The Falcons are sitting at a putrid 0-4 heading into Week 5, their worst start since 1999 when the team would go on to finish with a 5-11 record. Notably, that team did manage to avoid an 0-5 start by winning against a divisional opponent—in that case, the Saints. Atlanta’s best chance for a win thus far comes against the Panthers (2-2), who are having a surprisingly good start to the season but should be an easier matchup...at least, on paper.
Let’s take a closer look at how the Falcons and the Panthers 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)|
The Falcons offense put forth their worst effort of the season against Green Bay, with just 16 points. It’s now become abundantly clear that the offense isn’t good enough to overcome the league’s worst defense. Atlanta is currently just 16th in scoring, 8th in total yardage, and a disappointing T-19th in yards per play. In the passing game, the Falcons are 5th in yardage but just T-18th in yards per attempt. The ground game has continued to be a weakness, as Atlanta is T-23rd in yardage and T-23rd in yards per carry.
The advanced statistics aren’t much better for the Falcons, who look like a slightly above-average unit overall after 4 games. Atlanta is T-13th in scoring efficiency and an impressive 5th in turnover percentage, but they’ve fallen significantly in third down efficiency (22nd) and sack percentage allowed (15th).
The Panthers, meanwhile, have been better on offense than initially predicted under new coach Matt Rhule. Carolina is currently T-18th in scoring, 12th in total yardage, and 8th in yards per play. In the passing game, the Panthers are 8th in yardage and T-9th in yards per attempt. On the ground, Carolina is 14th in yardage and T-14th in yards per carry.
The Panthers are doing quite well in scoring efficiency (8th) and third down efficiency (7th), which has helped the team produce above-average offensive numbers overall. Carolina has struggled a bit with turnovers, with an 11.9% turnover percentage through 4 games—twice what the Falcons have committed. They’ve also been slightly below average in pass protection, allowing a 5.4% sack rate (17th).
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)|
There’s no sugarcoating it: the Falcons have been the NFL’s worst defense through 4 games, or at least very close to it. Atlanta is currently 31st in scoring defense, 31st in yardage allowed, and T-29th in yards per play. The pass defense has struggled mightily: 31st in yardage allowed, T-29th in yards per attempt. On the ground, though, the Falcons have been mostly solid: 11th in yardage allowed, T-12th in yards per carry.
Atlanta has been about league-average at creating turnovers, and have also managed a decent third down efficiency (15th) and pressure rate (15th). However, their big weakness has been scoring efficiency: Atlanta is allowing points on 48.9% of drives, 26th in the league. When you’re allowing tons of yardage and tons of points, you’re just a bad defense overall.
One of the biggest surprises of the season has been the Panthers defense—which is utterly bereft of veteran talent and depending a ton on young players—actually being serviceable. Carolina is currently 19th in scoring defense, 11th in yardage allowed, and T-15th in yards per play. Against the pass, they’ve been quite good: 7th in yardage allowed and 3rd in yards per attempt. Defending the run, they’ve struggled: 21st in yardage allowed and 29th in yards per carry.
The Panthers have been below average in scoring efficiency (21st), but been excellent at producing turnovers on defense (17.9% rate, 4th in the NFL). However, Carolina is among the league’s worst teams on third down (31st) and at creating pressure on the QB (T-30th). Even struggling in these areas, the Panthers have been much better overall than Atlanta.
Defensive Advantage: Panthers
If you had told me before the season that the Panthers would be comparable to the Falcons on offense and significantly better on defense, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. But that’s where we are. Atlanta’s offense has been a big disappointment over the past two weeks after a hot start, going cold in key moments and showing off significant schematic weaknesses under Dirk Koetter.
The Panthers were supposed to be a disaster on defense due to the lack of talent, but they’ve been mostly fine. Falcons fans would love to be just average on defense at this point—this team would probably be 2-2 at worst. But instead, Atlanta features the NFL’s worst defense and an offense that is simply not good enough to overcome the poor coaching on both sides of the ball.
Carolina is favored here, statistically speaking. However, this is a much closer matchup than Green Bay and is probably the best chance for Atlanta to pick up a win of any game thus far.
Overall Projection: Panthers favored
What are your thoughts on Atlanta’s Week 5 matchup against the Panthers? Do you think the Falcons can come away with their first win of the season against Carolina?