Fantastic Finishes, Fascinating Players headline 2020 NFL season

Alex, we’ll take “Historic NFL Seasons” for $1,000.

Answer: In the first half of this season, the National Football League produced its most touchdowns, closest games, most thrilling comebacks and largest crop of budding superstars in recent memory.

What is 2020?

Correct.

COMEBACK NATION: Last week, the PITTSBURGH STEELERS (8-0) overcame a 13-point deficit to win and remain the NFL’s only undefeated team, continuing their best start in franchise history. The 2020 NFL season joins 2015 as the only seasons in which a team has overcome a deficit of at least 13 points to win in each of the first nine weeks in NFL history.​

DOUBLE-DIGIT DEFICITS: Three teams – the KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (11 points), NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (10 points) and PITTSBURGH STEELERS (13 points) – overcame a deficit of at least 10 points to win in Week 9. There have been 29 games in which a team has overcome a deficit of at least 10 points to win this season, the second-most such games through Week 9 in NFL history. Only the 1987 season (30 games) had more.

PRODIGIES FACE OFF IN MIAMI: Two of the top selections in the 2020 NFL Draft will be under center when the LOS ANGELES CHARGERS travel to meet the MIAMI DOLPHINS on Sunday (4:05 PM ET, CBS).

  • JUSTIN HERBERT, selected sixth overall, has passed for 2,146 yards and 17 touchdowns, respectively the second- and fourth-most totals by a player over his first seven games in NFL history. Herbert, who plays his eighth game on Sunday, needs 354 passing yards for 2,500, and three touchdown passes to reach 20. In NFL history, only DESHAUN WATSON, PATRICK MAHOMES and Pro Football Hall of Famer KURT WARNER have reached 20 touchdown passes in their first eight games. Only Mahomes has reached 2,500 passing yards in his first eight games.
  • TUA TAGOVAILOA, selected fifth overall, has opened his NFL career with victories in each of his first two starts. Last week at Arizona, Tagovailoa orchestrated two fourth-quarter scoring drives, including a game-tying, 10-play, 93-yard touchdown march, to lead the Dolphins to a come-from-behind, 34-31 win.
  • Since 1967, when the NFL and AFL began selecting players in the same draft, Sunday’s meeting is only the seventh NFL game involving rookie starting quarterbacks both taken among the top-six selections.

The Chargers own the NFL’s No. 2 offense, producing 420.0 total yards per game, while the Dolphins are averaging 20.1 points allowed per game, tied with Pittsburgh for fourth-fewest in the NFL.

NO. 1 FACES NFL’S LONE UNDEFEATED TEAM: The other rookie quarterback selected in the top six, No. 1 overall pick JOE BURROW, leads the Bengals out of their bye week and into Pittsburgh on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, FOX).

  • Burrow has five games with at least 300 passing yards, tied with DANIEL JONES (2019) and KYLER MURRAY (2019) for the second-most 300-yard games by a rookie quarterback in NFL history. Only ANDREW LUCK (six games in 2012) had more.
  • In his last game, a 31-20 win over Tennessee in Week 8, Burrow completed 26 of 37 attempts (70.3 percent) for 249 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions for a 106.7 rating. Burrow ranks third in the NFL with 221 completions, the most by a player in his first eight career games in NFL history. He also has at least 25 completions in six games this season, tied with KYLER MURRAY (six games in 2019) for the second-most such games by a rookie in NFL history. Only CARSON WENTZ (seven games in 2016) had more.
  • In Week 7, Burrow became the first rookie quarterback in NFL history with at least 400 passing yards, three passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown in a single game.
  • Pittsburgh wide receiver CHASE CLAYPOOL, who led the team with eight receptions in Week 9 as the Steelers overcame a 13-point deficit to defeat Dallas, 24-19, is tied for the NFL lead among rookies with seven touchdowns (five receiving, two rushing). Claypool helped the Steelers advance to 8-0 for the first time in franchise history.

DYNAMIC OFFENSES ON DISPLAY IN DESERT: The ARIZONA CARDINALS, who rank first in the NFL with 422.0 yards per game, host the BUFFALO BILLS on Sunday (4:05 PM ET, CBS).

  • Arizona quarterback KYLER MURRAY passed for 283 yards and three touchdowns with zero interceptions for a 150.5 rating and added a career-high 106 rushing yards with one rushing touchdown in Week 9. Murray, who had three touchdown passes and a rushing touchdown in Week 7 and a bye in Week 8, is the fourth quarterback in the Super Bowl era with at least three touchdown passes and a rushing touchdown in consecutive games, joining DAUNTE CULPEPPER (Weeks 15 and 16, 2000), Pro Football Hall of Famer JOE MONTANA (Weeks 9 and 10, 1989) and DAK PRESCOTT (Weeks 5 and 7, 2017).
  • Murray, who had 544 rushing yards as a rookie in 2019, has 543 rushing yards this season and joins JOSH ALLEN (2018-19), LAMAR JACKSON (2018-19) and CAM NEWTON (2011-12) as the only quarterbacks with at least 500 rushing yards in each of their first two seasons in NFL history.
  • Buffalo quarterback JOSH ALLEN passed for 415 yards and three touchdowns with zero interceptions for a 138.5 rating and added a rushing touchdown in the Bills’ 44-34 win over Seattle in Week 9. Allen has four career games with at least three passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown, tied with JACK KEMP (four games) for the most such games by a player in his first three seasons in league annals.
  • Buffalo wide receiver STEFON DIGGS leads the NFL in both receptions (63) and receiving yards (813).

RODGERS-ADAMS AT MAXIMUM EFFICIENCY: Quarterback AARON RODGERS, who enters Week 10 with the highest career passer rating (103.1) among qualified passers in NFL history (minimum 1,500 attempts), leads the Packers against Jacksonville on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, FOX).

  • Rodgers is one of two players with at least 24 touchdown passes and two-or-fewer interceptions over his team’s first eight games of a season in NFL history, joining TOM BRADY (2007).
  • Rodgers has 52 games with at least three touchdown passes and zero interceptions, the third-most in the Super Bowl era, having surpassed PEYTON MANNING (51) last week. Only Brady (60) and DREW BREES (55) have more such games.
  • Last week, wide receiver DAVANTE ADAMS became the first player to reach 50 receptions, 600 receiving yards and eight touchdown catches in his first six games of a season in NFL history. Adams, who has 53 receptions for 675 yards and eight touchdown catches this year, also has four games of at least 150 receiving yards since the beginning of 2019, more than any player.
  • Jacksonville rookie quarterback JAKE LUTON last week passed for 304 yards and one touchdown – a 73-yard strike to DJ CHARK on his second NFL pass – and later ran for a touchdown in his first NFL start. Luton became the fourth player in NFL history to pass for at least 300 yards and have both a passing and rushing touchdown in his first NFL game.

CLOSE GAMES ARE PREVALENT: This past week, 11 of 14 games were within one score (eight points) in the fourth quarter. Overall this season, nearly 70 percent of NFL contests (92 of 133) have featured a fourth-quarter scoreboard separated by eight-or-fewer points. Only three prior seasons have ever had more games within one score in the fourth quarter through nine weeks.

Eight of the nine games played by the CHICAGO BEARS this season have been within one score in the fourth quarter. The Bears, who are 5-3 in those games, host NFC North rival Minnesota on Monday Night Football (8:15 PM ET, ESPN).

  • Minnesota running back DALVIN COOK totaled a career-high 252 scrimmage yards (206 rushing, 46 receiving) and two rushing touchdowns in the Vikings’ Week 9 win.
  • Cook, who had 226 scrimmage yards and four touchdowns (three rushing, one receiving) in Week 8, is the third player in league annals with at least 225 scrimmage yards and two touchdowns in consecutive games, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer JIM BROWN (1963) and DEUCE MCALLISTER (2003).
  • Cook is the sixth player in NFL history and the first since Pro Football Hall of Famer EMMITT SMITH (1994) with a rushing touchdown in each of his first seven games of a season.
  • Cook has 12 rushing touchdowns this season, tied for the fourth-most by a player in his first seven games of a season in league annals. Only Pro Football Hall of Famers JIM BROWN (14 rushing touchdowns in 1958) and EMMITT SMITH (13 rushing touchdowns in 1995) as well as PRIEST HOLMES (13 rushing touchdowns in 2004) had more.
  • Minnesota wide receiver JUSTIN JEFFERSON leads all rookies with 627 receiving yards this season.

POINTS FACTORIES: The BALTIMORE RAVENS have scored at least 20 points in 31 consecutive regular-season games, surpassing the 2012-14 DENVER BRONCOS (30 games) for the longest such streak in NFL history.

The SEATTLE SEAHAWKS face an NFC West showdown on Sunday at the LOS ANGELES RAMS (4:25 PM ET, FOX). Seattle, which leads the NFL with 34.3 points per game after scoring 34 points in Week 9, became the sixth team to score at least 25 points in each of its first eight games of a season in NFL history. The Seahawks joined the 2018 KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (16 games), 2013 DENVER BRONCOS (13), 2015 NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (nine), 2007 NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (eight) and 2000 ST. LOUIS RAMS (eight). 

This season continues to rank as the highest-scoring campaign in NFL history. Through nine weeks, no other season has produced more points (6,737) or touchdowns (778) than 2020.

WATSON & WATT HEAD TO CLEVELAND: Houston quarterback DESHAUN WATSON has an opportunity to join elite company on Sunday in Cleveland (1:00 PM ET, FOX). He needs at least 275 passing yards and a passer rating of 105-or-higher to join AARON RODGERS as the only players in NFL history to achieve those numbers in six consecutive games during a season. Rodgers authored his stretch over seven straight games in 2011.

  • Watson is the fifth quarterback with at least 275 passing yards and a passer rating of 105-or-higher in five consecutive games within a season, joining Rodgers (seven games in 2011), DREW BREES (five in 2011), PEYTON MANNING (five in 2012 and five in 2013) and Pro Football Hall of Famer STEVE YOUNG (five in 1994).
  • Teammate J.J. WATT, playing his 120th career game last week, forced a fumble and registered his 100th career sack in the Texans’ win. He became the fourth-fastest player to reach 100 career sacks since 1982, when the individual sack became an official statistic. Only Pro Football Hall of Famers REGGIE WHITE (96 games) and BRUCE SMITH (114) as well as DEMARCUS WARE (113) reached the mark in fewer games since 1982.
  • Meanwhile, Cleveland’s MYLES GARRETT this season has nine sacks, tied with the Rams’ AARON DONALD for the NFL lead. Garrett, who turns 25 in December, needs one sack to reach three consecutive seasons with 10-or-more sacks and become just the fifth player since 1982 to achieve that distinction under the age of 25. He would join ROBERT QUINN (2012-14), SHAWNE MERRIMAN (2005-07), DWIGHT FREENEY (2002-04) and Pro Football Hall of Famer DERRICK THOMAS (1989-91).

COURTESY NFLmedia.com

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