NFL: Does scoring first create a considerable advantage?
By lee cleveland - July 15, 2022
In pro football, how often does the team that scores first win the game?
FiveThirtyEight.comfound teams that have struck first have won 63.2 percent of the time in 2021. And since 2000, the first horse out of the gate has gone on to win 64.5 percent of the time in regular-season games.
Even in Super Bowls, games pitting two elite teams, the squad that scored first is 36-19, winning 65.4 percent of the time.
So, is scoring first that crucial to winning, or are better teams with superior offenses simply more likely to draw first blood?
The Kansas City Chiefs, Indianapolis Colts, and Minnesota Vikings lead the league in games scored first with 10. And the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints have the best win percentage when scoring first, 100%.
Polls and Trends Fact: With each team having played 14 games in the 2021 NFL Regular Season, 20 of the NFL’s 32 teams have a winning record in games they scored first. Only 9 have a worse record and 3 are .500.
Dallas is 8-0 when they’ve scored first but just 2-4 when they haven’t. And the Chiefs, who have scored first a whopping 10 times, and are 8-2 when they’ve drawn first blood but just 2-2 when their opponent has claimed the game’s first lead.
But Dallas and Kansas City are good teams that seem to be on pace to win their respective divisions. Perhaps their scoring first is a byproduct of having stronger offenses and defenses than most of their opponents?
So, what about mediocre teams? How have they fared when scoring first this year?
The Saints and Denver Broncos are only 7-7 thus far but very successful when getting on the board first. Combined, they are 10-1 when taking the game’s first lead but just 4-10 when trying to play catch-up.
The Colts’ score-first stats most closely resemble historic norms. They are 6-4 when striking first and 2-2 when they don’t.
Score-First Stats Through Week 15 of the 2021 Season
Number of wins | number of games a team scored first | and a team’s win percentage in those games. Courtesy: FiveThirtyEight.com