The world of advanced metrics opened up a new world for football fans to get deeper inside the game, and attempt to make more accurate predictions about one of the most unpredictable sports in the world. Despite sitting at a vaunted 6-0, metrics show that the Atlanta Falcons may not be as good as their record.
Being undefeated isn't chance-- it would be foolish to assume that. However, it is important to note that the teams the Falcons played have an atrocious combine record of 12-22. Despite this the Falcons have managed to win by an average margin of just 9.7 points, a margin that should be much larger due to the disparity in talent. This is a team who were taken to the limit by the 1-4 Panthers and Raiders, but little of that matters at the end of the day. Moving forward, and for the remainder of the 2012 season it is something to watch, and the crux of the less-than-stellar ranking in Football Outsiders' DVOA rankings, which came out yesterday.
This is an advanced metric to evaluate team efficiency, and when examined through this lens, the Atlanta Falcons look far more vulnerable than their unblemished record shows.
Offensive Efficiency: 7.0%, 10th in the NFL
Against their opponents the Falcons performed just seven percent better than other teams who played the same competition. With Matt Ryan at the helm, and Michael Turner now getting his legs back under him, one would think this rating would be far higher. The New York Giants, for example, are 30.1% better on offense.
Defensive Efficiency: -7.3 %, 12th in the NFL
Teams playing the Falcons perform seven percent worse than other opponents. Despite Mike Nolan's new, varied defense, it isn't proving to be a huge difference maker. Opponents of the Chicago Bears perform 34.1 percent worse.
It is easy to write off these kind of numbers as meaningless. After all, the Falcons are 6-0 at this point, but the concern is that Atlanta wont truly be tested until the playoffs. For the rest of 2012 they only see two teams currently on the better side on .500, the Arizona Cardinals and the New York Giants. By the time the Falcons see New York in week 15 it might be too late to know whether they're built for the long haul, or picking on poor teams.