The recent trend in the National Football League paints a thrilling picture: nail-biting finishes are more prevalent than they’ve been in the past 91 years, with significant leads becoming increasingly rare.
The continuity from 2022 is evident. Back then, the average final-score difference was a mere 9.70 points, the lowest average gap since 1932 (9.13). And this season is holding steady, clocking an average of 9.50 points after two weeks.
This narrow margin has ramifications. Foremost among them is the insight that teams that win these tight games usually secure a spot in the playoffs. Since the NFL expanded its postseason in 2020, a staggering 20 out of 21 teams that secured at least two-thirds of their one-score games (decided by a difference of eight points or less) progressed to the playoff stage.
Reflecting on the previous week, history was made as a record-equalling 12 games were decided by a difference of eight points or less. Week 2 saw 13 out of 16 games hanging in the balance in the fourth quarter.
Adding spice to these close fourth quarters is the ever-present chance of a comeback. A notable instance from this season saw the New York Giants rally from a 21-point shortfall in the third quarter, eventually triumphing with a score of 31-28. This isn’t an isolated event. Since 2019, seven teams have staged a comeback from deficits of 21 points or more, playoffs included.
For fans, the message is clear: expect more edge-of-the-seat action as close games are becoming a fixture. However, for teams with sizeable leads, complacency could be their downfall. The propensity for comebacks in the NFL is on the rise.
Key points as we head into Week 3:
- Super Bowl Signs: Philadelphia (2-0) is set to clash with Tampa Bay (2-0) in an enticing Monday Night Football contest. Historically, such early-season duels between undefeated teams have served as precursors to Super Bowl appearances. For instance, between 2010 and now, seven out of the 14 games that pitched two unbeaten teams against each other in Week 3 eventually featured a Super Bowl contender.
- The NFC East’s Dominance: Since 2022 began, NFC East teams have won a combined total of 50 games, the highest in the NFL. The next closest is the AFC North at 42 wins.
- Steelers’ Dynamic Duo: Linebackers Alex Highsmith and T.J. Watt of the Pittsburgh Steelers achieved the rare feat of both posting a sack and touchdown in the same game, a first since 1982.
- Ones to Watch: Broncos’ Pat Surtain will be up against Dolphins’ Tyreek Hill. Both were recognised as first-team All-Pro last season.
- Team Tussle: New Orleans will be challenging Green Bay this Sunday. It will be a contest between Green Bay’s potent red-zone offence and New Orleans’ formidable red-zone defence.
- Streak to Note: Minnesota’s Justin Jefferson has the chance to create history by becoming the first player to record 150 receiving yards in each of the first three games of a season.
- A Historical Rivalry: The Indianapolis Colts and the Baltimore Ravens share a rich history of thrilling encounters. Their Sunday showdown is a reminder of past epic battles.
- Under the Radar: Quarterbacks Dak Prescott and Joshua Dobbs, both drafted 135th overall in their respective years, will lock horns when Dallas faces off against Arizona.
- The 3-0 Trend: 12 of the last 14 teams that started 3-0 made it to the postseason. Teams like Washington, New Orleans, and Philadelphia will be vying for that crucial third win this week.
- Stats Spotlight: Bijan Robinson of the Atlanta Falcons put up an impressive 172 scrimmage yards in their last win, averaging 5.15 yards post engagement with the closest defender, as per Next Gen Stats.
- Rookies in Focus: Sunday’s game between Houston and Jacksonville is set to showcase several top picks from the last three NFL drafts, highlighting the potential future stars of the league.
As Week 3 unfolds, fans can expect a roller-coaster of emotions, with the current trends suggesting that the gap between winners and losers will be minimal. This season is shaping up to be one of the most unpredictable and exciting in recent memory.