The Extra Point

Where have all of the NFL points gone?

Through the first three weeks of the 2022 NFL season, the league has seen historic comebacks, two surprise undefeated teams and more tight games than ever before. 

Despite the excitement, this season's games are averaging only 42.1 points per game, a 5.0 points-per-game drop over the first three weeks of the 2021 season and lower than any season since 2010. 

Where did all the points go? 

The following chart shows net points added by play type using two sources — nflverse and TruMedia — and comparing 2022 to the previous ten seasons. The net points chart shows the relative change in a game’s point total due to five play types — runs, passes, extra points, field goals, and penalties — using games through Week 3. 

The drop in total points in 2022 can be primarily attributed to changes in the passing game. In each of the graphs, the blue line representing pass plays plummets from 2021 to 2022. By TruMedia’s net points, this season's pass plays have been less efficient than in any of the previous 10 seasons, yielding roughly 206 points fewer than the 2011-21 average (nflverse shows about 180 fewer points on pass plays). 

However, despite the drop in passing game efficiency in 2022, run game efficiency has increased. While running plays typically are associated with less scoring for several reasons, (teams running the ball to drain the clock) overall net efficiency on run plays this season is approaching that of passing the ball. 

Unlike the pass and run games, the overall effect of penalties, extra points and field goals in 2022 is in line with recent seasons. 

Going beyond play type, what else has changed? Here are a few additional metrics we explored:

Overall pass effectiveness

  • Teams are passing with relatively similar frequency to the last few seasons — 63.3% of plays are pass plays.
  • Via PFF, the rate of catchable balls is 63.8% in 2022, a five-year low. Last season through Week 3, 65.8% of balls were catchable. 
  • The rate of dropped passes is in line with similar seasons.
  • Sack rate, time to throw, and time to pressure are similar in 2022.
  • Teams are combining for 462 yards passing per game — the second-lowest total since 2012 and 28 yards per game fewer than in 2021

Defensive strategy

  • NFL Teams are employing coverages with different frequency in 2022, including putting less emphasis on man schemes. Rates of Cover-1 man have dropped to 19.8% from a four-year average of 26.5%. Schemes with multiple deep safeties have jumped, including Cover-2 zone (up to 13.8% usage in 2022 from a four-year average of 11.2%) and Quarters (up to 14.7% usage in 2022 from a four-year average of 11.4%).
  • Defenses are running Cover-0 with no deep safeties at a slightly higher frequency of 3.7% of plays, versus four-year average of 2.7%. And they’re doing it more effectively — the average expected points added per play against Cover-0 is -0.21 in 2022, about 0.40 points per play — and 80 net points added per season — lower than the four-year average. Cover-0 is a high-risk, high-reward style of play that has been worth the risk for defenses so far in 2022. 
  • Defenses have blitzed on 38.5% of plays in 2022, a big jump over the average of 27.4% over the previous four seasons. 

Anecdotally, teams have also lost 11 red zone fumbles through Week 3, tied for the second most since 2011. The per-play rate of fumbles near the goal line is its highest rate since 2011.

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