It’s Week 5, and the Falcons are 1-3. Two weeks ago, we were filled with hope after an encouraging—albeit very imperfect—win over an NFC contender in the Eagles. Since then, the Falcons have twice fallen into double-digit deficits before halftime against middling AFC South teams. While they were able to rally in the second half against the Colts, Atlanta looked completely flat throughout the whole game against Tennessee.
There are plenty of problems on offense and defense for the Falcons, and not a lot of time to fix them. This week, Atlanta travels to Houston to take on the 2-2 Texans—who have been having their share of issues as well. The Texans still feature a fearsome pass rush and an offense helmed by rising star QB Deshaun Watson, which will make finding a win very difficult for a Falcons team that’s in desperate need of one.
Let’s take a closer look at how these two teams matchup 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)|
After an encouraging second half against the Colts, the Falcons offense hit its lowest point of the season against the Titans in Week 4—and the stats reflect that. Atlanta is now a downright terrible T-26th in scoring, despite being 11th in total yardage and 9th in yards per play. The team has been putting up numbers in the passing game: 2nd in passing yardage and T-8th in passing TDs, but they’re only 12th in yards per attempt. That shows they’ve been producing those lofty numbers through a lot of volume, not through big plays. On the ground, the Falcons have been abysmal: 27th in rushing yardage, T-20th in yards per carry, and T-25th in rushing TDs with only 1 on the season. Atlanta has been above-average on third down, converting 43% of opportunities (11th). Turnovers have been the killer for this offense: after only 4 games, the Falcons are -5 (T-28th). That’s a margin they’re unlikely to dig out of over the course of the year.
Meanwhile, the Texans have had a similarly lackluster start on offense in 2019. They’re currently 22nd in scoring, 22nd in total yardage, and 17th in yards per play. The passing game hasn’t been a strength thus far, as Houston is 27th in passing yardage, T-13th in yards per attempt, and T-15th in passing TDs. They’ve been much better on the ground: 11th in rushing yardage, T-5th in yards per carry, and T-13th in rushing TDs. The Texans have been excellent on third down, converting 47% of attempts (9th), and have managed a very good +2 turnover margin on the season (T-8th).
|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)|
The Falcons defense has now had two atrocious games in a row, this time coming off a dissection at the hands of Marcus Mariota. They’re now 22nd in scoring defense, but 9th in total yardage allowed and 10th in yards per play. Somehow Atlanta still has pretty solid numbers against the pass: 7th in passing yardage allowed, T-14th in yards per attempt, and T-19th in passing TDs. Their run defense numbers are similarly strange: 18th in rushing yards allowed and T-24th in rushing TDs allowed, but T-7th in yards per carry. They’ve been downright bad on third down, allowing a pitiful 51% conversion rate (29th). After a fast start to the season, the Falcons have struggled to produce sacks: they have 5 on the year, good for T-25th.
The Texans—who were once known for an elite defense—are about league-average overall through four games in 2019. The team is 10th in scoring defense, 17th in total yardage, and 16th in yards per play. Against the pass, Houston is 21st in yardage allowed, T-14th in yards per attempt, and T-10th in passing TDs allowed. In run defense, the team is T-16th in yardage allowed and T-6th in rushing TDs allowed, but only T-23rd in yards per carry. They’ve been slightly below-average on third down, allowing a 42% conversion rate (19th). The Texans have excelled at producing sacks, however, with 13 on the year (T-6th).
There’s not a lot of confidence surrounding this Falcons team after a dismal showing against the Titans—perhaps the most “winnable” game of the coming stretch. The stats on both sides of the ball have continued to falter as both the offense and defense have looked lackluster through four games. Clearly, being -5 in turnover margin is contributing to the discrepancy between yards and points for both units, but the vanilla offensive scheme and the passive play of the defense since Week 2 have also contributed.
The Falcons aren’t going to have an easy time on offense against the Texans, particularly if RG Jamon Brown remains out with a concussion. Houston features a beat-able pass defense and a run defense that gives up a lot of yards per carry. In a smart scheme, this would be the perfect game to use a heavy dose of play-action to produce consistent yardage on the ground and big plays in the passing game. Something tells me we won’t see that, however.
On defense, the Falcons theoretically matchup well with the Texans. Houston has struggled through the air thus far, with their ground game being far more reliable. Atlanta has struggled mightily against the pass over the past two weeks, but have done a pretty good job at limiting the opposing ground game. Can Quinn fix some of the issues that have led to the pass defense getting easily dissected by opposing QBs? The Falcons will also need to produce sacks against a mediocre offensive line if they want to have any hope of slowing down Houston. Again, I’m not very confident we’ll see the needed adjustments from Atlanta—especially on the road.
Overall Advantage: Texans
How do you think the Falcons and Texans compare statistically? What’s your prediction for the game on Sunday?