It's no secret that the New England Patriots possess the best offense in football here in 2012.
But even the most devoted fans and knowledgeable analysts don't realize just how good it is. Let's put it this way: you are witnessing history every time the Tom Brady Bunch steps out on the field.
The Patriots score 36.3 points per game, which puts them on pace to score 581 for the year. That mark would be No. 2 all time and just 8 points shy of the record set by the 2007 Patriots.
But the historic production of Tom Brady and the gang is even more impressive when we
- compare the Patriots to every other offense in the NFL this year
- compare the Patriots to the best scoring teams of all time
- take into consideration the gauntlet of the defenses they face week after week
A One-Team Race in 2012**
New England is not only No. 1 in scoring offense this year (472 points), they are lapping the field: they score nearly 100 points more than the No. 2, the Denver Broncos (375)
In fact, more than one third of the NFL (11 of 32 teams) trail the Patriots by 200 points or more. The average team scores 297.5 points.
Here are the top five scoring teams this year:
1. New England – 472 points (36.3 PPG)
2. Denver – 375 (28.7)
3. N.Y. Giants – 373 (28.7)
4. Houston – 365 (28.1)
5. Tampa Bay – 354 (27.2)
It's not even close, folks. The Patriots have scored 97 points more than the second-ranked Broncos, with three games still to play. In terms of points per game, the Patriots are more than a touchdown better (+7.6 PPG) than the No. 2 Broncos.
It is already one of the greatest differentials in the history of football between the No. 1 offense and No. 2 offense.
Here are the top five NFL teams (since 1960) based upon the scoring difference between the No. 1 offense and the No. 2 offense in a given season:
2007 Patriots – +134
2012 Patriots – +97
1993 49ers – +97
2001 Rams – +90
1994 49ers – +89
It's all Relative: the Patriots in historic context
New England's point production is even more impressive when we look at the quality of the defenses each team faces week after week.
We have an indicator at Cold, Hard Football Facts called the Relativity Index. It measures how well each offense and defense plays relative to the quality of the opponents they face.
For example, if you average 20 points per game and your opponents give up an average of 10 points in their other games then you are +10 PPG above average on the Relativity Index.
The Patriots offense not only dominates the Relativity Index this year, they're light years ahead of the No. 2 Giants. Again, it's a one-horse race.
Here are the top five scoring teams in the NFL this year, based upon the Relativity Index (the difference between points scored and opponent points allowed in all other games).
Opp. Pts. Allowed
Hell, the Patriots are even farther ahead on the Relativity Index (+9.0 PPG) than they are just in terms of total points (+7.6 PPG).
The Relativity Index dates back only to the 2004 season, the year we launched the Cold, Hard Football Facts. But within that group the 2012 Patriots are one of the great units we've ever seen and one of the elites of all time.
Here are the nine teams who scored +10.00 PPG on the Relativity Index since 2004. Again, it's not even close. It's the 2007 Patriots, the 2012 Patriots, and all others a distant second.
Opp. Pts Allowed
Finally, here's the most impressive part of the assault on history by the New England offense this year: the Patriots are challenging the all-time scoring record despite facing one of the toughest defensive schedules in football this year.
In fact, only the Rams have faced a tougher defensive schedule than the Patriots this year, and just barely. It's worth noting that the Rams have scored exactly half as many points (236) as the Patriots (472).
Here are the five teams who have faced the toughest defenses this year, based upon points allowed against other opponents.
Rams – 21.1 PPG
Patriots – 21.28 PPG
Seahawks – 21.31 PPG
Cowboys – 21.4 PPG
Cardinals – 21.7 PPG
It's pretty impressive stuff, folks: the Patriots are not only flirting with history. They're defying the best defenses in the league to get it done.
None of those defenses, of course, are better than the San Francisco 49ers. They come to town Sunday surrendering just 14.2 PPG, stingiest in the NFL.
But if history is any indication, there is little that can stop New England's quest for history and its defiance of the NFL's best defenses.