Gameday for the second week of the preseason has arrived! This week features a more exciting opponent in the Kansas City Chiefs, who should give the Falcons all they can handle on defense and provide an interesting test on offense. In 2017, we saw the Chiefs get out to a red-hot 5-0 start, only to enter a midseason slump and finish the season at a rather disappointing 10-6. The playoffs ended in similarly disappointing fashion, with Kansas City losing narrowly to the Titans in the Wild Card round.
As it’s the preseason, we don’t have much in the way of meaningful stats to share about the 2018 season. Therefore, I’ll be using the team stats from 2017 to compile these tables. While neither team is quite the same as they were at the conclusion of last season, these stats give us the closest thing we have to hard data on the offense and defense of both teams.
Take a look below to see how the Falcons and Chiefs match-up statistically on offense and defense.
|Points/game||22.1 (15th)||25.9 (6th)|
|Total yards/game||364.8 (8th)||375.4 (5th)|
|Yards per play||5.9 (3rd)||6.1 (2nd)|
|Passing yards/game||249.4 (8th)||256.5 (7th)|
|Passing yards per attempt||7.8 (T-4th)||8.0 (2nd)|
|Passing TDs||21 (T-20th)||26 (T-10th)|
|Rushing yards/game||115.4 (13th)||118.9 (9th)|
|Rushing yards per attempt||4.3 (T-7th)||4.7 (T-1st)|
|Rushing TDs||12 (T-15th)||12 (T-15th)|
|Third Down Efficiency||45% (1st)||39% (14th)|
|Turnover Margin||-2 (19th)||15 (2nd)|
The Falcons, while underachieving in scoring (15th), were largely a top-10 offense once again in 2017—8th in total yards and 3rd in yards per play. In passing, Atlanta was 8th in yards and T-4th in yards per attempt, but only T-20th in passing TDs with a rather meager 21. On the ground, the Falcons were 13th in yards, T-7th in yards per carry, and T-15th in rushing TDs. Atlanta was the best in the league at converting third downs, with a whopping 45% conversion rate. However, the team suffered from abysmal turnover luck, finishing the season with a -2 turnover margin (19th).
Kansas City, meanwhile, was among the elite offenses in the NFL. They were efficient in both yardage (5th in total yards, 2nd in yards per play) and scoring (6th). That efficiency carried over to both the passing and rushing games for the Chiefs. Through the air, the team was 7th in passing yards, 2nd in yards per attempt, and T-10th in passing TDs. On the ground, Kansas City was 9th in rushing yards, T-1st in yards per carry, and T-15th in rushing TDs. The Chiefs were about league-average on third down, converting 39% of their attempts (14th). However, what truly set the team apart was their magnificent turnover margin of +15—second in the entire NFL, and a big part of their offensive success.
|Points/game||19.7 (8th)||21.2 (15th)|
|Total yards/game||318.4 (9th)||365.1 (28th)|
|Yards per play||5.1 (13th)||5.6 (26th)|
|Passing yards/game||214.3 (12th)||247.0 (29th)|
|Passing yards per attempt||6.7 (T-8th)||7.2 (T-19th)|
|Passing TDs||22 (T-12th)||23 (T-15th)|
|Rushing yards/game||104.1 (9th)||118.1 (25th)|
|Rushing yards per attempt||4.1 (T-16th)||4.3 (T-23rd)|
|Rushing TDs||9 (T-6th)||15 (T-27th)|
|Third Down Efficiency||38% (16th)||40% (23rd)|
|Sacks||39 (T-13th)||31 (T-24th)|
The tables are turned on defense, however. Atlanta featured a fringe top-10 unit in 2017—perhaps all the more impressive when considering the lack of turnovers they created. The Falcons defense was 8th in scoring, 9th in total yards allowed, and 13th in yards per play. Against the pass, Atlanta was 12th in yards allowed, T-8th in yards per attempt, and T-12th in passing TDs allowed. On the ground, the Falcons were 9th in yards allowed, T-16th in yards per carry, and T-6th in rushing TDs allowed. The team was about league-average at preventing third down conversions, allowing a 38% conversion rate (16th). The Falcons also posted above-average sack numbers, with 39 in 2017 (good for T-13th).
The Chiefs had a porous defense in 2017, at least in terms of yardage allowed. An uncanny ability to create a ton of turnovers and limit their mistakes on offense covered up many of their issues. This is most evident when looking at their stats: a perfectly respectable 15th in scoring, but an abysmal 28th in total yards allowed and 26th in yards per play. Kansas City was a bit better against the pass (29th in yards allowed, T-19th in yards per attempt, and T-15th in passing TDs) than against the run (25th in yards allowed, T-23rd in yards per carry, and T-27th in rushing TDs). The Chiefs were also pretty bad on third down (40% conversion rate, 23rd) and at generating sacks (31, good for T-24th).
The 2017 stats suggest a good match-up of strength against strength and relative weakness against weakness. Atlanta’s stout defense against the dangerous offense of Kansas City, and the Falcons’ underachieving offense versus the Chiefs opportunistic but sieve-like defense. This would’ve been a fun game to watch during the 2017 season, particularly towards the end when both teams were playing their best football.
Obviously, these stats reflect different teams—but they’re really all we have to go on at this point. The Chiefs are likely to be a strong offense once again, although they’ll look a little different with Pat Mahomes at QB and Sammy Watkins at WR. That defense has some serious playmakers (SS Eric Berry, EDGE Justin Houston) and some big question marks (the LB corps and the CBs outside of Kendall Fuller). The Falcons should have more weapons at their disposal on offense—with rookie WR Calvin Ridley seizing the WR3 role and sophomore TE Eric Saubert developing—and a defense which should continue to improve in 2018 with the addition of players like CB Isaiah Oliver and DT Deadrin Senat.
This should be a stiff test for the Falcons defense against a multitude of different weapons, and an opportunity for the offense to cut its teeth against a defense that has some talent but should be exploitable.
Overall Advantage: Push
What are your thoughts on the match-up between the Falcons and the Chiefs? Who are some players you’ll be keeping an eye on during the game?