How the NFL is manipulating games in 2020: Fewer holding calls, more scoring

7:15 AM ET

In its entire 100-year history, the NFL has never opened a season on the kind of scoring tear we’ve seen in 2020. Teams are averaging 24.7 offensive points per game during the first three weeks, 16% better than 2019 over the same period, and 22% higher than their average during the previous two decades.

There are a number of theories for the surge, from high-level quarterback play to the coronavirus pandemic-related loss of home-crowd advantage. All have merits. But there is another direct correlation, an inorganic root emanating from the league office. At the direction of its new leadership team, on-field officials have changed the way they enforce penalties — especially offensive holding — in a way that is too dramatic to ignore.

The decision has not only helped offenses, by cutting their penalty yards in half, but it has also led to slightly quicker games and certainly less public discussion about officiating.

Few fans would object to such aesthetics, and you’ve heard no complaints from teams. It’s fair to ask whether the league can or will credibly sustain this effort, and to question where it will lead to as players and coaches test their new

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