I recently read an interesting piece from the National Football Post about offensive trends, and what it means for Vegas betting lines. I’ll be honest, I don’t be on football, so that section of the article wasn’t of great interest to me. But one part of it was interesting: huge peaks and valleys in scoring tend to even themselves out.
Someone really smart once said that what goes up must come down. I would add to that (if someone hasn’t already) that when offensive points scoring goes down in huge amounts, it must go back up. Here is a quote discussing that very issue:
Over the last ten years there have been ten instances in which an NFL team saw its per game scoring average increase or decrease by nine or more points from one season to the next. And in every single one of those ten instances, each team went in the opposite direction come year 3.
There are ten proven instances of this, and we are currently about to embark on the 3rd season in five different examples of this. Some of the historical examples of this are obviously when a quarterback goes down for the remainder of a season, or the line loses a lot in free-agency, or another subtraction happens that really stunts the offense after a ‘peak’ season. However probably half of them are simply cases of opposing teams keying on specific parts of an offense and preventing them from scoring.
There are two things to note that bode well in the favor of the Falcons. First, the Falcons saw a jump in offensive points per game of 8.2 to 24.4 from 2007 to 2008, when their offense really came together. What was the key there? The addition of Matt Ryan and Michael Turner. With the exception of 2009 when the Dirty Birds scored 22.7 points per game (and missed the playoffs), they have been right between 25 and 26 points per game in 2010 and 2011. The Falcons have been fairly consistent as an offense. That is good news, because as a fan who watched every game all season long, I can tell you that this offense can be a lot more consistent going forward, on top of averaging more PPG in 2012 and in the future.
The second thing is the teams who are in the middle of the huge peaks offensively are all players in the NFC playoff picture, two of whom are in the division. Green Bay went from 24.3 PPG to 35 PPG. That kind of huge jump isn’t sustainable. Carolina’s jump from 12.3 to 25.4 in 2010-2011 is much more sustainable, but based on all of the historical evidence, we will see at least a slight dip in offensive production from them. Another increase isn’t likely. The most important team to take a look at, however, is the Saints. They lost their head coach (who is also their offensive coordinator), will be missing their temporary HC for the first six games of the season, lost their best offensive lineman (although they did replace him with someone halfway decent), and a very good receiving option. Not to mention all of the drama and circus atmosphere surrounding that team with BountyGate, there is absolutely no way the Saints maintain their 2011 34.2 PPG average. They will be closer to their 2010 24 PPG, which bodes well as the Saints will likely see a higher number in their loss column. With the Saints offense facing a dropoff, and the Falcons offense ready to takeoff, I only see this being a positive for Atlanta in this bitter division rivalry.
Note: There is one team that did not increase by 9 PPG in 2011 (they increased by 7) but I wouldn’t be surprised to see that dropoff ever so slightly due the the unlikelihood that it would increase beyond 29 PPG. That team is the Detroit Lions. They experienced the 7 point jump in 2011 due to having a full season from Matthew Stafford and his huge season, but can we really expect 41 TDs every season out of Stafford? He is a great talent, but I just don’t think that’s realistic. They can’t run the ball, so they won’t be able to add points that way (at least I don’t think so). They are still a scary offense who the Falcons must face in 2012, but over the course of the season their PPG average should decrease slightly. We will just have to wait and see.