Many people see the two teams playing tonight as completely different.
The Atlanta Falcons are coming into this season with hopes for a Super Bowl run after going 13-3. They have franchise quarterback in Matt Ryan, a workhorse running back in Michael Turner, and a top wide receiver in Roddy White.
The Jaguars are still trying to conquer the Indianapolis Colts (and the Houston Texans hype) and take the AFC crown. The Jaguars were one game away from winning the division as they went into Indianapolis in Week 15, but they proceeded to lose all three of their final games to end up with a record of 8-8.
They have one super star in RB Maurice Jones-Drew and a couple of rising stars like rookie QB Blaine Gabbert and WR Mike Thomas, but the latter two don't hold a candle to Matt Ryan and Roddy White, respectively. However, while the two teams seem quite different, they are actually much more similar than you think.
The first and most surprising stat is the offense. The Jaguars ranked 15th in the league in total offense with an average of 341.2 total yards per game while the Falcons were ranked 16th in the league with 341.1 yards per game. With all of the griping that we hear daily about the offense, it doesn't seem very bad at all and with all of the young ascending talent, the Jaguars offense should only get better.
This is where the difference becomes more apparent. The Jaguars ranked 28th in total defense giving up 371.8 yards per game while the Falcons ranked 16th in the league in total defense with 332.4 yards per game. Giving up that many yards is unacceptable, but fortunately, that number should be going down with all of the new additions on defense.
The most critical difference between the two teams is the turnover ratio. The Jaguars caused 18 turnovers (13 INTs, 5 FRs) while the offense gave up 33 turnovers (21 INTs, 12 lost fumbles), resulting in a -15 turnover ratio. The Falcons caused 31 turnovers (22 INTs, 8 FRs), while the Falcons offense gave up only 17 turnovers (9 INTs, 8 lost fumbles) resulting in a +14 ratio. There is no doubt that the turnover ratio must improve dramatically if the Jaguars are looking to make a playoff run, which probably explains all of the ball-stripping drills that I saw in camp. However, the new strip drills do seem to be working wonders since the Jaguars first team defense caused three forced fumbles in the first quarter.
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