By The Capital Sports Report Staff
Heading into the 2020 NFL season, there were ample signs that this would be a year for exceptional circumstances. The lack of pre-season games and the decision of top players to opt-out only heightened the stakes as the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans kicked off the season on September 11.
Since then, the standard NFL fare has gone uninterrupted (with a few rescheduled games). Teams once favored by pundits continue to slide to the bottom of their divisions, like the Baltimore Ravens, while others scheduled to tread water have defied the odds, like the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Heading into the last weeks of the season, here are this year’s biggest surprises so far.
Offense, Offense, Offense
The 2020 NFL regular has shown a massive uptick in offensive stats. Halfway through the season, the NFL averaged 50.6 points per game, which is up from the previous record of 48.6 points. The combined points per game in the 2020 season have surpassed the average score of all games since 2000 and have shown more than a 10% increase since the 2019 season.
Halfway through the season, yards per play remained tied with the previous record (5.6 yards), but the average passing game climbed from previous seasons. Average passer ratings clocked in at 95.1 this year, up from the record-high of 92.9. Pass completion averages also hedged past previous records, from 64.9 to 65.8%.
The 2020 NFL season has also seen a surge in major comebacks. As of December 1, there were 35 double-digit comebacks, passing all league records. That’s a total of 35 games that saw a team overcome a deficit of at least 10 points before winning the game.
The biggest comeback games this season took place in Week 12. The New England Patriots defeated the Arizona Cardinals 20-17. Another came from the Minnesota Vikings, who defeated the Carolina Panthers with a late touchdown pass to win 28-27.
Ravens Slip in AFC North
One factor that hasn’t changed as the NFL regular season progresses is the top pick for taking home the Lombardi Trophy (…again). If we look at preseason predictions all the way to today’s NFL picks as provided by the pro punters at OLBG.com, the Chiefs are favored to win another Super Bowl.
The sportsbook has also focused on contenders like the Seattle Seahawks (favored to take the NFC Championship) and Green Bay Packers (favored to take the NFC North). However, the Steelers replaced rivals the Ravens to take the AFC North after the Pittsburgh team defeated their rivals in Week 12.
Since their Week 12 loss to the Steelers, the Ravens have lost multiple players to health concerns with indefinite recovery periods. The lack of QB Lamar Jackson contributed to their Week 10 loss to the Patriots, which was followed by a Week 11 loss to the Tennessee Titans, and another (second) loss to the Steelers.
OC Eric Bieniemy Could Leave Chiefs
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid appointed Eric Bieniemy to offensive coordinator three years ago—to great success. Though the NFL has an ever-revolving door when it comes to coaches and coordinators, this year many pundits have focused on a possible shift for Bieniemy toward a head coaching position.
He received the promotion after being the Chiefs running backs coach. Reid moved him up to offensive coordinator after Matt Nagy left to become the Chicago Bears head coach.
Bieniemy has been interviewing across the league in search of a head coach role as the clock ticks down to his contractual end with the Chiefs. So far, the media buzz has surrounded the Houston Texans. Not only does the Texan franchise have a solid quarterback and deep roster talent, but the team would likely set up a new GM to grow with Bieniemy.
Already, Texans player safety Justin Reid has spoken out in support of hiring Bieniemy. However, the Texans aren’t the only team with a head coach vacancy. The Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions are also on the hunt for a head coach.
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