Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Atlanta Falcons 2010 vs Atlanta Falcons 1998

The Falcons are having one of it's greatest seasons in franchise history.  In fact, the Falcons (who are currently 12-2) have won 12 games in a season for only the 3rd time in franchise history (1980 & 1998 being the other two teams).

The current team is currently on a 8 game winning streak with two games to go in the regular season, and only need to win one of it's final two games to earn home-field advantage through-out the NFC Playoffs.  Given the fact that Matty Ice is 20-1 at home, it makes the Falcons a clear favorite to make it to Dallas Stadium for Super Bowl XLV on February 6th, 2011.  That being said, I can't help but be a little concerned that this current team resembles the 1998 team in style and substance.  For those not old enough to remember, the 1998 team (originally known as the Dirty Birds) also ended the season on a long winning streak (9 games in a row) eventually making it to Super Bowl XXXIII and losing badly to the Denver Broncos 34-19 (in John Elway's last professional game).  That 1998 team, like the current one, relied heavily on a balanced offense with a solid performance from Chris Chandler at QB (3100yds, 25TDs, 12Ints) and a MVP-like performance from Jamal Anderson (1800yds, 15 TDs rushing).  The Defense was stingy in takeaways (+20), great against the run (2nd in the league), but below average against pass (21st in yards allowed).  This closely mirrors the performances we've seen so far from Matt Ryan, Michael Turner and the defensive unit of the 2010 class.  Below is a comparison of the two teams to better illustrate the point:

Stats 1998 2010
Overall Record 14-2    12-2 (2 games remaining)
Turnover Differential +20 +13
Points Scored per Game 27.6 26.4
Points Allowed per Game 18.1 18.6
Offensive Rank (Passing) 11th 14th
Offensive Rank (Running)    6th 7th
Defensive Rank (Passing) 21st 20th
Defensive Rank (Running) 2nd 12th

Outside of the rushing defense, the stats are almost identical.  Of course, there are differences once you deep dive into the rolled up stats:

  • Chris Chandler had a 16.6 YDs per completion average, versus only 10.4 for Ryan, so the 1998 Falcons had a legitimate deep passing game with Tony Martin at WR being the main deep threat
  • Although Jamal Anderson finished the season with 1846YDs rushing, that can be explained by the fact that he carried the ball a whopping 410 times (then a NFL record).  The more telling number is that his Yards Per Attempt was 4.5YDs and Michael Turner is currently at 4.2YDs for only a 0.3 difference
  • The 1998 team was coming off a 7-9 season (first year of the Dan Reeves era) and followed up the 1998 campaign by going 5-11 mostly due to Jamal Anderson going down with a season ending knee injury in the second game of the season.  By contrast, one can argue that the 2010 edition are currently in it's greatest run in franchise history since this makes the third season in a row with a winning record and the 2nd time 3 years that the team will make it to the playoffs

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