Stats Show Atlanta Falcons Defense Has Weathered (Most Of) The Storm

ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 9: Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers passes against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on October 9, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

The Atlanta Falcons defense has played well against a barrage of top-10 offenses, with a degree of difficulty decrease following their bye week.

Esteemed colleague Caleb Rutherford kicked off (sports jargon) a discussion at The Falcoholic on whether Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder has made up for some rough early performances with a strong run heading into the team's bye. I think so, but who cares what I think?

Two things: any estimation of the job the Falcons defense has done so far has to factor in the gauntlet of offenses they've faced, and any sort of WHERE WE GO FROM HERE has to account for the schedule's relatively easy second half.

I have several HTML tables filled with good news on both counts:

First, let's compare points allowed by the Falcons and the points each opponent's scored against teams besides the Falcons.

 

Points

 

Vs. ATL AVG -ATL

 

Bears 23 19.5

 

Eagles 31 22.8

 

Bucs 16 20.3

 

Seahawks 28 11.5

 

Packers 25 34.2

 

Panthers 17 27.3

 

Lions 16 29.7

 

Overall 22.3 23.6

As you can see, the Falcons have allowed about one point fewer per game than each foe's average, despite a disastrous showing against the Seahawks. If Atlanta's first seven opponents could be mashed into one team, that team would rank 14th in the NFL in scoring per game -- or 10th, if you could take out the Seahawks' season average.

From here on out, though, Atlanta's remaining opponents would rank 18th. And that includes the Saints' top-ranked offense twice.

Here's the same thing, but for yardage:

 

Yards

 

Vs. ATL AVG -ATL

 

Bears 377 354.7

 

Eagles 447 450.6

 

Bucs 295 406.3

 

Seahawks 372 273.2

 

Packers 426 440.8

 

Panthers 368 438.7

 

Lions 263 387.7

 

Overall 364 393.1

Thirty yards per game, y'all. And that damn Seahawks game stands out again. Plus, from a yardage perspective, Atlanta's average opponent ranks No. 8 in the NFL, and No. 7 minus the Seahawks' average. The post-bye Falcons schedule, all piled together, would rank 13th. Tough, but less so. And, again, that's with the Saints twice.

One more ... yards per play, likely the most informative basic stat and the one most trusted by Vegas:

 

Yards/ Play

 

Vs. ATL AVG -ATL

 

Bears 5.9 6

 

Eagles 6.7 6.7

 

Bucs 4.3 5.6

 

Seahawks 7 4.5

 

Packers 6.8 7

 

Panthers 5.9 6.7

 

Lions 4.8 6

 

Overall 5.9 6.1

A foot or two shy, even with Seattle somehow turning into the Packers for an afternoon. And that's against a range of offenses that would rank 10th in the league in yards per play. That's a gauntlet. And, again, No. 7 without Seattle's average included. Atlanta's last nine opponents, averaged together, would rank 15th. Just for fun ... take out the Saints, and the other seven would rank No. 18.

With the Colts, Jaguars, BuccaneersVikings, and Titans (at least two rookie quarterbacks right there, plus whoever the Colts usher forth) forming most of the remaining Falcons schedule, there's no reason not to hope the level of defense we've seen over the last two weeks can't be sustained more often than not through the end of the regular season. (Then again, based on that Seahawks game, maybe it's the bad offenses we should worry about.)

So, yes, VanGorder's defense is just fine. We'll still need a few strong weeks in a row to be able to say the same about the offense.

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