Quick Hit: Offensive Points Per Game
One of the big misconceptions people have about today’s NFL is that there are significantly more points scored than ever before. However, that’s just not true. You’d have to go all the way back to World War II era football to find a time when there were significantly fewer points scored per game. Since about 1950, average points per game (per team) has stayed between 18-22. Here’s how it looks since the AFL/NFL merger in 1970:
As you can see, today’s offensive scoring is on par with what we saw for most of the last 30 years and only a little higher than the 1970’s. If the NFL had a “dead ball” era, it was the early 1990’s where offensive scoring dropped from 18.7 PPG in 1990 to 17.7 in 1991, 17.04 in 1992 and 17.9 in 1993 before jumping back up to 19.0 in 1994. A similar drop occurred in 1977 when scoring when from 18.3 PPG to 16.0.
Taking a look at it by source of points:
Each line represents the average number of offensive points per game by source of score. What happened in the early 1990’s was a one year drop in pass TD. In 1990 each team scored an average of 9.3 points off passing TD’s (and extra points) and 6.5 PPG from rushing TD’s. In 1991 that dropped to 7.9 passing PPG and 5.7 rushing PPG. The next two years saw passing TD’s rebound, 8.6 PPG in both 1992 and 1993 but rushing PPG fall to a mere 5.0 PPG (both years). In 1994, things normalized again, passing PPG jumping to 9.2 and rushing PPG to 5.7. Rushing PPG has only gone over 6.0 twice since 1990 (6.3 in 2002 and 6.4 in 2008).
Where are we so far in 2011? Well, through Week 10:
While this is being called the “Year Of The QB” (with some merit to that claim), passing TD’s are down from last year – and that’s before the harsh weather starts setting in.
So, while the media plays up the offensive “explosion” we have seen this year (and in the last 2-3 years), overall offensive scoring hasn’t seen too much change in 30-40 years other than a few isolated short periods.