What seemed impossible just a few weeks ago has happened: the Falcons are playing downright good football. After dispatching the Saints in New Orleans in Week 10, Atlanta marched into Carolina and dominated a Panthers team that was very much in the race for a playoff spot in the NFC. After spending six weeks as a punching bag for the rest of the NFL, the Falcons seem to have found a way to correct their issues on defense.
Atlanta has allowed only 9 points—and zero TDs—over the past two games. After managing only 7 sacks in the first eight weeks of the season, the Falcons have 11 in the past two. They also notched 4 INTs off Panthers QB Kyle Allen—their first since Week 2. In short, the Falcons appear to have found new life on defense to accompany their strong passing game on offense. Now Atlanta returns home to face another division opponent: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Let’s take a closer look at how the Falcons and Buccaneers compare statistically on offense and defense heading into Week 12.
|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)|
Atlanta had a good day on offense against the Panthers that was assisted by a punt return TD from Kenjon Barner. The Falcons have improved to 19th in scoring offense, 10th in total yardage, and 9th in yards per play. The team is currently 3rd in passing yardage, T-9th in yards per attempt, and T-6th in passing TDs. On the ground, Atlanta is 30th in yardage, 27th in yards per carry, and T-28th in rushing TDs. The Falcons are just outside the top-10 in third down conversion rate, converting 43% of their opportunities (11th). After a 4 INT performance, Atlanta has improved to -8 in turnover margin (27th)—which is still bad, but not league-worst bad.
The Buccaneers have been a top-10 offense in 2019 under new head coach Bruce Arians, particularly in the passing game. Tampa Bay is currently 6th in scoring offense, 6th in total yardage, and 17th in yards per play. In the passing game, the team is 4th in yardage, T-13th in yards per attempt, and T-8th in passing TDs. On the ground, the Buccaneers are 21st in rushing yardage, T-22nd in yards per carry, and T-11th in rushing TDs. Tampa Bay is average on third downs, converting 39% of their opportunities (16th). They’ve been one of the NFL’s worst in turnover margin and are currently sitting at -10 on the season (29th).
|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)|
After holding New Orleans to 9 points in Week 10, the Falcons put together an even more impressive performance against Carolina. Atlanta has improved to 26th in scoring defense, 21st in total yardage allowed, and 23rd in yards per play. Against the pass, the team is 26th in yardage allowed, 27th in yards per attempt, and T-24th in passing TDs allowed. Defending the run, the Falcons are 19th in yardage allowed, T-7th in yards per carry, and T-15th in rushing TDs allowed. Atlanta is no longer the NFL’s worst third down defense—they’re currently 29th—but are still allowing a 46% conversion rate. Atlanta’s 18 sacks are currently 30th in the NFL.
The Buccaneers have had their fair share of defensive problems as well. Tampa Bay is currently last in the league in scoring defense, 23rd in total yardage allowed, and 21st in yards per play. Against the pass, the team is 31st in passing yardage allowed, T-21st in yards per attempt, and 31st in passing TDs allowed. The Bucs have been far better against the run: they’re currently 2nd in rushing yardage allowed, 3rd in yards per carry, and T-7th in rushing TDs. Tampa Bay has somehow managed to be top-10 on third down, allowing only a 35% conversion rate (9th). Despite having a player with 11.5 sacks (Shaq Barrett), the Bucs only have 22 sacks on the season—good for 26th in the NFL.
On paper, this is probably one of the easiest matchups left on the schedule for the Falcons. Atlanta has the slight edge on offense, while the Bucs have a slight edge on defense—according to season-long stats, that is. It’s unclear how valuable the stats from the first eight games are for this Falcons team, who have completely flipped the script on defense by allowing only 9 and 3 points, respectively, over the past two games.
We obviously can’t just ignore the fact that the Falcons were really, really bad on defense over the first half of the year. The hope is that the resurgence continues against an opponent that should be significantly easier to defeat than either the Saints or Panthers. Atlanta matches up very well with the Bucs on offense, where the Falcons can take advantage of a passing defense that is among the league’s worst.
For Tampa Bay, everything rests on the performance of QB Jameis Winston. He can have games where he puts the team on his back and carries the day with a heroic performance, and he can also have games like last week’s 4 INT showing against New Orleans. One thing is certain: if this motivated and dominant Falcons team shows up again on Sunday, Winston will need to play mistake-free football to have a chance. Let’s hope Atlanta can keep it up in their first home game since the bye week.
Overall Advantage: Push
How do you think the Falcons and Buccaneers compare statistically? What’s your prediction for the game on Sunday?