Heading into a Monday Night Football matchup with the Green Bay Packers (3-0) in Week 4, the Atlanta Falcons are 0-3 and reeling from two blown 15+ point 4th-quarter leads in back-to-back weeks. It’s the first time in NFL history that a team has done that, by the way, so that should tell you something about the state of this team. Atlanta has thus far failed to put together a single consistent game, and the start to the season has been largely characterized by complete ineptitude.
Things won’t get any easier against the Packers, who are one of the NFL’s best teams. A loss on Monday night essentially ends the season for the Falcons, as the chances of making the playoffs after an 0-4 start are effectively zero. The only positive note is that Atlanta has generally had success against the Packers with Dan Quinn at the helm, and this team has a habit of pulling out wins against drastically better teams after they’ve been counted out.
Let’s take a closer look at how the Falcons and the Packers match up 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)|
Week 3 was a low point for the Falcons offense in 2020, particularly in the 4th quarter—although the Bears were by far the best defense the team had faced. Atlanta is currently 6th in scoring offense, 7th in total yardage, and T-12th in yards per play. In the passing game, the Falcons remain near the top: 3rd in yardage, but a concerning T-18th in yards per attempt.
The run game showed some improvement against the Bears, and the team is now 18th in rushing yardage and T-18th in yards per carry. Atlanta’s scoring efficiency and third down conversion rate both took hits in Week 3, falling to T-10th and 16th respectively. However, the team has continued to do a good job at limiting turnovers (10th in TO%) and at preventing sacks (3.7% sack rate, 6th).
The Packers are currently the NFL’s best overall offense, with a particularly hot start to the season. Green Bay is averaging 40.7 points per game (1st), is 2nd in total yardage, and is 1st in yards per play. Through the air, the Packers are 6th in passing yardage and T-4th in yards per attempt.
The run game has been a big strength, as Green Bay is 2nd in rushing yardage and 3rd in yards per carry with an incredible 5.5. The Packers hold the league’s highest scoring efficiency, getting points on 66.7% of their drives, and have thus far avoided turning the ball over entirely (0.0% TO rate, 1st). They’ve also been great on third down (50% conversion rate, T-5th) and have protected Aaron Rodgers extremely well (1.9% sack rate, 2nd).
Offensive Advantage: Packers
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)|
The Falcons defense improved a little against a lackluster Bears offense, but they’re still among the worst in the league. Atlanta is allowing a ridiculous 36.0 points per game (32nd), are 31st in total yardage allowed, and 27th in yards per play. The Falcons continue to be torn apart in the passing game, as they’re 31st in passing yardage and 26th in yards per attempt. On the ground, the defense has been far more solid: 13th in rushing yardage allowed and 18th in yards per carry.
Despite causing a lot of turnovers (13.2% TO rate, 12th), defending well on third down (37.8% conversion rate, 9th), and getting consistent pressure (25.0% pressure rate, T-9th), the Falcons have been bad at preventing points. Their scoring efficiency is a lousy 47.4%, 26th in the league. The gulf between those numbers may suggest a positive regression for the Falcons over the course of the season, however.
While Green Bay’s offense has stolen the show, the defense has been mediocre at best. The Packers are currently 21st in scoring offense and 14th in total yardage, but are actually tied for worst in the league in yards per play. The reason for this? Green Bay has faced the 2nd-fewest offensive plays through their first 3 games—which means this defense is probably worse than the stats suggest.
Against the pass, the Packers are 18th in yardage allowed but 28th in yards per attempt. It’s the same story against the run: a respectable 14th in yardage allowed, but 29th in yards per carry. While Green Bay has been solid at generating turnovers (18th), they’ve struggled on third down (48.3% conversion rate, 25th) and at putting pressure on the QB (16.7% pressure rate, 29th). The Packers are also below average at preventing points, with a 45.2% scoring efficiency (21st).
Defensive Advantage: Packers
The stats spell out a pretty grim scenario for the Falcons. Green Bay is statistically better than Atlanta on offense and defense—though not by all that much on defense, surprisingly. The type of game Atlanta should theoretically be able to win, an offensive shootout, probably isn’t going to work against the NFL’s best offense. Is there a path to victory for Atlanta?
If there is, it’s through controlling the clock with the run game and attacking the Packers with aggressive downfield passing. Green Bay’s defense could be a lot worse than the yardage stats suggest, as they’re allowing 8.4 YPA through the air and 5.5 YPC on the ground. Atlanta’s best hope is probably shortening the game by stringing long drives together and forcing the Packers to be one-dimensional, and also hoping for some turnover regression from Green Bay’s offense.
At the end of the day, though, it’s unlikely Atlanta’s league-worst scoring defense can make enough plays to keep the game close enough for that type of strategy to work. The Falcons are facing an offense which can and has outpaced them through the early part of the season, and I don’t see them winning many games in that scenario. Hell, they even got out-scored by a pretty mediocre offense in the Bears. This is a very tough matchup, and unfortunately, the Falcons are likely staring at 0-4 when the dust clears.
Overall Projection: Packers favored
What are your thoughts on Atlanta’s Week 4 matchup with Green Bay? Any particular position groups you’ll be watching when the Falcons take on the Packers on Monday Night Football?