It’s now Week 3, and the Falcons (0-2) are already facing a must-win game. The Bears (2-0) are coming to town with their strong defense in tow, though they’ve barely been challenged at all thus far with wins over the 0-2 Lions and 0-2 Giants. You all know how Week 2 ended for the Falcons, so there’s no guarantee this team is capable of winning much of anything. Will Atlanta provide more of a challenge for Chicago on Sunday?
For today’s stats preview, I’ve decided to change out some of the statistics for ones I feel are a little more informative. Instead of looking at raw passing and rushing TD numbers, I’ve replaced those categories with scoring efficiency and turnover percentage. Scoring efficiency looks at the total number of drives for an offense/defense and determines what percentage end in a score (either a FG or TD). Turnover percentage, meanwhile, does the same but for turnovers. I think these are better numbers to look at then passing vs rushing TDs, which aren’t really indicative of much.
Let’s take a closer look at how the Falcons and the Bears 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 is basically doing everything possible to help the team win games, it just hasn’t mattered much due to the defense’s performance—but more on that later. Atlanta is currently 5th in scoring offense, 4th in total yardage, and T-11th in yards per play. In the passing game, the Falcons remain one of the league’s best: 2nd in yardage and 11th in yards per attempt. The rushing attack has remained anemic under Koetter, however, as the team is just 28th in yardage and an even-worse 30th in yards per carry. Atlanta has been very good at putting points on the board consistently, with a 54.2% scoring efficiency (6th), and the team has protected the ball well (8.3% TO rate, T-12th). One of the biggest improvements has been along the offensive line, which has allowed just a 3.2% sack rate—good for 6th in the NFL.
Overall, the Bears are a below-average offense in every area except the run game. Chicago is currently T-21st in scoring offense, 23rd in total yardage, and T-25th in yards per play. Through the air, the Bears have struggled: 29th in passing yardage and 22nd in yards per attempt. On the ground, things have looked much better: Chicago is currently 9th in rushing yardage and 11th in yards per carry. The Bears have been below average in scoring efficiency (38.1%, 18th) and turnover rate (9.5%, 17th). They’ve also struggled to protect Mitch Trubisky, allowing a 7.2% sack rate (21st).
Offensive Advantage: Falcons
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 not technically being the worst defense in all statistics, I think it’s pretty clear that Atlanta possesses the worst defense in the NFL. The Falcons are currently 32nd in scoring defense (with an abysmal 39.0 points per game), 31st in total yardage allowed, and 31st in yards per play. They’ve been an utter disaster defending the pass: 31st in passing yardage allowed and 31st in yards per attempt. Atlanta’s one bright spot has been the run defense, which has thus far been 9th in rushing yardage allowed and T-9th in yards per carry. In terms of scoring efficiency, the defense has been among the league’s worst (28th), although they’ve been above-average at generating turnovers owing to Oluokun’s strong game in Week 2 (13th). Despite how bad they’ve been overall, Atlanta is merely below average on third down (45.5% conversion rate, 19th) and are actually top-10 in pressure rate (26.7%, 7th).
Defense is the strength of the Bears, and the unit has clearly been above-average through the first two games. Chicago is currently T-3rd in scoring defense, 16th in total yardage allowed, and 14th in yards per play. In the passing game, the Bears are currently 19th in passing yardage allowed and 7th in yards per attempt. Against the run, Chicago is 11th in rushing yardage allowed and T-18th in yards per carry. They’ve been a borderline top-10 squad in terms of scoring efficiency (T-10th) and generating turnovers (T-9th). While the Bears have been excellent on third down (31.0% conversion rate, 3rd), the pass rush has been a big weakness thus far with only a 12.8% pressure rate (31st).
Defensive Advantage: Bears
The Falcons are currently a dumpster fire on defense, but the offense has played quite well through the first two games of the season. Where does that leave them against the Bears? In a difficult spot, because it’s going to be hard to score 30+ points against a Chicago team that has only been allowing 18 per game. While the Bears probably aren’t in the same tier of offense as Seattle and Dallas, this Atlanta defense has shown very little ability to stop anyone thus far.
It’s clear Atlanta has the advantage on offense, and should be able to outpace Chicago in a straight shootout. On defense, the Bears are clearly the vastly superior team. It’s also important to note that it appears 3-4 defensive starters could be out for the Falcons, if current practice reports hold. The Bears haven’t really been tested thus far—they’ve beaten a very flawed Lions team and a Giants team that is among the worst in the NFL by a combined 8 points. The Falcons are without a doubt the best offense they’ve faced, so we’ll see just how good that defense is.
Can the Falcons slow down what has thus far been a below-average Bears defense? I don’t know. Maybe? Probably not? We’ll see if Atlanta’s defense can perform any better against a less-talented unit in Week 3, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up.
Overall Projection: Evenly matched
What are your thoughts on Atlanta’s Week 3 matchup with Chicago? Any particular position groups you’ll be watching on Sunday?