The NFL put a bow on the 2020 NFL season on Sunday. Although the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic provided a few unexpected hurdles, the league made it through all 17 weeks without having to cancel a single game. It wasn't how anyone imagined the season would go — with minimum fan attendance in stadiums and players/coaches following a strict health policy — but in some ways the NFL actually thrived in these circumstances. Multiple records were set this season, including one that required an absolute scoring explosion. We'll tackle that statistic and more in this week's numbers to know.
Of course, this season also came with its struggles. Some teams, like the New York Jets, seemed to face more than their fair share. Thanks to the breakthroughs two other teams experienced this season, the Jets now own one of the NFL's most embarrassing streaks. And they don't even have the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 draft to show for their troubles. Tragic.
Now, let's discuss both the good and the bad by diving into the final numbers to know of the 2020 regular season.
New year, new playoff field. Seven of the 14 teams that made the playoffs this season were not in the playoffs last season. Those teams are the Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Rams, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Washington Football Team. This seems like a lot, but it's on par for the level of parity we've seen in the modern NFL. Since 1990, at least four teams every season have qualified for the playoffs after missing them the season before. We could expect a couple extras teams this season, since the playoff field expanded by one team in each conference in 2020.
Conversely, there are five teams that made the playoffs last season but fell short this season. Those teams are the New England Patriots, Houston Texans, San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings. As weird as it is to have a postseason without the Patriots, the most precipitous drop-off was probably San Francisco's. The 49ers represented the NFC in the Super Bowl last season, then suffered a myriad of injuries and finished 6-10 in 2020. The Texans are the only one of these teams that fired its head coach, as Houston dismissed Bill O'Brien after the team fell to 0-4.
In the past two weeks, the NFL has seen its two longest postseason droughts come to an end. In Week 16, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ended a 13-year drought that dated back to 2007. In Week 17, the Cleveland Browns ended an 18-year drought that dated back to 2002. That means the NFL's new longest postseason drought belongs to the New York Jets, who last made the playoffs 10 years ago (2010 season). No other team has a drought longer than five years.
The Jets, who started the 2020 season 0-13 and finished with a 2-14 record, will look to usher in a new era after parting ways with head coach Adam Gase. Whoever takes over as the new coach will be tasked with ending this embarrassing streak — and they'll have to work quick. The vacuum of power created by Tom Brady's departure from New England has already been filled by the Buffalo Bills, and the Miami Dolphins aren't far behind. Bill Belichick and the Patriots won't stay down for long, so the Jets have an uphill climb to avoid being the AFC East bottom-feeders for the foreseeable future.
The Buffalo Bills are blowing out whoever they play. They've won six games in a row, each by at least 10 points. Their three most recent victories have all been by 29 points or more. The Bills roll into the playoffs with a very sweet taste in their mouths after absolutely demolishing two division rivals — the Patriots and the Dolphins — in the final two weeks of the season.
Buffalo claimed the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs and may be the team that is best equipped to knock off the top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs in a potential conference championship matchup. Franchise quarterback Josh Allen finished the regular season with 46 total touchdowns (37 passing, eight rushing, one receiving) and is leading an offense that can keep pace with the potent unit led by Patrick Mahomes. Sean McDermott has coached the Bills to the playoffs in three of the past four seasons, and now it's time for him to deliver this franchise its first postseason victory since 1995.
Tom Brady's quest to unwind time continues. The veteran quarterback finished his first season as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with 43 total touchdowns (40 passing, three rushing) — one for each of his 43 years on Earth. It's starting to feel like Brady will be around forever, as he keeps finding ways to turn back the clock and perform at an extremely high level.
Now heading into the playoffs as a No. 5 seed, Brady will be tested by star rookie Chase Young and a tough Washington Football Team defense in the wild-card round. On top of that, Brady could be without his No. 1 pass catcher at full strength, as Mike Evans left Tampa Bay's Week 17 win over the Falcons early due to a leg injury — though coach Bruce Arians told reporters Monday the receiver suffered no structural damage to his knee and will be day-to-day ahead of Saturday's wild-card game. The good news for Brady is his old friends are starting to heat up. Wide receiver Antonio Brown had four touchdown receptions in the last three weeks of the regular season, and tight end Rob Gronkowski finished the season with seven touchdowns after having zero through the first five weeks.
If you didn't see Derrick Henry's 2,000-yard rushing season coming heading into Week 17, you weren't paying close enough attention. The Tennessee Titans running back has a knack for trampling the Houston Texans, as Sunday's 250-yard rushing performance was the third time in a row that he's rushed for at least 200 yards against the Texans. He went for 211 against them in Week 17 of last season, then rolled for another 212 against them in Week 6 of this season.
Henry is now just the eighth player in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season, and he's the first to do it since Adrian Peterson surpassed the mark during the 2012 campaign. Peterson won the league MVP after dragging the Minnesota Vikings to the playoffs that season. Henry is only on the outskirts of the MVP conversation this year, but there's no doubt he is the engine that fuels Tennessee's success. Last year, he carried the Titans all the way to the AFC Championship Game. After signing a massive contract extension this offseason, it'll be interesting to see whether Henry can deliver a repeat performance.
The Baltimore Ravens are running the ball at an exceptionally high level — even by their standards. They rushed for 404 yards in a win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, which is the fifth most in a single game since 1940. Over the last five games (all wins), the Ravens have averaged a whopping 267.4 rushing yards per game. That average is more than 60 yards HIGHER than their season-long average from 2019 (206.0), when the team set the NFL record for the most rushing yards in a single season.
The Ravens, who led the NFL in point differential (+165) for the second consecutive season, are peaking at the perfect time. Despite winning the league MVP last season, Lamar Jackson has been criticized endlessly for his 0-2 record in the playoffs. After becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons, Jackson now must prove that his talents can translate into postseason victories. His journey begins against the same team that ended Baltimore's run last season: the Tennessee Titans.
There were 12,692 points scored during the 2020 NFL season. If that sounds like a lot, that's because it's the most in NFL history. Ten of the top 11 scorers were kickers — with Atlanta's Younghoe Koo, Las Vegas' Daniel Carlson and Miami's Jason Sanders tied atop the league (144 points) — but there were also a record 1,473 touchdowns scored this season. New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara scored an NFL-high 21 of those touchdowns in just 15 games played.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers set a new career high with 48 touchdown passes this season, and his No. 1 target Davante Adams led the NFL with 18 touchdown receptions. Rodgers was one of three quarterbacks to throw for at least 40 touchdown passes this season, with Tom Brady and Seattle's Russell Wilson being the others. While Kamara led the NFL in all-purpose touchdowns, Derrick Henry finished with one more rushing touchdown (17). Even defenders became scoring threats this season, as Los Angeles Rams cornerback Troy Hill found the end zone three times (two interception returns, one fumble return).