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Get to Know: Atlanta Falcons


Playoff hopes still alive

The Falcons will be playing for their postseason lives against the Panthers on New Year's Eve. With the win, Atlanta is in and will claim the NFC's No. 6 seed. A loss would likely end the Falcons' playoff hopes, but they could sneak in with some help.

Seattle, who's also 9-6, plays NFC West rival Arizona. If the Seahawks lose, they're eliminated from playoff contention regardless of the Falcons' result. But if the Seahawks win and the Panthers beat Atlanta, the defending NFC champions will finish short of the postseason. 

Lacking offensive touch 

Atlanta will need to find its offensive rhythm Sunday. The unit's production under first-year coordinator Steve Sarkisian hasn't helped the Super Bowl hangover narrative.

Last season, under former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, the Falcons averaged 33.8 points per game. This year, they're averaging only 22.1 points per game.

When they don't break 20 points, the Falcons are 0-6, including a 20-17 loss to the Panthers in Week 9. 

Red hot in the red zone at home

Statistically speaking, there's little difference in Atlanta's offensive production when it comes to playing at home versus on the road. Quarterback Matt Ryan's numbers are nearly identical, and the team's six losses are split evenly – three at home, three away. But the Falcons' have been considerably better in the red zone at home. 

In Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta scores a touchdown on 65 percent of its trips inside the red zone, on par with the season average of last years' Super Bowl team. Away from home, the Falcons convert red zone drives into touchdowns at a mere 45 percent rate.

Give and take

The Falcons have done an admirable job limiting their opponents' yards and points per game totals. In stark contrast to last season, when the defense ranked 25th overall and 27th in points, this Falcons' defense ranks 10th and 11th, respectively. 

With that said, Atlanta ranks at the bottom of the NFL in takeaways and turnover margin. The Falcons have just 13 takeaways, only two more than the 0-15 Cleveland Browns, and rank 24th in turnover margin (-5), tied with the 2-13 New York Giants.

Atlanta's ball security on offense hasn't helped either. In the past three games, running back Devonte Freeman has four fumbles, including one on the goal line against the Saints on Sunday.

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