The Meteoric Rise of the Atlanta Falcons

12 months ago, they were in the same situation. First in the NFC South and at the top of
the conference. However, this time is different for the Atlanta Falcons. While their record may
not be as good as it was a year ago, these Falcons are undeniably superior to the team they were
last year.

The Falcons started off last year completely white hot, going 5-0 to start the season But
how impressive was that 5-0 start? During week 5 of last year, Pro Football Outsiders had the
Falcons at 13 th in the league in DVOA, a statistic that measures a team's efficiency by comparing
success on every single play to a league average based on the situation and the opponent. It
stands for Defense-adjusted Value Over Average. For instance, a 5-0 team may be ranked below
a 2-3 team because of strength of schedule or the amount of luck involved. DVOA has been the
most accurate way of predicting playoff teams dating back to the invention of the statistic. The
Falcons rank of 13 th showed that while the Falcons had been able to win their first 5 games, they
would most likely not sustain it. DVOA was correct as the Falcons would slump coming down
the stretch, as they came in with a final record of 8-8, winning only 2 of their last 9 games.

This year’s Falcons have also started out well, with a 4-1 record to open the season. The
question is, how much better is this start than that of the 2015 season? The answer is much better.These Falcons are currently ranked 5 th in Total DVOA and have an 85% chance of making the
playoffs. While this statistic has been proven to be the most accurate predictor of future
outcomes, this is not the only reason that leads people to believe that the Falcons have improved.
The Falcons have had the same reputation for a long time. A team with a very talented
offense, but a completely anemic defense.

“They have the league’s best offense… but the Falcons also have the league’s 30 th best
defense,” said Mark Bradley of the AJC.
This quote could have been written about any of the past 5 Atlanta Falcons teams as this
perfectly describes all of them. However, this year’s team is different. The Falcons are currently
tied for 17 th in the league in sacks, which at first glance, does not seem impressive. This i
actually a marked improvement over last year as the Falcons were last in the league in sacks the
year before. Contributing to this improvement is Vic Beasley, a former first-round pick who
exploded last week against Denver with 3.5 sacks. He has already surpassed last year’s sack total
with 4.5.

“This was easily the most impressive game of Beasley’s young career,” wrote Stephen
White of SBNation.
Finally, the Falcons are clearly the best offense in the NFL. They lead the league in
nearly every important offensive category. They are 1 st in offensive DVOA, 1 st in points per
game, 1 st in passing yards per game, 1 st in plays over 20 yards and their 2 running backs have the
most all-purpose yards of any backfield in the NFL. Some may wonder where the improvement
came from. All signs point towards new Pro Bowl center Alex Mack, signed away from the
Cleveland Browns. Mack is instrumental in the Falcons zone blocking scheme, leading to bigger
holes for the running backs. Mack is also responsible for making the pass protection calls at the
line, something Matt Ryan has not had since Todd McClure of the 2012 season, a season that
saw the Falcons come 1 play from the Super Bowl. This is certainly a good sign for the Falcons
as it has taken lots of the pressure off of Matt Ryan, allowing him to make accurate throws down
the field.

“Free-agency addition Alex Mack at center is paying off. After finishing last season with
1,606 yards (20th), 3.8 yards per attempt (26th), and 13 rushing touchdowns (tied for 12th),
they’re currently sixth in yards (498), third in yards per carry (4.7), and fourth in touchdowns
(five),” said Danny Kelly of The Ringer.
The Falcons rapid improvement is certainly encouraging to all Falcons fans as the past 3
seasons have been disappointing. If the Falcons are able to sustain their momentum, they, for the
first time in the team’s history, will have a chance to raise the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the