Common sense tells us — or me at least — that playing in snowy conditions generally means the game is going to be a low-scoring contest in the NFL. Right?
I was pretty surprised to find out that despite the horrendous, blizzard-like conditions over in the northeast, the four games over there that began with snowfall looked like this: 29-26, 34-20, 34-28 and 45-10.
Back in the day — and by “back in the day,” I mean maybe four or five years ago and beyond — you’d see perhaps a December Baltimore Ravens-Pittsburgh Steelers game end 9-6 in conditions like that. But now? It seems like no matter what, the league is set up to score tons of points regardless.
In fact, this week that was filled with such classic frozen tundras, snow storms and chilling temperatures in many games actually ended up being the highest scoring weekend of football in the history of the NFL. For the first time ever, 100 touchdowns were scored; that number was made right before halftime of the Dallas Cowboys at Chicago Bears MNF game when Alshon Jeffery hauled in an amazing reception in the corner of the end zone.
After the first half of last night’s game, four more TDs were scored to put the official number to beat at 104.
But why is this happening now? The bad weather proved tough for the defenses as they struggled to see the ball and make cuts against their opposition to keep up, but even in games where the weather wasn’t a factor, points were still put up at a ridiculous rate.
Out of the 32 teams who played from Thursday night to Monday night, only seven failed to score 20 points. By the way, sorry to the Buffalo Bills, as they were the only team who scored under 10 points with six. Not to mention, only one game had both teams score less than 20: the Seattle Seahawks lost to the San Francisco 49ers 19-17, but that was a matchup of two of the best defenses in the entire league.
This brings up the question, have rule changes drastically affected the ability of the defense to slow down the offense by this much? I’ll admit, it does seem like almost half the time they get a sack, it gets flagged for going too low or hitting the QB in the head. But we also see players missing tackles left and right in almost every game. Maybe that isn’t entirely due to being afraid to hit a guy in the wrong way and get fined or suspended, as many defenders just use poor form in general, but it’s clear the standard for good defense is starting to take a major shift — but the rule changes do at least have “something” to do with it.
In the modern NFL, a good defense might still give up a bunch of yards and points, but force a lot of turnovers and field goals in the process, thus allowing their high-octane offense to win the game for them. Again, only about five years ago, a good defense would hold teams to right around 10-15 points per game, and it seemed like a few teams would be right around there. Today? One team holds their opponents to under 15 points on average, and that’s the Carolina Panthers at 14.5. But again, only seven teams hold opponents to under 20, and two give up over 30 (Washington Redskins and Minnesota Vikings).
This record-breaking week of football saw the losers average 20.1 points per game, and seven of them scored at least 26. Those are two truly incredible statistics. As for the winners, get ready, this is rather staggering: 33.6. Two of them scored under 27 in their victories, while 10 scored at least 30, four scored at least 40 and one hit 50 — and, of course, it was the Denver Broncos for their third time this season (is that a record?).
We all know that people like to call this “a passing league” now, but in reality, this is just an offensive league; period. Don’t get me wrong, if you have a great defense, it certainly helps, but no longer is it essential to reside in the upper echelon of teams. Long gone are those days, apparently.
Don’t agree? Perhaps that frightening weather just happened to create the perfect storm, but either way, those 100 touchdowns beg to differ.
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