I Keek a Touchdown

January 4, 2014
Posted by Jay Livingston

Two observations on the NFL playoffs this weekend.

1.  Longer, Better.  Field goals are important. The line on the Saints-Eagles game today and on the 49ers-Packers game tomorrow is three points – a field goal. That was the margin in 15% of all NFL games this season. (I think that the usual percentage is closer to 10%, but it’s still the most frequent margin.)

The Saints just cut Garret Hartley, the place kicker they’ve had all season. He hit only 73% of his attempts, the second worst percentage in the NFL. Twenty years ago, that percentage would have put him ahead of one-third of all kickers.  In 1965, with 73% he would have been at the top. The best field goal percentage that year was 67%.

Gin and Tacos  has a nice discussion on how and why kicking has increased in distance and accuracy. And don’t miss the link to his companion piece on the first wave of European kickers in the NFL. (I had always thought that “I keek a touchdown! I keek a touchdown!” was an apocryphal comedy bit that started with Alex Karras and wound up on Johnny Carson.  But apparently Garo Yepremian actually said it.)

2. The Wisdom of Crowds.  Occasional posts here dating back to 2006 have looked at the match-up between The Wisdom of Crowds and The Smart Money.  Today offers another example.  The Chiefs started as a 2½-point underdog to the Colts. The crowd has been all over the Chiefs, and as we approach game time, the books have made KC the favorite by two or even three points.  The smart money was betting the Colts earlier in the week despite having to lay a point or two.

UPDATE, January 5: The Colts pulled off an incredible comeback to win 45-44. The crowd (i.e., Chiefs backers), who mostly bet on Sunday or late in the week and gave up points, lost. But the smart guys, who bet earlier in the week and gave up 1½-2½ points also lost. Looks like this was a very good game for the bookies.

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