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Last night my roommate told of the similarities between being in an American bar on an autumn Sunday afternoon and being in a Canadian bar for Hockey Night. Football has long overtaken baseball as the most popular sport in the United States, in a general sense1, and imagining Canada without hockey is like imagining 2014 without the Internet–life would be terrible without it.

Which is more impressive: Canada’s love for hockey, or America’s love for football?

Money

The most recent NHL deal for Canadian broadcast rights comes from Rogers Communications, which will pay $4.765 billion (U.S. dollars) over 12 years beginning with the 2014-2015 season.2 The most recent NFL deal with networks Fox, CBS, and NBC for American broadcast totals $27.9 billion over nine years, beginning in 2014.3 The Canadian-broadcast NHL deal averages $0.397 billion a season, while the American-broadcast NFL deal averages $3.1 billion a season. With 1,230 NHL regular season games and approximately 78 playoff games4, and 267 NFL regular season and playoff games, that averages to $303,582 per Canadian-broadcast NHL game and $11,610,487 per American-broadcast NFL game.

These figures are not perfectly accurate; there is inflation to consider, and the potential growth/decline of the Canadian/American dollar, as the Canadian deal is actually in Canadian dollars ($5.232 billion of them). But the contracts begin in the same year and are for similar lengths of time, and honestly no one knows too much about the potential currency changes a decade from now. Certainly, there is a lot more money in the NFL. However…

It’s All Relative

The 2010 U.S. census recorded 308,745,906 people living in the United States.5 The 2011 Canadian census recorded 33,476,688 people living in Canada.6 With only one year of separation, there is no need to get too technical. Canada’s population is about 11 percent of the United States’ population. Though more precise actual Canadian viewership ratings are hard to find, raw numbers are available.

Game seven of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, between the Boston Bruins and the Vancouver Canucks, is the most watched NHL game in Canadian history, with 8.96 million Canadians tuning in.7 Super Bowl XLVI, between the New England Patriots and the New York Giants in 2012, was at the time the most watched NFL game in American history with 111.3 million American viewers.8 In 2011, 26.8 percent of Canada watched the effective NHL championship game; in 2012, 36 percent of the United States watched the Super Bowl. Point to the NFL.

Is football more popular in America than hockey in Canada? There are two other things to consider.

The 32 NFL teams all reside in the United States; the Buffalo Bills do play a game in Toronto every season, and there are a couple of games in London every year, but at the moment it is still a wholly American league. Of the 30 teams in the NHL, 23 reside in the states, leaving Canada with the other seven. Loving hockey as they do, and with Canadian players spread throughout the league, Canadians presumably still have some interest in the American teams, but it is not the same.

Quant Hockey has broken down the NHL’s various player nationalities for many years. Their data reveals that since the mid 1990s, the NHL has been a little more than 50 percent Canadian. Call it 50 percent, as the NFL is not 100% full of American players. In 2010, the most-watched, American-teams-only Stanley Cup Finals game drew 4.077 million Canadian viewers9, roughly 12% of the country. Yet doubling that to adjust for the significant non-Canadian portion of the league still only yields 24%, while the Super Bowl regularly attracts a third of the United States or more.

Those few Stanley Cup Finals games and Super Bowls are just that: few. Nonetheless it would hardly be surprising to discover that more Americans watch television, per capita or not, and certainly NFL games attract bigger crowds. But in addition to the context of population, there is a context of economy.

Those broadcast deals net the NHL $0.397 billion each year and the NFL $3.1 billion each year, from the Canadian and American television markets, respectively. In 2012, Canada’s gross domestic product totaled $1.821 trillion (U.S. dollars); America’s totaled $15.68 trillion. More or less, Canada’s NHL deal shakes out to 0.02 percent of its economy, which hardly seems like much. But the United States’ NFL deal amounts to 0.008 percent of the American economy. The NHL accounts for more of Canada’s economic pie than the NFL does of America’s, but hey–being American and all–our pie is much, much bigger (as, incidentally, are NFL players).

Bottom Line

The NFL’s popularity in the United States is more impressive than the NHL’s in Canada. The NFL’s numbers are absolutely superior, relatively comparable, and the NFL also competes with several other professional sports. Nonetheless, Canada’s love of hockey is probably more impressive, or at least more instinctual, than America’s passion for football. Call it a draw? But then, if a draw it is, Canada certainly takes it in overtime; the NFL’s post-regulation rules are ridiculous.


  1. The NFL draws higher attendance per game, and while there are only 16 in a team’s season, they still rake in the most in broadcast rights, the Super Bowl is the most watched sporting event, etc. 
  2.  Click here for source. 
  3.  Click here for source. 
  4. Assuming an average NHL playoff series length of 5.2 games, multiplied by the 15 playoff series every postseason. 
  5.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_United_States_Census 
  6.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Population_of_Canada 
  7.  Click here for source. 
  8.  Click here for source. Super Bowl XLVI’s viewership record withstood the Blackout Bowl featuring San Francisco and Baltimore in 2013 but was just slightly bested by Seattle and Denver this year. See an earlier post which details why that is not actually impressive, as the American television audience grows every year. 
  9.  Click here for source. 
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Using the same method as my other posts about various good and bad NFL contracts, these are the best, best-paid, worst, worst-paid, and–most importantly–most over and underpaid punters based on their average annual salary and their play in the 2013 season.

A player’s contract quality is determined by the number of standard deviations their performance grade is above/below the average at their position, minus the number of standard deviations their average annual salary is above/below the average at their position. Player performance grades come from Pro Football Focus; salary details come from Spotrac.com.

Teams presumably pay players based not only on their on-field ability, but on their skill at attracting fans and sponsorships, their locker room mentality, and other intangibles. But then again, presumably not many fans watch an NFL game to see a punter.

These are the results. In particular, note where Johnny Hekker, an undrafted free agent signed by the Rams in 2012, pops up throughout the various measures.

The Best 5 Punters of the 2013 NFL Season (PFF Grade in Parentheses)

  • 1. Shane Lechler, HOU (40.9)
  • 2. Johnny Hekker, STL (36.1)
  • 3. Brad Nortman, CAR (23.5)
  • 4. Britton Colquitt, DEN (16.2)
  • 5. Chris Jones, DAL (15.2)

The Worst 5 Punters of the 2013 NFL Season

  • 21. Ryan Quigley, NYJ (1.6)
  • 22. Spencer Lanning, CLE (-1.8)
  • 23. Marquette King, OAK (-8.3)
  • 24. Jeff Locke, MIN (-10.6)
  • 25. Adam Podlesh, CHI (-10.8)

The 5 Highest Average Punter Salaries of the 2013 NFL Season (millions of $)

  • 1. Britton Colquitt, DEN ($3.892 million)
  • 2. Dustin Colquitt, KC ($3.75m)
  • 3. Mike Scifres, SD ($3.625m)
  • 4. Andy Lee, SF ($3.4m)
  • 5. Brandon Fields, MIA ($2.895m)

The 5 Lowest Average Salaries of the 2013 NFL Season

  • 21. Ryan Quigley, NYJ & Ryan Allen, NE ($0.495m)
  • 22. Johnny Hekker, STL ($0.483m)
  • 23. Marquette King, OAK ($0.48m)
  • 24. Chris Jones, DAL ($0.465m)
  • 25. Spencer Lanning, CLE ($0.45m)

The 5 Best Kicker Contracts of the 2013 NFL Season (CQ in parentheses)

  • 1. Johnny Hekker, STL (3.24)
  • 2. Shane Lechler, HOU (2.48)
  • 3. Brad Nortman, CAR (2.12)
  • 4. Chris Jones, DAL (1.48)
  • 5. Ryan Allen, NE (0.85)

The 5 Worst Kicker Contracts of the 2013 NFL Season

  • 21. Andy Lee, SF (-1.07)
  • 22. Mike Scifres, SD (-1.26)
  • 23. Britton Colquitt, DEN (-1.39)
  • 24. Dustin Colquitt, KC (-1.79)
  • 25. Adam Podlesh, CHI (-2.06)

Relative versus absolute, trend versus deviation; these distinctions are key in economics, and altogether far too lacking in media. Two recent ESPN articles that detail some record numbers produced by Super Bowl XLVIII are guilty of these errors, and more fundamentally, the sin of omission.

“Super Bowl draws 11.5M viewers”, 2/3/2014

For the fourth time in five years, the Super Bowl has set a record for the most-watched television event in U.S. history, drawing 11.5 million viewers even though the Seattle Seahawks 43-8 victory over the Denver Broncos wasn’t really competitive.

Catchy! A record! Wowza! The Super Bowl is setting a new viewership record nearly every year, how about that? The headline “The American TV audience continues to grow slowly over time, increasing the viewership of different viewings across the board” is just not as catchy. But that is more or less what is happening. The percentage of the television audience watching the game actually declined from last year’s 48.1/71 rating to this year’s 47.6/70.1 Super Bowl XLVIII’s viewership was an absolute gain but a relative loss. The share rating at kickoff–44.5/70–actually was the highest of all Super Bowl kickoffs, suggesting that the blowout did indeed reduce viewership significantly.

The number of Super Bowl-related tweets was up from 24.1 million last year.

The same consideration applies here. There are millions more users on Twitter now than there were a year ago. Recently Twitter has averaged roughly 16 million new, active users every month.2 ESPN presents these figures as if the only thing that is different is that this is a new Super Bowl with different teams. But things change over time, and the state of the world, sans Super Bowl, is not the same today as it was a year ago.

“Fans bet record $119M on Super Bowl”, 2/42014

Gamblers wagered a record $119.4 million at Nevada casinos on the Super Bowl, allowing sportsbooks to reap an unprecedented profit as the betting public lost out in Seattle’s rout of the Peyton Manning-led Denver Broncos.

While an interesting figure, do not take the gambling sum for anything particularly groundbreaking. Sports gambling has been increasing for a while, nearly doubling from a decade ago.3 This represents an increase, but the increase was foreseeable. The record numbers are not a significant deviation from the trend of annual growth.

Casinos paid out at 8-to-1 for the safety. Fans who bet that the first score would be on a safety cashed in at 60-to-1. It was the third year in a row that sportsbooks have been hit on the safety bet.

Though not a knock on ESPN, there are a couple interesting things in play here. Almost undoubtedly some people some where will remember this as if safeties are “getting hot” in the Super Bowl and think that a Super Bowl safety is more likely now. While significant rule changes (say, to intentional grounding or offensive holding) would affect the odds, without such things it is likely to pure dumb luck. Vegas knows this. Bookmakers might be a little ticked at the moment, but they may be able to take advantage next year, if people think safeties are suddenly more likely when, in reality, they are still quite rare.

On the flip side, perhaps after three consecutive safeties (which is ridiculous, if random), people will underestimate the chances of a Super Bowl safety next year. This is the Gambler’s Fallacy: a run of rare safeties does not mean that a safety is less likely; without changes to the state of the game (rules, etc.), a safety has a constant probability. As the sample size grows, the runs and streaks even out, eventually regressing to the mean. But in one particular game–say next year’s Super Bowl–the chance of a safety remains the same.

“The betting public certainly had their moments in this game. Some of the props that they bet on every year came through and they were rewarded,” said Jay Kornegay, who runs the LVH sportsbook.

This is great. Mr. Kornegay runs the sportsbook; of course he remarks that the gambling public had their moments! He is the one profiting from the gambling public! In other news, Lucy has remarked to Charlie Brown, “Hey, you’ve had your moments buddy! Tomorrow could be the day you finally kick the football!”

ESPN is terrific. But some of what makes their content interesting is what they fail to say.


  1. A program’s rating share is given as #A/#B. #A is the percent of all individuals with televisions who are watching the program. #B is the percent of all individuals watching television at the time who are watching the program. Of the American viewers who were watching something on television during Super Bowl XLVIII, 71 percent of them were watching the game. And do click here to verify these figures. 
  2. An active user is someone who logs on at least once a month. It varies, but generally between one-third and two-third of monthly active users log on daily. Click here for source. 
  3. Click here for source. 

Way back in early September, before the NFL season began, Robert Mays and Bill Barnwell, staff writers at Grantland, ran a podcast in which they made numerous preseason predictions for fun. At the suggestion of one of them during the podcast, I took down their predictions, but then never sent them in to Grantland, and the notes have just been sitting in my Gmail drafts folder for months. No more!

While Bill Barnwell posted an excellent feature about the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, quarterback Russell Wilson, and the best contract in football (click here for my own analysis of the best contracts in football; Wilson is certainly up there), I thought it would be fun to analyze Barnwell, and Mays, to determine who made the better predictions this season. Is one more expert than the other? Check it out!

Player Props

Adrian Peterson: 5.1 Yards per Carry
Barnwell: Under
Mays: Over
Result: Under (4.5)

Say it with me now: regression to the mean. Not just to the league average (about four yards) but to Peterson’s own. Peterson has now had two seasons over 5.1 yards per carry and five seasons under it; among those five seasons, even the highest clip is only 4.8.

J.J. Watt: 15.5 Sacks
Mays: Under
Barnwell: Under
Result: Under (10.5)

Regression scores again! J.J. Watt still put up the best season of any defensive player (highest graded by Pro Football Focus on the season), but 16 sacks is a lot for anyone, especially a 3-4 defensive end whose primary job is not rushing the passer.

John Abraham: 8.5 Sacks
Barnwell: Under
Mays: Under
Result: Over (11.5)

A surprisingly impressive season from the 35-year-old.

Andrew Luck: 4,200 Passing Yards
Mays: Over
Barnwell: No bet, agrees with logic, no strong feelings.
Result: Under (3,822)

This result is even more impressive given that Trent Richardson was so completely ineffective (averaged 2.9 yards per carry) this season.

Andrew Luck: 15.5 Interceptions
Barnwell: Over
Mays: Agree? Recognizes similar logic.
Result: Under (9)

The kid is good. Although he did rank 20th among 27 quarterbacks in accuracy percentage (per PFF). Maybe something to consider next season.

Geno Atkins: 9.5 Sacks
Mays: Over
Barnwell: Under
Result: Under (6)

Atkins went down on Halloween against the Dolphins and that was it for his season. He only played in seven games. Injury risk is always something to consider.

Greg Olsen: 775.5 Receiving Yards
Barnwell: Under
Mays: Under
Result: Over (816)

Curious. Prior to 2012, Olsen’s most receiving yards in a season were his 612 with the Bears in 2009. But with Cam Newton he has now gone over 800 twice.

Matt Forte: 1,000.5 Rushing Yards
Mays: Over
Barnwell: Under, later SWITCHES to Over
Result: Over (1,339)

A wise move as Forte put together his first back-to-back 1,000-plus yard seasons. Staying healthy, and amassing the most rushing attempts since his rookie season, certainly helped.

Charles Tillman: 4.5 Forced Fumbles
Barnwell: Under
Mays: No bet (“HOW DARE YOU?”)
Result: Under (3)

Injury cashes Barnwell in again, as Tillman went down only halfway through the season. But this merely underscores that a lot of things have to go right for a corner, or really anyone, to force five fumbles in one season.

Doug Martin: 8.5 Touchdowns
Mays: Over
Barnwell: Pressed by Mays, only says “8 or 9”
Result: Under (1)
Poor Doug Martin’s fate was sealed the instant I drafted him in the first round of my fantasy draft, as he went out for the season in Week 6. Still, a low total nonetheless.
Aaron Rodgers: 38.5 Touchdown Passes
Barnwell: Under
Mays: Over
Result: Under (17)

More injuries, more problems for the over bets. Although in the eight games in which he played more than a few snaps, he only threw 17, not quite on pace for over. Presumably offensive rookie of the year running back Eddie Lacy had something to do with this.

Robert Griffin III: 575.5 Rushing Yards
Mays: Over
Barnwell: Over
Result: Under (489)
Washington never seemed to recover from their opening day track meet against the Eagles, and Griffin missing the final three games while “sort-of-injured-but-healthy-enough-to-play-but-what’s-the-point” was pretty hard to predict.
Jason Babin: 9.5 Sacks
Barnwell: Under (Barnwell’s lock)
Mays: Under
Result: Under (7.5)

Barnwell’s lock comes through, although this must have been a little exciting as Babin came on and posted 5.5 in December.

Brian Orakpo: 7.5 Sacks
Mays: Over (Mays’ lock)
Barnwell: Over
Result: Over (10)

Mays’ lock comes through, as Orakpo went over on December 1st against the New York Giants. He is pretty good when healthy, it would seem.

Alex Smith: 3,350 Passing Yards
Barnwell: Over
Mays: Over
Result: Under (3,313)

This was about Andy Reid being allergic to running backs in Philadelphia and Alex Smith having Dwayne Bowe to throw to, and, uh, hold that thought…

***BONUS BET***
Dwayne Bowe: 1,000.5 Receiving Yards
Mays: Over
Barnwell: Over
Result: Under (673)

Ouch.

Dez Bryant: 92.5 Catches
Mays: Over
Barnwell: Under
Result: Over (93)

Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for Grantland staff writer Robert Mays! Really must have sweat it too, with Bryant needing eight receptions in Week 17 against Philadelphia, without Kyle Orton at quarterback. But he eked it out!

Danny Amendola: 950.5 Receiving Yards
Barnwell: Over
Mays: Over
Result: Under (633)

Ouch. Injuries, injuries, injuries… Amendola missed four games.

Tavon Austin: 7.5 Touchdowns (Rushing, Receiving, & Return)
Mays: Over
Barnwell: Over
Result: Under (6)

To be fair, Austin would likely have gone over if it had not taken the Rams coaching staff to realize that Austin was on their team (and/or the Rams special teams return unit had not felt the need to hold or block in the back on approximately 371% of their returns).

Richard Sherman: 4.5 Interceptions
Barnwell: Under
Mays: Under
Result: Over (8)

An incredible result. Among corners who played half or more of their teams’ snaps, Sherman was targeted only 58 times in the regular season, the sixth-fewest. He led the league with eight interceptions. Sherman grabbed a pick every 7.25 throws into his coverage, easily tops in the league. Goodness.

***Mays’ Prediction***
Jonathan Banks leads the league in interceptions.

Very, very difficult to predict; Banks finished tied for 15th with several players, having recorded three interceptions.

Chris Long: 10 sacks
Mays: Over
Barnwell: Over
Result: Under (8.5)

Maybe next year; PFF awarded him 10 sacks, as they do not punish players by awarding only a half-sack when another teammate also gets to the quarterback. Also Long’s 46 quarterback hurries were tied for fourth at his position this season. He generated pressure, but sometimes it takes a little luck (or a bad opponent quarterback) to get the sack numbers.

Josh Freeman: 16.5 Interceptions
Barnwell: Under
Mays: Under
Result: Under (4)

What a year for Freeman, in all the bad ways. Ugh. And he actually was right about on pace, throwing one in every game he played.

Clay Mathews: 11.5 Sacks
Mays: Over
Barnwell: Over
Result: Under (7.5)

Injuries, oh the injuries…

Russell Wilson: 3,400 Passing Yards
Barnwell: Over
Mays: No bet
Result: Under (3,357)

Yeeesh. Perhaps if Percy Harvin had played more than 40 snaps…

Division Winners & Playoffs

First Pick in 2014 Draft
Barnwell: OAK
Mays: OAK
Result: HOU
AFC East
Barnwell: NE
Mays: NE
Result: NE
AFC North
Barnwell: PIT
Mays: CIN (PIT last!)
Result: CIN (PIT actually 2nd, 8-8 and ahead of the 8-8 Ravens)
AFC South
Barnwell: HOU
Mays: HOU
Result: IND
AFC West
Barnwell: KC
Mays: DEN
Result: DEN
AFC Wildcards
Barnwell: DEN, CIN
Mays: KC, BAL
Result: KC, SD
NFC East
Barnwell: NYG
Mays: DAL
Result: PHI
NFC North
Barnwell: GB
Mays: GB
Result: GB
NFC South
Barnwell: TB
Mays: TB
Result: CAR
NFC West
Barnwell: SEA
Mays: SF
Result: SEA
NFC Wildcards
Barnwell: SF, DET
Mays: CHI, SEA
Result: SF, NO
AFC Champion
Barnwell: DEN
Mays: DEN
Result: DEN
NFC Champion
Barnwell: SEA
Mays: GB
Result: SEA
Super Bowl Champion
Barnwell: SEA
Mays: DEN
Result: SEA

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Grantland staff writer Bill Barnwell! Correctly predicting BOTH conference champions AND the Super Bowl champions! Barnwell would be the very first one to tell you that this result is due to his prodigious SKILL and not at all due to luck…oh right, he is Bill Barnwell. He is not foolish.

Player & Coach Statistical Leaders and Awards

Defensive Player of the Year
Barnwell: Clay Matthews
Mays: Geno Atkins (15 sacks!)
Result: Luke Kuechly

To be fair, Kuechly totally did not deserve this award at all. (Maybe more on that later.) But then with injuries, neither did their selections.

Passing Leader
Barnwell: Peyton Manning
Mays: Andrew Luck
Result: Peyton Manning
Rushing Leader
Barnwell: Trent Richardson
Mays: LeSean McCoy
Result: LeSean McCoy
Receiving Leader
Barnwell: Calvin Johnson
Mays: Dez Bryant
Result: Josh Gordon (in only 14 games!)
First Pick in 2014 Draft
Barnwell: Jadeveon Clowney
Mays: Teddy Bridgewater
Result: TBD
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Barnwell: Tavon Austin
Mays: Eddie Lacey
Result: Eddie Lacey
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Barnwell: Kenny Vaccaro
Mays: Alec Ogletree
Result: Sheldon Richardson
Coach of the Year
Barnwell: Andy Reid
Mays: Greg Schiano
Result: “Riverboat” Ron Rivera
Most Valuable Player
Barnwell: Russell Wilson
Mays: Aaron Rodgers
Result: Peyton Manning

Final Scorecards

Overall, Mr. Mays went a respectable 15/44, 34% on his picks. In pure props he was 6/20, while going 2/9 on individual awards and statistics and 7/15 on team predictions. Mr. Barnwell edged him slightly, going 17/46, 37%. Barnwell went 9/22 on player props, 1/9 on individual awards and statistics, and 7/15 on team predictions. When both Mays and Barnwell agreed, they went 8/21, 38%; 5/15 on props, 0/1 on awards, and 3/5 on teams.

The lesson? Predictions are not easy, and your gut feeling will not take you very far, even if you know a lot. Consider that among their player predictions, designed to have a 50-50 chance, both Mays and Barnwell did worse than a coin flip. This is not because they do not know about football (they know a great deal), but because this stuff is hard, and luck plays a bigger role than anything else. Nonetheless, one can see why a comprehensive examination of numbers might come in handy.

If you see a supposed pundit make a prediction, remember to think twice before buying in. Okay, that is not news. But remember to ALWAYS think twice (and a third time, a fourth, etc), even when the pundits are quite knowledgeable, even when the predictors tell a story that you find logically sound, and perhaps most importantly, even when you already agree with them (and especially when they are not being 100% serious, à la Mays and Barnwell). Or at the very least, think twice before you put any money down.

Finally, you can settle all those bar bets about which teams pay their kickers too much! Matt Prater was the best kicker this season, with a Pro Football Focus grade of 63.5, but was he the best bargain? Read more to find out!

There are a couple of things to note about kickers. Thirty-six kickers played in 12 or more of their teams’ games this season, meaning they attempted field goals, or kickoffs, or both. Five of them are actually punters, at least technically, as they punt and kickoff, leaving five kickers in the league who contribute to their teams by kicking field goals. The five hybrids, who kick and punt, are not considered in this evaluation.

These numbers come from PFF and Spotrac.com, and concern only the regular season. The PFF grades control for quite a bit, measuring kickoff success and touchbacks, adjusting for field goal distance differences, etc., but they do not control for the thin air in Denver. Take Prater’s high marks with a grain of salt; he is still a good kicker though. A player’s contract quality is determined by the number of standard deviations their performance grade is above/below the average at their position, minus the number of standard deviations their average annual salary is above/below the average at their position.

The Top Five Kickers of the 2013 NFL Season (PFF Grade in parentheses)

  • 1. Matt Prater, DEN (63.5)
  • 2. Stephen Gostkowski, NE (46)
  • 3. Graham Gano, CAR (45)
  • 4. Dan Bailey, DAL (41.3)
  • 5. Steven Hauschka, SEA (33.8)

The Worst Five Kickers of the 2013 NFL Season

  • 27. David Akers, DET (6.9)
  • 28. Matt Bryant, ATL (6.8)
  • 29. Rian Lindell, TB (6.6)
  • 30. Kai Forbath, WAS (3)
  • 31. Shaun Suisham, PIT (1.7)

Pittsburgh is possibly the worst place to kick footballs, but again, Prater is probably better by some degree, if not 40 times better. Who gets paid the most?

Highest Five Average Kicker Salaries of the 2013 NFL Season (millions of $)

  • 1. Sebastian Janikowski, OAK ($3.775 million)
  • 2. Josh Scobee, JAC ($3.45m)
  • 3. Rob Bironas, TEN ($3.338m)
  • 4. Matt Prater, DEN ($3.25m)
  • 5. Dan Bailey, DAL ($3.214m)

Lowest Five Average Kicker Salaries of the 2013 NFL Season

  • 27. Greg Zuerlein, STL ($0.569m)
  • 28. Blair Walsh, MIN ($0.554m)
  • 29. Randy Bullock, HOU ($0.551m)
  • 30. Justin Tucker, BAL & Kai Forbath, WAS ($0.48m)

Apart from being good, there is a reason why teams like good young players: they come cheap on their first contract. How do they compare to the veterans, when evaluating which teams got the most leg for their buck? Remember,

Contract Quality = # SDs performance above/below average – # SDs salary above/below average

Five Best Kicker Contracts of the 2013 NFL Season (CQ in parentheses)

  • 1. Graham Gano, CAR (2.58)
  • 2. Justin Tucker, BAL (1.91)
  • 3. Greg Zuerlein, STL (1.76)
  • 4. Steven Hauschka, SEA (1.65)
  • 5. Matt Prater, DEN (1.63)

Congratulations to Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman! With the third-best on-field performance, and the 24th-lowest average salary, Graham Gano has been a steal.

Five Worst Kicker Contracts of the 2013 NFL Season

  • 27. Rob Bironas, TEN (-1.74)
  • 28. Adam Vinatieri, IND (-1.96)
  • 29. Matt Bryant, ATL (-2.06)
  • 30. Sebastian Janikowski, OAK (-2.13)
  • 31. Mason Crosby, GB (-2.14)

And it’s Crosby by a nose! Really a shame, because there is often a nice poetry when the most expensive paid player at a position just happens to be the most overpaid. Next time, Janikowski.

A final question: do kickers have it easy, or hard? They are NFL athletes without the wear and tear on their bodies. They do not work as much as other players (in terms of game time). Though forever lacking the stardom of quarterbacks, they are the only other scoring players of whom there is only one at their position, and likely more popular than a good many “regular” position players. And as Vinatieri showed us in three different Pats Super Bowls, they can take a lot of credit and become very popular with just a few good kicks. However, they suffer from few opportunities. A run of bad luck and a few consecutive missed kicks, the random error in a sample, can end their careers, as Garrett Hartley experienced this season. Their opportunities to show improvement are limited, kicking only 30-40 field goals a year, with maybe 80-100 kickoffs. Most other players see that many opportunities to make a play every game. And kickers know they usually determine the outcome of close, memorable games. They face a pressure exclusive to them. Oh, and occasionally they have to tackle speedy hot shots twice their size, or worse, they are blocked by eager special teamers three times their size.

Now that all the bar bets on overpaid and underpaid kickers are settled, move on to this one! Do kickers have it easy, or hard?

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