I fondly remember the start of the 2019 season, where we were all filled with so much hope for this team. Fast forward to Week 6, and nearly the worst possible scenario has unfolded. The Falcons are 1-4 and coming off a 53-32 drubbing at the hands of the Texans, which is the most points the franchise had given up in a game since 2004. After taking over the defense this season, the calls for Dan Quinn to be fired are only going to increase based on a performance like that.
The team is still technically not out of the mix—although they’d need to go on a heroic 9-2 tear to finish the season at 10-6 at this point—and they face another beat-able opponent on the road this week in Arizona (1-3-1). The Cardinals are in the midst of a rebuild, with new QB Kyler Murray and new HC/OC Kliff Kingsbury at the helm. They’ve been struggling mightily on defense in 2019, and their offense hasn’t quite taken off the way that many thought it might through the first five weeks of the season.
Let’s take a closer look at how Atlanta and Arizona matchup statistically on offense and defense heading into Week 6.
|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 had arguably their best offensive game of the season against the Texans—they were even leading at halftime—and their numbers have improved because of it. Atlanta is now 20th in scoring, 10th in total yardage, and 10th in yards per play. In the passing game, the team is 3rd in yardage, T-14th in yards per attempt, and T-3rd in passing TDs with 11 on the season. The Falcons have continued to struggle mightily on the ground, and are 28th in rushing yardage, T-25th in yards per carry, and T-24th in rushing TDs with only 2. The Falcons have been very good on third down, converting 47% of their opportunities (6th), but their -5 turnover margin (T-29th) has held them back in a big way.
Arizona hasn’t enjoyed the explosive offensive season they were hoping for from Kliff Kingsbury just yet. The Cardinals are currently 21st in scoring, 16th in total yardage, and 22nd in yards per play. Through the air, the team is 17th in passing yardage, T-25th in yards per attempt, and T-29th in passing TDs. Arizona has been good on the ground thus far: they’re 11th in rushing yardage, T-3rd in yards per carry, and T-17th in rushing TDs. The Cardinals have been about league-average on third downs (40% conversion rate, 15th) and are currently -1 in turnover margin (T-19th).
|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)|
If we thought we’d seen the worst of the Falcons defense against the Colts and Titans, the Texans game blew those poor performances out of the water. Atlanta plummeted in pretty much every defensive statistic after the game—almost 600 yards, 5 passing TDs, and 53 points will do that to you. The Falcons are now 31st in points allowed, 23rd in total yardage allowed, and 25th in yards per play. Against the pass, the team is 20th in yardage allowed, T-27th in yards per attempt, and T-29th in passing TDs allowed. Atlanta has been better against the run: 19th in yardage allowed, T-10th in yards per carry, and T-25th in rushing TDs. The Falcons have been abysmal on third down, allowing a pitiful 56% conversion rate (30th), and have failed to produce a sack since Week 3 (only 5 on the season, T-30th).
Arizona’s defense has also struggled in 2019. The Cardinals are 28th in points allowed, 29th in total yardage allowed, and 28th in yards per play. Defending the pass, Arizona is 24th in yardage allowed, T-25th in yards per attempt, and T-29th (with the Falcons, funnily enough) in passing TDs allowed. Against the run, the Cardinals are 27th in rushing yardage allowed, T-23rd in yards per carry, and T-3rd in rushing TDs allowed. They’ve been just about league-average in third down defense (41% conversion rate allowed, T-18th) and sack production (12, T-16th) through the first five games of the season.
A second straight road contest awaits the Falcons, who are reeling from a 3-game losing streak and the worst defensive performance of Dan Quinn’s career. The good news is that the offense remains functional—even if that is a disappointment based on the talent Dirk Koetter has to work with—and has seemed to improve over the course of the season. Koetter did make some steps in the right direction against the Texans: utilizing 11 personnel and his 3 star WRs more, sending more targets to Calvin Ridley, and being more willing to run out of those sets.
Any step forward taken by the offense was wiped out by a putrid defensive showing, however. It’s hard to fathom how the defense gets worse every week, and the players seem to be looking more and more lost. The key stats for any defense, scoring and third down efficiency, are simply awful for the Falcons. I’m not sure that these are likely to get any better, even against an offense that hasn’t quite found its footing yet in the Cardinals.
Based on the stats, the Falcons have a slight advantage heading into Arizona. They’ve been a better offense than the Cardinals thus far, and both of these defenses have been pretty bad on the whole. Can the Falcons rally off a three-game losing streak and get their first win since Week 2 against a similarly struggling opponent in the Cardinals? We’ll see on Sunday, but I’m not going to be confident in this team until they prove otherwise.
Overall Advantage: Falcons
How do you think the Falcons and Cardinals compare statistically? What’s your prediction for the game on Sunday?