For years we’ve seen offensive production steadily climb upwards. But it looks like this year we’re finally going to get a significant downturn. All the teams have just passed the halfway point of the season, and it looks like we’re going to see a big drop in both rushing and passing.
With passing, we’ve seen it grow to the point where teams have averaged over 255 passing yards per game over the last two years. They averaged over 26 touchdown passes two years ago, and they’ve been around 25 for the past three other years.
But numbers are down by about 5 percent so far. At the halfway point, teams are averaging only 243 passing yards per game, and they’re on pace to average 23.8 touchdown passes. As a group, looks like the 32 teams will finish with about 80 fewer touchdown passes than two years ago.
On the chart below, I’ve added a third column, showing fantasy production. On that one, I’m assuming 6 points for touchdown passes for 1 for every 10 yards. And that number is lower than any of the last five years.
The league went to 32 teams in 2002, and the stats we’re seeing this year are still higher than anything we saw in the 2002-2010 seasons.
Rushing production is also down. Teams are on pace to average 108 rushing yards per game – the lowest of the 32-team era. They’re also on pace to average under 11 rushing touchdowns (per season) for the first time. Remarkably, the average could drop by almost 3 TDs per team this season (teams averaged 13.8 rushing touchdowns last year).
The big drop in rushing touchdowns surprises me, considering it’s one of the best years ever for rookie running backs, with Leonard Fournette, Alvin Kamara and Kareem Hunt leading the way.
What’s driving these declines?
Injuries, for sure. When players like David Johnson, Odell Beckham Jr., Deshaun Watson, Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, Dalvin Cook and Carson Palmer get hurt, that has an impact on the bottom line.
I believe we’re also seeing a decline in offensive line play. Because of changes in the collective bargaining agreement, teams aren’t allowed to practice much in pads anymore, and I think that makes it really difficult to properly develop those players. To become a good pass blocker or run blocker, you’ve got to do it – it’s not enough to have a few meetings and watch some game clips on an iPad.