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New Kickoff Rule – Week 7

October 17th, 2007

With the season just past the half-way point — 425 regular season games have been played through week 7 out of 755 scheduled (56.3%) — it’s time again this week to take a look at the kickoff data to see the impact of the new kickoff rule.

First, the breakdown on kickoffs from the 30 yard line in 2007 compared to kickoffs from the 35 in 2005-2006.

Season(s) Kickoff Start # Kickoffs Kickoff Land Avg. TB TB %
2005-2006 35 14,496 5.56 4334 29.90%
2007 30 4,089 8.34 533 13.03%

The percentage of touchbacks on kickoffs from the 30 in 2007 continues to slowly increase, going from 11.97% after week 3, to 12.04% after week 5, to 12.76% after week 6, and to 13.03% after week 7. In week 7 alone, 14.85% of kickoffs from the 30 went for a touchback.

On the return side, the big news the last few weeks has been the sharp increase in the percentage of kickoffs from the 30 yard line that have been returned for a touchdown. Here is the weekly breakdown including week 7.

  Kickoff Start # Returns Return Avg. Return End Avg. TD TD%
2007 week 1 30 490 21.33 29.94 4 0.82%
2007 week 2 30 509 21.91 29.68 2 0.39%
2007 week 3 30 526 21.89 30.87 4 0.76%
2007 week 4 30 517 22.74 30.65 9 1.74%
2007 week 5 30 471 21.51 30.03 6 1.27%
2007 week 6 30 430 21.67 31.22 6 1.40%
2007 week 7 30 419 21.16 30.32 2 0.48%

Wow, that’s quite a drop in production on kickoff returns in week 7. The touchdown percentage was 2nd lowest of any week so far this season, and the average return was the lowest of any week.

Here are the season totals on returns of kickoffs from the 30 compared to kickoffs from the 35 in 2005-2006.

Season(s) Kickoff Start # Returns Return Avg. Return End Avg. TD TD%
2005-2006 35 9,310 20.35 26.99 72 0.77%
2007 30 3,362 21.77 30.38 33 0.98%

Since I started tracking the new kickoff rule this season, I’ve focused on comparing only kickoffs from the 35 yard line in 2005-2006 to only kickoffs from the 30 yard line in 2007. All other kickoffs have been excluded from the numbers, because it did not make sense to count kickoffs from other points on the field when examining the effects of the rule. I’ve also excluded onside kicks, because those are not affected by the new rule.

I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the data for all kicks from 2005-2006 and 2007, including onside kicks, regardless of where the kickoff started.

Season(s) Kickoff Start # Kickoffs Kickoff Land Avg. TB TB %
2005-2006 All 15,413 6.58 4,489 29.12%
2007 All 4,650 9.45 591 12.71%

Comparing the data from all kickoffs to those restricted to the 35 in 2005-2006 and 30 in 2007, they really aren’t that much different. In 2005-2006, the percentage of touchbacks on all kickoffs is slightly less than kickoffs from the 35 (29.12% and 29.90%, respectively). Similarly in 2007, the percentage of touchbacks on all kickoffs is slightly less than kickoffs from the 30 (12.71% and 13.03%).
Now the return data for all kickoffs.

Season(s) Kickoff Start # Returns Return Avg. Return End Avg. TD TD%
2005-2006 All 9,820 20.42 27.58 80 0.81%
2007 All 3,781 21.63 30.82 39 1.03%

The data is generally the same for returns of all kickoffs compared to those restricted to starting from certain yard lines. Overall, the touchdown percentage is higher on all kickoffs that those from the normal kickoff line.

I wonder if it wouldn’t be simpler to use the data for all kickoffs going forward rather than restricting them to a certain yard line. It would make it easier by not having to continually qualify the numbers each week as being only for kickoffs from certain yard lines. Plus, as much as I’ve tried to qualify the numbers when referring to them, I’m pretty sure that most people still assume that I’m talking about all kickoffs, not just certain ones. I’ve been worried about this disconnect, and the best way to handle the issue may be to remove it.

If you have an opinion on this, please drop me a line.