NFL Quarterbacks and Projecting 2018 Scoring
Last year NFL regular season scoring levels dropped off to 43.4 points per game. That was 3.4 ppg less than its peak in 2013. From 2014 to 2016 the league scoring average hovered around 45.5 ppg. Last year’s decline in scoring correlated with a league-wide trend towards the under: 113-135-8 over/under. I’m projecting scoring to increase in 2018 which should result is more games going over the total.
It’s cliché, but the NFL truly is a quarterback’s league and the play of signal callers as a whole was down last season. Of qualifying quarterbacks, only Philadelphia’s Carson Wentz featured a QBR above 70. In 2016, four quarterbacks eclipsed that barrier. In addition, 2017 saw nine qualifying quarterbacks post a sub 45 QBR rating while just three fell below that level in 2016.
Injuries were a key factor. Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers was essentially limited to six games, Andrew Luck never took a snap, and the breakout of Houston rookie Deshaun Watson was cut short. If those three are healthy, it will have an impact. Another key will be the quarterback play from many of 2017’s bottom-tier teams. On paper, the Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins should see more production from the position. With Mitchell Trubisky, the Bears look somewhat similar to that of the Los Angeles Rams from a year ago; a new offensive-minded coach and talented second-year quarterback replacing a prehistoric offense. The Rams went from worst offense in the NFL (14 ppg) to the second best (28.9 ppg). We also project a full season from San Francisco’s Jimmy Garoppolo. Baltimore’s Joe Flacco and New York’s Eli Manning are coming off career-worst seasons but are still capable of producing league-average numbers. And like Trubisky, Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota should prosper in his new system.
The one concern that could hinder a massive spike in scoring is the age factor of some of the league’s top-tier quarterbacks. Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger and his wavering commitment to play hints a decline is forthcoming. Can New Orleans’ Drew Brees continue his high volume of production? Los Angeles’ Philip Rivers, who will turn 37 years old in December, comes in off his best season in three years. Even the immortal 41-year-old Tom Brady is poised for regression. Amazingly, all four of these future Hall of Famers finished in the top 10 in yards per pass attempt in 2017. That will be difficult to duplicate.
This season sets up where we could see some of the NFL’s young quarterbacks ascend while the old and once invincible finally start to decline. If that plays out, lot there will be a lot more games that feature two quarterbacks on a level playing field. In the end, I do expect scoring across the league to see an uptick and urge bettors to incorporate that into their handicap.