2018: A (Somewhat) Statistical Year in Review

By Danny Blumenthal and Andrew Puopolo

As 2018 comes to a close, take a look back at the moments that made this sports year unforgettable. What were your favorite sports memories from 2018? Let us know in the comments.

NFL Football

  1. The Philadelphia Eagles were underdogs in each of their 3 playoff games. They were the first #1 seed to start the playoffs as an underdog since 1975, but they proved everyone wrong on their way to winning Super Bowl LII.
  2. In Super Bowl LII, the Patriots became the first team in NFL history to lose while putting up at least 600 yards. Before that game, teams had gone 38-0-1 when gaining 600+ yards.
  3. Super Bowl LII set the record for most combined yards in any NFL game (1,151) and was the second-highest scoring Super Bowl ever (74 points).
  4. Jon Gruden signed a 10-year, $100 million deal to return to the Oakland Raiders. The 16-year gap between his first and second stints as head coach is the longest in NFL history.
  5. The Browns finally won a game.
  6. The Buffalo Bills were 17-point underdogs heading into their matchup with the Minnesota Vikings, but they won 27-6. It was the NFL’s biggest upset since 1995.
  7. Derrick Henry matched Tony Dorsett’s NFL record by running 99 yards for a touchdown (And humiliated the Jaguars’ defense in the process).
  8. The Rams and Chiefs combined to put up 105 points in a Monday Night Football shootout. It was the first game in NFL history in which both teams scored 50+ points.
  9. Baker Mayfield threw 27 touchdown passes this season, passing Russell Wilson and Peyton Manning for the most ever by a rookie. Those 27 touchdown passes equalled the combined total of fellow rookies Sam Darnold and Josh Allen.
  10. The Giants and Cowboys were both shut out in Week 16. It was the first time two teams from the same division were shut out on the same day since 2006.
  11. For the third consecutive season, the record for highest completion percentage was broken. Drew Brees completed 74.4% of his passes this year and led New Orleans to the #1 seed in the NFC.
  12. Non-quarterbacks threw 13 touchdowns this season. That’s as many as the 4 Bills quarterbacks combined.

College Football

  1. For the second straight year, a new scoring record was set in the Rose Bowl. Georgia outlasted Oklahoma in double overtime, winning 54-48.
  2. Nick Saban won his 6th national title, matching Bear Bryant for the most in the poll era (since 1936).
  3. Rutgers quarterbacks completed only 2 of 17 passes to their teammates in a loss to Maryland. They completed 5 passes to Terrapins defenders.
  4. Austin Baker, who attends D-III Heidelberg University, booted a record-breaking 95-yard punt on November 3. #ForTheBrand
  5. Harvard and Yale played their first neutral site Game since 1894, and combined for the most points in rivalry history.
  6. For the second year in a row, a game went to seven overtimes. The shootout between Texas A&M and LSU finally ended when the Aggies converted a two-point conversion to win 74-72. It was the highest scoring game in FBS history.
  7. UAB won the Conference USA title in only their 2nd season after reinstating their football program.
  8. When Ohio State and Michigan met on November 24, both teams were ranked in the Top 10, and Michigan had one of the best defenses in the country. However, Ohio State blew out Michigan 62-39. It was the Buckeyes’ 7th straight victory over the Wolverines and their 9th straight in Columbus.
  9. UCONN set the FBS record for most points allowed (605) and most yards allowed per game (617.4).
  10. Kentucky surprised everyone this season, advancing as high as 11th in the AP Poll. The Wildcats earned their first nine-win season since 1984, and ended a 31-game losing streak to Florida.
  11. Army, led by quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr. and his 5 TD runs, won the Armed Forces Bowl 70-14. The 70 points put up by the Black Knights matched the most scored in a bowl game since 2002.
  12. Notre Dame lost its 6th consecutive BCS/New Year’s Six Bowl, falling to Clemson 30-3. All six of Notre Dame’s losses have come by at least two scores.
  13. Florida State had its first losing season since 1976, the year current head coach Willie Taggart was born. This snapped the Seminoles’ 36-season streak of playing in a bowl game.


  1. On April 11, 6,960 fans attended opening day for the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, the Marlins’ AA affiliate. That same day, the Marlins only drew 6,150 fans to a (supposedly) MLB game.
  2. Juan Soto launched 22 home runs, matching fellow National Bryce Harper for the second-most by a teenager in MLB history. One of those home runs even came before his MLB debut.
  3. Christian Yelich went 6 for 6 and hit for the cycle in a win over the Reds. He is only the 3rd player to ever accomplish this.
  4. Noah Zavolas threw Harvard Baseball’s first no-hitter since 2001.
  5. On July 31, the Nationals crushed the Mets 25-4. Two weeks later, the Mets blew out the Phillies 24-4. No other team in the last 100 years has both won and lost by 20+ runs in the same season.
  6. The Mariners beat the Dodgers on a balk-off.
  7. Brandon Belt saw the most pitches in an at bat in at least 30 years. A 12-minute standoff between Belt and pitcher Jaime Berria finally ended, after 16 consecutive foul balls, when Belt lined out on the 21st pitch.
  8. Josh Hader struck out 8 batters in an 8-out save against the Cincinnati Reds. If only he could strike out those tweets too…
  9. David Price served up multiple home runs in 3 different starts against the Yankees this year. He allowed 5 home runs in an 11-1 loss on July 1 and gave up 2 home runs in 1 â…” innings before being pulled in Game 2 of the ALDS.
  10. Brock Holt hit the first cycle in postseason history.
  11. Game 3 of the World Series was the longest game in MLB playoff history, lasting 7 hours and 20 minutes. The entire 1939 World Series only lasted 7 hours and 5 minutes.
  12. Shohei Ohtani recorded one of the 20 greatest rookie seasons for a hitter (as measured by wRC+) in MLB history, putting up numbers comparable to Stan Musial, Paul Waner, Mike Piazza, and Ted Williams. He also averaged 11 strikeouts per 9 innings on the mound, and nearly threw a perfect game in his second MLB start.
  13. 2018 was the year of the opener, and no team popularized this trend more than the Tampa Bay Rays. After entering in relief in each of his first 588 appearances, Rays pitcher Sergio Romo became the first player to start back-to-back games since 1980.
  14. Chris Davis hit .168, the worst qualified batting average in MLB history, and his bWAR of -2.8 was the worst since Adam Dunn’s -2.9 in 2011. The Orioles paid Davis $23,000,000 for one of the worst seasons in MLB history.
  15. The Red Sox (108-54) finished 61 games ahead of the Orioles (47-115) in the AL East. Boston won 119 games on its way to winning the World Series, and according to FiveThirtyEight, was the best team this millenium.
  16. Matt Carpenter didn’t ground into a double play the entire season. He is only the 4th player to achieve this while playing in 150+ games.
  17. 48 different position players pitched in 65 games this season (excluding Ohtani), setting the record for most position players pitching. Joe Maddon and the Cubs led this movement, bringing in 5 unique position players to pitch. No team in MLB history has had more different position players pitch in the same season.
  18. Batters struck out 41,207 times this season and only mustered 41,019 hits. 2018 was the first year in which there were more strikeouts than hits.
  19. The Astros, Red Sox, and Yankees all eclipsed 100 wins in 2018. It was the first time in MLB history that a league had three teams each reach the century mark. In addition, the AL also featured 3 teams that finished with 100 losses.

College Basketball

  1. In the movie Space Jam, Michael Jordan had a usage rate of 44%. Oklahoma’s Trae Young had 8 games last season, including 4 in a row, in which he surpassed this total.
  2. Drexel recorded the largest comeback in NCAA history, rallying from a 34-point deficit and only a 0.2% win probability to beat Delaware 85-83.
  3. Shakyla Hill became the 4th player in Division I women’s basketball history to put up a quadruple-double.
  4. UMBC became the first #16 seed (in the men’s tournament) to beat a #1 seed, knocking off Virginia 74-54. Before that, #16 seeds had gone 0-135.  
  5. For the eighth year in a row, one (and only one) team from the First Four made the second round. This year, 11th-seeded Syracuse upset #6 TCU and #3 Michigan State to make the Sweet Sixteen.
  6. None of the top-4 seeds in the South region made the Sweet Sixteen, the first time this has happened in NCAA tournament history. The Final Four team from this region was #11 Loyola-Chicago, marking the sixth consecutive season that a team seeded 7th or lower made the Final Four.
  7. For the first time in more than 20 years, 2 mid-major teams seeded 10th or lower (Buffalo and Central Michigan) made the women’s Sweet Sixteen.
  8. Villanova won its 2nd national championship in 3 years. The Wildcats’ 17-point victory over Michigan matched the largest winning margin since 1992, when Michigan lost by 20.
  9. Mike Krzyzewski brought the top 3 freshmen in the country to Duke. One of them, Zion Williamson, has proven to be one of the best college basketball players ever. His PER of 20.0 is the highest since Basketball-Reference began tracking this statistic.

Professional Basketball

  1. On January 19, the Lakers made only 2 of their 14 free throws. It was the worst free throw percentage in NBA history (with a minimum of 10 free throw attempts).  
  2. Dwight Howard became the first 30-year-old with a 30-30 game since Wilt Chamberlain in 1971.
  3. Russell Westbrook averaged a triple-double for the entire year for the second year in a row. But was he stat-stuffing?
  4. The 76ers entered the NBA playoffs on a 16-game winning streak, the longest streak to close out a regular season ever. Too bad it didn’t help in the playoffs.
  5. Liz Cambage set the WNBA scoring record by dropping 53 points on the New York Liberty.
  6. The Warriors blew out the Rockets in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals, outscoring Houston by 1.625 points per minute in the second half.
  7. The Rockets missed 37 three-pointers in a Game 7 loss to the Warriors, including 27 in a row. Later in the year, they set the record for most made three-pointers in a game, with 26.
  8. This year’s NBA Finals was the first time that neither team was a #1 seed since 2012.
  9. LeBron James passed Michael Jordan for most 25+ point games in NBA Finals history. Is he the GOAT?
  10. The Warriors blew out the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, winning by 60 points across all 4 games. Only 1 team (2014 Spurs) has had a higher net margin of victory in the last 50 years.
  11. Lonzo Ball and LeBron James each put up triple-doubles in the Lakers’ win over the Hornets. They are the first pair of teammates with triple-doubles in the same game since Vince Carter and Jason Kidd in 2007.
  12. The Celtics’ 56-point win over the Bulls matched the largest road win in NBA history. We’d only expect to see a win this large once every 5 years.
  13. However, the Celtics’ win was not the largest of 2018, as the Hornets beat the Grizzlies 140-79. It was the first time a team had won by 60+ points in 20 years.
  14. The Wizards and Suns put up 295 points in a triple-overtime game, which was the most combined points in a decade. Washington’s Thomas Bryant shot 14-14 in the game, matching the most shots without a miss since Wilt Chamberlain in 1967.


  1. The Vegas Golden Knights made the Stanley Cup Finals. Since 1960, 64 expansion teams were added to the Big 4 leagues, and Vegas was the only one to have a winning record in their inaugural season.
  2. The Lehigh Valley Phantoms and the Charlotte Checkers played a five-overtime game, the longest in American Hockey League history.
  3. Each of the 4 Beanpot teams has won in consecutive years (2018 – NU, 2017 – Harvard, 2016 – BC, 2015 – BU), with Northeastern winning their first title since 1988.
  4. Ryan Donato scored a goal in the NCAA, Olympics, and NHL in less than a month.
  5. The Sedin twins retired after 17 seasons. The twins were drafted second and third overall in 1999 (behind Patrick Stefan who went to Atlanta) and spent their entire careers in Vancouver.
  6. Just 11 days after a mass shooting at their school, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Eagles won a Florida state hockey championship.
  7. The Boston Bruins saw three Davids (Pastrnak, Backes, and Krejci) score goals in the same game.
  8. Alex Ovechkin led the Washington Capitals to the first Stanley Cup in franchise history.


  1. In March, for the seventh consecutive FA Cup draw where this was possible, all of the Premier League’s Sky Six avoided drawing each other. This streak was continued in December for the 2019 3rd round, thus reducing our probability to almost exactly 1 percent.
  2. 37 World Cup matches were played before the first goalless draw.
  3. Defending champion Germany was knocked out in the group stages. It’s the 3rd straight World Cup that the trophy holders didn’t advance to the knockout stages of the next tournament (2014 Spain, 2010 Italy).
  4. Mexico was knocked out in the Round of 16 for the 7th straight World Cup.
  5. Senegal and Japan finished exactly tied in the group stage, and had to use fair play to decide who would advance. We’d only expect to see an absolute tie in this group in about 1% of simulations.
  6. Going into the World Cup, England’s goalkeepers only had 10 caps combined. However, that inexperience did not prevent Jordan Pickford from becoming the hero in England’s first penalty shootout victory since 1996.
  7. The World Cup semi-finals involved 4 teams from Europe (France, Croatia, Belgium, England), just as it did the last time the World Cup was in Europe (2006: hosts Germany, France, Portugal, Italy).
  8. 19-year-old Kylian Mbappé piloted France, the second-youngest team in the field, to a World Cup victory.
  9. Real Madrid won the Champions League for the 4th time in 5 years (not quite as impressive as their 5 in a row from 1956-60), while their city neighbors Atletico Madrid won the Europa League. Spanish teams won both competitions for the 4th time in 5 years.
  10. Manchester City tallied 100 points in the Premier League.
  11. Bayern Munich won the German League for the 6th year in a row, Juventus won the Italian league for the 7th year in a row, and Celtic won the Scottish League for the 7th year in a row. However, in Greece, Olympiakos were stopped from winning their 8th consecutive league title by AEK Athens.
  12. Mohamed Salah led the Premier League in goals, tallying 32 in 36 appearances. In terms of outperforming expected goals, Salah is one of the most clinical finishers in all of Europe.
  13. At the halfway point of the season, Juventus had won 17 matches, drawn 2, and lost 0. This resulted in 53 points, a Serie A record.


  1. Alina Zagitova set a world record in the figure skating short program, besting the mark set by her teammate moments earlier. At the time of the competition, Zagitova was only 15 years old.
  2. The U.S. men’s curling team won 5 straight matches to earn a surprise gold medal.
  3. Noriaki Kasai, a ski jumper from Japan, competed in his record 8th Olympics. He earned his first medal in 1994, before many of his competitors (such as gold medalist Andreas Wallinger) were even born.
  4. The U.S. women’s hockey team knocked off Canada in a shootout to win their first gold medal in 20 years.
  5. Norway won 39 medals, including 14 golds, at the 2018 Winter Olympics. The 39 medals were the most ever at a Winter Olympics, surpassing the U.S.’ 37 from the 2010 Vancouver Games.

Other Sports

  1. Caroline Wozniacki won her first grand slam title (Australian Open) in her 43rd attempt.
  2. Justify won the Triple Crown, becoming the second horse trained by Bob Baffert to win the Triple Crown in 5 years.
  3. Joey Chestnut won his 11th Mustard Belt and broke his own world record by eating 74 hot dogs in 10 minutes. On the women’s side, Miki Sudo won her 5th consecutive contest.
  4. Since the Supreme Court allowed states to legalize sports betting on May 14, seven states (plus Nevada) have completely legalized it, and 18 other states have introduced bills to permit it.
  5. Eliud Kipchoge set the new world record in the marathon. He ran the Berlin Marathon in a blistering 2 hours, 1 minute, and 39 seconds. The top 7 times ever have all been run in Berlin.
  6. Just six weeks later, Abraham Kiptum broke the half marathon world record with a time of 58:18.
  7. Kyler Murray won the Heisman trophy and was a top-10 pick in the 2018 MLB Draft. If he doesn’t hear his name called in April, he would be the first Heisman winner not to be drafted into the NFL since fellow Oklahoma quarterback Jason White.
  8. No player seeded in the top 10 reached the women’s quarterfinals at Wimbledon. It’s the first time in the Open Era that no top-10 players made the quarterfinals at any major.

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