There is an excellent chance that one of the two monumental playoff games this Sunday will hinge on a crucial field goal attempt—and an even better chance that whoever is asked to kick it will miss.
Made FG percentages went up every year for eight straight years—until 2009 when they dipped 3 percent. Yet, even with that decline the league-wide average was a healthy 81% this past regular season. The kickers in this year's playoffs? 57%. That is ... how you say? ... godawful. (MJD put together this nice chartographic to explain.)
Now you might think that kickers on the playoff teams are among the best in the league. You would be (mostly) right. Nine of the 12 playoff teams had a kicker above the league average. Yet, there seems to be an inverse relationship between the quality of the kicker and his playoff performance. Neil Rackers led the league this year by going 16-for-17. He missed two in the playoffs, including a potential game-winner. We all know about Nate Kaeding's troubles. (32-for-35 in season, 0-3 playoffs). Jets opponents are 0-5 so far, which has been incredibly beneficial to them. There were only six misses total in all of the 2008 playoff games.
I know, I know. Small sample size. Still, the lack of reliable field goal kicking is a glaring issue. It's annoying enough that so many major football games come down to such a highly specialized skill that seems to be performed in direct contradiction to what the other 50 or so guys on the team are trying to accomplish. Do they also have to perform it so badly? I know there's nothing in the rule book that says a mule can't kick a football, but maybe there should be a rule that makes hoofed mammals mandatory?
When it comes to playoff kicking, pressure is bursting pipes [Shutdown Corner]
NFL playoffs have been tough on kickers [Fox Sports]
Usually reliable kickers have become chokers [Hampton Roads]