The final week of preseason football is, mercifully, upon us. Atlanta takes on Miami tonight in what will probably be a thoroughly unwatchable game pitting reserves against reserves for four straight quarters. The only redeeming factor is that we’ll get to see some interesting young players make their cases for roster and practice squad spots, and there are certainly a few battles worth monitoring.
The Falcons and Dolphins played each other in 2017 in what was a tale of two halves for Atlanta. Let’s hope they can put together a little more consistency this week, even if it is against back-ups. Atlanta and Miami are both 0-3 in the preseason heading into this game, so one of these two teams will end up 0-4—a mark that’s not meaningful in any kind of “real” way, but there are some pretty negative postseason trends among teams with that record.
How do the Falcons and Dolphins stack up statistically? To find out, let’s take a look at both team’s offensive and defensive stats from the 2017 season.
|Points/game||22.1 (15th)||17.6 (28th)|
|Total yards/game||364.8 (8th)||307.7 (25th)|
|Yards per play||5.9 (3rd)||4.9 (22nd)|
|Passing yards/game||249.4 (8th)||220.9 (18th)|
|Passing yards per attempt||7.8 (T-4th)||6.3 (T-28th)|
|Passing TDs||21 (T-20th)||24 (15th)|
|Rushing yards/game||115.4 (13th)||86.8 (29th)|
|Rushing yards per attempt||4.3 (T-7th)||3.9 (T-22nd)|
|Rushing TDs||12 (T-15th)||4 (T-31st)|
|Third Down Efficiency||45% (1st)||32% (32nd)|
|Turnover Margin||-2 (19th)||-14 (30th)|
We should all be familiar with the Falcons’ stats by now—and thankfully, this is the second-to-last time we’ll ever need to reference these 2017 numbers! Atlanta was quite efficient in terms of yardage—8th in total yards and 3rd in yards per play—but fell behind in scoring (15th). They were best in the passing game, as they were 8th in yards, T-4th in yards per attempt, and T-20th in TDs. 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 team in the league on third down, converting 45% (!) of their attempts. Turnovers hurt the team significantly, however, as they wound up -2 in turnover margin (19th).
The Dolphins had one of the worst offenses in the NFL in 2017—in part due to an injury to starting QB Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill will be back this season, but this team still has some legitimate talent issues. Miami was 28th in scoring, 25th in total yards, and 22nd in yards per play. In the passing game, the team was 18th in yards, T-28th in yards per attempt, and 15th in passing TDs. On the ground, the Dolphins were 29th in yards, T-22nd in yards per carry, and T-31st in rushing TDs. Miami was the worst team in the league at converting third downs, with only 32% of their attempts resulting in a 1st down. Turnovers were also a big issue, as the Dolphins were -14 in turnover margin (30th).
|Points/game||19.7 (8th)||24.6 (29th)|
|Total yards/game||318.4 (9th)||335.7 (16th)|
|Yards per play||5.1 (13th)||5.4 (23rd)|
|Passing yards/game||214.3 (12th)||225.2 (16th)|
|Passing yards per attempt||6.7 (T-8th)||7.2 (T-19th)|
|Passing TDs||22 (T-12th)||26 (23rd)|
|Rushing yards/game||104.1 (9th)||110.5 (14th)|
|Rushing yards per attempt||4.1 (T-16th)||4.1 (T-16th)|
|Rushing TDs||9 (T-6th)||14 (T-22nd)|
|Third Down Efficiency||38% (16th)||37% (11th)|
|Sacks||39 (T-13th)||30 (T-26th)|
I’m still quite happy to talk about these defensive statistics for the Falcons. How long had it been since we’d had a top-10 defense? Too long! Atlanta was 8th in points allowed, 9th in total yards allowed, and 13th in yards per play—big improvements from 2016. In the passing game, the team was 12th in yardage, T-8th in yards per attempt, and T-12th in passing TDs allowed. On the ground, the Falcons were 9th in yardage, T-16th in yards per carry, and T-6th in rushing TDs allowed. Atlanta was about average on third down, allowing a 38% conversion rate (16th). The Falcons were also above-average at generating pressure, with 39 sacks in 2017 (T-13th).
The Dolphins were largely a below average defense, with their turnover issues further magnifying those problems. As a result, Miami was 29th in points allowed, but only 16th in total yards allowed and 23rd in yards per play. Defending the pass, the team was 16th in yardage, T-19th in yards per attempt, and 23rd in passing TDs allowed. Against the run, the Dolphins were 14th in yardage, T-16th in yards per carry, and T-22nd in rushing TDs allowed. Miami was actually solid on third down, allowing only 37% of conversion attempts (11th). The Dolphins were not very good at generating pressure, however, with only 30 sacks in 2017 (T-26th).
Much like during the 2017 regular season, the Falcons clearly outclass the Dolphins on both offense and defense. If these two teams were to meet in the regular season, you’d expect the Falcons to come away with the victory. However, this isn’t the regular season—we’re going to get a healthy dose of Matt Schaub and the high variance play of Kurt Benkert. These stats don’t really tell the story of the back-ups as much as both teams’ 0-3 records do.
For the Falcons, I think their 0-3 record has much to do with the fact that Dan Quinn cares very little about winning preseason games. For the Dolphins, I think their poor record is a more accurate reflection of their overall roster talent. That should lead to the Falcons getting their first (and only) preseason win on Thursday, especially if we can get a strong game from Schaub and Benkert.
Watch individual performances in preseason, not necessarily the play of the entire unit. It’d be nice to see the Falcons come away with a victory here, but I’m not going to lose any sleep over it if they don’t. Keep your eyes on the position battles: which WRs stand out, does anyone emerge at EDGE, and will we see Jalston Fowler take control of the FB battle?
Overall Advantage: Falcons
How do you think the Falcons and Dolphins match-up statistically in this final preseason game? Do you expect Atlanta to come away with their first preseason win on Thursday? Who are some players you’ll be keeping a close eye on during the game?