By: Brady Gardner
Let’s face it – we all love offense. Nine times out of ten, a high-scoring thriller is more exciting than a back-and-forth stalemate. We glorify offensive players in our fantasy leagues, and applaud them in our highlight reels. Offense is King, and football fans can’t get enough of it.
Us fans aren’t the only ones who feel this way. The NFL understands this affection for attacking action, and has noticeably shifted into a more offense-friendly league. Rules that restricted receptions have been removed. Laws have been put in place to protect offense players, especially the quarterback. The league even updated what defines a legal tackle. The one similarity that connects these changes? They all benefit players on the offensive side of the ball.
In the first four weeks of the 2018 season alone, the NFL has seen 50 combined points or more scored in 26 of 63 games. That’s a pretty impressive number when compared with the mere seven contests that have featured a combined 30 points or less. And this gap has been growing. At this point last season, 16 games reached 50 or more combined points, and nine matchups included 30 points or less.
But as entertaining as this surge in offensive production has been, is this a trend in the right direction for the league?
The easiest answer to this question is yes. Yes, more offense is good for the NFL.
To put it simply, points bring in viewers. There’s a reason why high-scoring sports like lacrosse are gaining popularity; because nothing attracts fans more than seeing points on the board. Anyone can understand a goal, a touchdown, or a basket. But it takes an astute fan to get excited about a well-positioned defender, or an effective defensive scheme.
But let’s not think this development comes without its drawbacks. If the league becomes completely offense-centered, teams will focus solely on bolstering their attacking options rather than adding defenders, fearing the inevitable beat down against an over-powered offense. Not only would this mean a significant financial loss for defensive players, but it could also tilt the scales of the league in a way that the American audience has witnessed before.
Major League Baseball has plenty of problems that are contributing to its gradual downfall, but one of the most significant sources of harm has been the MLB’s own inequality between offense and defense across the league. Generally speaking, offense production is preferred over defensive talent. Because of this, scores are becoming more lopsided, and so is the league itself.
Top teams with big budgets pay slugger after slugger, determined to outscore their opponents regardless of how many runs the opposition may record. Meanwhile, small market teams with less money to spend have to develop and sell hitters like livestock, doing just enough to keep their club afloat, but never coming close to challenging the league’s upper class.
As this disparity widens, games become less and less competitive, costing the league fans by the day. No one wants to see the same teams win every day, especially if you aren’t fortunate enough to be a supporter of one of those top clubs. What the MLB has proven, incidentally, is that empowering offense is a dangerous game.
As thrilling as this season’s numerous high-scoring contests have been, the NFL and its fans cannot expect this kind of offensive output to be sustainable. If defenses begin to slow this attacking surge, we must not look for more ways to spark offensive production. Like the myth of Icarus suggests, flying towards the sun can result in disastrous consequences.
To sum it all up, tailoring a league towards offense is like walking a tightrope; increasing points can be beneficial, but creating lack of balance could spell disaster. So far, the NFL has been able to navigate this fine line between success and failure without much difficulty. However, whether or not this offensive boom will continue to have such a positive impact on the game is a question that will have to remain unanswered.
As they say, only time will tell.