Here’s a not-so-fun fact you might have already known: The Falcons did a really lousy job of setting up their drives for success in 2017. In fact, they had the worst starting position in football during the regular season, and that only got a little better during the first round of the playoffs.
The Falcons have fallen short on offense for many reasons, but one that looms large is their notoriously poor starting field position. The tweet below is a stark reminder of just how much starting field position has impacted this offense, which put up elite numbers when it came to moving down the field, but frequently stalled out in the red zone.
The #Falcons have had the second worst average starting field position on drives this year. Despite that, they're 1st in average drive duration, 2nd in number of plays per drive, and 3rd in yards per drive pic.twitter.com/nh2LaWWovz— ProFootballReference (@pfref) January 10, 2018
What does that mean against Philadelphia? A lot. The Eagles have a truly fearsome defense keyed by one of the league’s most imposing defensive lines, and thus the Falcons are going to have to fight even harder than usual to push down the field. The more drives that start from the 15 or even 10 yard line versus the 25 or even further downfield, the more acute that struggle is going to become. This is a game where every yard and every point is probably going to matter unless Nick Foles completely implodes, so it’ll be incumbent on the return game to make smart decisions and avoid penalties.
The other half of the coin, of course, is that Atlanta has moved the ball well most of the year. If they can build on their two touchdown, 26 point performance against a very game Rams defense, the upcoming game in Philadelphia probably won’t be their last one of the postseason.