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By the Numbers Stats Preview: Falcons vs Panthers

After a valiant losing effort on Thanksgiving, the Falcons (3-9) face the slumping Panthers (5-7) in what might be their easiest remaining game in 2019. We take a closer look at how Atlanta and Carolina match up statistically on offense and defense.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Falcons have returned to the dregs of the NFL after two straight losses. Against the Saints on Thanksgiving, Atlanta turned in a valiant effort at a comeback late in the game that was genuinely exciting. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out, and now the Falcons are staring at a guaranteed losing record in 2019.

This week, the Falcons (3-9) take on the similarly struggling Panthers (5-7), who just fired longtime head coach Ron Rivera after a devastating loss to Washington. Atlanta got the better of Carolina on the road a few weeks back—can they manage to pull it off again? Let’s take a closer look at how these two teams match up statistically on offense and defense.

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 offense has been extremely disappointing in 2019, but particularly over the past two weeks. Atlanta is 18th in scoring offense, 11th in total yardage, and 19th in yards per play. Through the air, the team is 2nd in passing yardage, T-14th in yards per attempt, and T-6th in passing TDs. On the ground, the Falcons are 30th in rushing yardage, T-28th in yards per carry, and T-28th in rushing TDs. Atlanta has been average on third down, converting 40% of their opportunities (14th), but they’ve been held back all year by an abysmal turnover margin (-11, 29th).

Carolina has also struggled on offense lately after starting out strong with backup QB Kyle Allen. The Panthers are 13th in scoring offense, 21st in total yardage, and 22nd in yards per play. In the passing game, the team is 21st in yardage, 24th in yards per attempt, and T-23rd in passing TDs. On the ground, Carolina is 12th in rushing yardage, T-2nd in yards per carry, and T-2nd in rushing TDs. The Panthers have had issues on third down, converting only 31% of their opportunities (28th), and are below average in turnover margin (-2, 19th).

Advantage: Falcons

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)

Despite a relatively strong showing by the defense against New Orleans, the Falcons still have major issues on that side of the ball. Atlanta is 27th in scoring defense, 23rd in total yardage allowed, and 27th in yards per play. Against the pass, the team is 26th in yardage allowed, T-26th in yards per attempt, and 26th in passing TDs allowed. Against the run, the Falcons are 17th in yardage allowed, T-7th in yards per carry, and T-18th in rushing TDs allowed. Atlanta has been improving somewhat on third down, allowing a 44% conversion rate (25th), but have stalled out completely in the sack department after a post-bye resurgence—they remain at 18 (31st) after two sack-less games in a row.

The Panthers remain a slightly better defense than the Falcons at this point in the season, with only .2 points and less than 2 yards separating the two teams in points allowed and total yardage allowed. Carolina is 26th in scoring defense, 22nd in total yardage allowed, and 20th in yards per play. Against the pass, the team is 14th in yardage allowed, T-11th in yards per attempt, and T-6th in passing TDs allowed. Against the run, the Panthers are 29th in yardage allowed, and 32nd in yards per carry and rushing TDs allowed. Carolina is allowing a 40% conversion rate on third down (21st) and are the league’s top pass rush (46 sacks).

Advantage: Panthers

Analysis

The Falcons post-bye competent play appears to have been fool’s gold, as the team has now put together two lousy efforts in a row. Atlanta did manage to get close against the Saints, but even after recovering several onside kicks the offense couldn’t manage to pull off the comeback. Against the Panthers this week, Atlanta may have arguably their best shot at a win of the remaining 4 games. With Carolina’s head coaching change, the team could be in disarray—and Dan Quinn has always seemed to have the Panthers number.

Statistically, this is a pretty evenly matched duo. The Falcons are slightly better on offense, and the Panthers are slightly better on defense. In their previous matchup, Atlanta dominated the line of scrimmage and picked off Kyle Allen a ridiculous number of times. I doubt that will happen again, so the Falcons will likely need to win with a more traditional approach.

Atlanta should be able to run the ball against the Panthers, who allow 5.3 yards per carry and more rushing TDs than any other team in football. That wasn’t the case the last time these teams played, as Dirk Koetter continued his stubborn insistence on running the ball up the middle. The secret to defeating the Panthers is in stopping Christian McCaffrey—or at least limiting him in some way. If the Falcons can do those two things, they should scrape out a win on Sunday.

Overall Advantage: Push


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