Kickers: points versus wins
Posted Jun. 16 at 09:35 AM
There is a correlation between good teams and high-scoring kickers. I’ve known that for years. The highest-scoring kickers tend to come from the teams that win more games and score more points.
Upon further review, however, it appears that scoring more points comes in slightly ahead of winning more games as an indicator of kicker performance. That’s what I found when I looked at team performances in the last 20 years.
Consider, for example, the 129 teams in that time period that finished with records better than 10-6-0. Those teams averaged 117.9 kicking points. Very good.
But if you look at a similar number of teams based purely on scoring – the 130 teams that scored more than 380 points – than that kicker average increases to 120.2 points. (About half of the teams in those two groups, by the way, are the same, having scored 380-plus points and won more than 10 games.)
The differences become more significant when no crossover teams are allowed. Of teams that finished with records better than 10-6-0 but also averaged under 24 NFL points per game, those teams averaged 111.4 kicking points per season. That’s based on 60 teams in the last 20 years.
Compare that to the opposite group: teams that finished with records worst than 10-5-1 but averaged 24-plus NFL points per season. Those 53 teams averaged 115.6 kicking points – an increase of over 4 points per season.
The best option, of course, is to get both – a team that wins and scores points. The 69 teams fitting that profile in the last 20 years have averaged 123.5 kicking points per season.
We’re splitting hairs here, but the big-picture concept is clear. Latch onto a kicker who plays for a good team (one that will score points and win games) and your fantasy team should benefit. The idea that kickers are interchangeable – that you’ll be OK with a kicker from a lesser team – doesn’t hold water.
One other unrelated observation that I’ll pass along: It appears that if an NFL team is going to be a contender, it must score touchdowns rather than settling for field goals. Of the 41 teams that have won 13-plus games in the last 20 years, only two of those teams had offenses that were field-goal heavy (ranked in the top 10 in percentage of points scored by kickers). For 23 of those teams, they ranked in the bottom 10 in percentage of points scored by their kicker. The Patriots, Colts and Chargers have been in that group in recent years – good at scoring touchdowns rather than field goals.
A 23-2 margin, that looks pretty solid. If you want to be one of those teams that wins 13, 14 games, you had better be good in the red zone, finishing drives with touchdowns rather than field goal attempts.
Posted by Richard Loppnow | Jun. 16 at 01:52 PM
From a prognosticating standpoint, not that helpful unless you can tell me which teams will improve and unprove (deprove?) in the red zone this year. Just how steady is that relationship year-to-year?
Posted by IAN ALLAN | Jun. 16 at 02:45 PM
I'm not talking about red-zone efficiency being the key. The broader point is that good teams & good offenses finish with more kicking points. And that's something that can be accurately forecast. So I don't buy the theory that kickers are a crapshoot or a matter or luck or don't matter. You need to latch onto a kicker from a good program.
Posted by Jason Rizzo | Jun. 17 at 01:34 AM
Choosing a kicker from a team that will score a lot of points is fine, but my advice would be to choose a kicker who will play in either the sun belt or a dome in weeks 15 & 16. If you're chosen kicker plays at Cleveland and Green Bay in these two typical playoff weeks, than it really doesn't matter that they come from a high scoring team, unless of course your goal is to *make* the playoffs.
Posted by Paul Owers | Jun. 17 at 03:10 AM
I understand your point, Ian. Last year I drafted Goskowski, a decent kicker who played for an undefeated team. But I was disappointed in his performance most weeks because he was simply kicking five or six extra points, with no field goal attempts. Was Goskowski an exception to your theory? This year I'm looking for a kicker whose team is good, but not ridiculously good like the Patriots.
Posted by IAN ALLAN | Jun. 17 at 03:35 AM
You can't be too hard on Gostkowski. He may not have hit many field goals, but all those extra points helped him finish with 137 points -- 2nd-most in the league. And the historical data indicates that the best kickers tend to come from the highest-scoring teams (even as those teams have a league-low percentage of their points scored by kickers). The numbers over the last 20 years: Highest-scoring teams: 123.7 points, 2nd-highest: 123.6, 3rd-highest: 122.6, 4th-highest: 117.9. Those are your top 4 -- and in order, no less. The next four highest scoring teams (the average of the last 20) aren't in order, but all finish in the range of 113.8 to 115.4 points. The 9th-highest scoring teams of the last 20 years average 112.5 points, and the 10th-highest are at 111.3.
Posted by Richard Loppnow | Jun. 17 at 05:25 AM
As someone who's lived in Wisconsin most of my life, December daytime weather is most always alright. We vividly remember the meteorological horror story games. But they are very much the exception. Ian, another research project here? How much do kicking points go down come December in cold-weather climes?
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