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By the Numbers stats preview: Falcons vs Saints

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The Falcons (3-8) returned to their losing ways against the Buccaneers in Week 12, and now have to face the Saints (9-2) on Thanksgiving. We take a closer look at how Atlanta and New Orleans match up statistically on offense and defense.

NFL: NOV 10 Falcons at Saints Photo by Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It was fun to watch the Falcons resemble a competent, even good football team for a couple weeks, but that time appears to be over after Atlanta got waxed in their own building by a mistake-prone and frankly not-very-good Buccaneers team in Week 12. The Falcons now face their biggest rival once again—the New Orleans Saints—this time in Atlanta and in prime time on Thanksgiving.

Last time, the Falcons shocked the NFL with a dominant upset over the 7-1 Saints. Can they pull off something like that again? Let’s take a closer look at how the Falcons and Saints compare statistically on offense and defense heading into Week 13.

OFFENSE

Statistic Falcons Jaguars
Statistic Falcons Jaguars
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’s offense struggled significantly against the Bucs in Week 12. The Falcons are currently 19th in scoring offense, 10th in total yardage, and 16th in yards per play. Through the air, the team is 3rd in passing yardage, T-12th in yards per attempt, and T-6th in passing TDs. On the ground, Atlanta is 31st in rushing yardage, 28th in yards per carry, and T-27th in rushing TDs. The Falcons are slightly above-average on third down, converting 41% of their opportunities (13th). They’ve improved slightly in turnover margin, but are still sitting at -8 on the season (27th).

The Saints are a borderline top-10 offense in 2019. New Orleans is 9th in scoring offense, 12th in total yardage, and 9th in yards per play. In the passing game, the team is 9th in yardage, T-14th in yards per attempt, and T-9th in passing TDs. On the ground, the Saints are 17th in rushing yardage, T-14th in yards per carry, and T-23rd in rushing TDs. New Orleans features a top-10 third down offense, converting 44% of their opportunities (10th), and they’ve been excellent at avoiding turnovers (+8 margin, 4th).

Advantage: Saints

DEFENSE

Statistic Falcons Jaguars
Statistic Falcons Jaguars
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 two impressive weeks, the Falcons reverted back to their old selves on defense. Atlanta is currently 28th in scoring defense, 26th in total yardage allowed, and 25th in yards per play allowed. Against the pass, the team is 27th in passing yardage, T-26th in yards per attempt, and T-26th in passing TDs allowed. Against the run, the Falcons are 18th in rushing yardage, T-6th in yards per carry, and T-17th in rushing TDs allowed. Atlanta is still among the league’s worst third down defenses, allowing a pitiful 46% conversion rate (29th), and are also near the bottom in sacks (18, 30th).

The Saints have been a respectable, above-average defense in 2019. New Orleans is currently 13th in scoring defense, 10th in total yardage allowed, and 10th in yards per play. Against the pass, the team is 15th in passing yardage, T-6th in yards per attempt, and T-15th in passing TDs allowed. On the ground, the Saints are 4th in rushing yardage allowed, T-13th in yards per carry, and T-11th in rushing TDs allowed. New Orleans has been good on third down, allowing only a 34% conversion rate (T-7th), and has been a top-10 pass rushing unit (31 sacks, T-10th).

Advantage: Saints

Analysis

Not much has changed in this matchup since these teams met in Week 10. The Falcons appear to be outmatched on both sides of the ball—statistically speaking—and don’t seem to have any clear advantages over the Saints. Atlanta has been a more productive passing attack, but much of that probably has to do with the volume of their passing game (they’ve been trailing in games a lot).

On defense, it’s nearly a clean sweep in favor of the Saints. They literally do everything better on paper, including pass defense, run defense, third down defense, and pass rushing. Atlanta does allow fewer yards per carry (3.9 compared to 4.2), but that’s about it on that side of the ball.

Clearly, these statistical imbalances didn’t matter much when the Falcons waxed the Saints a few weeks back. I think we had all hoped to see the team continue that trend heading into this Thanksgiving matchup. Instead, we saw the Falcons revert to their old selves against a weak and mistake-prone Buccaneers team. Can they fix their issues—again—and put together another miraculous performance against their biggest rival? I don’t know. Maybe? Hopefully? At any rate, it’s clear that New Orleans still holds the statistical advantage in this one.

Overall Advantage: Saints


How do you think the Falcons and Saints compare statistically? What’s your prediction for the game on Sunday?