|Sacks||34 (T-11th)||17 (32nd)|
The Falcons’ defense has continued their climb into the top-10, which is all the more impressive coming off a game against the Saints’ top-tier offense. Atlanta is currently 9th in scoring, 7th in total yards, and 9th in yards per play. Against the pass, the team is 6th in yards, T-5th in yards per attempt, and 10th in TDs. On the ground, the Falcons are 12th in yards, T-23rd in yards per carry, and T-8th in TDs. Atlanta is average at defending third down (39% conversion rate, 17th) and has been getting to the QB effectively (34 sacks, T-11th).
Tampa Bay, meanwhile, possesses one of the worst defenses in the NFL after 14 weeks. The Buccaneers are 22nd in scoring, 31st in total yards, and 32nd in yards per play. They’ve been at their worst against the pass, as the team is 32nd in yards, T-30th in yards per attempt, and T-17th in TDs. On the ground, Tampa Bay has been merely average: 17th in yards, T-17th in yards per carry, and T-29th in TDs. The Buccaneers are also the worst defense in the league on third down (48% conversion rate) and the worst in the league at generating sacks (17 on the season). #SmittyBall.
Outside of the game being held in Tampa Bay, the Falcons have almost every statistical advantage over the Buccaneers on Monday Night Football. Atlanta’s offense has had more sustained success in virtually every area outside of turnovers, and the Bucs have been struggling mightily over the last few games even with Jameis Winston back under center. On defense, the Falcons dominate the statistics—which is not something I’m used to typing in this column—and we’ve already seen what this offense (namely, Julio) can do to the Bucs’ defense in 2017.
This is by no means an easy game for Atlanta, as division games always have the potential to be weird, but Tampa Bay matches up very poorly with the Falcons in this contest. Atlanta will have extra rest coming off their Thursday night victory over the Saints and are playing with the division crown in mind—Tampa Bay was just officially eliminated from the playoffs. I’m sure the Bucs will play hard on Monday Night Football, but that’s a tough emotional blow to a team that had such high hopes this season.
Add to that the lingering doubt over Bucs’ DT Gerald McCoy’s status—who leads the team in sacks in 2017—and you have a recipe for a very lopsided affair on Monday. Atlanta needs to take this game seriously—it is a primetime game, after all—but the statistics are certainly in the Falcons favor going into this divisional match-up.
Overall Advantage: Falcons
What are your thoughts on how the Falcons and Bucs match-up statistically? Do you foresee a close game or a more one-sided affair?