Atlanta Falcons: Turnovers key for playoff push in 2015


Football is a consistently inconsistent game. Nobody has any idea how the season will play out. The only thing we know is that there will be a team that will emerge out of nowhere, and there will be a team that will drop off to make way. It happens every year. Atlanta is hoping to be the former this year.

However, despite the inconsistency of the NFL, one thing has always remained the same: if, as a team, you manage to force turnovers, you will have the best chance at succeeding.

The Atlanta Falcons are coming off a season where the defense ranked 32nd in the NFL. This year, with defensive mastermind Dan Quinn at the helm and with the additions of key defensive players such as Vic Beasly, Justin Durant, and Brooks Reed, the defense is expected to improve.

But don’t think that the defense will be good by NFL standards this year. I still expect it to be ranked somewhere in the 20s or the late teens; it will take a few years to build an elite defense. Nonetheless, forcing turnovers will be a great way for the defense to mask any deficiencies.

More from Atlanta Falcons News

Turnovers change games, and momentum is a fragile thing. An interception or fumble can take away one team’s momentum and give it to the other team. Forcing a turnover can give a team great field positioning and/or take away what would be sure points from another team that had a good looking drive going. Simply put, turnovers can, and usually are, the difference in a football game on any given Sunday.

Last season, of the five teams that had the best turnover margin in the league, four made the playoffs. The team that didn’t make it to the postseason of that group was the Houston Texans, who finished 9-7 and just barely missed out. Atlanta finished with a good plus-5 turnover margin, and that helped the team stay in contention for the division all season, despite having the worst defense in the game.

In the 2010 season the Falcons ended up having the best record in the NFC and earned home field advantage throughout the playoffs by finishing 13-3. Looking at the record, one would think that the birds must have had a top five offense or a top five defense to lead the charge. If you saw the total offensive and total defensive team rankings, you’d actually be pretty shocked.

The defense was ranked 16th in the NFL, which was dead average. The offense, meanwhile, was not a top five unit, they weren’t even top ten. Instead, they ended up being ranked 16th as well. That 2010 Falcons team, which finished 13-3, featured a statistically average offense and dead average defense. So how did they do so well?

RELATED: Falcons vs Eagles – Full game coverage

For one, the special teams were exceptional, as they always have been under Keith Armstrong. Eric Weems and the return game gave Atlanta statistically the best field positioning in the NFL that season. The special teams is once again in line to have a great season under Armstrong, who is arguably the best special teams coach in the NFL.

The biggest key to the 2010 Falcons’ success, however, was the turnover margin. Atlanta had a turnover difference of plus-14, good for third in the NFL and best in the NFC (the Green Bay Packers’ plus-14 difference was best in the NFL last season). Only the Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) and New England Patriots (14-2) had a better turnover margin.

The 2012 Falcons, who also finished 13-3 with the best record in the NFC, had a great turnover margin as well. They were at plus-13, which was good for 6th in the NFL.

The morale of the story here is that turnovers make a difference. For the 2015 Atlanta Falcons to be contenders, they must win the turnover game. Getting takeaways is a proven method of success in football, and I’m sure Quinn will make that very well known in the locker room before kickoff this season.

Next: Falcons vs Eagles: Full game coverage

More from Blogging Dirty