Scoring declined in 2017, but NFL says that’s not a concern

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Scoring offense in the NFL was, like television ratings, down in 2017.

The average NFL team scored 21.7 points per game in the 2017 season. That was down a full point, from 22.7 points per game in 2016. And 2016 was already slightly down, from 22.8 points per team per game in 2015.

The league, however, says it’s not concerned that the game is getting less exciting.

“It’s certainly nothing that the league is concerned about,” NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said.

Perhaps the league should be concerned, though, when scoring is down, TV ratings are down, and there seems to be a general sense among fans that the quality of play is not where it used to be. Field goals were actually slightly up in 2017, as kickers are better than ever. But touchdowns are down.

The touchdown is, of course, the signature play in football. A game with more touchdowns is generally going to be a more exciting game. And in 2017, touchdowns were down. Passing touchdowns were down and rushing touchdowns were down.

Also down were two-point conversions. When the NFL moved extra points back before the 2015 season, it hoped to incentivize more teams to go for two, and in the first two years it worked: Two-point attempts were up in 2015 and up again in 2016. But in 2017, two-point attempts and conversion rates declined dramatically: Teams went 51-for-105 on two-point conversions in 2016, but went only 33-for-78 on two-point conversions in 2017.

So NFL teams are putting the ball in the end zone less than they used to. That might not concern the NFL, but it probably should.

50 responses to “Scoring declined in 2017, but NFL says that’s not a concern

  1. Maybe if Houston or Green Bay had picked up Colin Kaepernick instead of tanking the season, then the scoring average might have been 1 point higher.

    At least.

  2. 21.7, 22.7, 22.8, 22.6, 23.4, 22.8, 22.2, 22.0, 21.5, 22.0, 21.7, 20.7, 20.6, 21.5, 20.8, 21.7, 20.2, 20.7, 20.8, 21.3, 20.7, 20.4, 21.5, 20.3, 18.7, 18.7, 19.0, 20.1, 20.6

    That’s going back to 1989. Seems like scoring is just fine. It started to tick up a bit after they increased rules to help the passing game, but maybe defenses have finally figured out how to play against it. For instance, the bend but don’t break New England Patriots this year.

    Everything in life is cyclical. If you go back to the 1960’s you’ll find years with 22-23 points per game. Do you really want to go back to that football?

  3. Easily explainable. Cutler,Kizer,Brisset,Hundley,Osweiler,Savage,Petty,Foles. You get
    the idea.

  4. There’s an easy fix to this “problem”. Just change the rules in favor of the offense, by penalizing defensive players for doing something that they’ve always done since football existed. Or…change the rules so that touchdowns from 50 yards out or further get bonus points….kind of like the 3 point shot in basketball.

  5. The crap college football is producing these days is the big reason. Junk offense taught in college makes it hard to watch. Must be same for scouts too.

  6. Kap sucks as a QB.. Maybe he should change positions cuz he cant help any team as a QB. The reason for the lower point average is that there is alot of sloppy football in the NFL.. Better off watching college for sure!!!

  7. Oh yeah. That’s it. Colin would have saved the league. How did it survive without him? I’m surprised ANYONE watched a SINGLE game!!!!

  8. Quote:
    Maybe if Houston or Green Bay had picked up Colin Kaepernick instead of tanking the season, then the scoring average might have been 1 point higher.
    ——————
    Yeah….for the other team.

  9. They most assuredly should be concerned because scoring speaks directly to the quality of the product on the field. The league, especially the AFC is not very competitive. Refs or Riveron are taking points off the board at an alarming rate (anytime they do it with the calls they have been making is too much). Injuries are off the charts (please cancel Thursday games). All this and I still feel the rules favor offenses compared to the old days, and scoring is still down.

    They’re ruining a good product. It is and will catch up with them, and probably not too far into the future.

  10. Why does there seem to be no concern with the down ratings and fan frustration with the NFL?

    It would be nice to see some recognition of the problems by the league, but they seem content with milking it since they are still making so much money regardless of putting out a declining product.

    The end of the NFL wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. There seems to be quite a bit of arrogance with the owners and those in charge.

  11. It’s pretty obvious what caused the decline: Brett Hundley for Aaron Rodgers, Tom Savage and TJ Yates for Deshaun Watson, Nick Foles for Carson Wentz, Jacoby Brissett for Andrew Luck, and wretched skill position players and an aging and declining QB in New York. Also, the abnormally cold weather in the Northeast and Midwest late in the season contributed. A total of 30 teams combined in Weeks 16 and 17 scored less than 20 points including 16 that scored 11 or less with many of those games occurring in brutally cold and windy conditions. Another thing the NFL would need to weight if they every went to 18 games is how bad the weather gets the deeper in January and February you get in some of these cities. While we can joke about how “Football players play football,” I hate weather having major impacts on the play of the most important games of the season. Football seasons, other than the Super Bowl, concluded no later than the first week of January for much of the sport’s existence.

  12. Too many flags…that is on both the refs and the players. Refs call questionable stuff(usually on big plays rather than on say a 2 yard run) and players intentionally do stuff that is against the rules. Scoring would be down less if replay didn’t overturn so many TDs. Maybe some players need to spend more time perfecting their craft than crafting elementary ‘celebrations’.

  13. 1 point a game average is 16 points a year. Its not a big deal at all. Thats hardly the difference between a game being exciting or not.

  14. Why does there seem to be no concern with the down ratings and fan frustration with the NFL?

    Because I have been a football fan and sports fan in general since I was seven years old, and people like me don’t care if the game loses some fairweather fans. The popularity of a sport is like everything else in life, it will have its ebbs and its flows, and some big shiny thing will come along and get back those fairweather fans. Some of us enjoy watching a great defensive battle, and don’t care if the Hot Take Snowflakes are bored. If football bores you, stop watching. It’s not the fan’s job to worry about other fans.

    In fact, I’ll even go so far to suggest betting against your own team if it is profitable. Because while I love my favorite team, I simply can’t remember them sending me a check on any occasion; this is a one-way relationship and I am smart enough to understand that. So if my team is bad enough to regularly lose, I might as well recoup some of the money I have spent on football over the years.

    Hey, it’s nothing personal baby. If you want to politicize my sport; that’s fine, go start the USFL or XFL again and enjoy the defective product of owners who would be willing to bankrupt those leagues at the drop of a hat. Just don’t expect me to care about your hot takes, snowflakes!

  15. To me it’s not the scoring or not that bothers me. I love a good defensive battle. The problem is that there’s a lot of really bad football out there. Bad quarterbacks. Injured good quarterbacks with inadequate backups. Teams with adequate backups insisting on using horrible starters (Cleveland, Chicago, SF for half the year). Of course scoring is down a little.

  16. 1 pt per game is bigger than you think, it’s potentially game changing in the league.

    Put it this way: 16 games x 16 weeks is 256 total games = 37 additional TDs.

    The 32nd leader in TD’s was Mitchell Trubisky(in theory #32 of 32 starters). Add 37 TDs to his stat line and now he has 44 TDs and 7 INTs and his Bears sure as hell are making the playoffs, knocking someone else out. AND…….he’s now your 2017 NFL MVP.

    The loss of those 37 TDs is like losing a Payton Manning or Brett Favre and replacing them with a scrub off the street.

  17. And that’s ok. A lot of people that I talk to about football would rather watch a great defense shut down a prolific offense than the other way around.

  18. 1 pt per game is bigger than you think, it’s potentially game changing in the league.

    Actually, it’s less than the standard deviation/margin of error of most big data statistical analyses and surveys, which is 3-5%. So it is not even a blip on the radar.

  19. The defenseless player penalty is killing me. Also, leading with the helmet…these collisions are happening at 50mph, and your head naturally leads your body as you lean into a tackle. Some guys are dirty, but unfortunately that’s part of the game. Even with these 15 yard gifts, offenses are still struggling. The game is becoming a diluted mess.

  20. defenses always catch up to the offense…compare the rules of today with the rules in the 60’s and despite the inbalance favoring the offenses, the defenses have held their own…despite the inbalance, it can be said the NFL has held the status quo of scoring: 1966 (year of the 1st SB) 22.02 tm pts per game, 2016 22.78 tm pts per game. Touchdowns: 1966 2.63 tm td’s per game, 2016 2.55 td’s per game. Believe the reason for tds per game are down is because field goal accuracy is much higher, and coaches have gotten more conservative, taking an almost sure 3pts (anything under 50yds) to a risky td play. Make any field goal over 50 yds a 1 pt score, any fg between 21 and 50 yds a two pt score, and any fg 20 yds or under a 3pt score and you will see tds up…sounds crazy but think about it…risk taking will go up, boring fg laden games decrease…

  21. If you look the past couple decades (nfl.com has the stats going back really far, no need to take my word) you see that it ticks up or down a point or so every year. This year falls easily withing the range of regular fluctuation so perhaps this is just meaningless hype of something that is just normal business of usual.

  22. jathomas724 says:
    January 6, 2018 at 8:20 am
    21.7, 22.7, 22.8, 22.6, 23.4, 22.8, 22.2, 22.0, 21.5, 22.0, 21.7, 20.7, 20.6, 21.5, 20.8, 21.7, 20.2, 20.7, 20.8, 21.3, 20.7, 20.4, 21.5, 20.3, 18.7, 18.7, 19.0, 20.1, 20.6

    That’s going back to 1989. Seems like scoring is just fine. It started to tick up a bit after they increased rules to help the passing game, but maybe defenses have finally figured out how to play against it. For instance, the bend but don’t break New England Patriots this year.

    Everything in life is cyclical. If you go back to the 1960’s you’ll find years with 22-23 points per game. Do you really want to go back to that football?
    – – . – –

    The problem, IMO, of comparing scoring averages of the 80s/90s to today and concluding that there isn’t much of a difference is leaving out ONE VERY IMPORTANT point: NFL rules have been constantly changing over the years to INCREASE scoring.

    Rules from not hitting the QB to protecting defenseless WRs to limiting what DBs can do to WRs, these rules were meant to increase scoring, not to mention the move to pass-heavy offensive attacks (where teams gets yards in chunks AND throwing the ball conserves the gameclock, which increases the overall number of plays an offense can run).

    When you factor that in and the fact scoring is down, I think the state of offense (and especially QB play) is the real reason NFL ratings dropped this year.

  23. when scoring is down, TV ratings are down
    ===========================================

    That’s simply not true. You fabricated that for obvious reasons.

  24. a 1 point decline? not sure I understand why this is even an issue. Is the goal to increase scoring or if it stays the same it means a successful NFL? Players, rules, coaches, schedules change every year, how is it even possible to expect what the scoring average should be… NFL needs to work on pass interference, replay and holding calls.

  25. What matters most is not how many points are scored but if the team that you’re rooting for wins. The people who just like to see a lot of action and points scored are not true fans.

  26. 1 pt per game is bigger than you think, it’s potentially game changing in the league.

    Put it this way: 16 games x 16 weeks is 256 total games = 37 additional TDs.

    The 32nd leader in TD’s was Mitchell Trubisky(in theory #32 of 32 starters). Add 37 TDs to his stat line and now he has 44 TDs and 7 INTs and his Bears sure as hell are making the playoffs, knocking someone else out. AND…….he’s now your 2017 NFL MVP.

    The loss of those 37 TDs is like losing a Payton Manning or Brett Favre and replacing them with a scrub off the street.

    _____

    If you take 37 tds and spread it out over 32 teams, its about 1 TD lost per team over the entire season. So, instead of having 50 tds, they score 49.

    I don’t see it as a big deal at all.

  27. Scoring is down and ratings are down, but the NFL spokesman is like Leslie Nielsen in front of the fireworks factory or Kevin Bacon during the parade riot, nothing to be concerned about.

  28. Football fans should appreciate the offense & defense. Last I heard, both sides want to be successful. Stop the bogus TD overturns, stop saying catches made are not catches, stop the ridiculous penalties (sometimes they call them, sometimes they don’t), & let them play..on both sides of the ball.

  29. Instead of allowing offenses to use pick routes. And stop allowing rugby like scrums pushing running backs,that you can’t even see anymore, into the end zone. All allowed just to increase scoring in the NFL game.Have the refs call they games right, I would also suggest the NFL get your rules in order. I am tired of watch NFL refs decide games on Sundays. Way too many blown calls every week. Stop the star treatment in professional sports.

  30. Its football not basketball. Close games low scoring where a score means something is much better than 46-12.

  31. How about getting rid of all these “illegal block in the back” penalties on kick returns? All these possessions that start inside a team’s own 10-yard line cannot possibly help scoring.

    One simple change is to enforce any such penalties at the end of the return, not at the spot of the foul – or to spot the ball at the 20-yard line if a touchdown was scored (and nullifying the TD), or if the spot of the foul is inside the 10.

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