Why is the NFL Seeing a Record in Double-Digit Comeback Victories?

by Team Del Genio

Monday, Nov 30, 2020
There were another two double-digit comeback victories in Week 12 of the NFL season. New England trailed Arizona by a 10-0 deficit in the second quarter before rallying to defeat the Cardinals by a 20-17 score. Minnesota came back from 21-10 and 24-13 scores shock Carolina by a 28-27 margin.

There have now been 35 comeback victories where a team rallied after trailing by at least 10 points. That is an NFL record through twelve weeks of a season. Through the first nine weeks of the season, at least one team had rallied from a deficit of at least 13 points to win their game. The only other time that had happened in NFL history in each of the first nine weeks of a season was in 2015.

Why are these big comebacks happening more often? Certainly, some of the reason is the continued sophistication of passing offenses that can strike quickly. What team better embodies this aspect of the game than the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs? Led by Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs demonstrated no double-digit lead was safe in their championship run last season. However, Kansas City is not the reason why 35 teams have rallied from double-digit deficits to win their game.

The most significant difference in this season from previous ones is the lack of large crowds in stadiums. There are two reasons why the lack of loud crowd noise helps the offense, especially in critical situations when fans may be at their most energetic. 

First, fan noise produces pressure. For the road team, loud noise can be rattling. For the home team, loud noise can add to the pressure they are experiencing to execute and succeed. For home and road teams, noise is a distraction. Many players and teams have learned to not find the noise distracting. Yet it is easier to concentrate in a quieter environment. 

Second, the lack of crowd noise helps the offense execute at the line of scrimmage. This intangible seems particularly important when operating a no-huddle quick offense where the quarterback calls out plays at the line of scrimmage. Often quarterbacks have to resort to hand signals if his voice cannot be heard over the crowd. Communicating plays at the line of scrimmage is much easier without many fans in the building. 

It is interesting to note that underdogs are 97-74-2 against-the-spread after twelve weeks of the season. The data might uncover a disproportionate number of backdoor covers like with Philadelphia’s late point spread cover against Seattle for Monday Night Football that was cemented after a completed Hail Mary and the subsequent two-point conversion. The success teams have in the passing attack late in games is producing comeback victories and garbage points for the trailing team. The unique circumstances without large crowds this season may add some value to the underdog. This phenomenon may also make in-game betting on some underdogs worthy of consideration.

Good luck - TDG.

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