Atlanta Falcons vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: By the numbers preview


The Atlanta Falcons (6-1) take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-4) in the Georgia Dome on Sunday. Despite the difference in records, this is an important game for both teams. Atlanta needs to keep winning in order to keep up with the undefeated Carolina Panthers for the NFC South crown, and a divisional win would certainly help too. Tampa simply has to win in order to keep any faint playoff hopes alive.

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Last season this game turned into a huge blowout for the Falcons, who won with a score of 56-14 for one of the largest victories in team history.

Tampa appears to be a better team this year, but they just finished blowing a 24-point lead that allowed the Washington Redskins to pull off the biggest comeback win in team history. Meanwhile, Atlanta has looked underwhelming on offense during the past three games and barely escaped Tennessee with a 10-7 win.

Which of these teams has the advantage on Sunday? Let’s take a look at their stats up to this point. All stats are taken from’s Stats page, which is a great and easily sort-able way to find information on each team.


Points/game: Atlanta Falcons 27.6 (4th), Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23.3 (12th)
Total yards/game: Atlanta Falcons 403.1 (5th), Tampa Bay Buccaneers 363.8 (12th)
Passing yards/game: Atlanta Falcons 273.6 (9th), Tampa Bay Buccaneers 230.2 (23rd)
Passing TDs: Atlanta Falcons 9 (T-17th), Tampa Bay Buccaneers 9 (T-17th)
Rushing yards/game: Atlanta Falcons 129.6 (5th), Tampa Bay Buccaneers 133.7 (4th)
Rushing TDs: Atlanta Falcons 11 (1st), Tampa Bay Buccaneers 4 (T-16th)
Third down efficiency: Atlanta Falcons 46% (3rd), Tampa Bay Buccaneers 37% (19th)
Turnover margin: Atlanta Falcons +2 (T-12th), Tampa Bay Buccaneers -2 (T-21st)

Despite the Falcons offensive woes the past few weeks, the team remains near the top of virtually every offensive statistic. They’re still fourth in scoring, fifth in total yards, and fifth in rushing yards. Atlanta is also first in rushing TDs with a very impressive 11 in seven games this season.

Importantly, the team has also been successful on 3rd down, converting 46 percent of their attempts, good for third in the league. Turnover margin has taken a hit in the last few weeks, but the Falcons are still above average with a plus-2 overall (tied for 12th in the NFL).

Tampa has also been fairly effective on offense this season, as they are 12th in points, 12th in total yards, and fourth in rushing yards. In fact, the only advantage the Bucs have on offense over the Falcons is in rushing offense.

It’s a minuscule 4.1 yards/game advantage, but an advantage nonetheless. However, they’ve failed to convert all that rushing yardage into TDs, with only four on the year (good for 16th). They’ve struggled in the passing game (23rd), in the turnover game (-2, T-21st), and have been below average on 3rd down (37 percent, 19th).

Overall, Atlanta has the decided advantage on offense. The Falcons don’t rank outside the top 12 on any major statistic save passing TDs, where their 9 are tied for 17th in the league. I expect that number to increase by around 3 on Sunday.


Points allowed/game: Atlanta Falcons 21.4 (13th), Tampa Bay Buccaneers 29.8 (T-31st)
Total yards allowed/game: Atlanta Falcons 353.3 (14th), Tampa Bay Buccaneers 328.2 (6th)
Passing yards allowed/game: Atlanta Falcons 274.7 (25th), Tampa Bay Buccaneers 219.5 (5th)
Passing TDs allowed: Atlanta Falcons 7 (T-7th), Tampa Bay Buccaneers 15 (T-27th)
INTs: Atlanta Falcons 8 (T-6th), Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3 (T-26th)
Rushing yards allowed/game: Atlanta Falcons 78.6 (2nd), Tampa Bay Buccaneers 108.7 (16th)
Rushing TDs allowed: Atlanta Falcons 10 (T-31st), Tampa Bay Buccaneers 5 (T-17th)
Third down efficiency: Atlanta Falcons 39% (19th), Tampa Bay Buccaneers 41% (24th)
Sacks: Atlanta Falcons 8 (32nd), Tampa Bay Buccaneers 16 (12th)

On defense, things look a little more cloudy. Atlanta finally has an above average defense, due in large part to stellar run defense (2nd) and an opportunistic defense (8 INTs, tied for sixth). They’re slightly above average in points (13th) and total yards (14th), while their third down defense is slightly below average (39 percent, 19th). However, the Falcons have struggled defending the pass (25th in yards allowed) and in generating sacks with only eight through seven games, last in the league.

Tampa also has the benefit of a better defense this season. They’re sixth in total yards, fifth in passing yards, and 12th in sacks with 16. They’re also about league average in rushing defense (16th), but have struggled where it truly counts: points. They’ve allowed a whopping 29.8 points/game, tied for 31st in the league, and 15 TDs through the air (T-27th). Part of that is due to poor third down defense, as they have allowed a 41 percent conversion rate (24th).

This is a closer matchup than on offense, but the Falcons hold the advantages in most of the key match-ups for this game. Sure, they allow about 30 more yards/game, but have given up a shocking 8.4 fewer points per game. Fortunately for Atlanta, points are the only thing that matter in football.

Final Thoughts

The stats again favor Atlanta in this game, as they have through much of the season. The Falcons match up well against the Bucs’ strengths, particularly their run game. Atlanta has shown they are able to keep good RBs in check, and while Martin is likely to get a TD or two, his yardage total will likely be limited. On the other side, the Falcons should have little trouble getting Devonta Freeman going against a merely average unit.

Although the Falcons have sputtered somewhat on offense over the past three games, that trend is not something that I expect to continue. Many people were expecting that trend to be broken against Tennessee, but the numbers said otherwise (Tennessee quietly has one of the better defenses, particularly against the pass, in the NFL). I expect that trend to end on Sunday, as Julio Jones appears to be fully healthy and Matt Ryan is bound to have a breakout game sooner or later.

As long as the Falcons don’t shoot themselves in the foot a la New Orleans, they should leave the friendly confines of the Georgia Dome with a comfortable win. Just don’t expect another 56-14 explosion.