- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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This was going to be an answer in the mailbag section. Then it started getting too long. So, now, it’s a separate item.
Here’s a little backdrop: One of my twitter followers, @mcredskins, asked me last week about Joe Gibbs’ offense and how many points he wanted to average, if the Redskins were to be a playoff team. It wasn’t a high number (21) and he wanted to know if the NFL had changed that much or if defenses were that bad. So I did some research. Then came more research after @mcredskins asked about this for the mailbag, wondering what the Redskins under Jay Gruden needed to average to make the postseason.
First, the Gibbs era. During Gibbs 1.0, the Redskins averaged at least 21 points per game every season except 1985, when they averaged 18.6 and missed the postseason. Under Gibbs 1.0, the Redskins reached the playoffs in six of the eight years they finished in the top 10 offensively. Overall, since 1981, the Redskins have made the postseason eight of 12 times in which they finished among the top 10 in scoring.
The Redskins averaged at least 25 points per game four times under Gibbs; they reached the Super Bowl each season. They averaged between 21.1 and 24.1 seven times and reached the postseason twice. (The Redskins once averaged 24.1 points en route to 10 wins and failed to make the postseason. Another time they averaged 18.6, won 10 and missed the cut.)
Now for Gruden and the current group. A lot of this, of course, is dependent on the defense. A bad one, as you’ve seen, means they’ll obviously have to score more (the Redskins have finished 21st or worse in points allowed per game defensively each of the past four years and 30th last season). This is just a guideline of what playoff teams in the past three years have done.
So here goes:
It’s clear that you must be in or near the top 10 in points scored per game. Last season, for example, of the top 12 teams in offensive points per game, 10 made the postseason. The only two playoff teams that weren’t? Kansas City (15th) and Carolina (19th).
Last year’s playoff participants averaged 25.1 points per game offensively during the regular season. But eight of those teams averaged between 21.1 and 24.4 points.
In 2012, 10 of the top 12 teams in offensive points per game made the postseason. The only two not in that group were Minnesota (16th) and Indianapolis (19th).
Seven playoff teams in 2012 averaged 23.7 points per game or less, while the average for the playoff teams was 24.1.
In 2011, eight of the top 12 in offensive points per game made the postseason. Eight of the 12 averaged between 17.1 and 23.9 points per game.
In the past three seasons, a combined 28 of the 36 teams that made the postseason finished in the top 12 in offensive points per game. In the last three years, the No. 12 team has averaged 22.3, 22.7 and 23.1 points per game, respectively. There’s your target.
Of the last four Super Bowl winners, all have averaged at least 24.2 points per game or more. The Redskins, of course, have some work to do before they dare dream about being in this category.