Column as I see ‘em, Week 5;
A year ago, there was rising concern at the start of the NFL season about a dip in league scoring. Teams averaged a combined 20.2 points in the opening week and 20.1 the second week, a drop of nearly three points a game over the 2016 season.
But scoring went back up as the year went on, though the average score per team finished a point down from the previous year. That doesn’t seem like much, but in the eyes of the NFL moguls, who know that offense drives TV ratings, one point can be a very big thing.
That’s believed to be a main reason the league adopted the new rules to protect against roughing the passer. One reason scoring was down a year ago was injuries to some of the top quarterbacks (Andrew Luck, Deshaun Watson, to name two) and a general shortage of established, elite young passers in the league.
Well, the new rules are only a part of it, but scoring has shot up to historic levels through the first four weeks. There were a record number of points and touchdowns over the first four weeks, as team scoring nudged up over 24 points per team.
There was a slight correction this past week, as eight teams (including the Bills) rose up on their home fields and held the opposition to 17 points or less in victories. Still, the league scoring average was at 23.9 heading into Monday night, which would be an all-time high.
Scoring has generally been up over the past decade or so, as rules have continued to favor the passing game and teams have consistently thrown the football more often. From the 1970 merger through the 2007 season, the league average hovered between 20 and 21 points a game. It wasn’t until 2008 that NFL scoring reached 22 points a team for the first time.
It hit a record 23.4 points a game per team in 2013. It was 22.8 in 2015 and ’16 before dropping to 21.7 last season. Something tells me that scoring dip got the league’s attention.
Quarterbacks have become the true untouchables. There were 11 more roughing the passer calls this week, bringing the total to 50 for the season — and this after the NFL issued a clarification after conceding that some officials were overdoing the rule.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, not usually one to speak out on such issues, called the new rules a “joke” after Sunday’s game. And his team won by 24 points over the Falcons.
Joke or not, scoring is at an all-time high. TV Ratings are up across the board. The Bills’ best chance at winning is running and good defense, but they’re definitely bucking the trend.
The spike in passing is reflected in the league’s receiving stats. There are 32 receivers on pace for 1,000 yards in receptions. The Texans’ DeAndre Hopkins, who will face the Bills in Houston next Sunday, leads the league with 594 receiving yards.
The Vikings’ Adam Thielen had 116 receiving yards against the Eagles, making him the first wideout in league history to go over 100 yards receiving in the first five games of a season.
Atlanta’s Julio Jones has 564 yards, putting him ahead of pace to become the first player ever with 1,400 or more receiving yards in four straight seasons. Jones has averaged 1,579 yards receiving over those four seasons. He had ‘only’ 1,444 a year ago.
All the Bills’ wide receivers combined had 1,468 yards a year ago. They have just 368 combined receiving yards — nearly 200 fewer than Jones — through five games.
Veteran wide receiver Julian Edelman returned to the Patriots last Thursday night and had seven catches for 57 yards in New England’s 38-24 home win over the Colts.
It was Edelman’s first game for the Pats since his miraculous catch helped them beat the Falcons in the Super Bowl in February of 2017. Edelman missed all of 2017 with a knee injury and was suspended for the first four games of this season for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
Edelman has now played in 104 regular-season games, and the Pats have won 85 of them. That’s a winning percentage of 81.7 percent. The league doesn’t keep such stats, and I didn’t have time to research every player in history, but I’m pretty sure that makes Edelman the winningest player in NFL history — among players who appeared in 100 or more games.
Tom Brady has won 77.1 percent in the regular-season, tops among quarterbacks. Rob Gronkowski has won 79.4 percent. Obviously, it helps to be on Brady’s team. Joe Montana and Jim Brown were both around 66 percent for their careers. Otto Graham won 80 percent for the Browns, but didn’t play 100 games when they were an NFL franchise.
If you can find anyone else who won 80 percent of his games in an NFL career of 100 or more games, drop me a line.
Is he owned? This week’s featured fantasy find is Cardinals wide receiver Christian Kirk, who caught a 75-yard touchdown bomb from fellow rookie Josh Rosen on Arizona’s first offensive play in a 28-18 win over the Niners.
Rosen threw the pass 50 yards in the air to Kirk, who has been his friend for years. A week earlier, Kirk had gotten free behind the Seahawks defense on a similarly thrown Rosen bomb, but dropped the ball.
Kirk, a product of Texas A&M, was the 47th pick of the draft last April. He has 19 catches for 234 yards this season. He celebrated his first NFL touchdown by pretending to pack a duffel bag and heave it over his shoulder as he left the field.
He was available in all three of my leagues Monday, no surprise with the Cardinals sitting 31st in the NFL in passing, just ahead of the Bills.
Stats Incredible: Isaiah Crowell rushed for 219 yards against Denver, breaking the Jets’ single-game rushing record of 210 set by Thomas Jones against the Bills in 2009. The Bills gave up 318 yards rushing that day, but picked off Mark Sanchez five times and won in overtime, 13-10 … Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins became the first NFL quarterback to complete 30 or more passes in four straight games. Of course, he was flinging it in garbage time against the Bills … The Packers had 30 first downs, outgained the Lions, 521-264, and still lost , 31-23. Green Bay missed four field goals and lost three fumbles … The Niners had 33 first downs, outgained Arizona by 227 yards and lost, thanks largely to five turnovers. The lesson? Win the turnover battle …