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By the Numbers stats preview: Falcons at Saints

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The Falcons (1-7) return from an uneventful bye week to face their fiercest rival in the Saints (7-1) on the road. How do Atlanta and New Orleans compare statistically on offense and defense heading into Week 10?

NFL: NOV 22 Falcons at Saints Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Falcons actually managed to put together a semi-competitive game against the Seahawks in Week 8, but it still wasn’t enough to secure the win. After an uneventful bye week, Atlanta is 1-7 and has virtually no chance of making the playoffs even if they were to win out. It does appear, however, that Arthur Blank is unlikely to fire head coach Dan Quinn until the end of the season.

This week, the Falcons travel to New Orleans to take on the 7-1 Saints—who weren’t slowed down one bit by the loss of Drew Brees for a significant period of time. New Orleans has been winning with their top-10 defense and an opportunistic and consistent offense. That will present a challenge for a Falcons team that has shown no ability to stop...well, anyone on defense.

Let’s take a closer look at how the Falcons and Saints compare statistically on offense and defense heading into Week 10.

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)

The Falcons actually had a pretty solid outing in Week 8 with Matt Schaub at the helm, putting together a somewhat competitive performance against Seattle. Atlanta is currently 20th in scoring, 9th in total yardage, and 9th in yards per play. Through the air, the team is currently leading the league in passing yardage, but are just 9th in yards per attempt and T-5th in passing TDs. On the ground, the Falcons are 29th in rushing yardage, T-25th in yards per carry, and T-26th in rushing TDs with just 3 on the season. Atlanta has been above-average on third downs, converting 43% of their opportunities. The downfall of the team has been turnover margin: the Falcons are a miserable -11 after eight games.

New Orleans—a team historically known for its offense—is merely average overall in 2019. The Saints are currently 15th in scoring, 14th in total yardage, and 11th in yards per play. In the passing game, the team is 10th in yardage, T-15th in yards per attempt, and T-12th in passing TDs. On the ground, New Orleans is 15th in rushing yardage, T-13th in yards per carry, and T-22nd in rushing TDs. The Saints have been very good on third down, converting 45% of their opportunities (8th). They’ve also been good in turnover margin, and are sitting at +3 overall (T-9th).

Advantage: Push

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)

The Falcons put together a solid defensive effort—by their standards, at least—against the Seahawks in Week 8, which improved their statistics a little. Atlanta is currently 30th in scoring defense, 24th in total yardage allowed, and 23rd in yards per play. Against the pass, the team is 23rd in yardage, 28th in yards per attempt, and T-28th in passing TDs allowed. Defending the run, the Falcons are currently 21st in rushing yardage, T-5th in yards per carry, and T-21st in rushing TDs allowed. Atlanta remains the NFL’s worst third down defense (53% conversion rate allowed) and worst pass rush (only 7 sacks on the season).

The Saints defense has been a top-10 unit through the first eight games of the 2019 season. New Orleans is currently 10th in scoring defense, 5th in total yardage allowed, and 13th in yards per play. Against the pass, the team is 16th in passing yardage allowed, T-10th in yards per attempt, and T-8th in passing TDs allowed. Against the run, the Saints are 4th in rushing yardage allowed, T-11th in yards per carry, and T-14th in rushing TDs allowed. New Orleans has been excellent on third down, allowing only a 32% conversion rate (4th) and has been a top-10 pass rush (24 sacks, T-10th).

Advantage: Saints

Analysis

While the Falcons managed to put together a somewhat competitive performance against Seattle in Week 8 and should be getting Matt Ryan back this week, I think it’s a stretch to say they have a serious chance on Sunday. New Orleans has been one of the NFC’s best and most consistent teams in 2019, and have been finding ways to win with several of their stars sidelined.

Now those stars have returned, and the Falcons have to go on the road and play the Saints at full strength. While Atlanta and New Orleans have similarly gifted offenses, the Saints have a huge advantage on defense. The Falcons will be able to score points in New Orleans, but it’s unlikely they’ll be able to score more than the Saints. Some coaching shuffles and personnel changes might be in store this week, but I’m not convinced they’ll make a measurable difference.

Still, these divisional games have a tendency to be strange affairs—and are often closer than either teams record would indicate. The Falcons have a chance going into New Orleans, just not a particularly significant one. It would sure be fun to play spoiler to the Saints first-round bye! However, the stats signal a strong advantage for New Orleans.

Overall Advantage: Saints


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