Introducing the CFL offensive output report

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The past year has featured a seemingly never-ending conversation about how the CFL isn’t as exciting as it once was.

There aren’t enough points. There are too many punts. There isn’t enough passing. There aren’t enough big plays. The list of complaints goes on and on and on.

The league responded to the feedback by making a number of rule changes this off-season, most notably narrowing the hashmarks from seventeen to nine yards. There is optimism around the league that this will result in more offence, though we will have to wait for the regular season to get underway to see if that holds true.

But is scoring really down? Are punts actually up? Is the league truly less exciting than it used to be?

The CFL offensive output report will help answer these questions with cold, hard facts. Each week I will delve into the numbers highlighting trends regarding a number of key statistics that go into determining how exciting games have been.

The regular season won’t get underway until Thursday, so let’s start by looking at five key statistics — points per game, punts per game, offensive yards per game, passing yards per game, and rushing yards per game — to see how they’ve changed since the 2010 season.

Photo: John Hodge/3DownNation

Last year was the lowest-scoring CFL season in recent memory with an average of 43.1 points per game. Scoring was down 12.9 percent from the 2019 season and 18.8 percent from its recent peak of 53.1 points per game in 2017.

Despite complaints from fans about punting, the 2021 season did not feature an above average number of punts per game. Punting was up 2.4 percent from 2019 but down 17.5 percent from a recent peak of 15.4 per game in 2014.

Photo: John Hodge/3DownNation

Offensive yardage has been on a downward trend since 2016, though we still saw more last year than we did in 2013, 2014, and 2015. This chart also shows how quickly offensive production can improve with a 28.4 percent increase in yardage from 2014 to 2016.

Photo: John Hodge/3DownNation

One of the reasons the 2021 season may have felt less exciting was due to a disproportionally low number of passing yards. Rushing yardage remained essentially flat from 2019 to 2021 while passing fell by 7.7 percent.

It’s worth noting that two of the three recent highest-scoring seasons — 2016 and 2017 — produced the least rushing yardage. The second-lowest scoring season in recent memory — 2014 — featured the second-most rushing yardage since 2010.

Below are the per-game averages for five key statistics over the past eleven seasons of CFL football. We’ll use these figures throughout the 2022 season to compare and determine how the new rules have impacted games.

Will things be more “exciting”? We’ll have to wait and see.

Points — 50.1

Punts — 13.3

Offensive yards — 698.0

Passing yards — 538.8

Rushing yards — 204.7

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.