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PAT changes adds an element of uncertainty and competitive advantages

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Bengals placekicker Mike Nugent and special teams coach Darrin Simmons talks about the league changes in PATs. We reflect on those changes and how they impact things going forward.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

With the exception of two franchises (Washington and Oakland), NFL owners approved a competition committee proposal on Tuesday that moved one-point PAT kicks from the two-yard line to the 15 yard line, forcing kickers to convert 33-yard attempts to receive the point after touchdown. The idea promotes teams to go for two points and turn PAT situations from automatic conversions into true football plays.

While it's actually debatable what will transpire when teams apply a philosophy (aggressive/conservative) that matches their persona, there are decisions that will be made. PAT kicks were automatic and two-point conversions were applied when a losing team needed to make up monstrous ground. Now teams could apply the two-point conversion because it makes more sense -- would the Bengals trust a Jeremy Hill two-yard run with Domata Peko lead-blocking or Mike Nugent's leg, which was far more shaky last year during warmer months and ideal conditions?

"I understand the logic behind it. It makes sense," said Nugent via Bengals.com on Wednesday. "But I guess where I would disagree with it is it’s an offensive-driven game in every way. People want to see Andy Dalton throw for 500 yards. It’s a points-driven industry. You can make the argument scooting us back makes the game more difficult."

True. On the other hand, the industry isn't driven by points. It's driven by entertainment, which forces a variable that requires viewers to watch the PAT, rather than get prepped for a 5-10 minute series of commercials and timeouts before the next offensive play (PAT, commercial, kickoff, commercial, play No. 1).

The story continues:

But Simmons wonders about a 33-yard PAT on Dec. 6 into the Dawg Pound, when the Bengals are scheduled to play in Cleveland. As opposed to the 33-yarder the Broncos have to make in San Diego on the same day. "I think the 91 percentage is high in some places like Baltimore. In some places like Cleveland and in some places like Pittsburgh,’ Simmons said of places the Bengals play every year. "Especially in December.

"I just have a little bit of a competitive-edge issues like a lot of guys that play in cold-weather climates as opposed to indoors in Indianapolis in December." It will be recalled the last time we saw Nugent, he was drilling a Bengals-long 57-yard field goal indoors in Indy on Jan. 4 in the Wild Card Game, a feat most likely not accomplished at Paul Brown Stadium. Nugent plans to kick his new PATs the same way.

What I don't understand is the argument regarding competitive advantages between December conditions in Cincinnati, Cleveland, or Pittsburgh, compared to the ideal conditions in the south and west. Both kickers are playing in identical conditions during those games; it's not like Nugent will attempt point after kicks in Cincinnati while Greg Zuerlein makes those kicks in the same game between the Bengals and Rams this season.

In fact, wouldn't the "awful winter conditions" favor kickers like Mike Nugent who are used to cold and windy conditions in December, as opposed to great-weathered (or domed) kickers?

This is a point that special teams coach Darrin Simmons concedes:

But for an AFC North team like the Bengals, Simmons thinks the longer PAT underlines having "stong, accurate kickers that can deal with the elements." He loves the fact that Ohio State’s Nugent  and University of Cincinnati punter Kevin Huber grew up and stayed here, Huber on the East side of Cincinnati and Nugent near Dayton.

"It’s great that we have Kevin and Mike who have played high school, college and NFL here," Simmons said. "There is something to that."

What's the recent history of weather for Bengals games?

During the last five seasons, Cincinnati has hosted 14 games during the months of December and January. Four of those games had a kickoff temperature below 32 degrees, and only one was played in those conditions since 2013. There have been horrible winter games played in Cincinnati and there will be in the future. Yet, let's not pretend that every game played in Cincinnati faces blizzard-like conditions. Four of last six games played in Cincinnati after Dec. 1 were played in 42 degrees or higher temperatures and only one had significant precipitation (rain against the Broncos on Monday Night Football).

Home Bengals

The Bengals have played eight games in cold-weather cities since 2010; of those games, only one was played in temperatures below freezing.

Away Bengals

Going for two points is just smart.

Does the league's insistence on making a rule change to inject excitement into that PAT benefit or disrupt Cincinnati's ability to make longer conversions? The competitive advantages with AFC North teams is theoretical, as is the counter-argument regarding those conditions. These are interesting questions.

What will be more interesting is how a head coach determines when to go for one or two. Will Marvin Lewis be more aggressive to get two points or rely a 33-yard PAT? During the Marvin Lewis era, the Bengals have attempted 20 two-point conversions... they've converted seven.

Now things have changed. Instead of attempting a two-point PAT due a fourth-quarter deficit, teams could apply the two-point conversion as the smarter option. Now that makes things exciting.