The Year in NFL Scoring

Published by patrick honner on

football-in-airAs the books close on the 2011 NFL regular season, it’s time to revisit my pre-season prediction that the new kickoff rule would result in a slight decrease in per-game scoring.

The pre-season predictions on the number of touchbacks turned out to be fairly accurate.  In 2011, about 43% of kickoffs (922 out of 2151) resulted in touchbacks; in 2010, only 16% of kickoffs (359 out of 2221) resulted in toucbacks (thanks to for the data).

Did the increase in touchbacks reduce overall scoring in 2011, as hypothesized?  No.  In 2011, around 44.4 points were scored per game in the NFL; in 2010, around  44.1 points were scored per game.  Per-game scoring actually increased slightly this year !

One issue worth mentioning, however, is the disproportionate effect the top three scoring teams have on the data.  During the 2010 season, New England was the highest scoring team in the league with 518 points total points; this was nearly 80 points more than the second highest scoring team.  In 2011, the Packers, Saints, and Patriots all scored over 500 points!  If we remove the three highest-scoring teams from each season, scoring for the rest of the league actually drops about 0.7 points per game.

It’s been fun drilling down into the data this year, and many other interesting questions popped up along the way.  And off-season changes always create new opportunities for analysis.

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patrick honner

Math teacher in Brooklyn, New York


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