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Falcons vs. Bears: By the Numbers stats preview

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The Falcons open the season against the Bears on Sunday. How do these two teams compare statistically?

Chicago Bears v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Opening day is so close I can almost taste the beer. By the time you’re reading this, we’ll be less than 24 hours away from the Falcons taking the field against the Bears in some Week 1 action. I will not even attempt to conceal my excitement—football is back, baby!

This match-up is actually a bit more interesting than many make it out to be. The Falcons shouldn’t look past the Bears, as this team has legitimate talent in their front-7 and in their interior offensive line. The Falcons, obviously, have a stacked roster that is probably even better than the 2016 version. Even so, Chicago will be looking to play spoiler this weekend at Soldier Field.

Let’s take a look at how these two teams compare statistically. All stats are based on the 2016 season, but this is the last time I’ll have to do that!


OFFENSE

Points/game: Falcons 33.8 (1st), Bears 17.4 (T-28th)
Total yards/game: Falcons 415.8 (2nd), Bears 356.5 (15th)
Passing yards/game: Falcons 295.3 (3rd), Bears 248.1 (14th)
Passing TDs: Falcons 38 (T-2nd), Bears 19 (24th)
Rushing yards/game: Falcons 120.5 (5th), Bears 108.4 (17th)
Rushing TDs: Falcons 20 (T-3rd), Bears 10 (T-22nd)
Third Down Efficiency: Falcons 42% (11th), Bears 38% (21st)
Turnover Margin: Falcons +11 (5th), Bears -20 (32nd)

Well, this is officially the last time I’ll type out these lovely, marvelous Falcons offensive stats. The 33.8 points/game that Atlanta put up in 2016 were historic and awesome. Only one stat was outside the top-5, and that was third down efficiency (11th). The Falcons were balanced and downright unstoppable at times (2nd in total yards, 3rd in passing, 5th in rushing). They were also very good at protecting the ball, with a +11 turnover margin (5th).

The Bears offense was something of a curious case. In some areas (total yards, passing yards, rushing yards) they were about league average. In others, they were well below-average. Unfortunately, the one that really matters is points, and Chicago was T-28th in the NFL with only 17.4 per game. Part of that was likely related to their league-worst turnover margin, where the Bears were a catastrophic -20. This was a team that moved the ball fairly well, but simply couldn’t capitalize in 2016.

Advantage: Falcons


DEFENSE

Points/game: Falcons 25.4 (27th), Bears 24.9 (24th)
Total yards/game: Falcons 371.2 (25th), Bears 346.8 (15th)
Passing yards/game: Falcons 266.7 (28th), Bears 224.9 (7th)
Passing TDs: Falcons 31 (28th), Bears 22 (T-11th)
Rushing yards/game: Falcons 104.5 (17th), Bears 121.9 (27th)
Rushing TDs: Falcons 15 (T-18th), Bears 18 (T-25th)
Third Down Efficiency: Falcons 42% (26th), Bears 40% (22nd)
Sacks: Falcons 34 (T-16th), Bears 37 (12th)

On the other hand, I’m quite ready to move on from typing out these uninspiring Falcons defensive statistics. Although the defense looked better than these numbers at times, the fact remains that Atlanta was well below-average in most respects during the 2016 season. They were 27th in points, 25th in total yards, and 26th in third down efficiency. The Falcons were better against the run (17th in yards, T-18th in TDs) and at sacking the QB (T-16th), but there is a lot of room for improvement in 2017.

Meanwhile, the Bears’ defense was also a bit of an enigma last season. They were about league-average in total yards (15th), but below-average in scoring (24th). Chicago was actually pretty good against the pass (7th in yards, T-11th in TDs, 12th in sacks) in 2016, but simply couldn’t stop the run (27th in yards, T-25th in TDs). They were also below-average on third downs (22nd). The fact that the Bears’ offense turned the ball over so much probably didn’t help in this regard. Still, these numbers are better than Atlanta’s everywhere except against the run.

Advantage: Bears


The stats confirm, in most respects, what we already knew: this game could be a lopsided affair, particularly on offense. But there are a few important things to keep in mind—namely, that these stats are from 2016, and these two teams will be different in 2017. The Bears were absolutely ravaged by injuries last season, and were forced to start somebody named Matt Barkley at QB. Atlanta also appears to have improved their roster, particularly the defense, measurably from 2016.

Still, there’s no doubt that Chicago will have their hands full in this game. The Bears’ secondary will be tested early and often with the news that starting CB Prince Amukamara will be out—and the unit wasn’t exactly stellar to begin with. The passing game is helmed by journeyman QB Mike Glennon, and the #1 WR is a still-unproven Kevin White. There aren’t many weapons there, which means that the Bears could be in trouble if the Falcons get out to an early lead.

The Bears’ gameplan will be to pound the rock early and often to keep Ryan and the Atlanta offense off the field for as long as possible. It’ll be up to the Falcons’ defense to shut down the rushing attack and prevent Chicago from rattling off long drives to bleed the clock. The Falcons, meanwhile, will try to attack the Bears defense early and aggressively. Atlanta knows that a two-score lead might be insurmountable for a Bears offense that isn’t particularly explosive.

Overall, it’s easy to see that the Falcons have the advantage here. Still, the Bears have a chance to make this one interesting if they can control the clock and find success in the ground game. Chicago’s front-7 will be the big factor here: if they can’t get pressure on Ryan, he’ll toast that secondary all day long.

Overall Advantage: Falcons


What are your thoughts on the game? How do these teams match-up in your eyes? Any particular positional battles that you’ll be watching on Sunday?