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Week 1 performances not indicative of extra point expectations

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Changes to how NFL scoring plays work do not come around very often. Every 20 years or so seems to be the trend. The goalposts were moved from the goal line to the back of the end zone for the 1974 season. The possibility of the two-point conversion arrived for the 1994 season. The 2014 preseason saw the introduction of the 33-yard extra point, and it was made to apply to all games this offseason.

The NFL made this change for one big reason: NFL kickers of late have been so good the 20-yard extra point was basically automatic. Kickers in the 2014 regular season missed just eight extra points, and that was actually a down year. The NFL’s change seemed to pay immediate dividends, as kickers missed four of the new 33-yard extra points just this past weekend. (See Table 1.)

Table 1: Missed Extra Points, 2011-2015
Year                Missed XP     XP Pct.
2011                7                      99.4%
2012                6                      99.5%
2013                5                      99.6%
2014                8                      99.3%
2015*               4                      94.7%
*Week 1 only

There are couple reasons to believe this Week 1 performance was a bit anomalous, and NFL kickers will likely do better on extra points going forward. Here is why:

  1. Week 1 is typically a below average week for NFL kickers, once you account for conditions. The start of the season typically features disappointing performances on place kicks. <a href=” http://www.footballoutsiders.com/”>Football Outsiders</a>’ metrics adjust for that it is easier to kick in good weather, in domes, and at altitude. With those adjustments, NFL kickers produced 1.8 points fewer than expected in Week 1 of 2013. In 2014, they produced 1.4 points fewer than expected in Week 1. We will learn more about the 2015 kicking environment as the season goes on, but based on historical trends, NFL kickers produced 1.3 points fewer than expected in the first weekend of 2015, right in line with past trends.

In fact, Football Outsiders numbers suggest kickers typically struggle the first couple weeks of the season. The past two years, Weeks 2 and 3 have featured even more missed kicks than Week 1, accounting for conditions. This likely comes from special teams units, which are filled with backups and players who do not make the team in preseason, taking a couple weeks to gel, plus some teams’ kicker situations taking a couple weeks to settle down.

  1. Kickers were just fine on other short kicks in Week 1. There were 31 field goals from inside 40 yards attempted in Week 1, and the only thing between kickers and perfection on those attempts was the Minnesota Vikings blocking Paul Dawson’s 28-yard attempt in the second Monday night game. That included a perfect 17-for-17 from 30 to 39 yards. Including extra points, kickers were 87 of 91 from that range. With the same pool of kickers attempting kicks from a similar distance, we would expect them to perform just as well on field goals as they do on extra points. Their true skill level on those kicks in Week 1 was therefore around the 95.6% combined rate for field goals and extra points, not the 94.4% rate on extra points only.
  1. Kickers are better from the new extra-point distance even late in the season. On the whole, field goals become more difficult over the course of the year. There are more cold weather games, more windy games, and more cold rain and snow to make kicking more difficult. It is easy to point to individual games, like the Lions-Eagles clash in 2013 played in a snowstorm or some December games in Buffalo, where strong weather conditions made even 20-yard extra points a chancy proposition. But by and large, bad weather has most of its negative effect on long kicks.

By Football Outsiders numbers, which add those crucial adjustments for dome and altitude, kickers are actually even better late in the season in that 30-39 yard range even before accounting for weather conditions. In Weeks 1-5 of 2013, kickers were -1.6 points worse than average. In Weeks 13-17, they were 2.1 points better than average. 2014 produced the same effect, from -1.4 points in Weeks 1-5 to +1.0 in Weeks 13-17. Adding in weather adjustments only makes the disparity even sharper. Extra points after a penalty, like the 48-yarder Browns kicker Travis Coons made this weekend, will be more risky later in the year, but there will only be a handful of those.

Conclusion

Kickers will probably struggle a bit from the new extra point distance for the next couple weeks. But after that, they should improve. We cannot be sure what the real rate on extra points will be. In making the change, the NFL pointed to a 91.6% rate on field goals of 32-33 yards over the past 10 years and a 94.3% rate on extra points during the 2014 preseason experiment. Those figures, especially the first one, are almost certainly too low. First, NFL kicking has improved a great deal the past 10 years. Second, the preseason kicks included a number of attempts by kickers who will never kick in a regular season game. A better estimate is 97.6%, the rate on kicks from 30-35 yards from the middle of the field the past two seasons <a href=”https://twitter.com/PFF_NateJahnke/status/600796562885890048″>per Pro Football Focus</a>. That rate will mean more misses than in the past, but not as many as Week 1 would indicate.

Don Ohlmeyer, longtime network TV executive, dies at 72

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INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) — Don Ohlmeyer, the “Monday Night Football” producer who came up with the phrase “Must See TV” in leading NBC to the No. 1 prime-time spot, died Sunday. He was 72.

“It is with heavy hearts we share that Don Ohlmeyer, our beloved husband, father and grandfather, has passed away at age of 72 due to cancer,” Ohlmeyer’s family said in a statement. “Surrounded by loved ones, he died peacefully at his home in Indian Wells.”

Longtime friend Al Michaels announced Ohlmeyer’s death while broadcasting NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” game between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants.

Ohlmeyer won 16 Emmys, including the Lifetime Achievement Award, and two Peabody Awards.

Ohlmeyer became producer of “MNF” in 1972, teaming with director Chet Forte and the on-air crew of Howard Cosell, Don Meredith and Frank Gifford. In 2000 in his second “MNF” stint, Ohlmeyer put comedian Dennis Miller in the booth.

Ohlmeyer first worked for ABC Sports as a gofer while studying at Notre Dame and became a full-time production assistant in 1967 under Roone Arledge, working on “Wide World of Sports.” Along with his “Monday Night Football” work, he directed the network’s Olympic coverage and created “The Superstars.” Later at NBC Sports, he produced World Series and Super Bowl broadcasts.

After running his own Ohlmeyer Communications Company, he returned to NBC in 1993 as president of its entertainment division. He came up with “Must See TV” in the 1990s, when NBC’s rating soared with such hits as “Seinfeld,” ”Friends,” ”ER” and “Frasier.”

Watch Live: New York Giants vs. Dallas Cowboys on NBC

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The Dallas Cowboys host the New York Giants in a battle of NFC East rivals on Sunday Night Football.

Despite going 13-3 and earning the No. 1 seed in the playoffs last year, the Cowboys lost twice to the Giants in 2016, including a loss in Week 1. Dallas hopes to not have a repeat of last year and will rely on sophomores Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott to carry the load. Don’t be surprised if Elliott gets even more carries in this game because there is a possibility his six-game suspension is upheld and he will have plenty of time to rest up before he sees game action again.

The Giants will rely on their strong defense led by DB Landon Collins and DE Jason Pierre-Paul to try and get after Prescott and bottle up Elliott. On offense, New York is all about Eli Manning and the passing attack. Odell Beckham Jr. is expected to suit up, but it remains to be seen how big of a role he will have after injuring his ankle in the preseason. As a result, look for new additions WR Brandon Marshall and rookie TE Evan Engram, to go along with sophomore WR Sterling Shepard to step up for Manning.

Football Night in America

Start time: 7:00 p.m. ET

TV channel: NBC

Live stream: NBCSports.com, NBC Sports app

Giants vs. Cowboys

Start time: 8:30 p.m. ET

TV channel: NBC

Live stream: NBCSports.com, NBC Sports app