One of the strangest phenomenon surrounding the Atlanta Falcons in 2012 is how they continue to win games, but show by every advanced statistic that they don't deserve to. Most will (and probably should) thumb their noses at such aspersions, but today we're taking another look at how the Falcons are doing.
The folks over at Football Outsiders continued their charting of DVOA, and it shows the Falcons have slipped further; now down to 12th overall.
Offensively is where they're having to most trouble at a +3.4% rating. This means that against the same ten opponents Atlanta are averaging just 3.4% more than the average. On one hand this seems good, however when you scratch the surface and see how other top teams in the NFC are doing, it becomes far worse; San Francisco (24.7%), Green Bay (18.3%), and the New York Giants (10.1%) are all beating their opponents more convincingly than the Falcons. Moreover, this number for Atlanta is slipping. This is in part due to Matt Ryan struggling recently, but also shows that Dirk Koetter's offense isn't nearly as effective as it was early in the season. This is a bad time to be having problems moving the ball.
The story on defense isn't much better, where Atlanta are rated at a +0.3%, meaning teams perform slightly better than average when seeing Mike Nolan's unit. It's nothing to hold onto too much, but given that the 49ers (-15.4%), Seattle (-22.0%) and Chicago (-35.0%) are all vastly better, it's a concern.
The main issue for the Falcons is that ten weeks in, it's still hard to discern their identity. On offense they're a conservative team who rely on Matt Ryan controlling the ball, while on defense they're not a very aggressive unit. Atlanta don't do anything bad per se, but also nothing wholly remarkable. In order to make a deep playoff push they have to find a way to make a difference on either side of the ball, and quickly.