Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Punting Wins Championships

Ok, maybe not championships. But while I was writing a season-ending tirade against the Giants, I noticed something. A couple of very good teams, better than the Seahawks, (both in wins and losses, offense stats, and defense stats) all have a common thread. The Giants, Chargers, Bucs, and Jaguars were all in the hunt during Week 17. The Rams were as well, but let’s just chalk that up to the anomaly that is the NFC West. All four of these teams fell short. Their offensive and defensive stats seem to vary, but there is one constant - bad punting.

A key punting stat is Net Punting Average, which demonstrates the resulting field position after the punt. While, of course, punt coverage must be considered, a punter has a significant affect on this statistic. A failed pooch punt into the end zone, a shanked punt out of bounds, low kicks, and short kicks, all will affect this statistic. The Bucs (#23), the Giants (#26), the Jaguars (#29), and the Chargers (#32) are all in the bottom ten in the league in this statistic.

Two of the top teams in offense and defense, the Giants and Chargers, also rank at the bottom of punts inside the 20. This can be a measure of distance but more often that not, it is the ability to avoid touchbacks and pin teams deep in their own end. The Chargers rank #32 with 13 punts inside the 20. This suggests that fewer than one time per game (barring a red zone turnover) that Chargers opponents started deep in their own territory. The Giants, ranked #27, had 20, which is more than once per game, but a far cry from the league leading 42 (Jets). The Jaguars (#15) and Bucs (#17) were not as dramatic but also in the lower echelon of the league. It is worth noting that both the Chargers and Giants were in the bottom of the league in total number of punts.

The most glaring example of punting issues was, of course, Matt Dodge against Philly. In the closing seconds of the game, Dodge needed to kick the ball out of bounds to give the Eagles one or two long plays to score. Instead, Dodge kicked it to DeShawn Jackson who took it to the house.

Alright, there is certainly more in play here. Maybe punting does not win championships. You could always take a page out of the Packers-Falcons game and just not punt at all. Yeah, that’s probably a good idea.

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