By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — Through two weeks of the 2017 season, NFL offenses are on a historically low pace. Touchdowns and points are both down from the same point in 2016, and the issue could end up going far beyond just one year.

With Week 2 in the books, NFL teams have scored 132 total touchdowns so far in 2017, or 2.13 per team per game. That’s down from 2.44 touchdowns per game through two weeks last season. Points are also down, as teams are averaging 20.1 per game as opposed to 22.6 in 2016. When the scoring has been high it’s typically been on one side, as 14 of 32 games so far have been won by 14 or more points.

Teams ended up with 2.55 touchdowns per game in 2016, so some improvement is to be expected. But even if scoring increases at the same rate as last season, teams would average about 2.23 touchdowns per game by the end of the 2017 season.

Barring a more drastic jump, that would be the lowest touchdown average since (wait for it) the 1993 season, when teams averaged 2.02 touchdowns and 18.7 points per game. Steve Young led the league in passer rating (101.5) and passing touchdowns (29) that year.


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It’s too early to tell if the current dip in scoring will last, or to know whether 2017 is just an outlier or a harbinger of a steep decline across the NFL. And it’s nearly impossible to pinpoint a singular reason as to why the points are falling off.

Quarterbacks and passing games could be blamed. Passer ratings are astronomical compared to 1993, as Drew Brees’ 102.0 rating (10th in NFL) would have led the league in 1993, but the total passing yards per game (220.7) so far are off the pace from 241.5 per game last season. Still, there should be enough competent quarterbacks in the league right now who can move the ball and score more consistently.

Benardrick McKinney of the Houston Texans sacks Andy Dalton of the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 14, 2017. The Texans defeated the Bengals 13-9.
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Another issue that has been pointed to is offensive line play. Through two weeks in 2017, only two offensive linemen in the entire league have graded as “Elite” according to Pro Football Focus: Falcons center Alex Mack and Steelers guard David DeCastro. Even the vaunted Cowboys offensive line, which features three former first-round picks, has averaged a poor 59.6 grade.

It also could have little to nothing to do with the offenses in the first place. Perhaps defenses are simply catching up, effectively counteracting the scoring jump seen in recent seasons. Considering the abundance of sub-packages and smaller units you’re seeing these days, defenses have certainly become faster and more skilled.

But forget the players; it could simply be the coaches. After Bill Belichick as the obvious No. 1 choice, it immediately becomes a debate as to who’s No. 2. Top-10, forget it. The lack of effective coaching may also be a byproduct of the league’s reduction in full-pad practices in the preseason, leaving teams less prepared for the start of the season than usual.

For fans who are sick of the fantasy football crowd and the NFL’s emphasis on offense in recent seasons, a tilt back toward defense would be a welcome change. But it hasn’t exactly looked like that kind of change. It’s not a case of offenses playing well and simply getting outplayed by better defenses. Execution has been off, defenses haven’t had to earn their stops, and it’s resulted in an ugly early-season product.


SEE ALSO: Top Fantasy Waiver Wire Pickups For Week 3


The league’s mostly sloppy first two weeks have ostensibly contributed to a continued dip in TV ratings. Besides Monday Night Football and the Fox 4PM national TV window, all other NFL broadcasts were down in Week 2 compared to the same time in 2016, according to ShowBuzzDaily. It’s hard to tell how much the drop in scoring has directly impacted the ratings, but it surely hasn’t helped.

Scoring doesn’t need to get back to the levels of 2013, when the record-setting Broncos lit defenses up with little to no resistance (until the Super Bowl). But offenses at least need to look capable out there. The Bengals, 49ers, Giants, Seahawks, Texans, Colts, and Panthers have a whopping eight total touchdowns between them through two games each; like the rest of the league, they have nowhere to go but up. But the improvement must be even greater than in previous seasons, or else the NFL is in for an historic loss of offense – and entertainment value.

Matt Dolloff is a writer/producer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, CBS, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @Dolloff985 and email him at mdolloff@985thesportshub.com.

Comments (84)
  1. The biggest factor is Krapernick, but the head trauma problem does take some of the enjoyment out of football for me. I watch half as often, and only via antenna so I am not included in the ratings.

  2. Less practice time. No two-a-days. Collective bargaining for millionaires. Guaranteed money. Why try?

  3. Better look out NBA, the NFL is rapidly approaching to take over your market.

  4. Floyd Martin says:

    You want more points in the game, then do away with the stupid 35 yard line kick off!
    Which results in No Returns ever and no chance of of scoring!

  5. I’ll start watching the NFL again when these stupid atheletes stop sitting during the national anthem. That seems to be the same sentiment from my friends.

  6. I love football, always have. However, they need to learn a lesson from the failing ESPN–LEAVE POLITICS OUT OF FOOTBALL. When you start allowing your players to “protest” you distract from the game and you annoy/pi$$ off HALF your fan base (if not more). Goddell is an idiot for allowing these, they should have been treated like excessive celebration or somehow penalized–FINED would be better. Stop the childish protests, focus on the game, and you will likely see the ratings rebound.

  7. Tired of these overpaid crybaby players and their whining and disrespect for our flag and country. Let them go to any other country and make the salaries they make here. I am not watching the NFL any longer.

  8. For me it’s not so much an issue of what they’re protesting by taking a knee, it’s THAT they’re protesting, drawing away from the reason they’re even there in the first place, & one in which they are sorely lacking in & which they should be spending 100% of their attention on. That’s the deal breaker for me. That tells me they couldn’t give 2 shlts about getting better at football. F them!

  9. Disclaimer “Paid Political Ad” should appear at start of NFL games.

  10. Am I the only one who thinks the “penalty flags” are out of control? When you’ve cramped up the entire team by throwing penalty flags for just sneezing, it kind of affects the way they play? But what do I know?

  11. The NFL has plenty of offense…I take offense with every player who takes a knee or who gets support from other players!

  12. Many of the recent rule changes are affecting offenses. Defensive pass interference nowadays is a joke. A DB practically has to tackle a wide receiver to get flagged. The players choosing to kneel during our national anthem and the NFL’s response to it have taken its toll on ratings. Seeing/knowing NFL players, i.e. entertainers smearing our national anthem hence our great republic has many Americans disgusted. Let them protest peacefully on their own time.

  13. Articles like this show how completely out of touch with reality that the NFL and the media are. It’s not because of lesser touchdowns, morons. It’s because the NFL allows anti-American football players to constantly disrespect our flag and our country. Americans don’t want to watch football only to be berated by leftist ideologies and anti-American rhetoric. We get enough of that on a daily basis. Leave your politics out of sports or continue to watch your numbers plummet.

  14. Eric P Evans says:

    It’s got to be due to global warming. Got to.

  15. People say there is a RACE problem. People say this RACE problem will be solved when the third world pours into EVERY and ONLY into White countries.

    People say the only solution to the RACE problem is if ALL and ONLY White countries “assimilate,” i.e., intermarry, with all those non-Whites.

    But if I tell that obvious truth about the ongoing program of genocide against White people, Anti-Whites agree that I am a naziwhowantstokillsixmillionjews.

    Anti-racist is a codeword for anti-White.

  16. they took away kick off returns, they flag players because they may hurt other players lolololololol its so ridiculous. and THEN they get political….and oh, they cant understand why their league is losing cash?

    its so stupid that i laugh just writing about it lolol

  17. the political is an issue but along with that what drives me crazy is, there will be a big touchdown play, you will get excited, then every time a flag on the play and the TD doesn’t count ball comes back. It’s horrible.

  18. Only suckers support “professional” athletics.
    Were it not for the sport, most of the players would be in jail or on welfare!

  19. In my second boycott season if NFL now, don’t miss it one bit. My football fix is easily satisfied on Saturdays. I only wish my college team didn’t suck, and the non-player students weren’t brainwashed as badly as Komrade Kaperprick by the commie pinko faculty.

  20. Or maybe you idiots should just stop kneeling at the flag so you can respect yourself. Fire all of those creeps and get on with the game.

  21. I make $5,392 each play by throwing the game for my team. As qb I can get a regular paycheck plus a little on the side (wink…wink). And why not? While my team mates are worrying about sitting during the national anthem, I am counting the new cars and houses (and islands once the hurricane season is over) that I can buy after this season is over.

  22. Hey, the tag line up by the pictures – the word is “separate”. Use spell check please when you’re writing for a web page.

  23. Maybe it’s too hard to score while sanctimoniously virtue-signalling on a deeply callused knee. Hope the NFL crashes and burns. All but the knees, of course.

  24. Mark Meyer says:

    Keep up with the political commentary and football will be gone. Cut the political hackery and throw out anyone who does not stand for the Anthem. Watch your ratings go up.

  25. So . . . can you say “small sample size.” And the idea that a reduction in scoring after two weeks accounts for smaller TV audiences is rather silly. Did this would-be viewers know ahead of time that there would be little scoring? If your idea has any bearing in reality, then you’d have to measure NEXT WEEK’S viewing. Apparently nobody teaches critical thinking to sports journalists.

  26. Like millions of others, we are a four-generation FOOTBALL FAMILY! Games are sacrosanct; we know the players, teams, coaches, owners, and history, and we respect tradition. We buy tickets, balls, helmets, jerseys; and listen to round the clock sports talk and visit other stadiums when in their towns. We plan weddings, baptisms, and vacations around the NFL calendar.

    Now, with the vile MOCKING OF OUR NATION and the WEAKNESS of the NFL “leadership,” I am SICK AT HEART! Since Roger Goodell has made such a terrible mess, why doesn’t he just resign? Oh, that’s right, in Roger’s happy world, all things are allowed, and consequences have to be run through his personal PC meter; with two sets of rules, of course!

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