“Looking around the league, there are not too many people not having great years,” said Buffalo Bills place kicker Rian Lindell. “It’s just one of those years when guys have made the kicks.”
NFL kickers have been successful on 86.5 percent of their field goal tries this season. That is the highest percentage at this point in a season since at least the 1987 season. NFL officials say it would be the best percentage in history over a full season with at least 100 field goal attempts if kickers are able to maintain that pace.
Green Bay’s Mason Crosby and Jacksonville’s Josh Scobee each have made 14 of 14 field goal tries this season. Atlanta’s Matt Bryant and San Diego’s Nick Novak are both 11 for 11, and the New York Jets’ Nick Folk is 10 for 10.
“The kicking seems to me like it’s improving quite a bit every year,” the San Francisco 49ers’ David Akers said. “Some of the Pro Bowls that I’ve been to when I was around 84 percent, that would put you in the middle of the pack this year. Guys are getting better, and maybe the weather has been better. I haven’t seen too many nasty-weather games so far.”
“You miss a couple now, it’s breaking news,” added Akers, who has made 13 of his 15 field goal attempts in his first season with the 49ers after a dozen seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles. “You have to pick up your game or you’ll be out of work.”
Through seven weeks last season, NFL kickers had connected on 81.9 percent of their field goal attempts. They hit 84.4 percent of their tries through seven weeks of the 2008 season, when they finished the year at what league is thought to be the record full-season percentage of 84.5 percent. Data on the number of field goal attempts and success rates wasn’t always kept reliably throughout league history, but it is generally accepted that field goal accuracy has improved greatly in recent years.
Only one NFL kicker has missed more than three field goal attempts this season. Pittsburgh’s Shaun Suisham has connected on 10 of 14 tries. Washington Redskins kicker Graham Gano is 11 for 14, a 78.6 percent accuracy rate.
“The biggest difference is the kicks from beyond 40 yards,” said Atlanta Falcons President Rich McKay, chairman of the NFL’s competition committee. “That’s where the improvement really is. That was the impetus behind us wanting to change the overtime format for the postseason [eliminating the possibility of a team winning with a field goal on the opening possession of overtime] because the accuracy has become so good.”
Kickers even have been accurate on field goal attempts of 50 yards or longer, making 70.7 percent of them this season. Scobee is 5 for 5 on such kicks and Oakland’s Sebastian Janikowski is 5 for 6.