In years past, the Falcons have overcome lackluster defenses lacking physicality by getting lots of turnovers. That hasn’t been true every year, but especially during the Mike Smith era, the best defenses tended to be the ones that came up with opportune interceptions or forced fumbles.
The Falcons of 2017 are a very different story. With somewhere between six-and-eight unlucky interceptions, multiple picks called back due to penalty on the defensive side, and some bad bounces on fumbles, the Falcons have the second-fewest takeaways in the NFL and a very forgettable -4 turnover ratio. That puts them among the league’s worst, tied for 22nd in turnover differential with the likes of Arizona, the New York Giants, and the 49ers.
This is yet another example of how remarkable it is that the Falcons are 9-5 and so close to the playoffs, because none of the things that worked pretty well for them last year are working as well this year. The defense has done an admirable job of holding teams to a limited number of points and the offense has shown stretches of real promise, but this team simply hasn’t looked or felt as good as it did a year ago. The team’s turnover luck changing would help remedy that, and there’s no finer time for that than a game against the Saints that could help shape the division.