Sack differential tells big story in NFC South

Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas

There is one statistic that clearly demonstrates the difference between the top two teams in the NFC South and the bottom two.

It’s sack differential -- that’s the difference between the number of sacks a team has recorded and the number it has allowed.

The Falcons and Saints excel in this category. The Falcons rank fourth in the league in this category with a plus-8 differential. They haven’t been anything special on the pass rush, recording only 10 sacks. But they’ve been phenomenal protecting Matt Ryan, who has been sacked only twice this season and hasn’t been sacked in the last four games.

To show you how important this stat is, the only teams ahead of the Falcons are the Broncos, Colts and Giants. They have one combined loss.

The Saints are tied with Minnesota in the next spot after Atlanta. The Saints have a plus-7 differential. They’ve recorded 12 sacks and given up only five.

There’s a big drop after that in the NFC South. Carolina ranks 17th with a zero sack differential. The Panthers have recorded a division-best 13 sacks, but they’ve also allowed a division-worst 13 sacks.

The Buccaneers are in negative territory. They’re tied for 22nd with a minus-2 differential. Tampa Bay has recorded 10 sacks, but allowed 12.