NFL Data

Perception on NFL passing is correct

The perception that there is more passing in the NFL is correct when it comes to yards gained, while rushing yards per game are on the decline.

The NFL fans’ perception is, well, perceptive.

Many fans have a perception that passing has become a bigger part of the game in recent years. Guess what? Those that feel that way are absolutely correct.

In fact, it’s been a strong and steady climb in the amount of passing yards gained per NFL game over the last five years.

  • 2011: 459.4 (up 16 yards from 2010)
  • 2012: 462.6
  • 2013: 471.2
  • 2014: 473.6
  • 2015: 487.7

It seems 300-yard games for quarterbacks are almost expected these days, and perhaps they should be for the great ones with those averages. Last year, quarterbacks had well over 100 games with 300 yards passing.

So what has happened with the number of rushing yards?

While passing yards have been increasing each of the last five years, rushing yards have been declining. 

  • 2011: 234.3
  • 2012: 231.8
  • 2013: 225.8
  • 2014: 222.7
  • 2015: 217.7

But, while passing yards have gone up 28 yards per game since 2011, rushing yards haven’t declined quite as quickly, falling 17 yards per game when compared to five years ago.

That means there is more yardage gained overall, making it a natural – and correct – assumption that scoring has also risen.

While the average number of points per game was the second-highest in 2015 during the last five years, the margin of victory was the lowest.

NFL games averaged 45.6 points per game in 2015, bested only once in the last five year – the 46.8 average in 2013. However, NFL games were the closest on average that they’ve been in the last five years, with an 11.1 points for average margin of victory.

Ironically, when scoring was highest in 2013 is when the next-closest margin of victory occurred – 11.3.

Games averaged 5.2 touchdowns per game in 2015, the second-most in the last five years. But only once in that timeframe (in 2011) has the NFL experienced less than five touchdowns per game on average.

If the NFL was looking to put more offense in the game, they’ve done that. Scoring is up, passing yards are up and games are closer. Perhaps all of that is at the expense of the running game. 

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