NFL teams are completing passes at an all-time high percentage for this point in the season.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted on Thursday that entering Week 4, the average completion percentage is 64.2%, the highest rate in NFL history after three weeks.
Why the increase in completion percentage this season?
A major reason could be the NFL’s increased focus on penalising defensive contact in the secondary. In the preseason, the NFL said it would call more penalties on contact with receivers five yards out, and they seem to be making good on it through the first three weeks. According to MLive, there were 38 illegal contact penalties called through the regular season and playoffs last year. This year, that number is already up to 28.
The uptick in penalties is frustrating for fans, but the rule has seemingly created more dynamic offenses.
There are other factors at work as well. Teams are borrowing more innovative concepts from college and high school teams to try and throw defenses off. We’ve already seen several instances of wonky offence this season where teams are using fake plays and using quarterbacks and defensive players as receivers.
The higher completion rate through three weeks could turn out to be an early-season anomaly that will fall off with more games. However, in the last three years, the completion percentage in the NFL has steadily creeped up. The game is evolving, and one of the primary characteristics of that evolution is greater efficiency in the passing game.
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