The Year of the Blowout

If Week 10 seemed a little devoid of drama to you, you’re not wrong. Of the 15 games, only one saw a lead change in the fourth quarter. That happened when Pittsburgh’s Chris Boswell converted a field goal early in the fourth quarter to tie Detroit. The rest of that game belongs in the archives of unintentional humor and viewer torture.

Seven of last week’s games ended with a three-score margin of victory or higher. Is this representative of a trend in the NFL? While the average margin of victory this season, 12.17, is above last year’s 11.04 and is the highest the league has seen since 2014, the average over the last 48 seasons is 11.70 and there are quite a few 12s in there. 2016’s 10.42 points per game is the lowest on the list.

We talk a lot about the salary cap offering closer games, but the first 24 seasons on the list, 11.72 was the average margin. The most recent 24 seasons have averaged 11.69. The salary cap helps prevent stockpiling of non-playing talent, but it didn’t completely change the game. I’m inclined to think of last week’s non-drama as a rare blip in what’s usually an entertaining schedule.

In the meantime, the last three weeks have seen some quarterback adjustment. Jalen Hurts is getting into a good rhythm in Philadelphia and Ben Roethlisberger is looking stronger (he was out with COVID for the aforementioned Lionsday comedy festival), while several quarterbacks (Baker Mayfield, Joe Burrow, Josh Allen, Justin Herbert and Matthew Stafford) have had a rough time. Trevor Siemian is not the answer in New Orleans. Nor is Taylor Heinicke in Washington, as much as I’d like to see the undrafted guy succeed. Sam Darnold, now sidelined with a shoulder injury, will likely be a very expensive backup next year.

Justin Fields has looked a little better in his last two starts. But both were losses. He ran for more than 100 yards in the 33-22 Week 8 loss to San Francisco, becoming the second quarterback to reach 100 yards in a game this season (Lamar Jackson did it early this season, and then again a couple of weeks ago).

Quarterbacks have rushed for 100 or more yards 56 times since 1998. In those games, their teams have gone 37-18-1. Interestingly, Colin Kaepernick, one of the best running quarterbacks in NFL history, is 1-3 in those games and the only player with more than two losses. But the one victory was that 183-yard playoff performance against Green Bay (I don’t include kneel-downs – the official total was 181 yards) which is the league’s all-time quarterback rushing record.

Lamar Jackson is 11-1. Michael Vick was also 11-1, and he neither started nor should be credited with the loss in that 12th game. And in another unusual bit of trivia (you won’t win your bar game with something this esoteric), Josh Allen is 1-2, and those three games were in consecutive weeks in 2018 (more esoterica – the first of those three – and the only win – isn’t official since he had 99 yards counting two game-ending kneel-downs).