Do NFL Rules Really "Favor" Offenses?

Posted on July 23, 2015 at 12:30 AM

A frequent criticism of recent rule-changes is that they continue to favor the offense—not the defense.

Is this a fair assessment?

That depends on how one quantifies an advantage being provided to either side of the ball. Do the rules truly “favor” the offense—or has the sport changed so drastically from it’s early incarnations that repeated rule-changes geared to favor the offense has mislead many fans into believing that offenses now have a statistical advantage?

Something to Consider:

  • On each drive, an offense can score between 3.0-8.0 points—a 5.5-point average.
  • On each drive, a defense can prevent an offense from scoring anything—0.0 points.

If both the offense and defense have “equal” power, the result should leave offenses scoring 2.75 points per-drive—the statistical middle-ground between 5.5 and 0.0.

In 2014:


  • The Cincinnati Bengals ranked 16th (average, middle-of-the-league) in points scored per-drive (1.92).
  • The Cincinnati Bengals scored 65 times—20 passing touchdowns, 19 rushing touchdowns and 26 made field goals.
  • The Cincinnati Bengals were forced to punt the ball 73 times.


The statistical middle-ground (giving 50/50 control to both units) for points scored/allowed per-drive is 2.75—but the NFL average in points scored per-drive is only 1.92.

If you divide the NFL-average of points per-drive (1.92) by the statistical middle-ground (2.75): 1.92 / 2.75 = 0.6981 x 100 = 69.81% in favor of defensive point-control.

Using the NFL's average offense (Cincinnati Bengals) in points scored per-drive, it was more likely to see a punt (73 times) than a score (65 times).

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