Return To Blowout City: An Analytical Review On A Season Full Of NFL Beatdowns

Through the first two and a half months of the regular season, it seemed as if the NFL made the woodshed the hottest destination in the land as week after week, some hapless team was taken there by a far superior opponent. In fact, through Week 11, this season looked as if it would be the least competitive since the NFL expanded the schedule to 16 games in 1978.

At the end of Week 11, TSFJ dug in to the numbers (with thanks to the essential Pro Football Reference) and found that this wasn’t just perception, but a frightening reality. The 2014 season was on pace to surpass the record number of beatdowns in the 2009 campaign. However, in a bit of a surprise, either defensive coordinators were reading TSFJ on the low or suddenly offenses decided to save their energies for playoff runs as the pace of blowouts somewhat slowed down.

2014 was still an absurd season for plenty of wrong reasons, and having 54 games decided by 20 or more points didn’t exactly point to it being a particularly competitive year on the field. That just about one in every five games this year was lopsided in some degree tells you how bad some football truly was in many parts of the country (and London). Yet as the playoffs are set to begin, it seemed like a good idea to take a quick trip back to Blowout City to assess the damage, so to speak.

Since we have a full season, this also gave us a chance to look at the numbers a little differently. In addition to observing full regular seasons since 2000 — the start of the “parity” era to now — we also looked at how these beatdowns were handed out at each quarter mark of the season. After all, we tend to believe that the deeper the season goes, the more competitive the matchups become.

We also decided to take a fun historical look at the polar opposite teams in each season. How dominant were the eventual Super Bowl champions? How awful were the teams that ended up with the number one pick the following spring? How did those teams fare against one another if they met during the season?

Just as we did in November, here are some important historic notes to consider when it comes to how we examined the data:

  • 1978: NFL expanded season by two games from 14 to 16.
  • 1982: strike-shortened season cut schedule to nine games. Two games were played before the players’ strike halted the season in late September. Season resumed in late November.
  • 1987: Players’ strike called after Week 2 shortened season to 15 games. Replacement players were used for Weeks 4-6 before the players’ union ended strike.
  • 1990: NFL introduced bye weeks into the schedule for the first time; schedule now 17 weeks for all 16 games.
  • 1993: NFL introduced second bye week for teams; schedule of 18 weeks for all 16 games. Second bye week lasted one season and the schedule returned to 17 weeks for the 1994 season.
  • 2006: Thursday Night Football debuted November 2006, creating additional permanent prime time slot in addition to Sunday and Monday Night Football.
  • 2012: Thursday Night Football expanded for full season.
  • 2013: First time since 1970 merger a season did not feature a Saturday regular-season game (though they returned two weeks ago).

Note: Anyone who has worked with Microsoft Excel long enough knows that when it comes to formulas, you have to double-check your double-checks. A slight adjustment was made for the total regular seasons after 2002 where a few of the seasons were one or two short of the correct number. Apologies for the error.

TOTAL REGULAR SEASON BLOWOUTS SINCE 2000 |Create infographics

After threatening to beat the record five seasons ago through 11 weeks, this past season finished six games shy of the 2009 record (60). Looking into this infographic, the difference between 2006 and 2007 should stand out to you (more on why later), but those two years stick out because 2007 looks like the beginning of this trend that’s been unabated ever since. Though not included, the 1995 season had the least in a full, uninterrupted 16-game season with a mere 28 blowouts. The strike-shortened 1982 campaign had 17.

BLOWOUTS EACH QUARTER-SEASON SINCE 2000 |Create infographics

On this space, a certain writer here has lamented about #SeptemberFootball, as it can be entertaining and bizarre. A few teams that will make indents on their sofas come playoff time look like they’re going to shock the world early on while expected contenders are extending their preseasons by a couple of weeks. Quite a few games at this time look as if they could be mistaken for yesterday’s Rose Bowl, but this infographic says that a beatdown can come at any time of season.

CHAMPS VS. CHUMPS |Create infographics

This table was interesting for a few reasons. For starters, since this begins with the 1978 season, one has to truly appreciate how quickly the Bill Walsh-led 49ers went from chumps (1978 and 1979) to champs (1981). Same can be said for the Cowboys, who went 1-15 in 1989 and won the Super Bowl three seasons later. With the somewhat exception to today's Seahawks, who have undergone a monstrous roster turnover under Pete Carroll, those sudden turnarounds were unheard of, even in this so-called parity era.

Secondly, three Super Bowl champions didn’t exactly beat the breaks off their opponents, though to be fair, 15- to 19-point deficits are certain victories as well, though not counted here.

Lastly, connected to one of those previous teams, the 2007 New York Giants caught lightning in a bottle, so to speak. They didn’t have one game with a margin of victory (MOV) of 20+ points. However, the team they defeated in Super Bowl 42 notched quite a few. Arguably the best team to have never won a Super Bowl, the undefeated (regular season) Patriots had an average margin of victory of 19.7 points per game. Blowout games were by an average of 27.5 points, and all six divisional (AFC East) wins were decided by 25.5 points per game. Ten games were won by 20 or more points, including seven of the first eight and nine of the first 10. They demolished that season’s worst team, Miami, by 21 in both matchups that season.

The 1999 Rams, in a couple of regards, were more prolific in their 13 wins than those Pats, with a MOV of 22.9 points per win and 26.2 in blowouts.

Perhaps this table can be an indicator of who will win Super Bowl 49. After all, the leader of the pack in 2014 with seven blowout victories left four current playoff teams in the dust, including one in the annually forced rivalry between signal callers. In its seven-game winning streak, the team averaged a margin of victory of (appropriately) exactly 20 points per game.

If this holds true, New England, get those parading duck boats ready.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.