Where are all the close NFL Playoff games?
As I finished watching the Patriots beat the Texans last night and go to their sixth (!!!) straight AFC conference championship game, I thought to myself “All these games have been terrible so far!” Through 6 NFL playoff games we’ve had margins of victory of 13, 16, 18, 18, 20, and 25 for a median margin of victory of 18. So I got to wondering if that was different than usual and I went back and looked at the playoff games in each year going back to 2000.
2000-01 actually had a median margin of victory of 18 points after all 11 games were played (remember when the Giants beat the Vikings 41-0?). The year with the next highest median margin of victory was 2002-03 with a median of 17 points (remember when the Jets beat the Colts 41-0?). Three other years featured median margins of victory of 14: 2004-05, 2005-06, and 2009-10. The lowest median margin of victory occurred in 2006-07 with a median of 4. In fact, of the 11 playoff games played that season, 7 of them were decided by single digits and a fill 5 of them were decided by a field goal or less. This season, we still have yet to see a game decided by less than one score.
Below you will find boxplots for the distribution of margins of victory for the years 2000-2016 with a blue to red scale corresponding to low to high median margins of victory. For the last 6 years, we’ve had reasonably low median margins of victory, but this year has been nothing but blowouts.
Here’s hoping for some close games today.
Update: 1/16/2017 10:36 am central time
Immediately after writing this past yesterday, we promptly had two very close playoff games with the Packers beating the Cowboys by a field goal and the Steelers beating the Chiefs by two without scoring a touchdown on the strength of SIX field goals.