The 10-6 Falcons have made the playoffs for the second straight year on the back of an immense defensive improvement. Their opponent, the 11-5 Rams, have rebounded in a major way from an abysmal 2016 season to become the highest scoring offense in the NFL.
These two teams clash on Saturday in Los Angeles, with the winner advancing to the Divisional Round to face either the Vikings or the Eagles. There is a lot riding on this game for both teams, who each have Super Bowl aspirations in a wide-open NFC. Let’s take a closer look at how these two teams compare statistically.
|Points/game||22.1 (15th)||29.9 (1st)|
|Total yards/game||364.8 (8th)||361.5 (10th)|
|Yards per play||5.9 (3rd)||5.8 (6th)|
|Passing yards/game||249.4 (8th)||239.4 (10th)|
|Passing yards per attempt||7.8 (T-4th)||7.8 (T-4th)|
|Passing TDs||21 (T-20th)||28 (T-6th)|
|Rushing yards/game||115.4 (13th)||122.1 (8th)|
|Rushing yards per attempt||4.3 (T-7th)||4.3 (T-7th)|
|Rushing TDs||12 (T-15th)||17 (5th)|
|Third Down Efficiency||45% (1st)||41% (9th)|
|Turnover Margin||-2 (19th)||7 (10th)|
Atlanta had a disappointing offensive season coming off their historic 2016 campaign, but they’re still above-average by nearly every metric. The Falcons are 15th in scoring, 8th in total yards, and 3rd in yards per play. Through the air, the team is 8th in yards, T-4th in yards per attempt, and T-20th in TDs. On the ground, Atlanta is 13th in yards, T-7th in yards per carry, and T-15th in TDs. The Falcons are the best third down offense in the league (45% conversion rate), but have struggled with turnovers this season (-2 margin, 19th).
The Rams are the NFL’s highest scoring offense in 2017 and are one of the most fun to watch. Los Angeles is 1st in scoring, 10th in total yards, and 6th in yards per play. In the passing game, the team is 10th in yards, T-4th in yards per attempt, and T-6th in TDs. On the ground, the Rams are 8th in yards, T-7th in yards per carry, and 5th in TDs. Los Angeles is above-average on third down (41% conversion rate, 9th) and have been effective at protecting the ball (+7 turnover margin, 10th).
|Points/game||19.7 (8th)||20.6 (12th)|
|Total yards/game||318.4 (9th)||339.5 (19th)|
|Yards per play||5.1 (13th)||5.3 (18th)|
|Passing yards/game||214.3 (12th)||217.2 (13th)|
|Passing yards per attempt||6.7 (T-8th)||6.8 (T-12th)|
|Passing TDs||22 (T-12th)||21 (T-10th)|
|Rushing yards/game||104.1 (9th)||122.3 (28th)|
|Rushing yards per attempt||4.1 (T-16th)||4.7 (T-30th)|
|Rushing TDs||9 (T-6th)||15 (T-27th)|
|Third Down Efficiency||38% (16th)||38% (14th)|
|Sacks||39 (T-13th)||48 (4th)|
The Falcons finished the season better than many of us anticipated—they’re a top-10 unit by most metrics. Atlanta is 8th in scoring, 9th in total yards, and 13th in yards per play. In the passing game, the team is 12th in yards, T-8th in yards per attempt, and T-12th in TDs. Against the run, the Falcons are 9th in yards, T-16th in yards per carry, and T-6th in TDs. Atlanta is right around league average on third down (38% conversion rate, 16th) and have been above-average at generating sacks (39, T-13th).
Los Angeles is largely an average to below-average defense. The Rams are currently 12th in scoring, 19th in total yards, and 18th in yards per play. Against the pass, the team is 13th in yards, T-12th in yards per attempt, and T-10th in TDs. Los Angeles has struggled defending the run, as they’re 28th in yards, T-30th in yards per carry, and T-27th in TDs. The Rams are also about average on third down (38% conversion rate, 14th) but have been very good at generating sacks (48, 4th).
This is a tough draw for Atlanta against the highest-scoring offense in the league. However—outside of scoring—the Rams’ offense is actually pretty similar to the Falcons’ offense statistically. Atlanta is even better in several yardage metrics, particularly in yards per play. Without the mistakes and the turnovers, we’d probably see the Falcons much closer to the Rams in scoring.
On defense, the Falcons are clearly the superior unit. Atlanta has really improved their run defense over the last month, and they’ve been tested against some truly fearsome opponents (Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, Christian McCaffrey, and Cam Newton). The pass defense, including the pass rush, has continued to play well and will need to continue to do so if they want to defeat the Rams on Saturday. Los Angeles has been above-average defending the pass, but are quite vulnerable on the ground. That could be the key to an Atlanta victory.
Despite what the oddsmakers say, the Falcons and Rams are actually pretty evenly matched. Atlanta has the better defense and the experience, while the Rams possess an explosive offense and home-field advantage (however small it might be at the Coliseum). The Falcons have a legitimate shot to win this game, but it’ll all depend on which version of the offense shows up. Atlanta must be able to put up points to defeat the Rams.
Overall Advantage: Push
What are your thoughts on this Wild Card match-up? Do you think the Falcons steal the victory on Saturday?