Are More Points Scored In The First Or Second-Half NFL? (Here’s The Facts)

Editorial credit: Steve Jacobson /

NFL games are often games of two halves, and sometimes games of four quarters, with teams putting up more points in certain quarters than in others, and combined, we can see whether more points are scored in the game’s first half or the second.

On average, slightly more points are scored in the first half than in the second, but the margin is relatively small in favor of the home team. The data shows that the home team wins by an average of two points in the first half and one in the second.

There are some logical reasons this would happen in an NFL game, so let’s look at why the home team usually scores more points in each half and some of the highest-scoring halves and quarters in NFL history.

Home Field Advantage

There has always been the concept of the home-field advantage in the NFL and almost every other sport. This is because the players know the field and how it plays, and the home crowd also plays a massive role in the game.

One of the contributing reasons for data showing that the home team carries a greater point scoring advantage in both halves, especially the first half, is much to do with this as the data shows that the home team outscores the visitors in both halves.

This data was collected from more than 7000 NFL games, and while it was compiled in 2017 as an analysis of betting lines in the NFL, the results in terms of first and second-half scoring proved that home teams have the advantage.

Points Scored By Quarters And Halves

When we look at the data collected, we can see the distinction between scoring in the early part of the game. The first and second quarters vs. the scoring in the game’s latter half is extrapolated to the first and second half scoring.

QuarterHome Scoring AverageVisitor Scoring Average

If you add the first and second quarter average scores for the home team, you get 11.7 points and 9.7 points for the visitors in the first half, while the second half would give the home team 10.8 points and the visitors 10 points.

While the second-half scoring is more closely contested, the first-half scoring gives the home team a 2-point margin.

You can also see that the game points scored in the second and fourth quarters produce the highest average quarter scores for both teams, but the home team comes out trumps on those again with a full one-point advantage in Q2 and a half-point advantage in Q4.

In Q1, the home team leads by a full point, which drops to about one-third of a point in Q3.

Why Are More Points Scored In The First Half Than The Second-Half NFL

One of the reasons this happens is due to the game strategy in the second half and especially the fourth quarter. A team that is leading into Q4 is going to look to run the clock down, and while there may be some points scored, the focus is more on killing time and winning the game.

The team that is trailing in Q4, especially where the points margin is not that extensive, will look at more risky opportunities to score points, and the defense will look to pressurize the offense into making mistakes, which could limit points to a field goal over a TD, or lead to turnovers in possession.

A team with a big lead going into the fourth quarter will have secured the win. With the lead, they will often become more expansive in their offense, especially where the defense is tiring, leading to higher scoring averages in Q4.

In Q3, a leading team may become a little less aggressive on offense and focus more on defense to stop the opposition from narrowing the lead, and then, if they can achieve that, they can relax and come out to seal and game in Q4.

All these factors would contribute to lower second-half scoring than first-half scoring.

What Was The Highest Scoring Game In NFL History

The highest scoring game ever played was on 27 November of 1966, when the Washington Redskins smashed the New York Giants 72-41 in a fun season that most Redskins fans would like to forget.

The half-time score was 34-7, and the season saw the Giants surrender 501 points, with 72 in that game alone.

What Are The Most Points Scored In A First Half In NFL

Since the first half seems to be the highest scoring half in the game, it seems prudent to see what game yielded the most points scored in the first half and that title belongs to the Chicago Cardinals in a game played in 1948 against the Giants.

While the second-half scoring was tied at 21 apiece, the Cardinal’s rampage in the first half gained them 42 points which is still the record for the most points scored in an NFL first half.

What Teams Have The Highest Average Scoring Per Half In The NFL

With the massive amounts of data and stats available, we can see which teams have the highest average points in each half of the game.

As of the end of the 2021 NFL season, the top 5 highest first-half scoring averages belong to the following teams:

  1. Dallas Cowboys – 15.7 points
  2. Kansas City – 15.5
  3. Tampa Bay – 15.3
  4. Buffalo – 14.0
  5. LA Chargers – 14.0

At the end of the same season, these five teams had the highest second-half scoring averages:

  1. Buffalo – 15.8
  2. Tampa Bay – 14.8
  3. Philadelphia – 14.8
  4. Dallas – 14.3
  5. New England – 14.2
Editorial credit: Gavin Napier /


From the 2021 season stats above, you can see that the three of these teams are in both the first-half and second-half stats, but the margins between those points are virtually even, with a half-point or less separating first and second-half scoring.

While there would still be an overall slight points advantage in favor of the first half, the evidence from the 2021 season suggests that the points spread scored by NFL teams in each half is evening out as time passes.


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