The first primetime game of the Falcons’ 2017 season is here. Atlanta takes on Green Bay in what could very well be a preview of a future playoff game. This should be a great match-up between two contenders with high-powered offenses and improving defenses. I’m excited, I hope you’re excited too.
We’re officially moving on to using 2017 stats to preview these two teams. Keep in mind, these stats are based on one game. That creates some very strange and high/low numbers, because they haven’t been averaged at all. These numbers are subject to change quite a bit until about halfway through the season, when they’ll begin to fluctuate much less and trends begin to appear.
Without further adieu, let’s see how the Falcons and Packers compare statistically.
Points/game: Falcons 23 (T-10th), Packers 17 (T-20th)
Total yards/game: Falcons 372.0 (6th), Packers 370.0 (8th)
Passing yards/game: Falcons 308.0 (4th), Packers 286.0 (6th)
Passing TDs: Falcons 1 (T-11th), Packers 1 (T-11th)
Rushing yards/game: Falcons 64.0 (T-19th), Packers 84.0 (15th)
Rushing TDs: Falcons 1 (T-4th), Packers 1 (T-4th)
Third Down Efficiency: Falcons 46% (10th), Packers 56% (3rd)
Turnover Margin: Falcons 0 (T-10th), Packers 0 (T-10th)
Despite what was a largely lackluster performance in Week 1, the Falcons are a top-10 offense in every category but one. They’re T-10th in points and 6th in total yards. Atlanta was much more effective throwing the ball (4th) than rushing (T-19th). The Falcons were effective on third downs, converting 46% (10th) against the Bears. They were also an even 0 in turnover margin, making them T-10th in the NFL.
The Packers were an up-and-down offense in Week 1 against the Seahawks. They were T-20th in points, but 8th in total yardage. They were also more effective passing the ball (6th) than running (15th). Somehow, Green Bay converted an absurd 56% of their third down attempts. How you manage a stat like that and only score 17 points blows my mind. Like the Falcons, they’re an even 0 in turnover margin (T-10th).
Points/game: Falcons 17 (T-10th), Packers 9 (T-5th)
Total yards/game: Falcons 301.0 (15th), Packers 225.0 (T-5th)
Passing yards/game: Falcons 176.0 (T-9th), Packers 135.0 (3rd)
Passing TDs: Falcons 1 (T-9th), Packers 0 (T-1st)
Rushing yards/game: Falcons 125.0 (24th), Packers 90.0 (17th)
Rushing TDs: Falcons 1 (T-16th), Packers 0 (T-1st)
Third Down Efficiency: Falcons 38% (T-16th), Packers 25% (T-3rd)
Sacks: Falcons 4 (T-4th), Packers 3 (T-11th)
Don’t look now, but the Falcons are currently (tied for) a top-10 defense in scoring. I don’t care if it’s only one week—I will cherish it forever. Atlanta is actually above average in every defensive statistic but one: rushing yardage (24th). They’re 15th in total yards, T-9th in passing yards, T-9th in passing TDs, and T-16th in rushing TDs. The Falcons were also about league average on third downs (38%, T-16th). Where Atlanta really excelled in Week 1 was in pressuring the QB—their 4 sacks are good for T-4th in the NFL.
The Packers had a very good debut performance on defense. Green Bay effectively shut down Seattle’s offense throughout the game, holding them to 9 points (T-5th). The Packers were also among the best in the league in total yards (T-5th), passing yards (3rd) and passing/rushing TDs (both 0, both T-1st). They were also exceptional on third down, holding the Seahawks to a 25% conversion rate (T-3rd). Where Green Bay was less dominant was against the run (17th) and in sacks (T-11th).
Week 1 is notorious for being a poor predictor of a team’s performance throughout the season. Both the Falcons and Packers—teams that are almost universally thought of as NFC contenders in 2017—struggled in their respective debuts. However, both managed to find ways to win despite sub-par performances at various points in their games.
Both teams appeared to have difficulty against what should be two good defenses in 2017. The Falcons defense looked good through most of the game, but was clearly taken by surprise by the rookie Tarik Cohen. Green Bay’s defense was dominant against Seattle, but it’s hard to say if that has more to do with the defense or with the Seahawks’ OL.
We can’t ignore either performance, but a one-game sample size isn’t enough to make confident statements. With that in mind, I’ll say that I think both offenses are better than their debut performances. I also believe both defenses are better than their 2016 counterparts. This game should tell us a lot about both teams.
The stats tell us this is likely to be a very close match-up. The tiebreaker is home-field advantage, which I think the Falcons will take advantage of. Atlanta will be breaking in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in style, and that crowd will be rocking. Therefore, I give the slight advantage to the Falcons.
Overall Advantage: Falcons
What are your thoughts on the Falcons and Packers SNF match-up? Any particular position groups you’ll be watching closely? Thoughts on how these two teams stack up statistically?