As we've said over and over, the games are played on the field, not on paper. But statistics are there for a reason and tell us a story abut the team on both sides of the ball as well as Special Teams. In preparation of the first Thursday Night Football game of the season on the NFL Network (the game will be on local TV in Baltimore for those who do not get the NFL Network), let's compare the Atlanta Falcons and the Baltimore Ravens based on what the numbers look like on paper:
OFFENSE- The Falcons are 5th in the league, averaging 370 yards a game, while the Ravens are 14th, averaging 348 yards/game. Atlanta averages 24.5 points/game (11th) and Baltimore 21.9 (15th). The Falcons rushing attack is 6th in the NFL (136.5/game) and the Ravens are 11th (118.8/game). Passing the ball is pretty even, with Atlanta ranked 11th (233.6 yards/game) and Baltimore 15th (229.2 yards/game).
(Click on the 'Jump' to see the comparisons for the Defense and Special Teams.)
DEFENSE-I've always said the only stat that truly matter on defense is points allowed. The Ravens defense give up an average of 17.4 points/game (6th) while the Falcons allow 19.2 points/game (10th). The difference in total yards allowed is larger, with Baltimore permitting 310 yards/game (9th) while Atlanta allows 346 yards/game (21st). The Ravens allow 104.8 rushing yards per game (13th) and 206 passing yards (9th), while the Falcons allow 95.9 rushing yards (6th) and 250 passing yards (26th) per game. Baltimore's defense has given up eight TDs and has eight interceptions and 14 sacks (21st) with opposing QB's only having a 77.8 QB Rating while throwing at a 60.4 completion percentage (14th). Conversely, the Falcons' defense has given up 13 TDs and has 13 picks and 16 sacks (20th) with opposing QB's having a 87.4 QB Rating while throwing at a 67.7 completion percentage (31st).
SPECIAL TEAMS-The Ravens' Billy Cundiff has been spectacular on kickoffs, with 22 touchbacks (2nd in NFL), and has hit 14 of 17 FG's (9th) with a long of 49 yards. The Falcons have connected on 16 of 19 attempts (3rd) with a long of also 49 yards. Their kickoffs have not been returned eleven times (8th in NFL). Neither punter is among the tops in the league, with Baltimore's Sam Koch averaging 42.5 yards/punt (25th) while the Falcons averaging 38.3 yards/punt (32nd).
OVERALL-Ravens fans will be thrilled to see that their team is ranked 2nd overall in the all-important 'Time of Possession' category, holding onto the ball for 33:10 of the 60:00 minutes, while the Falcons are just barely behind them, ranking 4th at 33:05 minutes/game. It appears that the team that holds onto the ball the longest with the least amount of penalties and turnovers will win this game on the field, as the paper stats are almost too close to show enough of a difference to predict the winner based on them.