The second game against the Saints has come. Atlanta will travel to New Orleans on Sunday to attempt to pull off the sweep over their archrival. A win on Sunday almost assuredly gets the Falcons a wild card berth and gives them an opportunity to play for the division crown against the Panthers in Week 17. It also, of course, gets them a victory against the Saints—which is always good no matter the playoff implications.
In preparation for the game, let’s take a look at how the Falcons and Saints compare statistically.
|Points/game||22.7 (15th)||28.6 (3rd)|
|Total yards/game||366.8 (9th)||401.5 (1st)|
|Yards per play||6.0 (4th)||6.4 (1st)|
|Passing yards/game||243.9 (10th)||266.4 (4th)|
|Passing yards per attempt||7.9 (5th)||8.1 (T-1st)|
|Passing TDs||19 (T-20th)||21 (T-15th)|
|Rushing yards/game||122.9 (8th)||135.1 (5th)|
|Rushing yards per attempt||4.5 (T-5th)||4.9 (T-1st)|
|Rushing TDs||12 (T-12th)||21 (1st)|
|Third Down Efficiency||48% (1st)||38% (19th)|
|Turnover Margin||-4 (T-22nd)||4 (T-10th)|
The Falcons’ offense has continued its up-and-down season and remains a borderline top-10 unit. Atlanta is 15th in scoring, 9th in total yards, and 4th in yards per play. Through the air, the team is 10th in yards, 5th in yards per attempt, and T-20th in TDs. On the ground, the Falcons are 8th in yards, T-5th in yards per carry, and T-12th in TDs. Atlanta is, somehow, the best offense on third down situations (48% conversion rate), but they’re also -4 in turnover margin (T-22nd).
New Orleans is arguably the best offense in the league—they are well balanced and have only a few weak points. The Saints are 3rd in scoring, 1st in total yards, and 1st in yards per play. In the passing game, the team is 4th in yards, T-1st in yards per attempt, and T-15th in TDs. On the ground, New Orleans is 5th in yards, T-1st in yards per carry, and 1st in TDs. The Saints have struggled at times on third down, with only a 38% conversion rate (19th). They’ve also been effective at protecting the ball, with a +4 turnover margin (T-10th).
|Points/game||20.1 (T-9th)||20.1 (T-9th)|
|Total yards/game||323.6 (9th)||328.4 (11th)|
|Yards per play||5.2 (13th)||5.3 (20th)|
|Passing yards/game||217.1 (12th)||213.4 (7th)|
|Passing yards per attempt||6.7 (T-6th)||6.9 (T-14th)|
|Passing TDs||20 (T-12th)||20 (T-12th)|
|Rushing yards/game||106.6 (9th)||115.0 (18th)|
|Rushing yards per attempt||4.3 (T-21st)||4.5 (T-28th)|
|Rushing TDs||8 (T-8th)||9 (T-10th)|
|Third Down Efficiency||40% (T-18th)||40% (T-18th)|
|Sacks||36 (T-10th)||35 (T-13th)|
Atlanta’s defense, despite a relatively lackluster showing against the Bucs, remains a borderline top-10 unit. The Falcons are T-9th in scoring, 9th in total yards, and 13th in yards per play. Against the pass, the team is 12th in yards, T-6th in yards per attempt, and T-12th in TDs. On the ground, Atlanta is 9th in yards, T-21st in yards per carry, and T-8th in TDs. The Falcons have been average on third down (T-18th) and have been good at getting to the QB (36 sacks, T-10th).
The Saints’ defense is much better than it has been in years past, but still has a number of vulnerabilities. New Orleans is T-9th in scoring, 11th in total yards, and 20th in yards per play. In the passing game, the team is 7th in yards, T-14th in yards per attempt, and T-12th in TDs. Against the rush, the Saints are 18th in yards per game, T-28th in yards per carry, and T-10th in TDs. New Orleans is about average on third down (40%, T-18th) and have been above average at getting to the QB (35 sacks, T-13th).
This is shaping up to be another hard-fought battle between two bitter rivals. The Falcons got the best of the Saints on Thursday Night Football, but can they do it again on the road? Atlanta’s defense will need to have another excellent game, and the offense—particularly the passing game—will have to break out of the funk they’ve been in over the past two weeks.
The secret to beating the Saints is the same one that the Falcons used a few weeks back: wear out the New Orleans’ defense with long, sustained drives and force their offense to convert third downs. Despite the Saints’ strength at both running and passing the ball, they’ve struggled mightily on third downs in 2017. A heavy dose of Freeman and Coleman will be in order to help keep Atlanta’s defense fresh.
This game really is a toss-up, and will be even harder on the road. The Saints have already talked about how they view this as a “playoff game”, so the Falcons should expect the Superdome to be loud and rowdy all game long. It could go either way, but it’d be mighty impressive to see Atlanta pull off the sweep over New Orleans.
Overall Advantage: Push
What are your thoughts on the game? Do you think the Falcons emerge victorious on Sunday? What are some match-ups that you’ll be watching closely?