The highest scoring season in league history, terrific turnarounds, consistent teams excelling again, records falling and young players making their mark. The 2020 season had it all.
Competitiveness was a constant theme throughout the regular season as 70 percent of games (179 of 256) were within one score (eight points) in the fourth quarter, the second-most such games in a single season in NFL history. Additionally, 43 games were won by a team that trailed by at least 10 points, tied for the most in a single season in NFL history.
Week 17 came down to the wire, as seven playoff spots and two divisions titles – the AFC South and NFC East – were decided on the final day of the season. Sunday’s excitement was due in part to having 16 divisional games played on the season’s final day, a tradition instituted in 2010.
Seven of the 14 playoff teams are new to the postseason in 2019: CHICAGO, CLEVELAND, INDIANAPOLIS, LOS ANGELES RAMS, PITTSBURGH, TAMPA BAY and WASHINGTON. Since 1990 – a streak of 31 consecutive seasons – at least four teams have qualified for the playoffs in every season that were not in the postseason the year before.
Both the Pittsburgh Steelers (AFC North) and Washington Football Team (NFC East) won their division after missing the postseason in 2019 and at least two teams have won their divisions the season after missing the playoffs in 17 of the past 18 years.
Washington completed the “worst-to-first” turnaround, winning the NFC East the season after finishing in last place in the division. At least one team has won its division the season after finishing in or tied for last place in 16 of the past 18 seasons.
Teams to win their divisions a season after missing the playoffs since 2003:
|SEASON||DIVISION WINNERS THAT MISSED THE PLAYOFFS THE PREVIOUS SEASON|
|2019||Green Bay, San Francisco|
|2018||Baltimore, Chicago*, Dallas, Houston*|
|2017||Jacksonville*, L.A. Rams, New Orleans, Minnesota, Philadelphia*|
|2015||Houston, Minnesota, Washington*|
|2011||Denver*, Houston*, New York Giants, San Francisco|
|2010||Atlanta, Chicago, Kansas City*, Pittsburgh, Seattle|
|2009||Cincinnati, Dallas, New England, New Orleans*|
|2008||Arizona, Carolina, Miami*, Minnesota|
|2007||Green Bay, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay*|
|2006||Baltimore*, New Orleans*, Philadelphia*, San Diego Chargers|
|2005||Chicago*, Cincinnati, New York Giants, Tampa Bay*|
|2004||Atlanta*, Pittsburgh, San Diego Chargers*|
|2003||Baltimore, Carolina*, Kansas City*, New England, St. Louis Rams|
|*Worst to first|
OFFENSIVE TRENDS: The 2020 season was the most prolific offensive season in league history.
Teams combined to score 12,692 total points and 1,473 total touchdowns, both the most in a single season in NFL history. There was an average of 49.6 points scored per game (both teams combined), the most in a single season since 1970.
|MOST TOTAL POINTS,
|MOST POINTS SCORED PER GAME, SINCE 1970|
|SEASON||TOTAL POINTS||SEASON||TOUCHDOWNS||SEASON||POINTS PER GAME|
Five teams averaged at least 30 points per game in 2020 – GREEN BAY (31.8), BUFFALO (31.3), TAMPA BAY (30.8), TENNESSEE (30.7) and NEW ORLEANS (30.1) – the most such teams in a single season in NFL history.
PROLIFIC PASSERS: In 2020, league-wide passing numbers trended at a historic pace, as the marks for passer rating (93.6), touchdown passes (871), completion percentage (65.2 percent) and completions (11,756) all ranked as the most in a single season in NFL history.
Twelve quarterbacks passed for at least 4,000 yards in 2020, including five with at least 4,500 passing yards: Houston’s DESHAUN WATSON (4,823), Kansas City’s PATRICK MAHOMES (4,740), Tampa Bay’s TOM BRADY (4,633), Atlanta’s MATT RYAN (4,581) and Buffalo’s JOSH ALLEN (4,544).
Ten quarterbacks threw at least 30 touchdown passes this season, including six with at least 35 touchdown passes: Green Bay’s AARON RODGERS (48, tied-fifth most in single season in NFL history), Brady (40), Seattle’s RUSSELL WILSON (40), Mahomes (38), Allen (37) and Minnesota’s KIRK COUSINS (35).
With Rodgers, Brady and Wilson each throwing at least 40 touchdown passes, 2020 marked the second season in NFL history in which three quarterbacks each threw at least 40 touchdown passes in the same season [2011: DREW BREES (46); AARON RODGERS (45); MATTHEW STAFFORD (41)].
With Mahomes (age 25), Allen (age 24), Watson (33 touchdown passes, age 25) and Los Angeles Chargers rookie quarterback JUSTIN HERBERT (31 touchdown passes, age 22), 2020 is the first season in league history in which four quarterbacks under the age of 26 each threw at least 30 touchdown passes in the same season.
Ten qualified quarterbacks had a passer rating of 100 or higher in 2020, including two with a passer rating of at least 110: Rodgers (121.5 – the second-highest single-season mark in NFL history) and Watson (112.4). The 10 qualfied quarterbacks with a passer rating of 100-or-higher are the most in a single season in NFL history.
The seasons with the most quarterbacks having a passer rating of 100-or-higher in NFL history:
|SEASON||QUARTERBACKS WITH 100+ PASSER RATING|
ALL-PURPOSE BACKS: Nine players rushed for at least 1,000 yards, including four players with at least 1,100 rushing yards, this season: Tennessee’s DERRICK HENRY (2,027, fifth-most in a single season in NFL history), Minnesota’s DALVIN COOK (1,557), Indianapolis’ JONATHAN TAYLOR (1,169) and Green Bay’s AARON JONES (1,104).
Ten players recorded at least 10 rushing touchdowns in 2020, including three with at least 15 rushing touchdowns: Henry (17), Cook (16) and New Orleans’ ALVIN KAMARA (16).
Nineteen running backs totaled at least 1,000 scrimmage yards this season, including four with at least 1,500 scrimmage yards: Henry (2,141), Cook (1,918), Kamara (1,688) and Chicago’s DAVID MONTGOMERY (1,508).
Three running backs – Kamara (21 scrimmage touchdowns), Cook (17) and Henry (17) – each recorded at least 17 scrimmage touchdowns this season.
With Cook and Henry, 2020 is the first season since 2006 (LARRY JOHNSON and Pro Football Hall of Famer LADAINIAN TOMLINSON) to feature two players each with at least 1,900 scrimmage yards and 17 scrimmage touchdowns.
RIDICULOUS RECEIVERS: Eighteen players had at least 1,000 receiving yards this season, including seven with at least 1,300 receiving yards: Buffalo’s STEFON DIGGS (1,535), Kansas City’s TRAVIS KELCE (1,416), Arizona’s DEANDRE HOPKINS (1,407), Minnesota’s JUSTIN JEFFERSON (1,400), Green Bay’s DAVANTE ADAMS (1,374), Atlanta’s CALVIN RIDLEY (1,374) and Seattle’s DK METCALF (1,303).
Eight players had at least 100 receptions in 2020: Diggs (127, sixth-highest single-season total in NFL history), Adams (115), Hopkins (115), Las Vegas’ DARREN WALLER (107), Kelce (105), Chicago’s ALLEN ROBINSON (102), the Los Angeles Chargers’ KEENAN ALLEN (100) and Seattle’s TYLER LOCKETT (100)
Nine players had at least 10 touchdown catches this season, including four with at least 13 touchdown receptions: Adams (18, tied-third most in single season in NFL history), Kansas City’s TYREEK HILL (15), Minnesota’s ADAM THIELEN (14) and Tampa Bay’s MIKE EVANS (13).
ROOKIE SUCCESS: Rookies combined for the most scrimmage touchdowns (190) and second-most scrimmage yards (26,613) in a single season since 1970.
Five rookies each recorded at least 10 touchdowns this season: Indianapolis’ JONATHAN TAYLOR (12), Pittsburgh’s CHASE CLAYPOOL (11 touchdowns), Washington’s ANTONIO GIBSON (11), Jacksonville’s JAMES ROBINSON (10) and Detroit’s D’ANDRE SWIFT (10). This season was the second in the Super Bowl era with at least five rookies each recording at least 10 touchdowns, joining 2008 (five rookies).
Three rookies each registered at least 1,400 scrimmage yards in 2020: Taylor (1,468), Robinson (1,414) and Jefferson (1,402). This season joined 2008 (MATT FORTE, CHRIS JOHNSON and STEVE SLATON) as the only seasons since 1970 with three-or-more rookies recording at least 1,400 scrimmage yards.
DOMINANT DEFENDERS: Ten players recorded at least 10 sacks in 2020, including six with at least 12 sacks: Pittsburgh’s T.J. WATT (15), the Los Angeles Rams’ AARON DONALD (13.5), New Orleans’ TREY HENDRICKSON (13.5), Arizona’s HAASON REDDICK (12.5), Green Bay’s ZA’DARIUS SMITH (12.5) and Cleveland’s MYLES GARRETT (12).
Five players registered at least 15 tackles for loss this season: Watt (23), Chicago’s ROQUAN SMITH (18), the Los Angeles Chargers’ JOEY BOSA (15), Reddick (15) and Tampa Bay’s DEVIN WHITE (15).
Six players recorded at least five interceptions this season: Miami’s XAVIEN HOWARD (10), New England’s J.C. JACKSON (nine), Kansas City’s TYRANN MATHIEU (six), Seattle’s QUANDRE DIGGS (five), Denver’s JUSTIN SIMMONS (five) and Minnesota’s HARRISON SMITH (five). This was is the first season since 2009 (four players) with at least two players registering nine-or-more interceptions.
For the complete 2020 Records & Milestones, click here.