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What the Week 1 Passing Records Mean for 2013

In week 1, records were set for the most passing touchdowns (63) and team passing yards (8143) thrown in a single week in league history. Is this a sign that 2013 will represent the next stage in the evolution in the passing game, or are offenses typically ahead of defenses early on?

To compare week 1 of this season to other weeks in NFL history, we need to examine all statistics on a per team game basis to account for bye weeks and number of teams. But after calculating the per team game numbers, I multiplied the result by 32 to make the numbers easier to digest. The first graph shows the average number of passing touchdowns in week N of each season since 1970. As you can see, week 1 doesn’t stand out as typically being passer-friendly. On average, there were roughly 41.5 touchdowns per team game (after multiplying by 32) in week 1 of each season from 1970 to 2012, which is nearly identical to the average (40.9) the rest of the year:


Pass TDs per week

Here’s the same information for passing yards:

weekly passing yards

Week 1 does look low here (6,231 vs. 6,340 in the other weeks) but that’s a product of era: the expanding league schedule has come as passing yards have exploded. To control for this, I then compared “Week 1″ production to “Rest of Year” production for each statistic. That’s a bit difficult to put on one graph, but I did my best. Here is the one for passing touchdowns, with “Week 1″ TDs in red and “Rest of Year” touchdowns in blue.

yearly td week 1

Sometimes, week 1 sees more touchdowns than normal, but just as often the opposite is true. What about passing yards?

yearly yards week 1

Again, I don’t see any evidence to indicate that “Week 1 passing numbers” are typically high. In other words, having a bunch of 350-yard passers may be the new normal.

But don’t crown week 1, 2013, as the best passing week of all time. Because on a per-team game basis, week 10, 2010, is still the winner. Four teams were on bye that week, but the other 28 teams threw 56 touchdowns and 7,735 yards, numbers that prorate to 64/8840 on a per-32 team game basis. Here’s a list of every passer from that week:

Passing
Rk Player Age Date Lg Tm Opp Result G# W# Day Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD Int Rate Y/A AY/A
1 Matt Cassel 28-181 2010-11-14 NFL KAN @ DEN L 29-49 9 10 Sun 33 53 62.26% 469 4 0 116.0 8.85 10.36
2 Ben Roethlisberger 28-257 2010-11-14 NFL PIT NWE L 26-39 9 10 Sun 30 49 61.22% 387 3 1 97.9 7.90 8.20
3 Eli Manning 29-315 2010-11-14 NFL NYG DAL L 20-33 9 10 Sun 33 48 68.75% 373 2 2 88.3 7.77 6.73
4 Troy Smith 26-117 2010-11-14 NFL SFO STL W 23-20 9 10 Sun 17 28 60.71% 356 1 0 116.7 12.71 13.43
5 Tom Brady 33-103 2010-11-14 NFL NWE @ PIT W 39-26 9 10 Sun 30 43 69.77% 350 3 0 117.4 8.14 9.53
6 David Garrard 32-273 2010-11-14 NFL JAX HOU W 31-24 9 10 Sun 24 31 77.42% 342 2 0 134.1 11.03 12.32
7 Michael Vick 30-142 2010-11-15 NFL PHI @ WAS W 59-28 9 10 Mon 20 28 71.43% 333 4 0 150.7 11.89 14.75
8 Matt Hasselbeck 35-050 2010-11-14 NFL SEA @ ARI W 36-18 9 10 Sun 22 34 64.71% 333 1 0 106.6 9.79 10.38
9 Jon Kitna 38-054 2010-11-14 NFL DAL @ NYG W 33-20 9 10 Sun 13 22 59.09% 327 3 1 124.1 14.86 15.55
10 Shaun Hill 30-309 2010-11-14 NFL DET @ BUF L 12-14 9 10 Sun 29 50 58.00% 323 1 1 75.7 6.46 5.96
11 Derek Anderson 27-152 2010-11-14 NFL ARI SEA L 18-36 9 10 Sun 23 45 51.11% 322 1 1 72.6 7.16 6.60
12 Matt Ryan 25-178 2010-11-11 NFL ATL BAL W 26-21 9 10 Thu 32 50 64.00% 316 3 0 101.7 6.32 7.52
13 Matt Schaub 29-142 2010-11-14 NFL HOU @ JAX L 24-31 9 10 Sun 22 32 68.75% 314 2 0 121.1 9.81 11.06
14 Mark Sanchez 24-003 2010-11-14 NFL NYJ @ CLE W 26-20 9 10 Sun 27 44 61.36% 299 2 1 87.2 6.80 6.68
15 Kyle Orton 28-000 2010-11-14 NFL DEN KAN W 49-29 9 10 Sun 22 34 64.71% 296 4 0 131.5 8.71 11.06
16 Donovan McNabb 33-355 2010-11-15 NFL WAS PHI L 28-59 9 10 Mon 17 31 54.84% 295 2 3 69.4 9.52 6.45
17 Carson Palmer 30-322 2010-11-14 NFL CIN @ IND L 17-23 9 10 Sun 31 42 73.81% 292 2 3 78.7 6.95 4.69
18 Sam Bradford 23-006 2010-11-14 NFL STL @ SFO L 20-23 9 10 Sun 30 42 71.43% 251 1 0 94.4 5.98 6.45
19 Josh Freeman 22-305 2010-11-14 NFL TAM CAR W 31-16 9 10 Sun 18 24 75.00% 241 2 0 134.2 10.04 11.71
20 Chad Henne 25-135 2010-11-14 NFL MIA TEN W 29-17 9 10 Sun 19 28 67.86% 240 1 1 91.4 8.57 7.68
21 Jay Cutler 27-199 2010-11-14 NFL CHI MIN W 27-13 9 10 Sun 22 35 62.86% 237 3 2 87.4 6.77 5.91
22 Joe Flacco 25-299 2010-11-11 NFL BAL @ ATL L 21-26 9 10 Thu 22 34 64.71% 215 3 1 99.5 6.32 6.76
23 Colt McCoy 23-070 2010-11-14 NFL CLE NYJ L 20-26 9 10 Sun 18 31 58.06% 205 1 0 88.8 6.61 7.26
24 Jimmy Clausen 23-054 2010-11-14 NFL CAR @ TAM L 16-31 9 10 Sun 16 29 55.17% 191 0 0 75.5 6.59 6.59
25 Peyton Manning 34-235 2010-11-14 NFL IND CIN W 23-17 9 10 Sun 20 36 55.56% 185 0 0 69.8 5.14 5.14
26 Brett Favre 41-035 2010-11-14 NFL MIN @ CHI L 13-27 9 10 Sun 18 31 58.06% 170 1 3 44.5 5.48 1.77
27 Ryan Fitzpatrick 27-355 2010-11-14 NFL BUF DET W 14-12 9 10 Sun 12 24 50.00% 146 1 0 83.0 6.08 6.92
28 Vince Young 27-180 2010-11-14 NFL TEN @ MIA L 17-29 9 10 Sun 9 18 50.00% 92 1 1 60.4 5.11 3.72
29 Tyler Thigpen 26-214 2010-11-14 NFL MIA TEN W 29-17 9 10 Sun 4 6 66.67% 64 1 0 141.7 10.67 14.00
30 Charlie Whitehurst 28-100 2010-11-14 NFL SEA @ ARI W 36-18 9 10 Sun 4 6 66.67% 53 0 1 54.9 8.83 1.33
31 Kerry Collins 37-319 2010-11-14 NFL TEN @ MIA L 17-29 9 10 Sun 9 20 45.00% 51 0 0 52.1 2.55 2.55
32 Chad Pennington 34-141 2010-11-14 NFL MIA TEN W 29-17 9 10 Sun 1 2 50.00% 19 0 0 83.3 9.50 9.50
33 Tim Tebow 23-092 2010-11-14 NFL DEN KAN W 49-29 9 10 Sun 1 1 100.00% 3 1 0 118.7 3.00 23.00

{ 1 comment… add one }

  • Marty Madigan September 14, 2013, 3:06 pm

    Could this be caused by teams playing starters fewer and fewer snaps in the preseason? It seemed to me that teams are not game ready given all the wild scoring swings.

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