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 Post subject: The Falcons' potentially fatal flaws
PostPosted: Wed Oct 17, 2012 12:19 am 
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http://insider.espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/ ... atal-flaws

The Falcons' potentially fatal flaws
Atlanta must correct problems on the ground or 6-0 start may mean little
Originally Published: October 16, 2012
By Vince Verhei | Football Outsiders

With the newest set of ESPN's NFL Power Rankings released Tuesday, the Atlanta Falcons are perched on top of the pile. As the NFL's lone undefeated team, they're an easy selection. Unless you view the Falcons the way we do at Football Outsiders.

Our newest set of DVOA rankings will be published Tuesday afternoon, and they're going to have the Falcons way down in eighth place. This is a very good team, but a flawed one, and even in victory they've shown too many weaknesses to be considered the best team in the league.

The Football Outsiders rankings aren't based on opinion polls -- they're based on DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average), a proprietary system that evaluates every play of the NFL season one at a time and adjusts for down, distance, score, quality of opposition and other factors. There is no vote, there is no debate, only the results of a mathematical formula. And that formula sees plenty of black marks on Atlanta's résumé.

Let's start with quality of opposition. The Falcons are 6-0, but the six teams have a combined record of 12-22. None has a winning record, and on average, they're getting outscored by 3.7 points per game.

It would be one thing if Atlanta was blowing these foes off the field, but that's not the case. Quite the opposite, in fact. Four of the Falcons' wins were decided by less than a touchdown. Three weeks in a row, they've needed go-ahead scores late in the fourth quarter to escape with narrow wins.

Sunday's game was a perfect example. Matt Ryan threw three interceptions that helped Oakland take a 13-7 lead into halftime. The Falcons scratched their way back to a tie score and took the lead on an Asante Samuel pick-six, but the Falcons' defense allowed the Raiders to drive the field and tie the game with less than a minute to go. That was just enough time to set up Matt Bryant for a game-winning field goal, his third of the day, this one from 55 yards.

Some observers see this game and say the Falcons overcame adversity. DVOA sees this game and says Atlanta got a gift defensive touchdown, and still needed to be bailed out by a heroic effort from their kicker -- all at home against a team that entered the game 1-3. In DVOA's eyes, that's a bad game, even if Atlanta came away with a W. Same story for the games against Carolina and Washington. These are not good teams, but each had Atlanta on the ropes, and the Falcons didn't win so much as they escaped.

We've established why DVOA sees flaws in this Atlanta team, but we haven't pointed out what those flaws are. It's pretty clear: The Falcons can't run the ball and they can't stop the run, either. That shows up in basic stats, such as yards per game and yards per carry, and also in some of Football Outsiders' advanced stats. You can see our glossary for more information on these numbers, but here's how they work in a nutshell:

• Success rate (SR): The percentage of each team's carries (running backs only) that gain meaningful yardage towards a new set of downs.
• Second-level yards (SLY): Average yards gained 5 to 10 yards past the line of scrimmage.
• Open-field yards (OFY): Average yards gained 10 or more yards downfield.
• Power: Percentage of short-yardage runs that gain a first down or touchdown.

Atlanta's 2012 rushing statistics

League rank in parentheses
Stat Offense Defense
Yds/Gm 86.5 (25) 143.8 (27)
Yds/Run 3.7 (26) 5.2 (31)
SR 41% (28) 55% (27)
SLY 0.95 (25) 1.34 (26)
OFY 0.52 (22) 1.33 (31)
Power 33% (32) 63% (16)

The table to the right shows how Atlanta's offense and defense have performed in each of these categories, and where they rank in the league. It's not a pretty picture:

Some concrete examples of said shortcomings: Michael Turner had good games against San Diego and Carolina, but in each of his other four games, he's averaged fewer than 4 yards per carry. His backups are even worse -- Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling have combined to rush 37 times for only 88 yards. That's 2.4 yards per carry.

On the other side of the ball, they bottled up Oakland's Darren McFadden this weekend, but that was the exception, not the rule. Denver's Willis McGahee gained 113 yards on 22 carries against Atlanta. Washington's Alfred Morris had 115 yards on 18 runs. Kansas City's Jamaal Charles: 16 carries for 87. Carolina's DeAngelo Williams had 11 for 49, and Cam Newton had nine for 86.

That's all of the bad news for Atlanta. The good news? The teams remaining on its schedule are almost as soft as those it already has beaten. Only two of the Falcons' future opponents have winning records, and one of them, Arizona, probably will be below .500 when it plays the Falcons in mid-November. The only real test will come when the Falcons host the New York Giants in December.

For all of their weak points, however, the Falcons are still a dangerous squad. Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez are perhaps the league's best trio of receivers, and the opportunistic pass defense is in the top 10 in both interceptions and sacks. They may not finish with a perfect record, but they're almost certain to host a playoff game.

The problem for Atlanta, though, is that some of the NFC's playoff favorites have strengths that fit perfectly with the Falcons' weaknesses. Can you imagine what Matt Forte and the Bears could do to this defense? Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawks? Frank Gore and the 49ers? Ahmad Bradshaw and the Giants?

If the Falcons can't find a way to get better on the ground on both sides of the ball, they could be one-and-done in the playoffs for the fourth time in five years.

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 Post subject: Re: The Falcons' potentially fatal flaws
PostPosted: Wed Oct 17, 2012 12:25 am 
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Well I agree to some extent with this article and disagree on other aspects. I agree we played awful against the Raiders and that if we play like that against a contender we will get buried. At the same time I don't share any fear of the list of Running backs listed as ways to beat us. Running games will hurt us, but not beat us, just not the same league anymore.

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 Post subject: Re: The Falcons' potentially fatal flaws
PostPosted: Mon Nov 05, 2012 11:50 pm 
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The Falcons are now 8-0 however I still feel if they met the Giants/49ers or the Bears the team would get beat if it doesn't bring its A game. Last night's game was a nice win vs Dallas however there were way to many mistakes and if those mistakes don't get resolved by playoff time it could be another short post season for the Falcons. We beat Dallas by 6 pts however would the offense move the ball vs a defense like the Giants/Bears/49rs and come out with the win? I doubt it.

Now I'm not all gloom and doom but am trying to be realistic come our playoff chances. Fortunately we have 8 more games to solve some problems. The big thing about those other teams is their front 4 vs our off line and our def line vs their off line. The game usually is won in the trenches and out of the 4 teams the Falcons come in 4th in my opinion. It's nice to savior this 8-0 start but this team needs to improve for what is ahead.

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 Post subject: Re: The Falcons' potentially fatal flaws
PostPosted: Tue Nov 06, 2012 3:34 am 
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Before this week, Dallas was one of the best defenses in the league. They were 3rd against the pass. Ryan was the first QB this year to throw for over 300 yards against the Cowboys.

Teams are gunning for us at this point. We're the last undefeated team around. Dallas brought their A game and we still won.

I agree that we still have some things that need to get worked out, but let's not be too hard on ourselves. We're 8-0, and we deserve to be.


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 Post subject: Re: The Falcons' potentially fatal flaws
PostPosted: Tue Nov 06, 2012 3:46 am 
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Yet Dallas finds ways to lose as we saw. What I'm sayng is if we play like we did vs Dallas the 49ers,Bears and Giants will win. It's that fine line of lets not be to hard on ourselves for our weaknesses yet lets not be to easy on ourselves either. I feel this is a different team and we have beat who was on our schedule. At the same time we must get better or face the consequences when it matters most in the playoffs.

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 Post subject: Re: The Falcons' potentially fatal flaws
PostPosted: Tue Nov 06, 2012 5:21 am 
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We've beat plenty of teams who were around .500 but when we beat then it Pushed them lower.

The Cowboys were almost fighting for their playoff life Sunday night
3-4 now 3-5 it doesn't look as good for them. The better your team is the worse the others all look.

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 Post subject: Re: The Falcons' potentially fatal flaws
PostPosted: Tue Nov 06, 2012 4:13 pm 
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The only team on the Falcons remaining schedule that can win a Super Bowl is the Giants. It will tell me alot about the Falcons if both teams are playing the game if it is important. Playoff spots could be wrapped up by then or teams could rest certain players. The rest of the schedule the Falcs may lose a few but a good measuring stick on how good the Falcons are is to measure them vs possible Super Bowl contenders. Teams like Dallas,Washington,Kansas City,San Diego,Philly have huge flaws and their not among the best although we did beat them.

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 Post subject: Re: The Falcons' potentially fatal flaws
PostPosted: Tue Nov 06, 2012 5:09 pm 
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I agree with thescout, that I don't think the Falcons are on the level with a team like the 49ers. I think the 49ers play a very specific brand of football that is very difficult for this current Falcon team to match up with.

But I do think there is the potential for the team to get there. I like what I've seen from the offense the past two games. And as I've said throughout this season, I think this team's only real shot at making a deep run in the playoffs is if the offense is able to carry us. And I think against improved competition the past 2 weeks, they have stepped up, which is what I want to see.

I don't think we're there yet, but I'm much more optimistic about our ability to get there by year's end than I was after the Raiders game.

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 Post subject: Re: The Falcons' potentially fatal flaws
PostPosted: Tue Nov 06, 2012 5:52 pm 
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I sincerely hope that if we do, in fact, have home field wrapped up by that time, that we don't take the foot off of the gas. If we start resting people against the Giants, that will be at least 3 weeks where our guys aren't playing full speed football before our first playoff game. IMHO, we should keep going out and playing our best through week 17. We'll have a first round bye to rest. But if we approach those final games playing, "less than," we will be welcoming opportunities for people to get hurt, and we won't hit the ground running during our first playoff game.

I would be interested in seeing how teams that rest their players in the last two games of the season fare in the playoffs vs teams that do not.


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 Post subject: Re: The Falcons' potentially fatal flaws
PostPosted: Tue Nov 06, 2012 6:42 pm 
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The correlation between teams that rest their starters in Weeks 16 and/or 17 and those that lose their first playoff games is extremely high, especially when those teams have first round byes. IMHO, it's what doomed Green Bay last year, and has historically been the primary culprit behind the Colts disappointing playoff losses in the Dungy/Manning era.

It is especially detrimental to teams where the biggest aspect of their team is their offense and their QB.

In one sense, the Falcons could/should actually benefit from losing a bunch of games the rest of the way out and getting a #3 or #4 seed and forcing them to have to go on the road in Round 2.

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 Post subject: Re: The Falcons' potentially fatal flaws
PostPosted: Wed Nov 07, 2012 9:36 am 
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thescout wrote:
What I'm sayng is if we play like we did vs Dallas the 49ers,Bears and Giants will win. .


My eyeball test tells me the only team I truly 'fear' is the Bears. Looking down the road if we handle our bidnezz, we should be playing at home again in the playoffs. I may be wrong, but if the Giants or the 49'ers come into the Dome I think we squeak out a win.

I feel like the Green Bay Dissapointment had more to do with BVG, and Nolan has definitely improved our D. He is making chicken salad outta chickensh*t. Of course, this all takes into account us not getting hit by the injury bug.

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 Post subject: Re: The Falcons' potentially fatal flaws
PostPosted: Wed Nov 07, 2012 11:32 am 
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I wholly disagree that the talent on our defense is, "chickenshit." Both our defense and our offense were being run by people who are not fit to be NFL coaches. The talent was there before, it just took someone that's not a complete failure at an NFL level to make it work.

It would be one thing if we were blind sided by this change. But many of us knew darn well that our coordinators sucked.


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 Post subject: Re: The Falcons' potentially fatal flaws
PostPosted: Wed Nov 07, 2012 2:23 pm 
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It is funny that you say you fear the Bears the most....of the 4 common teams we would play (Bears, 9ers, Giants, packers) the bears are the one I fear the least.

I know they look great so far, but when they played the Packers (who made limited mistakes) they were wambusled!!!

There offense is nothing to fear and Nolan should be able to design a gameplan to control it completely.

So the game will come down to does Ryan throw pick six(s) or not. And of all QBs in the league, Ryan is one I would trust. Sure he had the Oakland game, but he must have had a drag before the game....He is good at limiting turnovers in general.


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 Post subject: Re: The Falcons' potentially fatal flaws
PostPosted: Wed Nov 07, 2012 3:36 pm 
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RobertAP wrote:
I wholly disagree that the talent on our defense is, "chickenshit." Both our defense and our offense were being run by people who are not fit to be NFL coaches. The talent was there before, it just took someone that's not a complete failure at an NFL level to make it work.

It would be one thing if we were blind sided by this change. But many of us knew darn well that our coordinators sucked.



I think you missed my point. My analogy wasn't that we dont have talent, it's that look at what Nolan has accomplished with losing Grimes, Lofton ( not his fault ), Jerry ( bust) etc..He took what we had and improved them. Maybe the better analogy is making Filet Mignon outta turkey bacon and Spam;-)

I wholeheartedly agree that BVG could not replicate what Nolan does. After we lose Koetter next season, I hope they keep Nolan!

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 Post subject: Re: The Falcons' potentially fatal flaws
PostPosted: Wed Nov 07, 2012 7:21 pm 
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I'm with randy on this one, not very afraid of the Bears. They are a good team no doubt but they don't really scare me. The 49ers, then Giants, then Packers, then Bears, then Seahawks would be e 5 teams in that order I'd least want the Falcons to see in the playoffs.

The thing I would like about facing the Bears is that they arent as playoff-tested as the others. Cutler has played in what 1.5 playoff games and that lone win was against a 7-9 Seahawks team at home. To me Cutler at this point is like Vick in the playoffs, he could really be great, but probably 3 out of 4 times he'll be pretty lackluster.

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