In the National Football League (NFL), every point can count. Elsewhere on this site you can read about the most points and the fewest points scored by teams in the Super Bowl, including those that ended up with just 16 points scored across the four quarters of the game. Thankfully, no Super Bowl has yet ended with single digits in the points column, but when there are as many games played as there are across an NFL season you’re bound to have some games that are absolute stinkers. The good news is, that isn’t the usual scenario.
Those considering betting on something like the over/under points markets might be interested to know what sort of figures they should be thinking about when placing bets on NFL matches. Whilst the fewest points scored in a Super Bowl at the time of writing was 16, there have also been just two Super Bowls that have ended with more than 70 points scored in total. Where does the regular season fit in with that sort of discussion? Do games tend to offer more excitement or less, depending on various factors you need to consider?
How Many Points Are Scored in the Average NFL Game?
In the seven regular seasons between 2015 and 2021, the average number of points scored in NFL games was 46. On average, the NFC has outscored the AFC by 46.2 points to 45.2.
In this time, the Kansas City Chiefs have scored the most points per game with 28.1, whilst the fewest points on average have been scored by the New York Jets with 18.8.
The Average Points Across Seven Seasons (2015 – 2021)
Those that love the NFL as a sport will know that there are two divisions: the American Football Conference (AFC) and the National Football Conference (NFC). They will also know that points can be scored in numerous different ways, with touchdowns being the biggest points-getter for teams plying their trade in America’s most popular sport. As you’d imagine, though, how many points are scored by teams on average across an NFL season will differ per team, as well as by whether you’re looking at the AFC or the NFC.
What we’re looking at here first is the specific information about the average number of points scored in NFL matches across a season. In other words, we’re not looking at the individual teams and their point-scoring exploits, other than to learn how that plays in to a season as a whole. The regular season in the NFL involves each team playing 17 times nowadays. What we’re considering is the total number of points in a game, meaning that we will add the points scored by the home team to the number of points scored by the away side in each match.
We could, of course, look at one particular season and work out the average points per game scored during that year, but the reality is that that would give us a potentially false impression of what to expect. As a result, the best thing that we can do is to have a look at the average points per game across seven seasons to see whether there is anything trends that stand out. Do some seasons have more points scored than others, for example? Are there any major outliers? Here’s a look at seven seasons from 2015 to 2021 to gives us an idea:
It is fair to say that there were two major outliers across the seven seasons in total: 2017 and 2020. They were outliers at opposite ends of the spectrum, but what does it do for the overall average across the seven seasons? That works out as exactly 46. In other words, if you’re choosing to watch an NFL game then the likelihood is that you can expect to see about 46 points scored by the two teams involved. Obviously some games will be more exciting and see more than that scored, whilst others will be less interesting and will see fewer points notched up.
Though each team plays 17 times nowadays, they played 16 games apiece in the regular season in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020. Though that doesn’t change a huge amount in terms of the average points per game, it is at least worth bearing in mind when evaluating the information.
Why The Outliers?
The obvious question that bettors will want to ask themselves is where there were such obvious outlier in terms of the average number of points scored in the NFL in 2020. Many feel that this was a direct result of the worldwide crisis, which saw a limited pre-season being played as well as numerous games having to take place behind-closed-doors. Was the lack of crowd a big factor? In order to get close to the same average points per season scored in the sport, you need to go as far back as 1948.
There is no obvious answer about why the 2017 season had such a relatively low average. Regardless, the entire history of the sport of American football leads us to believe that ‘about 40 points’ is what you can expect to see scored during an NFL team, if you take both teams’ points together. Over the seven seasons we’re looking at, that was higher at exactly 46 points.
There is a sense from some that we are currently in an ‘offensive era’, with attacking sides dominating proceedings. Even so, in 2022 there was an argument espoused in some quarters that scoring was down, as if the defence was making a comeback. A $100 bet on each game made on the Under would’ve seen people up by $1,199.50, which was far and away better than the $663.20 you’d have got at best over the previous two decades. Whether that is something you can count on moving forwards is, of course, anybody’s guess.
Comparing the AFC & NFC
The NFL is split into two, the American Football Conference (AFC) and the National Football Conference (NFC) both which include 16 teams. They are as follows:
AFC and NFC Teams
|Baltimore Ravens||Arizona Cardinals|
|Buffalo Bills||Atlanta Falcons|
|Cincinnati Bengals||Carolina Panthers|
|Cleveland Browns||Chicago Bears|
|Denver Broncos||Dallas Cowboys|
|Houston Texans||Detroit Lions|
|Indianapolis Colts||Green Bay Packers|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||Los Angeles Rams|
|Kansas City Chiefs||Minnesota Vikings|
|Las Vegas Raiders||New Orleans Saints|
|Los Angeles Chargers||New York Giants|
|Miami Dolphins||Philadelphia Eagles|
|New England Patriots||San Francisco 49ers|
|New York Jets||Seattle Seahawks|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|Tennessee Titans||Washington Commanders|
Team/Franchise Team Name Changes
The Las Vegas Raiders were originally the Oakland Raiders, moving to Los Angeles between 1982 and 1994 before a return to Oakland. They made the switch to Las Vegas in 2020, changing names once more. The Los Angeles Chargers were the San Diego Chargers from 1961 until 2017.
The Washington Commanders were known as the Washington Redskins for most of the club’s existence before it was accepted that this was a deeply offensive name. The team briefly became the Washington Football Team before it was re-branded as the Washington Commanders in 2022.
The Los Angeles Rams were founded in 1936 as the Cleveland Rams. The team moved to Los Angeles in 1946 then moved to St. Louis to become the St. Louis Rams in 1994. They moved back to L.A. in 2016, becoming the Los Angeles Rams once more.
Average Points Scored in Each Conference
The nature of the NFL is such that you need to look at the two sides of the organisations, the AFC and the NFC, in order to get an overall sense of what happens during a league season. Therefore, it is interesting in asking the question about the average number of points per game scored across those same seven seasons for each conference. Here’s how it pans out:
Across the seven seasons in the AFC, the average points per game stood at 45.2. For that reason, the 2017 and 2020 seasons stand out as being below and above average respectively. That, of course, ties in with the information that we have from the NFL in general, in terms of the two campaigns that offered an average number of points per game that differed wildly from the rest of the seasons that we were looking at.
In the same seven seasons in the NFC, the average points scored per game was 46.1. With that in mind, 2015 and 2016 were pretty much bang on the average, whilst 2020 and 2018 were the outliers. This is interesting because it differs from both the league average and the AFC average, both of which had 2017 as the outlier for the lower end of the scale.
It isn’t clear why it was that the lowest points total in the NFC was in 2018, whereas it was 2017 for the AFC and the NFL overall.
Do Some Teams Perform Better Than Others?
Now that we’ve established what the average points per game is across both halves of the NFL and broken it down by season, it is worth considering whether there are some teams that perform better than others. Given the fact that some teams, such as the New England Patriots, tend to appear in Super Bowls on a more regular basis than others, it isn’t an outrageous suggestion. Here is a look at the information from all teams across the seven seasons in question:
NFL Average Points Scored by Teams – 2015 to 2021 Seasons
|Kansas City Chiefs||25.3||24.3||25.9||35.3||28.2||29.6||28.2||28.1|
|New Orleans Saints||25.5||29.3||28.0||31.5||28.6||30.1||21.4||27.8|
|New England Patriots||29.1||27.6||28.6||27.3||26.3||20.4||27.2||26.6|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||21.4||22.1||20.9||24.8||28.6||30.8||30.1||25.5|
|Green Bay Packers||23.0||27.0||20.0||23.5||23.5||31.8||26.5||25.0|
|Los Angeles Rams||17.5||14.0||29.9||32.9||24.6||23.3||27.1||24.2|
|Los Angeles Chargers||20.0||25.6||22.2||26.8||21.1||24.0||27.9||23.9|
|San Francisco 49ers||14.9||19.3||20.7||21.4||29.9||23.5||25.1||22.1|
|Las Vegas Raiders||22.4||26.0||18.8||18.1||19.6||27.1||22.0||22.0|
|New York Giants||26.3||19.4||15.4||23.1||21.3||17.5||15.2||19.7|
|New York Jets||24.2||17.2||18.6||20.8||17.3||15.2||18.2||18.8|
Here we can see that the NFL’s top regular season scorers are the Kansas City Chiefs between 2015 and 2021 with 28.1. The New Orleans Saints are second on our list with 27.8, ahead of the New England Patriots in third with 26.6 points per game.
At the bottom of the scorers list between 2015 and 2021 are the New York Jets who averaged 18.8 points per game. They are followed by the New York Giants, Cleveland Browns and the Jacksonville Jaguars all on 19.7 points per game.
Now we know who are the top and bottom of the NFL in terms of points scored, lets see this broken down by season.
The first season we’re looking at is 2015, which involved the 32 teams playing 16 games each in the regular season and notching up the following points per game (we’ve used the 2016 name across all seven seasons for the purposes of ease).
For the 2015 season, the teams boasted an average points per game figure of 22.8. Some teams, such as the Arizona Cardinals and the Carolina Panthers, scored well above that, whilst others, like the Rams and the Browns, came under it.
In 2016, the average points per game scored by the teams was 22.7. This time, it was the Atlanta Falcons that hugely over-performed, whilst the Rams were a massive under-performer.
Did things work out much differently in 2017? An average points per game of 21.7 for 2017 meant that the outliers were the Rams and the Browns, for the upper and lower levels respectively.
An average of 23.3 points per game were scored by all of the NFL teams in 2018. That means that the 14.1 scored by the Arizona Cardinals was at low-end, whilst the 35.3 from the Kansas City Chiefs was the high-end.
The 33.2 from the Baltimore Ravens was a high for the 2019 campaign, whilst the 16.6 from the Washington Commanders was a low in a season when the average points per game scored by the teams was 22.8.
On this occasion, the average points per game scored by NFL teams was 24.8, meaning that the 15.2 scored by the New York Jets was well under, whilst the 31.8 scored by the Green Bay Packers was above average.
In the final regular season that we’re looking at, the 15.2 points per game scored by the New York Giants was the lowest, whilst the Dallas Cowboys managed to rack up 31.2 points per game on average, compared to the league-wide average of 22.9.
Do The Highest Scorers Win The Super Bowl?
On thing that both bettors and sports fans alike will be interested to learn is whether or not a high points per game average from a team during the regular season correlates in any real way with Super Bowl success. Here is a look at the teams with the highest points per game average across each of the seven seasons that we’re looking at, as well as the winners and runners-up in that season’s Super Bowl:
Highest Scoring Teams – 2015 to 2021
|Season||Highest PPG Average||Super Bowl Winner||Super Bowl Runner-Up|
|2021||Dallas Cowboys||Los Angeles Rams||Cincinnati Bengals|
|2020||Green Bay Packers||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Kansas City Chiefs|
|2019||Baltimore Ravens||Kansas City Chiefs||San Francisco 49ers|
|2018||Kansas City Chiefs||New England Patriots||Los Angeles Rams|
|2017||Los Angeles Rams||Philadelphia Eagles||New England Patriots|
|2016||Atlanta Falcons||New England Patriots||Atlanta Falcons|
|2015||Carolina Panthers||Denver Broncos||Carolina Panthers|
Interestingly, the highest scoring team for points per game on average across our seven seasons never went on to win the Super Bowl. Only twice did the team manage to make it to the Super Bowl itself, being losing finalists on both occasions.