Ever wonder how Cincinnati's special teams ranks compares to other teams? And we're not talking about just field goal conversions, punting averages or your general starting field position. We can figure that out with a simple click on your favorite major sports media page by sorting the numbers. Yet leave it to Football Outsiders to formulate a way to judge and grade special teams.
The special teams ratings compare each kick or punt to the league average for based on the point value of field position at the position of each kick, catch, and return. We've determined a league average for how far a kick goes based on the yard line from where the kick occurs (almost always the 30-yard line for kickoffs, variable for punts) and a league average for how far a return goes based on both the yard line where the ball is caught and the distance that it traveled in the air.
The kicking or punting team is rated based on net points compared to average, taking into account both the kick and the return if there is one. Because the average return is always positive, punts that are not returnable (touchbacks, out of bounds, fair catches, and punts downed by the coverage unit) will rate higher than punts of the same distance which are returnable. (This is also true of touchbacks on kickoffs.) There are also separate individual ratings for kickers and punters that are based only on distance and whether the kick is returnable, otherwise assuming an average return in order to judge the kicker separate from the coverage. For the return team, the rating is only based on how many points the return is worth compared to average, based on the location of the catch and the distance the ball traveled in the air. Return teams are not judged on the distance of kicks, nor are they judged on kicks that cannot be returned.
Football Outsiders graded Cincinnati's special teams with a DVOA of 2.9%, which ranks sixth in the NFL, largely a result of the quality coverage teams on punts and kickoffs, as well as Mike Nugent's 94% field goal conversion this season (ranked third in the NFL).
And one reason for Cincinnati's sustained special teams success because of someone like Cedric Peerman, who has eight special teams stops (what Football Outsiders defines as "special teams plays that stop a return before it reaches the point that our baselines consider 'average'"). Along with a team-leading nine total tackles (per Bengals.com), Peerman key blocks during Brandon Tate's 56-yard punt return for a touchdown against the Seahawks and a 33-yard return against the Colts; the latter the league deemed illegal. Peerman also added three tackles against the Pittsburgh Steelers a couple of weeks ago.