With Indianapolis squeaking out a 45-44 victory over Kansas City last weekend, it’s hard not to notice all the offense in the NFL these days. The two teams came within a touchdown of setting the record for combined points scored in the playoffs. And they set a combined record for yardage.
Overall this season, teams are combining for a shade under 47 points per game. That’s a full point above last year’s NFL record. We’re now almost a touchdown over the 41-42 averages we saw when I first started work on Front Office Football. That’s 10-15 percent more offense.
If you track points scored going back to the beginning of when football started to resemble the modern game (I’d call it 1943, when helmets became mandatory, and you started to see free substitution), the NFL has always regulated to scoring in the 40-43 point range. If scoring drops, you see “rules emphasis” on contact from defenders. If scoring increases, the referees allow a little more.
The last four years have been the exception. In 2010, we hit 44 points for the first time since Bryan Bartlett Starr won back-to-back Super Bowl MVPs. Now we’re at 47 – by far the most in NFL history.
This is a tremendous challenge for those of us who like to simulate sports. If I increase offense to reflect this explosion, records are going to fall like dominoes. Early testing on the league-normalized Front Office Football Seven saw a world where you really wouldn’t recognize offensive records. Particularly with the running game, because variance with yards per carry is much higher these days. A workhorse, in theory, could gain 2,500 yards these days with the right offense.
So I decided to move offense back 5-7%. I did this mainly because most casual players of Front Office Football would be put off if they see someone throw for 6,000 yards. This could easily happen in the NFL with what we’re seeing today. For instance, nine of the 17 quarterbacks who have thrown for more than 36 touchdowns in a season in NFL history did this in the last four years. I’m operating under the assumption that someone in NFL headquarters is troubled by records losing their meaning. That when we reach a point where scoring is so easy, the game is out of balance.
If this continues, of course, I will have to make adjustments and hope for the best. I think we need that 2,500-yard runner in real life to get the casual gamer on board with this, however. This is certainly my biggest challenge when it comes to keeping the Front Office Football simulation engine both relevant and accurate.