By Matthew Asher
It took 12 weeks, but the Falcons and Bucs will finally meet for the first time this season. While they are in the same division, the strengths and weakness for each team is nearly the polar opposite of the other.
The only real comparable stat both teams share happens to be the only one that matters: points scored. Both teams do an extremely good job of putting points on the board. Tampa’s 28.7 points per game is the fourth most in the league while Atlanta is right behind them with 27.0 points, the sixth most.
With all the points scored, it shouldn’t be surprising that both teams have fairly potent offenses. Tampa averages almost 370 yards of offense each game, the 11th most while Atlanta’s 382 yards is good enough for 8th.
Other than those two stats, the teams couldn’t be more different. Offensively, Atlanta relies on Matt Ryan throwing the ball to his three-headed monster of Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White. Atlanta’s 292.9 passing yards each game is the fourth most in the league. Ryan currently has the third most passing yards in the league with almost 3,100 and Roddy’s nearly 950 receiving yards are the fourth most in the league.
While Josh Freeman has done an admirable job of throwing the ball, his numbers are nowhere close to Ryan’s. With 240 passing yards each game, Tampa is in the middle of the NFL, ranking 14th. Freeman’s 2,500 may not seem that great, but he does a great job of not turning the ball over. Freeman currently has 21 touchdowns against just seven interceptions while Ryan has 20 touchdowns versus 12 interceptions (with five of them coming last week against Arizona).
The running attack is just as different as the passing one between the two teams. Tampa Bay averages almost 130 yards on the ground each game, the ninth best in the league while Atlanta’s 89 yards a game is the fifth worst. As far as featured running backs, Tampa has relied heavily on Doug Martin. Not only does Martin have the coolest nickname but the “Muscle Hamster” is just one of four running backs to eclipse the 1,000 rushing yard barrier so far this season. He’s averaging more than five yards per carry.
As for Atlanta’s running attack, let’s just say they’ve been consistently underperforming the entire season and leave it at that.
Obviously a team can’t win if they can’t prevent the other team from scoring. Tampa is right in the middle of the league allowing 23 points a game while Atlanta’s 19.3 points per game is the sixth best in the league. What’s truly amazing is the disparity of how the defenses allow yardage.
The Bucs give up the least amount of rushing yards each game, fewer than 82. In the air, it’s a completely different story. Tampa’s secondary gives up the most yards, more than 310, in the entire league. To say that’s unusual is an understatement.
Atlanta is nearly the opposite of the Bucs. When it comes to defending passes, that’s where Atlanta’s defense shines. Allowing just 216 yards each game in the air is the seventh best while the running defense gives up 130 yards, the seventh worst in the league.
Despite the drastic difference in playing styles, there is one final thing the two teams share in common. Tampa is currently riding a four game winning streak while Atlanta defeated Arizona to get back to their winning ways. The last team that beat both teams? It’s the same team: the New Orleans Saints.
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Matthew Asher is a freelance writer covering all things Atlanta sports related. His work can be found on Examiner.com.