The Falcons (1-2) return home to take on Washington (1-2) after getting their first win of the season. Can Atlanta generate some momentum with a victory in Week 4? We take a look at the offensive and defensive stats to find out who has the advantage.
The Atlanta Falcons got their first win of the season against the New York Giants in Week 3. Atlanta’s defense played as well as could be expected, keeping New York’s offense in check and continuously giving opportunities to the offense. It wasn’t until late in the fourth quarter that the Falcons offense came alive, but they made the plays when it counted. A touchdown drive tied things up before a game-winning field goal by Younghoe Koo in the final seconds.
This week, the Falcons return home to take on another struggling franchise: the Washington Football Team. Thought to be a potential contender to open the season, Washington lost starting QB Ryan Fitzpatrick in Week 1. While backup Taylor Heinicke has been playing well, the defense—which was considered to be one of the NFL’s best in 2020—has been abysmal through three games.
What are Atlanta’s chances of getting another win in Week 4? Let’s take a closer look at the offensive and defensive stats to find out.
Note: As we’ve only got three games in the books, the statistics are going to be a little funky. It’s important to note that these numbers will be quite volatile until around Week 5, as there are fewer data points to consider. Don’t take these numbers too seriously until we get a few more games under our belt.
The Falcons struggled on offense once again in Week 3, although this time it was just enough to get the win. Atlanta is currently averaging a very bad 16 points per game (29th), 301.3 yards per game (27th), and 4.7 yards per play (28th). Washington, meanwhile, has been a largely below-average offense through the first three games. The Football Team is averaging 22.3 points per game (T-19th), 318.7 yards per game (20th), and 5.7 yards per play (T-14th).
Atlanta’s passing offense has not been good early in the season, and things weren’t much better in Week 3. The Falcons are currently among the league’s worst in passing yardage per game (218.7, 25th) and yards per attempt (5.9, 29th). Despite the offensive line’s early struggles, the unit has rebounded in a big way and are now allowing just a 5.6% sack rate (T-15th). Washington’s pass offense has been below-average, with 221.7 passing yards per game (23rd) and 7.5 yards per attempt (T-18th). They’ve had one of the best offensive lines in the game, however, allowing just a 3.2% sack rate (3rd).
The Falcons have had back-to-back poor showings on the ground after opening strong against Philadelphia. They’re now among the worst in the league in rushing yardage per game (82.7, 28th) and aren’t much better in yards per carry (3.8, T-22nd). Washington has also struggled on the ground, with a below-average 97.0 rushing yards per game (21st) and 3.9 yards per carry (T-17th).
The Falcons aren’t good in the advanced offensive statistics, but they also aren’t as bad as you might think. In terms of bad, Atlanta has been among the worst teams in the league in scoring efficiency with a rate of just 25.7% (28th). They’ve also been ineffective on third down, with just a 33.3% conversion rate (T-25th). However, in their limited opportunities in the red zone, they’ve actually done a decent job: the Falcons’ red zone efficiency of 62.5% is 17th. Despite a turnover-heavy Week 2, Atlanta has been merely below-average in turnover rate at 11.4% (T-19th).
Washington is in a similarly strange place with their advanced statistics, which probably explains why they’re a below-average offense overall. The Football Team has been very efficient in scoring (40.6%, 15th) and at converting their red zone opportunities into touchdowns (75.0% rate, 10th). However, they’ve struggled with turnovers on offense (15.6% turnover rate, 27th) and are the league’s worst offense on third down with an abysmal 26.5% conversion rate.
Offensive Advantage: Washington
The Falcons had a bounce-back game on defense in Week 3, holding the Giants to just 14 points. Atlanta is still 30th in scoring defense with 31.3 points per game allowed—however, if you take away the two pick-sixes, they’d be tied for 22nd with 26.7 points per game allowed. They’ve been better in terms of total yardage allowed, with 373.7 yards per game (19th) and 5.9 yards per play (T-21st). Washington has been among the league’s worst defenses through 3 weeks, allowing 30.7 points per game (29th), 432.0 yards per game (31st), and 5.9 yards per play (T-21st).
After possessing the NFL’s worst pass defense in 2020, it’s clear that Atlanta’s 2021 unit is much better in that regard. Atlanta is currently 17th in passing yardage allowed (255.3) and 18th in yards per attempt allowed (7.6). They’ve struggled to put pressure on the QB, however, with just a 20.7% pressure rate (27th). Washington has been allowing a ton of yardage in the passing game—307.0 yards per game (29th) and 7.7 yards per attempt (19th). Their pass rush has still been very effective, however, with a 29.9% pressure rate (5th).
The Falcons haven’t been as good against the run as they were in 2020, but they’ve been OK—particularly considering the blowouts they were subjected to in Weeks 1 and 2. Atlanta is currently allowing 118.3 rushing yards per game (19th) and 4.5 yards per carry (T-22nd). Washington has been largely similar, with 125.0 rushing yards per game (25th) and 4.2 yards per carry (T-14th).
The Falcons defense has been well below-average in pretty much every advanced statistic except one: scoring efficiency. Atlanta is allowing just a 39.4% rate, which is actually above average (T-14th). However, they’ve been poor at stopping opponents in the red zone (72.7% rate, 26th) and on third down (43.6% conversion rate, 23rd). The Falcons have also struggled to generate turnovers, with just a 6.1% turnover rate (24th).
Washington has been one of the worst defenses in the NFL in terms of advanced statistics. They’re dead last in scoring efficiency, allowing points on a whopping 59.4% of drives. The Football Team is also among the league’s worst on third down, allowing conversions on 58.7% of attempts (31st). They’ve also struggled to create turnovers, with just a 6.3% rate (23rd). However, they’ve managed to be quite good at preventing TDs in the red zone, allowing just a 46.7% red zone efficiency (8th).
Defensive Advantage: Falcons
Offensively, pretty much every team in the league has performed better than the Falcons—and Washington is no exception. The Football Team is superior in pretty much every offensive statistic. They’ve been better at moving the ball through the air and on the ground, and at scoring. Atlanta’s lone advantages come on third down, where Washington has been inexplicably bad, and in limiting turnovers.
On defense, the Falcons have actually been measurably better overall—particularly considering the poor play of the offense. Even with the pick-sixes, Atlanta is allowing just 0.6 points per game more than Washington. The Falcons have been much better in terms of yardage allowed, both through the air and on the ground, and have been superior on third down. Washington has been consistently good at rushing the passer and at preventing TDs in the red zone, however.
Both of these teams have struggled mightily through the first three games of the 2021 NFL season, though Washington had far higher expectations coming in. Interesting, the perceived strengths of both teams—Atlanta’s offense, Washington’s defense—have actually been the biggest issues, while the weaknesses haven’t been nearly as bad as predicted. All things considered, though, this is a pretty evenly-matched game between two teams hoping to start turning their seasons around. One will be heading down the right path at 2-2, while the other will be sitting at 1-3.
Overall Projection: Evenly matched
What are your thoughts on the Falcons’ Week 4 matchup with Washington? Do you think Atlanta can put together a winning streak and claw their way back to 2-2 on Sunday?