2016 Falcons vs. the Dirty Birds of 1998: which team wins?

If the Atlanta Falcons are able to upset the New England Patriots this Sunday, the Super Bowl championship will be the franchise’s first. The Falcons aren’t unfamiliar with the Big Game though, with one other Super Bowl appearance. Back in 1998, the Falcons finished the regular season with a 14-2 record. Their route to Super Bowl XXXIII included a 20-18 victory over the San Francisco 49ers and a 30-27 come-from-behind overtime win at Minnesota in the NFC Championship — just the Vikings’ second loss of the season. Atlanta’s run ended against the Denver Broncos, as John Elway threw for 336 yards and a touchdown in his final NFL game to lead his team to a 34-19 win.

Atlanta’s 1998 squad was led by running back Jamal Anderson, who turned an NFL-high 410 carries into 1,846 yards and 14 touchdowns. Quarterback Chris Chandler posted the best season of his career with 3,154 passing yards and 25 touchdowns. His favorite targets included Tony Martin (66 catches, 1,181 yards) and Terance Mathis (64 catches, 1,136 yards). The Falcons averaged 27.6 points per game during the 1998 season, while holding opponents to 18.1 points. By comparison, Atlanta led the NFL in points per game this season with a 33.8 average, but surrendered 25.4 points per contest.

In a head-to-head matchup between the 1998 and 2016 Falcons, which team would come out on top? We used WhatIfSports.com’s NFL simulation engine to find out. Check out how each team performed in 501 simulations:

2016 Falcons vs. 1998 Falcons
Matchup Win % Avg. Score
2016 Atlanta Falcons 52.6 29
vs. 1998 Atlanta Falcons 47.4 28 Simulate Game

The 2016 Falcons came out on top in 52.6 percent of games, narrowly outscoring the 1998 team 29-28. Matt Ryan outdueled Chandler, tossing for an average of 308.8 passing yards with a 68.4 completion percentage and 2.1 touchdowns per game. Chandler averaged 280.9 yards and 1.9 TDs. Jamal Anderson led all rushers with 109.3 yards and more than a touchdown per game. The simulation’s best receiver was Julio Jones, with 115.8 yards per game. The 1998 duo of Martin and Mathis combined for 159.6 yards and nearly a touchdown per contest.

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