The Falcons (1-4) take on the Buccaneers (2-2) on Sunday in what is a must-win game if Atlanta wants to keep any hope at a miraculous playoff run alive. For once, things actually appear to be favorable for the Falcons: Tampa Bay has been struggling mightily on defense, and they are going through a bit of a QB controversy after Ryan Fitzpatrick was benched for Jameis Winston. Hopefully, Atlanta can turn all that into a victory in Week 6—but those have been extremely hard to come by in 2018.
Let’s take a closer look at how the Falcons and Bucs compare statistically on offense and defense.
|Points/game||23.5 (15th)||17.9 (27th)|
|Total yards/game||370.3 (11th)||344.8 (20th)|
|Yards per play||5.5 (15th)||5.4 (18th)|
|Passing yards/game||288.9 (4th)||235.8 (14th)|
|Passing yards per attempt||7.4 (T-14th)||6.8 (T-18th)|
|Passing TDs||27 (T-5th)||20 (T-19th)|
|Rushing yards/game||81.4 (30th)||109.0 (15th)|
|Rushing yards per attempt||3.7 (T-26th)||4.5 (T-11th)|
|Rushing TDs||8 (T-23rd)||3 (32nd)|
|Third Down Efficiency||42% (14th)||33% (28th)|
|Turnover Margin||-6 (25th)||-3 (20th)|
The Falcons offense took a significant hit in Week 5, dropping to the fringe of the top 10 in most statistics. Atlanta is T-9th in total points, 9th in total yards, and 6th in yards per play. In the passing game, the team is 6th in yards, 6th in yards per attempt, and T-8th in passing TDs. On the ground, the Falcons have struggled since that great Week 5 performance: they’re currently 26th in yards, T-22nd in yards per carry, and T-4th in rushing TDs. Atlanta has been great on third down, with a 47% success rate that ranks 2nd in the NFL. They’re also protecting the football well, with a +2 turnover margin through five games (good for 9th).
Tampa Bay had an explosive start to the season on offense, and that has kept them near the top of the statistics despite a very rough outing against the Bears. The Buccaneers are 6th in total points, 1st in total yards, and 2nd in yards per play. Through the air, the team is 3rd in yards, 2nd in yards per attempt, and T-3rd in passing TDs. Tampa Bay has been abysmal running the ball thus far, as they’re 30th in yards, dead last in yards per carry, and T-28th in rushing TDs with only one on the season. The Bucs have been about average on third down, with a 41% success rate. The team has struggled mightily with turnovers, with a -4 margin through only four games.
|Points/game||26.1 (25th)||25.2 (23rd)|
|Total yards/game||362.6 (20th)||372.4 (24th)|
|Yards per play||5.8 (21st)||6.0 (28th)|
|Passing yards/game||253.7 (23rd)||232.3 (14th)|
|Passing yards per attempt||7.8 (T-24th)||7.9 (26th)|
|Passing TDs||25 (22nd)||21 (T-15th)|
|Rushing yards/game||108.9 (16th)||140.1 (29th)|
|Rushing yards per attempt||4.1 (T-10th)||5.1 (31st)|
|Rushing TDs||13 (T-20th)||19 (31st)|
|Third Down Efficiency||43% (24th)||41% (22nd)|
|Sacks||24 (T-29th)||43 (T-5th)|
We all know how bad the Falcons have looked on defense since losing Keanu Neal, Deion Jones, and Ricardo Allen in a span of three weeks. Atlanta is 31st in scoring defense, 28th in total yards allowed, and 24th in yards per play allowed. Against the pass, the team is T-23rd in yards, T-14th in yards per attempt, and T-28th in passing TDs allowed. In run defense, the Falcons are 25th in yards, T-27th in yards per carry, and T-31st in rushing TDs allowed. Atlanta is worst in the league on third down, allowing a 55% conversion rate. They’ve also been among the worst in the league at generating sacks, with only 8 through five games (T-27th).
The Buccaneers somehow have an even worse defense than the Falcons, and they don’t have the injury excuses either. Tampa Bay is last in scoring defense, 31st in total yards allowed, and last in yards per play. The team is the worst in the league against the pass: 32nd in yards, 32nd in yards per attempt (a whopping 9.4!), and T-31st in passing TDs allowed. Against the run, the Buccaneers are much better: they’re 4th in yards, T-7th in yards per carry, and T-13th in rushing TDs allowed. Tampa Bay has somehow been above average on third down, allowing only a 37% success rate—however, they’ve been among the worst at generating sacks, with only 8 through four games (T-27th).
The Falcons have historically played quite well offensively against the Buccaneers, but they’ve struggled to stop Jameis Winston and Co. on defense. That trend should continue to play out on Sunday in what could be the highest scoring game of Week 6. Atlanta is slightly behind Tampa Bay in the offensive statistics, but there is a certain element of unpredictability now that the offense has Winston back at the helm. Will they be able to replicate their early season production? Long-term, I think no. Against this Falcons’ defense, it’s entirely possible.
We can expect the offense to put on a show against a Buccaneers’ defense which is legitimately the worst in the NFL. Atlanta’s defense has to stabilize at some point, but much of that will come down to the coaching staff’s willingness to make some personnel changes. Jordan Richards simply cannot be allowed to start at SS, and it might be time to put in the veteran LB Bruce Carter to help the defense communicate. If the team makes those changes, I think we’ll see the defense play a little bit better. That, combined with home field advantage, gives the Falcons the narrow advantage in this game.
Overall Advantage: Falcons
How do you think the Falcons and Buccaneers compare statistically? Any particular matchups you’ll be watching during Sunday’s game?