Who’s going to be next season’s Atlanta Falcons? NFL.com’s Dave Dameshek thinks it’ll be the Buffalo Bills. It was part of a short video segment, so Dameshek wasn’t able to elaborate. Let’s unpack his Bills selection.
Starting with raw numbers, the Atlanta Falcons went from an 8-8 team in 2015 to the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs and will now represent the conference in Super Bowl LI. On offense, Matt Ryan’s crew went from 21st in points and 7th in yards last year to 1st in points and 2nd in yards this season en route to one of the finest offensive campaigns we’ve witnessed in the NFL history. This year, the Bills went 7-9 and had an offense ranked 10th in points and 16th in yards.
For the analytics enthusiasts out there, Atlanta was 23rd in Football Outsiders’ offensive DVOA in 2015 and jumped to 1st in 2016. Buffalo was 10th in offensive DVOA this past season.
At a macro, schematic level, Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan runs a modernized version of his dad’s offense. Gary Kubiak is a direct coaching disciple of Mike Shanahan, and new Bills offensive coordinator Rick Dennison coached with Kubiak for many years. On paper, that would indicate the current Falcons offensive system will be very similar to what the Bills run under Dennison.
It’s a bit foolish to directly compare Tyrod Taylor and Matt Ryan, two different quarterbacks in many ways. Stylistically, they couldn’t be more dissimilar. Ryan is a pure pocket-passing, former No. 3 overall pick. Taylor is an incredibly mobile, former sixth rounder. Heading into 2016, Ryan had eight years of starting experience to the two years Taylor has now. But statistically, from an efficiency standpoint, these quarterbacks aren’t so contrasting.
Before this season, Ryan’s career completion percentage was 64.3. Taylor’s is currently 62.6. Ryan had a 4.5% TD rate, a yards-per-attempt average of 7.2 and QB Rating of 90.9. As a starter, Taylor has the exact same TD rate, a YPA of 7.4 and a QB Rating of 94.2.
This isn’t to suggest Taylor will suddenly emerge as the front-runner for the MVP award in 2017. It’s just to show that Matt Ryan, though much more of a high-volume quarterback, made his ascension in 2016 from a comparable place to that of where Taylor is today.
Atlanta’s offensive skill-position group is spearheaded by monster wideout Julio Jones but features a plethora of play-makers at varied sizes with unique talents. Buffalo has a lot of work to do to recreate what the Falcons can throw at a defense. This offseason will go a long way in seeing if the Bills can make Dave Damshek look like a genius a year from now.