The first game of the 2020 NFL season is nearly here, with the Chiefs and Texans kicking things off tonight on Thursday Night Football. Our chosen team also has a game fast-approaching, with the Falcons taking on the Seahawks in Week 1. These two franchises have become perennial rivals due to the connection between Dan Quinn and Pete Carroll, and the tendency for the two to meet each other in the playoffs—although that hasn’t happened much in the past two years.
While we haven’t gotten any preseason games to judge these squads off of, we can take a look at how Seattle and Atlanta performed in 2019 to give us some idea of what we can expect this season. Let’s dive in to the offensive and defensive statistics from last season to compare how these two teams match up on offense and defense heading into Sunday’s game.
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)|
While the Falcons were clearly an above-average offense overall and a top-5 passing attack, the team struggled in several key areas. One of those spots was scoring, where Atlanta was just 13th overall despite finishing 5th in total yardage. The team also wasn’t particularly efficient, with just 5.5 yards per play (15th). Atlanta’s passing game was their clear strength, ranking 3rd in yards per game, T-8th in passing TDs, and 13th in yards per attempt. On the ground, however, the team struggled mightily. The Falcons were 30th in yards per game, 26th in yards per carry, and T-24th in rushing TDs. Third downs were a strength for Atlanta, as they converted 42% of their attempts (11th). While the team allowed Ryan to be sacked 48 times, their actual sack percentage of 6.8% (number of sacks compared to passing attempts) was about league average (16th).
Seattle’s offense was far more balanced—and effective—overall than Atlanta’s. The Seahawks finished 9th in scoring, 8th in total yardage, and 12th in yards per play. In the passing game, the team finished 14th in yardage, 8th in yards per attempt, and an impressive 4th in passing TDs with 31. Seattle was one of the most dangerous teams on the ground, as they were 4th in yardage, 9th in yards per carry, and T-15th in rushing TDs. The Seahawks struggled a bit on third down, with just a 39.5% conversion rate. Allowing pressure on Russell Wilson continued to be a big issue, as Seattle allowed one of the worst sack rates in the league: 8.5% (28th).
Offensive Advantage: Seahawks
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)|
Despite the utterly abysmal first half of the season on defense, the Falcons actually finished in just below-average territory in 2019. Atlanta was T-22nd in scoring defense (tied, coincidentally, with Seattle), 20th in yardage allowed, and T-23rd in yards per play allowed. The team struggled against the pass, as they were 22nd in passing yardage allowed, T-24th in yards per attempt allowed, and 23rd in passing TDs allowed. Against the run, the Falcons were actually average to slightly above-average: 15th in rushing yardage allowed, T-13th in yards per carry allowed, and T-14th in rushing TDs allowed. Atlanta was mediocre on third down, allowing a 39.9% conversion rate, and were abysmal at generating sacks with just 28 on the year (T-29th).
When most casual fans think of the Seahawks, they probably recall the vaunted Legion of Boom. This iteration of Seattle’s defense is far from those lofty heights, and struggled mightily in 2019. The team was T-22nd in scoring defense, 26th in total yardage allowed, and T-27th in yards per play. Against the pass, the Seahawks were 27th in yardage allowed, T-20th in yards per attempt allowed, and a surprising 5th in passing TDs allowed. That last number probably had more to do with their atrocious run defense, which was 22nd in yardage allowed, T-28th in yards per carry allowed, and 30th in rushing TDs allowed. Seattle was actually solid on third down, allowing a 38.4% conversion rate (16th), but had significant pass rushing struggles with just 28 sacks in 2019 (T-29th).
Defensive Advantage: Falcons
On paper, this matchup is pretty evenly matched. These two teams operate very similarly on defense—though that could change with Raheem Morris taking the reins in 2020. Despite the gaudy passing numbers put up by the Falcons in 2019, Seattle’s balanced attack was more productive in the scoring department and more consistent.
It actually appears that the Falcons have the defensive advantage, particularly on the defensive line. Seattle has a total and complete lack of depth there, and their starting edge rushers are veteran Bruce Irvin—who is probably best as a rotational depth piece at this point—and 2019 first-round pick L.J. Collier, who has done very little to justify his draft selection thus far. The team has just 3 DTs listed on the depth chart, though starter Jarran Reed is a quality player who could be dangerous after an injury-plagued 2019 season.
It’ll be interesting to see how Seattle’s offense attacks Atlanta’s defense, and vice versa. While the Seahawks added WR Josh Gordon to the roster, he still hasn’t been reinstated by the NFL—and it seems unlikely that he will be in time for Sunday’s game. That could lead to more 12 personnel packages for Seattle, who added Greg Olsen alongside Will Dissly at the TE position. The Falcons would also seem to match up well on offense with Seattle’s CBs, which feature solid starters in Shaquill Griffin and Quinton Dunbar but lack the talent to keep pace with Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. How they utilize recent trade addition Jamal Adams—who can do a little of everything—will be a key factor in the game.
Overall Projection: Evenly matched
What are your thoughts on Atlanta’s Week 1 matchup with Seattle? Do you think the Falcons offense can move the ball against the Seahawks? Can Raheem Morris’ new-look defense keep Russell Wilson and Co. in check?