Wouldn’t you know it? We’ve reached halftime of the 2017 NFL season. 22 out of the 32 teams have played exactly eight of their 16 games, with the remaining 10 a tick over halfway at nine games.
It’s been a peculiar season straight from the start, with unexpected results coming right from the start. Right off the bat on opening night, the Kansas City Chiefs stunned the reigning champion New England Patriots in Foxboro, and that was just a taste of what was to come.
Now that we’re right down the middle of the season, it’s time to examine some of the shocking and not so shocking statistics so far from the NFL season compared to last season.
A great omen for the Philadelphia Eagles is that at this time last season the New England Patriots were tied for the best record in the NFL, and of course they went on to win Super Bowl LI. The NFC representative from that legendary Super Bowl was the Atlanta Falcons, and they also had a good first half at 6-3. There are currently three teams with that record. The Kansas City Chiefs, Seattle Seahawks, and Carolina Panthers.
Could we be heading for the Andy Reid bowl in Minneapolis next February?
Some things don’t change though. The San Francisco 49ers and Cleveland Browns had the two worst records in the league at the half poll last year, and find themselves back in the basement now. Both franchises are set for another high draft pick in a class loaded with potential future franchise quarterbacks.
One encouraging sign for the host of teams currently wandering aimlessly through the middle of the pack is that the Pittsburgh Steelers, Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions, and Miami Dolphins all qualified for the playoffs after 4-4 starts. The first two made it all the way to their respective conference championship games after stumbling out of the starting blocks.
On the flip side, the Denver Broncos had the strongest beginning of teams who missed the playoffs a year ago, setting the pace at 6-3 before falling off a cliff to a 9-7 finish.
Five teams in the NFL have the same record right now through either eight or nine games as they did last season. The Packers, Lions, and Browns fall into this category, and despite changing cities in the offseason, the now Los Angeles Chargers couldn’t shake a 3-5 start through their first eight contests.
In terms of the biggest changes in wins and losses, it’s a three way tie for who has improved the most. The Los Angeles Rams, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Carolina Panthers have all picked up three wins from this point a year prior.
The biggest drop comes from New York, where the Giants were a healthy 5-3 at the halfway poll last year, but have taken a nosedive to a 1-7 mark this year. The Oakland Raiders narrowly missed out on this “honor”, torpedoing from 7-2 to 4-5.
As far as looking at some collective data, there have been 133 games played so far this year, compared to 134 in 2016. The difference comes from the week one clash between the Buccaneers and Dolphins in Miami that was postponed to week 11 due to Hurricane Irma.
Excluding games that were played in London, home teams last year dominated their visiting counterparts at a record of 77-54-1, with the tied game coming between the Arizona Cardinals and the Seattle Seahawks. That winning percentage checks in at .583, while this year’s is way down at .527, a 68-61 record. The way teams are hitting the road this year and taking wins on their flights back has been a huge cause for the chaos in the league this year.
There were 45 divisional games last season excluding the one between Indianapolis and Jacksonville in London, and 44 this year not counting the battle between the Cardinals and Rams at Twickenham. That home team winning percentage has taken a serious hit as well. Home turf was protected in divisional rivalries 28 out of 45 times last year up to this point for a .622 clip, but it has sunk to an even .500 (22-22) this campaign. It’s safe to say the road warriors are everywhere.
Unfortunately for the neutral audience, the road wins have gone up but the exciting games have gone down. Home/road splits aren’t calculated here, so the London games have been added back in. 77 of 134 (57.4%) games last year were decided by fewer than eight points. The number of one possession games is all the way down below halfway, getting in at 64 of 133 (48.1%).
The number of games that have needed an extra frame to be decided is about the same, nine in 2016 and eight in 2017. However, two of those 2016 duels finished in ties, while 2017 is still waiting for its first draw despite the fact that overtime was shortened from 15 minutes to 10.
Things were split almost right down the middle in the battle of the conferences last season. Through the 36 AFC vs. NFC games at this time last year, the NFC held a slim 18-17 lead, with one tie between the Washington Redskins and Cincinnati Bengals at Wembley Stadium. The scales have been a little bit tipped in favor of the NFC this season, with the National Football Conference holding a 19-14 advantage. The AFC South has been the division really letting its conference down, as their teams are a combined 2-5 against the NFC.
Putting a few individual games under the microscope also provides for an interesting look at the two seasons. The biggest blowout of this season came when the Houston Texans blasted the Tennessee Titans 57-14 in week four, while last season’s biggest mismatch was 14 points more subdued, with the Cardinals beating the Buccaneers 40-7.
To nobody’s surprise, The NFC South played a big role in high scoring games, and the Seattle Seahawks had low scoring games on lockdown. The two lowest scoring games up to this point in 2016 both involved the Seahawks, a 6-6 tie with Arizona and a 9-3 loss to the Rams. The highest scoring game was a shootout at the Georgia Dome, where the Falcons beat the Panthers 48-33, including combining for a whopping 40 fourth quarter points.
A year later, we’ve seen a similar story. The lowest scoring game also ended 9-3, with the Panthers besting the Buffalo Bills week two in Charlotte. The highest scoring game also took place in an NFC South dome when the New Orleans Saints hosted the Lions in a 52-38 slugfest won by the former.
Finally, 2017 has seen the close games fall off perhaps more than any other stat. 2016 had 10 games decided by one point, including four in week one. This season there have only been three total, and two of them came at the O.Co Coliseum with the Raiders playing one point contests against the Chargers and Chiefs.
What do you think of the season so far? Did I miss any stats? How do you think things will play out from here on in? Leave a comment below, or tweet us @ReadAmFootball.