Mark Bradley

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Hope for the Falcons: The Patriots' No. 1 defense isn't really No. 1

When last we met, the topic concerned Football Outsiders' appraisal of what would happen if the Atlanta Falcons played poorly in the Super Bowl. (Spoiler alert: They'd lose big.) Today's offering comes courtesy of another analytical site, this one Chase Stuart's Football Perspective. And Mr. Stuart, I'm glad to report, offers hope for the Bowl-bound Birds.

We know that the Patriots yielded the fewest points among NFL teams. But that doesn't mean New England had the No. 1 defense. Going by yards against, it was No. 8. Using Outsiders' DVOA (defense-adjusted value above average), Mr. Stuart notes that the Pats were No. 16 -- mediocre, in sum -- in that metric. He also writes:

"The Patriots faced by far the easiest schedule of any defense in the NFL. New England’s strength of schedule was -7.1%, while Tennessee was 31st at -4.2% and the Bills were 30th at -3.0%. The Patriots would be tied for eighth in DVOA if that metric was not adjusted for strength of schedule, which is why the defense falls to 16th with those adjustments.

Also: The best quarterback the Patriots faced in the regular season was Seattle's Russell Wilson, who threw for 348 yards and administered New England's only loss with Tom Brady starting. Mr. Stuart's conclusion: "As far as 'No. 1 scoring defenses' go, this is a pretty non-threatening defense to face for the top quarterback in the NFL in 2016."

Not trying to make anybody overconfident here. The Pats are still coached by the guy who slowed the fast-break Buffalo Bills and the Rams' Greatest Show on Turf in Super Bowls. But I don't know that the Pats' defense, man for man, is any better than Denver's or Seattle's or Arizona's. The Falcons beat all three of those.

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About the Author

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He has been with the AJC since 1984.