By Matthew Asher
Statistics are always interesting when it comes to sports. Some people say the only stats that matter are wins and losses while others argue that it’s certain statistics combined that show true greatness. When the Seattle Seahawks come to the Georgia Dome this Sunday to face the Atlanta Falcons, it’s amazing how these similar the potential “important statistics” are with both teams.
The Atlanta Falcons had the best record in the NFC this season, yet the 13-3 squad is not the runaway favorite this week against the 11-5 Seahawks. Looking at what both teams have done this season forces you to look past the simple win-loss records.
In an article earlier this week about Atlanta’s keys to victory against Seattle, one of them was to win the time of possession battle. The problem for Atlanta is that both teams are really good at retaining possession of the ball. Atlanta averages 30:52 of possession every game. Seattle averages 31:50.
Both teams can’t hold the ball for more than 30 minutes, this will be an important stat towards deciding a winner. The other part of the ball control stat is how teams fare in the turnover battle. Both the Falcons and Seahawks are +13 in the regular season.
When it comes to offense, both teams are models of consistency. Atlanta’s 26.2 points a game are the seventh most while Seattle’s 25.8 is the ninth most points scored a game. Seattle has one of the best running attacks in the league. Led by Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks average 161.2 yards on the ground each game.
With all the attention this season on Adrian Peterson’s chase of the rushing record, Lynch had one of the quietest 1,600 rushing yard seasons in a while. His 1,590 yards were the third most in the league this season.
The Atlanta Falcons’ rushing attack is essentially the Bizarro World Seattle Seahawks’ rushing attack. Seattle has the third best rushing attack in the league. Atlanta has the third worst running game. In what has been a constant theme over the season, Michael Turner has been under-performing week in and week out. Some people think that this Divisional Round game is Turner’s tryout for the 2013 season.
As far as defense goes, this is where certain important stats don’t really tell the story. On paper the Falcons defense appears to be over-matched. They give up 365.6 yards of total offense a game: 242.4 in the air and 123.2 on the ground. This ranks them 24th, 23rd and 21st respectively in the league. The important stat for the Falcons defense is points allowed: the 18.7 given up each game is the fifth lowest in the league. That is why Atlanta is 13-3.
If records were based solely on defensive stats, Seattle would be the best team in the NFL this season. Unlike the Falcons, the Seahawks all rank in the top ten in each of those four defensive categories. Seattle gives up 306.2 total yards a game, 203.1 in the air and 103.1 on the ground. Those are the fourth, sixth and tenth best in the league, respectively. But what about the all-important points given up each game? Seattle gives up just 15.3, the least allowed in the NFL this season.
Which defense will be the dominant one? We’ll know the answer by 5pm EST this Sunday.
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Matthew Asher is a freelance writer covering all things Atlanta sports related. His work can be found on Examiner.com.