The Atlanta Falcons are on the rise after a last-second game-winning field goal by Younghoe Koo gave them the victory over the Miami Dolphins in Week 7. Now at 3-3 and .500 for the first time since Week 2 of the 2019 season, the Falcons are on a bit of a roll. The offense has been playing great football, rookie tight end Kyle Pitts is coming on, and the defense...well, it’s not the worst in the league anymore.
To get to a winning record, Atlanta will have to get past the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. Carolina started hot, going 3-0 and generally looking like a strong team on both sides of the ball, but they’ve since lost four straight. Quarterback Sam Darnold has been disastrous since the loss of Christian McCaffrey, with the Panthers offense as a whole languishing among the worst in the league.
Can the Falcons get their first winning record since 2017 with a victory in Week 8? Let’s take a closer look at the offensive and defensive stats to find out.
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 have been steadily improving on offense since Week 3. After averaging 16 points per game over the first three weeks of the season, Atlanta is now averaging 29 points per game over their last three. The team is now 19th in overall scoring offense and 17th in total yardage. Atlanta’s passing game is their greatest weapon, as they’re 10th in passing yardage and have allowed just a 3.5% sack rate—good for 4th-best in the NFL. They’ve also been one of the NFL’s best third down offenses, with a 45.9% conversion rate (6th).
In terms of struggles, the rushing attack has still been quite poor overall. The Falcons are averaging just 87.8 yards per game on the ground (27th) at a bad 3.6 yards per carry. Perhaps the switch to Cordarrelle Patterson as the lead back—who has been the team’s most efficient runner at 4.2 YPC on 55 carries—will provide a spark. Turnovers have also been a bit of an issue, as Atlanta is 20th with a 12.1% turnover rate.
Carolina has been the opposite of Atlanta through seven games. After a hot start where their defense was playing great football, the Panthers have had major struggles on offense—culminating in a three-point effort against the lowly Giants in Week 7. The overall stats are very concerning: T-22nd in scoring offense, 25th in total yardage, and and T-29th in yards per play with a putrid 4.8. They’ve had serious issues on the offensive line, allowing an 8.4% sack rate (29th). Carolina has also been among the worst teams in the NFL on third down, with just a 31.6% conversion rate (28th).
There aren’t many notable strengths of this Panthers offense at this juncture, but they’ve been better on the ground than through the air: 20th in rushing yardage, and 25th in yards per carry. Despite struggles elsewhere, Carolina has been fairly solid in the red zone, converting 59.1% of their opportunities into TDs (19th).
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)|
While the Falcons have been steadily improving on offense, the defense has mostly stayed the same. The team is currently 30th in scoring defense, 18th in total yardage allowed, and T-21st in yards per play. Atlanta has surrendered two pick-sixes and a kickoff return TD, so the scoring numbers aren’t quite as bad as they appear, but this is still a well below-average group overall. In terms of strengths, the Falcons have been pretty solid in preventing yardage—both through the air and on the ground. Atlanta is 19th in passing yardage allowed and 16th in rushing yardage allowed.
Atlanta’s biggest weakness thus far has been third down, where they were absolutely abused by the Dolphins in Week 7. The Falcons are surrendering 47.8% of third down attempts (29th). They’ve also been poor at creating turnovers (24th), though that has been improving lately. Despite the Falcons probably being more like the 24th scoring defense instead of 30th, they’ve still been bad at preventing points: they’re 24th in scoring efficiency allowed and 22nd in red zone defense.
The Panthers defense has been a tale of two seasons thus far: the three-game winning streak, and the four-game slump. Through Week 3, Carolina allowed just 10 points per game and 191 yards per game. In the four games since, they’ve allowed 29 points per game and 395 yards per game. Strength of schedule certainly has something to do with it: they faced the Jets, Saints, and Texans in the first three games; then the Cowboys, Eagles, Vikings, and Giants in the last four.
Statistically, the Panthers defense is still very good overall. Carolina is T-7th in scoring defense, 3rd in total yardage allowed, and T-3rd in yards per play allowed. They’ve been much better against the pass (2nd) than the run (13th), but have been particularly vulnerable in the red zone (72.2% TD rate allowed, 25th). The Panthers pass rush has been very good, leading to a 27.3% pressure rate (7th) and an elite third down defense (32.2% conversion rate, 3rd).
Defensive Advantage: Panthers
It’s hard to know how to predict this game, but the projection seems to favor Atlanta. The Falcons offense is much better overall, and they seem to be hitting their stride. Carolina, at least on paper, seems to match up well with Atlanta’s offensive strength in the passing game. Can the Panthers offense recover from last week’s absolute shellacking at the hands of the Giants, and even put on a functional performance?
Atlanta’s defense will certainly give them a chance, but Sam Darnold seems like a broken man. For the Panthers, it’s the question of what team will show up. The team from the first three weeks looked like a playoff contender. The team we’ve seen recently seems lost, and I’m not sure how or when they will recover. These two division rivals are heading in different directions in Week 8—we’ll see if their fortunes change in this game, but right now the winds seem to favor the rising team in the Falcons.
Overall Projection: Falcons
What are your thoughts on the Falcons’ Week 8 matchup with the Panthers? Do you think Atlanta gets to their first winning record in years on Sunday?