Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints: By the Numbers Statistical Preview


Our Atlanta Falcons (5-0) and the dreaded New Orleans Saints (1-4) square off on Thursday Night Football action tonight at 8:30 pm EST. I predicted a 27-24 Falcons win in our Blogging Dirty Staff Picks this week.

Starting with this Saints game, I’ll be doing a statistics-based article to see how each team matches up “by the numbers” each week. While stats are just one of many ways to measure the success of a football team, they give us a succinct picture that is easy to understand. All stats are taken from’s Stats page, which is a great and easily sort-able way to get up-to-date game statistics.

Let’s see how the undefeated Falcons stack up against the hapless Saints this week.


Points/game: Falcons 32.4 (3rd), Saints 20.6 (21st)
Total yards/game: Falcons 406.2 (4th), Saints 387.4 (7th)
Passing yards/game: Falcons 280.2 (8th), Saints 302.0 (3rd)
Passing TDs: Falcons 6 (T-20th), Saints 6 (T-20th)
Rushing yards/game: Falcons 126.0 (9th), Saints 85.4 (29th)
Rushing TDs: Falcons 10 (1st), Saints 5 (T-8th)
Third down efficiency: Falcons 51.0% (2nd), Saints 48.0% (4th)
Time of possession (mins/game): Falcons 34:25 (2nd), Saints 30:53 (12th)
Turnover margin: Falcons +5 (T-5th), Saints -5 (T-28th)

The Falcons arguably boast the NFL’s most balanced offense. RB Devonta Freeman is the NFL’s leading scorer, and many analysts (myself included) believe that Julio Jones is the #1 WR in the NFL right now. New Orleans still has Drew Brees, who is a dangerous QB, but outside of him the offense is surprisingly lackluster. The offensive line play has been shaky, and the offense is really missing the presence of TE Jimmy Graham.

Atlanta holds the advantage in most of the offensive statistics, save passing yards/game. The reason for this is because the Saints have one of the worst rushing attacks in the NFL right now, averaging a paltry 85.4 yards/game. Dan Quinn’s Falcons are among the best in the league in points/game and total yards/game, and they’re first in rushing TDs with 10. While the Saints have put up top-10 yardage totals (they’re 7th in total yards), they have struggled to put the ball in the endzone.


Points allowed/game: Falcons 22.4 (15th), Saints 28.6 (T-29th)
Total yards allowed/game: Falcons 366.4 (20th), Saints 409.0 (32nd)
Passing yards allowed/game: Falcons 288.0 (29th), Saints 273.2 (23rd)
Passing TDs allowed: Falcons 6 (T-8th), Saints 9 (T-22nd)
INTs: Falcons 6 (T-6th), Saints 2 (24th)
Rushing yards allowed/game: Falcons 78.4 (1st), Saints 135.8 (30th)
Rushing TDs allowed: Falcons 8 (T-31st), Saints 6 (T-25th)
Third down efficiency: Falcons 40% (21st), Saints 38% (12th)
Sacks: Falcons 6 (T-29th), Saints 7 (T-26th)

More from Atlanta Falcons News

For the first time in what seems like forever, the Falcons actually appear to have a better defense than most of their opponents. While Atlanta’s yardage allowed is fairly high, the 200 yards allowed by the back-ups to Houston are still weighing the stats down. By week 10, the defensive numbers should be closer to reality. Surprisingly, the Falcons have the NFL’s #1 rushing defense through six weeks after having totally shut down the formerly-ranked #1 rushing offense in Washington. Feels good, don’t it?

New Orleans quite possibly has the worst defense in the NFL at this point in the season. They’re among the worst in rushing defense (30th), and have allowed over 400 yards/game to the likes of Tampa Bay, Carolina, and the Weeden-led Cowboys.

Atlanta is vastly better in overall defense and rushing defense, but New Orleans has a slight edge in passing defense. The Falcons are top-10 in passing TDs allowed, INTs, and rushing yards/allowed. The Saints are top-10 in…nothing, though they seem to be surprisingly solid on third down (12th at 38%). Both teams are near the bottom of the league in sacks and rushing TDs allowed.

Final Thoughts

It seems that the Atlanta Falcons are a much superior team according to the current stats. However, seeing as this is a rivalry game in the traditionally hostile Superdome, stats seem to mean a little less.

The Saints will likely come into this game planning to air it out early and often, hoping to take advantage of a defense that has surrendered a lot of yards in the passing game. Likewise, the Falcons will look to get Devonta Freeman going quickly to force New Orleans to dedicate more defenders to the box, potentially opening up big plays down field.

While in the past Drew Brees and the Saints would have been favored in a shootout with the Falcons, that is simply not the case this year. Atlanta has shown it’s dominance on offense through the first five weeks and was only slowed by what appears to be a top-10 defense in Washington. The Saints simply don’t have that, due to some combination of scheme or talent.

I suspect that Atlanta will primarily use their nickel package on defense to counter the Saints reliance on the passing game. It also helps that the nickel has actually been fairly effective at stopping the run, particularly due to the strong play of O’Brien Schofield and Jonathan Babineaux. The Saints have struggled to get pressure thus far with only four rushers, so we should expect to see a  good amount of blitzes.

Seeing as this is such a heated rivalry and the Saints will likely be playing for their lives this week, it’s unlikely that the Falcons blow out the Saints tonight. I expect a close, hard-fought game, but I think Atlanta will look like the superior team throughout.


Next: Atlanta Falcons beat Washington at their own game

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