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How Unique is 11-10?

Posted by Sean on November 18, 2008

Much has been made of the fact that the Steelers-Chargers game last Sunday was the first 11-10 game ever. Let's call this a singular game as there has been but one. Just how unique is a singular game? It turns out, not very.

In order to answer this question, I whipped up a few new tools in the PFR Box Scores area. We now have a tool that summarizes every game score in pro football history (including playoff games), one that will show you every 20-3 game in NFL history (with links to the box scores when possible of course) and even one that shows you all of the scores that haven't occurred (up to a 50-50 tie).

Sunday's game was the first 11-10 score in pro football history, but this year, we've also seen the first: 48-25, 48-29, 56-35, 40-26, 48-41, 37-32, and 47-3 games.

Given that there are 263 singular games in pro football history out of 978 scoring combinations ever achieved (and about 13,500 games total, including the playoffs), this isn't all that rare of an event. One in thirteen games was singular at the time it was played and one in fifty still is singular. Given those numbers and that the NFL plays 256 regular season games (plus the playoffs), one should expect around five such games a year for the foreseeable future especially as teams score more points and have the option of two-point conversions as well.

Which scores happen most often?

Score    Times
20-17     218
17-14     177
27-24     156
13-10     144
24-17     126
 ........
 0-0       71

While football fans in Europe might be used to 0-0 ties, American football fans haven't seen one since Nov. 7, 1943 (the 71st ever).

Are we in danger of running out of singular games? Not any time soon, there are still lots of scores left to happen. If we count up to a 50-50 tie game, there are 402 combinations (out of 1,275 possible) we haven't yet seen. Of course, some of those scores are ridiculously unlikely to occur. For example, only once has a team scored four points in a game (the Racine Legion beat the Chicago Cardinals 10-4 on Nov. 25, 1923). If I was a betting man, I might bet that the next singular game would be a 49-42 game. That is the only all touchdown game (under 50-50) that hasn't occurred. Other possibilities: 8-7, 9-8, 9-9, or 17-2.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 18th, 2008 at 3:57 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.