Why Are N.F.L. Scores So High This Season?
Some look to the effects of the disruptions caused by the pandemic, while others find other explanations. But it’s irrefutable teams are scoring more points than in last season.
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By Bill Pennington
Taking place during a global pandemic, the 2020 N.F.L. season always figured to be an outlier, and predictably there have been persistent coronavirus outbreaks, a hastily restructured playing schedule and games contested in stark, empty stadiums.
But on the field, the fundamental goal of the game is surprisingly being achieved more successfully than ever.
N.F.L. teams have been scoring points at an unprecedented level in the season’s opening four weeks, an augmented efficacy that if sustained will rewrite the league’s 100-year-old record book. Whether the surge of high-scoring games this season is related to the effects of the pandemic is up for debate, but the statistics are irrefutable.
Through four weeks of the 2020 season, the average combined score of a game is 51.3 points, an increase of 16 percent over the same period a year ago and a roughly 20 percent increase in the average score of games since 2000.
Fifty-two times in the 63 games played during the first four weeks, a team has scored 30 or more points. In the same period last season, that happened 30 times. Teams have scored 35 or more points 16 times this season, a 78 percent increase compared with games played during the first four weeks of last season.
The Green Bay Packers are averaging 38 points a game and the Seattle Seahawks, on the strength of a nearly five touchdown-per-game pace, are averaging 35.5 points per game. Even the Dallas Cowboys, who have lost three of four games, have been scoring at a 31.5-point clip.
Some things are largely unchanged. The scoring averages for the Jets (16.2) and the Giants (11.8) are the lowest in the league.
Theories on the cause of the scoring surge have proliferated, including the advantages afforded road teams since they are no longer tormented by raucous home crowds, a curious drop in the number of penalties called and a decline in tackling skills resulting from the cancellation of preseason games.
Or, is the points boost simply a mix of the sport’s natural evolution and a desire to give fans what they want?
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