Change has finally come for the Falcons, as the team moved on from head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff after a dreadful 0-5 start to the year. That firing was brought on by an uninspired showing on both sides of the ball against the Panthers, a rebuilding team that Atlanta should have outclassed in terms of talent. Instead, Carolina handed the Falcons a big loss and sent Quinn and TD packing.
Interim head coach Raheem Morris and new defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich will get a decent opportunity this week to start their tenure off with a win. The Falcons will face the Vikings (1-4) in Week 6, an opponent that has had a similarly disappointing start to the season on both sides of the ball. Let’s take a closer look at how Atlanta and Minnesota compare statistically on offense and defense.
OFFENSE - WEEK 10
|Points/game||21.9 (21st)||30.1 (3rd)|
|Total yards/game||338.0 (20th)||434.3 (1st)|
|Yards per play||5.3 (T-22nd)||6.4 (1st)|
|Passing yards/game||257.6 (12th)||291.5 (4th)|
|Passing yards per attempt||7.1 (T-18th)||8.2 (T-5th)|
|Sack Percentage||4.4% (8th)||4.5% (9th)|
|Rushing yards/game||80.4 (29th)||142.8 (3rd)|
|Rushing yards per attempt||3.4 (31st)||4.9 (T-4th)|
|Scoring Efficiency||37.9% (19th)||46.0% (4th)|
|Red Zone Efficiency||63.0% (12th)||58.6% (16th)|
|Turnover Percentage||11.5% (T-18th)||11.5% (T-18th)|
|Third Down Efficiency||43.5% (10th)||46.1% (4th)|
Things have continued to get worse for the Falcons offense, as the unit had another poor showing—outside of Todd Gurley and the run game—in Week 5 against the Panthers. Atlanta is currently 21st in scoring, 11th in total yardage, and T-16th in yards per play. In the passing game, the Falcons are 8th in yardage and T-19th in yards per attempt. They’ve been improving on the ground, as the team is now 17th in rushing yardage and T-12th in yards per carry.
The advanced statistics paint a similar picture of a largely league-average offense. While Atlanta’s scoring efficiency is at a solid 44.6% (14th), they’ve struggled on third down (40.6% conversion rate, T-22nd). The Falcons have also been very good at limiting turnovers through the first 5 games, with a 7.1% TO rate (T-5th). Atlanta’s offensive line is keeping Matt Ryan reasonably clean, with a 5.1% sack rate allowed (16th).
The Vikings struggled mightily on offense to start the season, but have turned it on in recent weeks with the emergence of rookie WR Justin Jefferson. Minnesota is currently 15th in scoring, 17th in total yardage, and an impressive T-9th in yards per play. While the team is just 25th in passing yardage, they’ve been very efficient in the passing game (8.1 YPA, 10th). The Vikings have had most of their success on the ground, as the rushing attack is currently 4th in yardage and 3rd in yards per carry with an excellent 5.2.
The advanced statistics show some weaknesses in Minnesota’s offense, however. The Vikings are a below-average 23rd in scoring efficiency and 24th in third down efficiency. They’ve been one of the most turnover-prone offenses thus far, with a 16.1% TO rate (27th) through 5 games. The pass protection has also been a significant issue, as Minnesota is currently allowing an 8.6% sack rate (27th).
Offensive Advantage: Evenly matched
DEFENSE - WEEK 10
|Points/game||27.5 (28th)||24.0 (T-18th)|
|Total yards/game||360.5 (17th)||371.5 (21st)|
|Yards per play||5.6 (T-17th)||6.0 (T-27th)|
|Passing yards/game||237.4 (13th)||270.5 (25th)|
|Passing yards per attempt||7.1 (T-10th)||7.8 (T-22nd)|
|Pressure Rate||18.6% (31st)||25.1% (16th)|
|Rushing yards/game||123.1 (24th)||101.0 (10th)|
|Rushing yards per attempt||4.4 (T-19th)||4.3 (T-14th)|
|Scoring Efficiency||43.9% (25th)||35.9% (13th)|
|Red Zone Efficiency||66.7% (T-21st)||68.0% (25th)|
|Turnover Percentage||8.5% (24th)||15.2% (6th)|
|Third Down Efficiency||47.9% (30th)||34.7% (7th)|
Things have not improved at all thus far for a Falcons defense that is consistently among the league’s worst. Atlanta is currently T-30th in scoring defense, 31st in total yardage, and T-31st in yards per play allowed. Against the pass, they are overshadowed by only the Seahawks, and are currently 31st in passing yardage allowed and 31st in yards per attempt allowed. On the ground, the Falcons have been pretty solid: 14th in rushing yardage allowed and T-14th in yards per carry allowed.
The advanced statistics show a few comparatively bright spots for Atlanta. While the Falcons allow a dreadful scoring efficiency of 50% (T-27th), they’ve been solid on third down (43.3% conversion rate, 17th). The team has also managed to be slightly below average in generating pressure (18th) and creating turnovers (20th), a significant improvement from 2019.
The fearsome Vikings defense of old has disappeared in 2020, as the team has struggled in a major way on this side of the ball through the first 5 games of the season. Minnesota is currently 27th in scoring defense, 26th in total yardage, and T-23rd in yards per play allowed. Against the pass, the Vikings are 27th in yardage and T-28th in yards per attempt allowed. On the ground, Minnesota is 24th in rushing yardage and T-19th in yards per carry allowed.
The advanced statistics tell a very confusing story about the Vikings defense. On one hand, the team has been horrible at allowing scoring drives (55.6% scoring efficiency, 31st) and have failed to generate many turnovers (5.6% TO rate, 28th). On the other, Minnesota has been a mostly-solid pass rush (23.4% pressure rate, T-14th) and has actually been the NFL’s best third down defense thus far (27.8% conversion rate). I’m not quite sure how you’re so good on third down but are poor almost everywhere else, but the Vikings have found a way.
Defensive Advantage: Vikings
For the Falcons, their best chance of picking up a win will always be in a shootout against a defense that they can outclass with their offensive weapons. Atlanta was embarrassingly close to doing this twice already, where the team was up big on both Dallas and Chicago. Minnesota offers another such chance for Dirk Koetter’s offense to look good, as they’ve been a thoroughly mediocre defense on every down but 3rd.
After a very poor start on offense, the Vikings have started to warm up a bit and can definitely challenge a Falcons defense that is among the worst in the league. WRs Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson will be gigantic mismatches against CB Isaiah Oliver—assuming he isn’t benched. The best chance for Atlanta’s defense to hold down Minnesota will be with interior pass rush: Grady Jarrett has been the one consistent bright spot, and he’ll have tremendous matchups against a truly horrid interior OL.
The Falcons also might get some injury luck if RB Dalvin Cook is held out this weekend. Backup Alexander Mattison is no slouch and will still get his yardage, but he’s not the dynamic presence that Cook has been when healthy. Statistically speaking, however, the Vikings are favored in this game. Minnesota’s offense has been fairly close to Atlanta’s thus far, but the Vikings are trending in the right direction while Koetter’s offense has sputtered over the past two weeks.
Overall Projection: Vikings favored
What are your thoughts on Atlanta’s Week 6 against the Vikings? Who are some players or matchups you’ll be watching closely on Sunday?