First half of NFL season produces faster games

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. runs for a touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons in the first half of an NFL football game Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022 in Charlotte, North Carolina (AP Photo / Rusty Jones)

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. runs for a touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons in the first half of an NFL football game Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022 in Charlotte, North Carolina (AP Photo / Rusty Jones)

PA

Faster, more competitive games made the NFL proud throughout the first half of the season.

While the league constantly faces issues off the field, including Dan Snyder’s legal issues, Brian Flores’ lawsuit and Deshaun Watson’s suspension, the NFL points out that the product and viewing experience have improved.

Until week 9, the game time dropped to 3:01:55. It would be the fastest for a full season in nearly 30 years. Matches lasted an average of 3:00:01 in 1993.

The average margin of victory is 9.43 points this season, the lowest at this stage since 1970.

There were 104 games within a score (eight points) in the fourth quarter. This is the highest percentage (76.5) over nine weeks.

There have been 79 games decided by eight or fewer points, 72 decided by seven or fewer, and 62 decided by six or fewer, the most such games at this point in the season.

Also, many games are played in the final minutes and fourth quarter comebacks are on the rise.

There have been 42 games in which a team has come back to win or tie after trailing in the fourth quarter, the most for nine weeks. There have been 27 games in which a team has overcome a deficit of at least 10 points to win or draw, the third most, behind only 1987 (31) and 2020 (26). There have been 12 games in which a team has overcome a deficit of at least 14 points to win or draw, the third most, behind only 1987 (15) and 2011 (13).

There have been 31 games decided by a winning score in the last two minutes of regulation time or in overtime this season, tied with 2012 (31) for the third most such games in the first nine weeks, behind only 2021 (35) and 2015. (33). Eleven games were decided by the winning score of the final game.

“All of these different things make for a great experience for the fans, whether you’re in the stadium or watching on TV,” league manager Troy Vincent told The Associated Press.

Going into the second half of the season, 159 million people watched NFL games. The average number of viewers per game is 16.2 million on television and digital platforms. NFL games rank in the top 38 and 47 of the top 50 on TV season-to-date.

“This is what our game looks like thanks to great coaching, great strategy and, frankly, good officiating administration,” said Vincent, executive vice president of NFL football operations. “Sometimes that’s not how it feels, but all of those things have to work to produce what we see.”

Penalties for the rough setter became a hot topic in Week 5 when two questionable calls sparked outrage from players, coaches and fans. However, the total number of passer roughing penalties is down this season. There were 55 calls in nine weeks out of 20,698 games. Last year it was 79 at this point, down from 65 in 2020 and 86 in 2019.

Frustration over last month’s two controversial penalties has led many to call for making the brutality of the setter a reviewable game.

“The data doesn’t even support it,” Vincent said. “And when you look at the number of plays, what’s called and what’s not, it’s all part of the ebb and flow of a season. Keeping the quarterback healthy allows us to have these historic numbers after nine weeks of play.”

Tickets sold rose 3.5% for games played in the United States, and league manager Peter O’Reilly said ticket sales among fans 34 or younger were increasing.

“It’s a real benefit for us and for the clubs as we continue to focus on engaging young fans,” O’Reilly said.

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Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter at https://twitter.com/robmaaddi

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Naomi C. Amerson