What is? The table linked shows that punting distance has been constant within random variation for the past decade, and higher than in any years prior to that decade. Clearly, punters kick further than they used to. But as I noted a while ago unthread, Sammy Baugh--a QB!--set a punting distance record that lasted for decades. Since he was a QB, I wonder if that record was helped by fake plays, in which the opposing team was caught without a return man.Lowest in a decade:
XP % is down, obviously, because of the rule change, requiring kickers to make it from a much longer distance. That rule was changed specifically because over time, kickers had become so efficient that the XP was automatic, there was no justification for having it.
FG % is down this year, but that may be random. It was quite constant for the previous decade, and even with this year's drop, is well over what the % was more than a decade ago. Accuracy also depends of course on distance. Notice that beginning about a decade ago, kickers have attempted more FG from > 50 yards. This is more evidence that today's kickers are stronger and more accurate than those in the past.
Personally, I think kicking is one of the most unappreciated aspects of the game. Before the change in XP distance, kickers were making XP as high as 99.5% of the time. That is five misses out of a thousand. To me, that would be incredible even if the ball were teed up, with no defence in front of the LOS. When you consider that the ball has to be snapped, caught by the holder, placed just so on the ground, and the kicker has to time his kick so he gets the ball off before the defense can block it--extraordinary. Also--this goes back a long time--the goalposts used to be placed on the goal line, not at the back of the end zone, making XP kicks even shorter.
Some interesting stats from the Ravens upset. The Ravens were only the second team in history to gain > 500 yards in a playoff game at home, and lose. The Steelers did it a couple of years ago, but they didn't lose for lack of getting in the EZ. The final score of that game was 45-42. Also, only two teams in modern (post-merger) NFL history have gained > 500 yards and scored fewer than the Ravens's 12 points, regular or pos-season TB did it last year, losing 16-3, and the 40ers did it in 1986, losing 14-6. Both those teams barely made it, gaining 501 yards, whereas the Ravens gained 520. So gaining > 500 yards and being held to 12 points is almost incomprehensibly improbable. Using NFL stats for yards/point, the yards the Ravens gained on average would be parlayed into 35 points.
I also found out why 538 has the Titans favoured in a potential SB vs. the 49ers. They use the Elo rating, in which teams start with some fixed number of points, and points are added or subtracted as they win or lose, depending on strength of opponent and margin of victory. The Titans picked up a lot of points with their wins over NE and BAL, and now are ranked fourth in the NFL (since Elo is cumulative, teams that advance in the playoffs are likely to end up higher than teams that don't make the playoffs or get eliminated soon, regardless of their regular season performance). The 49ers are ranked fifth. Moreover, if the two teams make it to the SB, the Titans will get a lot of points beating a higher-ranked team, KC, which is second in Elo, while the 49ers would get less beating the Packers, which are fifth, unless they won by a large margin.
As far as I can tell, this is the current Elo standings:
- BAL (despite the loss to TE, based on regular season performance)
- NE or NO? (again, regular season overcoming TE loss to some extent)