There are five NFC teams (CHI, GB, NO, NYG, and PHI) ranked ahead of the Falcons in the latest installment of the M-P rankings despite the fact that the Falcons have the highest winning percentage in the conference and are tied for the lead league in wins and winning percentage (with NE). The Dirty Birds have played three of the NFC teams ranked ahead of them, and beaten two of them. Of the 11 total teams ranked ahead of them, the Falcons have played five and gone 3-2 against that set – beat the Packers, Saints and Ravens, and lost to the Steelers before getting worked by the Eagles. The graph below charts the M-P rank of the Falcons (bolded Blue line) as well as the five teams ranked ahead of them in this week’s pole. After 13 weeks of play in the NFL, the road to the Super Bowl passes through the Georgia dome (where the Falcons have yet to lose)…so, why no M-P love for the Dirty Birds?
The proof is in the pudding. As a start, check out ATL’s category scores through week 13 in the graph below. Very good teams should score positively in the x-axis items that end with the letter “o” (for offense) and negatively in the x-axis items that end with the letter “d” (you guessed it). Off the bat, it’s easy to see that the Falcons don’t run the ball well nor do they defend against the run well (in other words, a good running and run defending team would have those scores flipped). The same can be said of passing offense and defense, which is also flipped in the wrong direction for a good team. This is especially surprising given the season that Matty Ice is having. No points for 4th quarter comebacks, I suppose.
What matters most, however, is that ATL ranks only 9th in the most significant category of offensive play success (z-score of .36, versus .98 for first place in category NE). Moreover, ATL is way at the bottom (ranked 22nd) in the third most important category of defensive play success (.22 versus -.79 for first place in category NYG). The Birds make up for it a bit by ranking 2nd in scoring offense, which is the second most important category (.43 versus .59 for first place NE).
How does ATL compare to the teams ranked ahead of it that it has played? Those results are even uglier, especially against the NFC squads. The graphs below are broken up just to make them easier to read, and the results speak volumes. Based on the explanations above, readers should be able to figure out what’s going on here. Versus the NFC competition, ATL looks good only on scoring offense. Against the NFC, ATL holds the scoring offense and offensive play success advantage against PIT and BAL…which makes sense given the offensive snooze fest the AFC North rivals put on this past Sunday night.