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By the Numbers stats preview: Falcons vs. Steelers

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The Falcons (1-3) take on the Steelers (1-2-1) in what is shaping up to be a must-win game for both teams. How do Atlanta and Pittsburgh compare statistically on offense and defense heading into Week 5?

Atlanta Falcons v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Week 5 is here, and the Falcons are in a really tough spot. Sitting at 1-3, Atlanta’s playoff chances rest on this week’s road matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers (1-2-1). Both of these teams are in desperate straits, and both appear to be suffering from the same issues: a defense that is losing them games despite elite offensive production. The winner of this game keeps hope alive—for now—while the loser likely has to re-evaluate their season.

Let’s take a closer look at how Atlanta and Pittsburgh matchup statistically on offense and defense heading into Week 5.

OFFENSE

Statistic Falcons Steelers
Statistic Falcons Steelers
Points/game 29.0 (6th) 25.5 (T-11th)
Total yards/game 410.8 (7th) 411.0 (6th)
Yards per play 6.5 (4th) 6.0 (10th)
Passing yards/game 314.8 (6th) 338.8 (3rd)
Passing yards per attempt 9.1 (3rd) 7.6 (12th)
Passing TDs 10 (T-8th) 8 (T-11th)
Rushing yards/game 96.0 (21st) 72.2 (29th)
Rushing yards per attempt 4.0 (T-19th) 3.6 (T-25th)
Rushing TDs 4 (T-6th) 4 (T-6th)
Third Down Efficiency 48% (4th) 31% (28th)
Turnover Margin 2 (10th) -2 (20th)

The Falcons have been among the NFL’s best offenses in 2018, but that hasn’t translated to many wins thus far. Atlanta is 6th in total points, 7th in total yards, and 4th in yards per play. In the passing game, the team is 6th in yards, 3rd in yards per attempt, and T-8th in passing TDs. On the ground, the Falcons are 21st in yards, T-19th in yards per carry, and T-6th in rushing TDs. Atlanta has been great on third down, converting 48% of their attempts (good for 4th). The team has also protected the football well in 2018, and has a +2 turnover margin through Week 4.

Pittsburgh is in a very similar situation to Atlanta: a very good offense that hasn’t been able to overcome a terrible defense. The Steelers are T-11th in total points, 6th in total yards, and 10th in yards per play. Through the air, the team is 3rd in yards, 12th in yards per attempt, and T-11th in passing TDs. In the ground game, Pittsburgh is 29th in yards, T-25th in yards per carry, and T-6th in rushing TDs. The Steelers have really struggled on third down, converting only 31% of their attempts (28th). They’ve also struggled with turnovers, carrying a -2 margin into Week 5.

Advantage: Falcons

DEFENSE

Statistic Falcons Steelers
Statistic Falcons Steelers
Points/game 30.5 (30th) 29.0 (26th)
Total yards/game 403.0 (28th) 420.5 (30th)
Yards per play 5.9 (24th) 6.0 (25th)
Passing yards/game 284.0 (25th) 304.8 (29th)
Passing yards per attempt 7.1 (T-8th) 8.1 (T-25th)
Passing TDs 9 (T-24th) 12 (31st)
Rushing yards/game 119.0 (26th) 115.8 (T-22nd)
Rushing yards per attempt 5.0 (29th) 4.2 (T-18th)
Rushing TDs 6 (31st) 2 (T-7th)
Third Down Efficiency 51% (31st) 37% (13th)
Sacks 8 (T-22nd) 13 (T-4th)

Atlanta’s defense has been an absolute trainwreck outside of Week 1 due to an unprecedented string of injuries. The Falcons are 30th in points allowed, 28th in total yards allowed, and 24th in yards per play. Defending the pass, the team is 25th in yards, somehow T-8th in yards per attempt, and T-24th in passing TDs allowed. Against the run, Atlanta is 26th in yards, 29th in yards per carry, and 31st in rushing TDs allowed. The Falcons’ defense has been abysmal on third down, allowing a ridiculous 51% of attempts to be converted (31st). They’ve also been below average at generating sacks, with only 8 on the season (T-22nd).

The Steelers’ defense looks about the same as Atlanta’s—except they don’t have any injury excuses to fall back on. Pittsburgh is 26th in points allowed, 30th in total yards allowed, and 25th in yards per play. In the passing game, the team is 29th in yards, T-25th in yards per attempt, and 31st in passing TDs allowed. On the ground, the Steelers are T-22nd in yards, T-18th in yards per carry, and T-7th in rushing TDs allowed. Pittsburgh has played well on third down, allowing only 37% of attempts to be converted (13th). They’ve also generated a lot of sacks, with 13 through four weeks (T-4th).

Advantage: Steelers

Analysis

This looks like the perfect setup for another shootout. The schedule makers did Atlanta no favors with this early stretch of games, and this injury-ravaged and inexperienced defense has been eviscerated by the likes of Drew Brees and Andy Dalton. Now they get Ben Roethlisberger and the loaded Steelers’ offense on the road. The Falcons’ defense isn’t likely to make much headway in this game, but they’ll have to find a way to make just enough plays to help Atlanta come away with a road win.

We can count on Ryan and the offense putting up points against a Pittsburgh defense that is hemorrhaging almost as many points and yards as Atlanta’s. But when you get into these types of back-and-forth shootouts, you learn the cold hard statistical fact that one-score games are often coin flips. The Falcons have come up tails twice in a row now, but that luck should turn around at some point. Will it be on Sunday against the Steelers? If you have any desire to see Atlanta competing in the 2018 playoffs, you’d better hope so.

This game really is a coin flip. Both of these teams will be playing for their playoff lives, with the Falcons sitting at 1-3 and the Steelers at 1-2-1. The winner keeps hope alive for at least one more week, while the loser gets an early start to #DraftSzn. I love the draft as much as anyone, but can we put it off for at least a few more weeks? Please, Falcons.

Overall Advantage: Push

What are your thoughts on the matchup between the Falcons and Steelers? Any particular position groups that you’ll be watching closely on Sunday?