What’s with all the “1” Scores in the 2015 NFL Season? – The New York Times

What’s with all the “1” Scores in the 2015 NFL Season? – The New York Times: An article on the 2015 nfl season.

Through a little more than two weeks of the regular season, there have already been eight games that ended 1-0 — including one last Sunday when the Eagles beat the Giants, 27-7.

For the last several years, NFL games have included a surprising number of low-scoring games ending in final scores of 1 to 0. Until this year, the league had never seen more than 5 1-0 games since 1932. The 2015 season is on track for 12 such games — almost twice as many as the previous record.

The explanation seems to be that kickers are getting better. In one sense, this is not surprising: in other sports, like soccer and field hockey, players have gotten better at kicking over time. But it’s remarkable that we see such a clear increase in accuracy in the NFL; one might expect that improvements would be harder to come by at the professional level.

Setting aside the question of whether football has become more boring with all these field goals, it’s interesting to consider what factors might have contributed to this change.

As always, there are limits to what we can infer from a single graph, but there are some interesting features here. The first thing worth noting is that there are no 1-0 games before 1970; this suggests a fundamental shift in strategy around that time which made it easier for offenses to get within field goal range.

Another feature is that the improvement in kicker accuracy seems to be accelerating.

The 2015 season has been, to put it mildly, a strange one. There have been some expected results — the Patriots have continued their dominance, while the Jaguars have continued to be the Jaguars. But there have also been a lot of surprises — who had the Chiefs and the Bengals at 7-1 and 8-0 respectively before the season began?

One of the most surprising things to me has been the number of 1 point victories this year. Through week 10 there were 25 games that were won/lost by a single point (27% of all games). That’s about average for a full season. The weird part is that it took until week 6 for the first 1 point game of the year! This means that we’ve seen nearly twice as many 1 point games in half as many weeks as normal. What gives?

At last, a simple explanation for the weirdly low scores in the N.F.L. this season: The referees are throwing flags at a record pace, and those penalties are turning touchdowns into field goals at an alarming rate.

After the first five weeks of play, the N.F.L. had averaged 43 points per game — the lowest total in almost 20 years. The league’s biggest stars were struggling to find their footing. No one had thrown for 300 yards in a game since Week 1; two players had thrown for 400 or more yards in Week 1 alone last season. Of course, some teams’ poor play was to blame for this offensive doldrums, but so were the high number of penalties — up nearly 25 percent from 2014 — and their effect on scoring drives.

A team that makes it to an opponent’s 1-yard line is expected to score a touchdown 64 percent of the time, according to data from Advanced Football Analytics. But this season teams have been converting just over half of those possessions into touchdowns — a rate that has not been seen since 2005, when only 42 percent of red-zone possessions resulted in touchdowns (not counting turnovers).

The N.F.L. is a league of parity, or so we are told. We may not know who the Super Bowl champion will be, but we know that the final standings will be close and the playoff field will be unpredictable from one year to the next.

Except in 2015, that is. This is proving to be a very strange season, dominated by lopsided scores and a handful of teams that have separated themselves from the pack early on.

Consider: There have been 121 games through Week 6, with an average score of 23-19 — not exactly blowouts but neither are they close-fought nail-biters. But if you take out the 30 games decided by a touchdown or less, the average score balloons to 28-18. Of those 30 games, 26 have been decided by 8 points or fewer.

Only six other seasons have had more than 26 one-score games through Week 6: 1993 (28), 1994 (28), 1995 (31), 2001 (29), 2005 (29) and 2012 (27).

The 2015 National Football League season, the 96th season in the history of the league, began on September 10, 2015 with the annual kickoff game featuring the defending Super Bowl XLIX champion New England Patriots hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers. The season will conclude with Super Bowl 50, the league’s championship game, on February 7, 2016, at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

The 2015 season was also the first season since 2006 in which every team scored at least 30 points in a game at least once during the regular season. Additionally, it was only the second time (the first since 1950) that all 32 teams scored 400 or more points in a single regular season. A number of teams broke long playoff droughts this season. Of these teams, the Kansas City Chiefs had gone the longest without making an appearance; their loss to New England in their wildcard playoff game ended a 22-year drought. The Jacksonville Jaguars made their first postseason appearance since 2007 and first division title since 1999; they also won their first playoff game for the first time in franchise history this year.

The New York Jets had not made the playoffs since 2010 and had not won a playoff game since January 2004. They too broke both of these streaks when they beat Cincinnati in their wildcard

The New York Jets. The Tennessee Titans. The San Francisco 49ers. The Miami Dolphins. All of these teams have one thing in common this season: they’ve all been shut out at home.

This is not a normal occurrence in the N.F.L., but 2015, it seems, is not a normal year.

There have been seven shutouts through the first seven weeks of the 2015 season, and four of those have come at the home team’s stadium — which matches the total number of home shutouts from 2014; 2013; 2012; 2011 and 2010 combined…

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