Special teams can be an afterthought to some, as defense and offensive rankings are going to take priority. However, it is an important part of the game and like anything else, there are going to be teams that excel at it, and teams that struggle. This is what this page shows, as it ranks all teams in various components of special teams play. Starting from left to right you will see a team’s overall special teams rank, which factors in their return numbers, punting numbers, and field goal numbers. After that you begin to get into the different stats, which some are on themselves and then what they allow to opposing special teams. Special teams can make or break a game at times, and those teams that prioritize it show in the rankings.
What is often sought after the most is field goal numbers. That can range from field goal percentage to the amount of volume a team gets in that department. You want your team to be efficient when they do need to kick field goals, which is what the field goal percentage will show. The overall attempts and attempts made will come next, followed by extra points made and attempted. The extra points are also going to point towards what offenses are scoring the most touchdowns. A lesser amount of extra points is going to show a struggling offense that is either stalling out on drives, or just not scoring touchdowns in general.
A lot can go into the punt numbers, both allowed and produced. You can see what teams are punting the most, and what teams are allowing the most points. Teams that allow more punts are going to be better defenses, because they are forcing teams to punt the ball. The same goes for teams not seeing enough kick returns, meaning they are not allowing a lot of touchdowns against, so they are not seeing kick returns. It works in an opposite sense, with teams seeing more kick returns isn’t a plus, because that means you just gave up some sort of points. Punting averages is going to point towards teams that have a strong punter, and this could give them an edge in field possession.
Why A Good Special Teams Is Such An Advantage
Being a highly ranked special teams is going to give teams an edge. Starting with the scoring aspect of things, which is the more obvious reason. While offenses don’t opt to score three points in any drive, it happens, and teams with reliable kickers do make a difference. You never want to leave points on the field, and those teams being able to pick up at least three are going to have an advantage over teams that struggle with efficiency. It could mean the chance for needing a touchdown over a field goal at the end of a game if you made your field goals compared to missing one or two.
You might have heard within the commentary of a game that a team is winning the field possession battle. If your team is starting at their own 20-yard line on average in comparison to the 30-40 yard line, then that is not going to be ideal for your offense that has to constantly go further to put more points on the board. Teams can win the field possession battle in various ways. Being able to pin teams back on kick offs is going to be big. There have been some rules changes with this as the kick off was moved up, but touchbacks are now at the 25-yard line instead of the 20 to help combat the move up. While we don’t see as many kick return chances as we once did, teams being able to pin teams deep is going to be an advantage.
The same is going to go for punt teams. There is nothing better than a punting unit being able to pin a team deep into their own ten yard line. Those teams that have that punting advantage, it is extremely noticeable. It is tough to watch a punter shank one and give an opponent’s offense a starting point from the 50-yard line. Teams that make sure this is a strength, it really feeds into the rest of the team, especially the defense. It makes it easier on them, and gives them a chance to put some pressure on the offense when they are pinned back within their own territory. The teams that struggle in this area of football, you are giving better chances to the opposing offense.
As mentioned above, the return games are not quite the same with the new rule changes. We don’t see any Devin Hester type players making a huge impact in the return game. While it is not a big factor anymore, it is still a factor. A team that can break a long gain on a punt or kick return can give a great starting spot to the offense. This isn’t all about the return man, as blocking is key to teams being able to excel in this area. Even with changes in the rules, having a return team be able to set up your offense with good field possession. It also can give teams that threat of breaking on to the house. We have seen that with the Kansas City Chiefs, who have tremendous athletes who are tough to bring down.
Top Field Goal Units
The Kansas City Chiefs excel in a lot of special teams areas, and that is part of the reason they are Super Bowl champions as well. This is an offense that is also going to give plenty of field goal chances to their teams, because they are moving the ball with ease. They are also moving it quickly, which means more room for field goal attempts. Harrison Butker has been the Chiefs kicker these last few years, but this overall unit has been effective going back to Cairo Santos even. However, Butker is an efficient kicker and one of the top in the game.
Justin Tucker is one of the league’s most accurate kickers and he is usually an automatic three points when called upon. The Ravens have had him for quite some time, and while they didn’t use him as much this past year when they were more aggressive, he has been extremely reliable. Baltimore’s offense has been on a roll since Lamar Jackson became the starting quarterback, and they are putting up points in numbers. Tucker is efficient in extra points as well, which are more tricky these days now that they have moved them back.
Being a kicker for the Saints usually means a lot of work, and Wil Lutz has delivered when called upon. Kicking indoors gives him a slight edge, but he has a massive leg, and is one of the best leading in kicks from 50+ yards as well. His long range ability gives the Saints a huge advantage, given they can move the ball easily and are always ending halves with a chance at a field goal. The Saints overall have one of the top special teams units in football.
Top Punting Units
Being able to pin teams deep into their own zone is going to be a big advantage for a team. While the punter is a big part of it, so are the players blocking and making their way down field. A few teams in the AFC East have some of the top punting units in the game. New England has always been a team to make sure their punting unit has been above average. This continues to hold true as they continue to dominate in this department. In 2019 they had 45 punts go inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, which led all punting units.
The New York Jets are in the same boat with a strong punting unit, and they certainly need one given how often they punt these days. New York has been a top ten finisher in net average over the last few years, and are a strong team at pinning opponent’s inside the 20-yard line as well. Seattle has had a strong run in special teams of late. Last season they finished second in punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, and also averaged 45 yards per attempts. Another team that has needed to punt more than a team should is Washington, and they have a bomber of a kicker in Tress Way, who had an average punt of 50 yards.
Top Return Units
When you have some of the top return men in the game, you are going to have a good return unit. The Kansas City Chiefs have had some real burners on their team, and it makes them a dangerous threat to take any punt or kick return to the house. Lately it has been Mecole Hardman, as Tyreek Hill was one of the returners prior. Teams often move away from big impact offensive players due to the potential injuries on the return. The Saints are another one, as Deonte Harris has been a dangerous return man of late. He averaged over 26 yards per return last season, and also had a punt return touchdown.
The Colts punt return unit has been strong the last few years, and they use a few different names at times. A lot of it can be chalked up to the blocking, because no matter who has been back there, the success has followed. In San Francisco, Richie James Jr. is one of the fastest players in the NFL, and is one of the top return men in the game. Buffalo and Atlanta are two other teams with big named return men who give their offense an edge by setting them up with good field possession.
NFL Special Teams Rankings FAQ
What Team Has The Best Field Goal Percentage?
The Jacksonville Jaguars had the best overall field goal percentage in the league. They missed just one field goal over the course of the 2019 season. Jacksonville had 34 field goal attempts, making 33 of them to give them a 97.1% field goal percentage.
What Team Has The Most Punt Return Yards?
The Indianapolis Colts had the most punt return yards in 2019. The impressive stat is that they did it on just 24 punt returns, where they had 418 punt return yards. The Colts had some of the top return numbers in all of 2019.
What Team Has The Most Kick Return Yards?
The New York Giants had the most kick return yards, as they had 1,153 in all of 2019. They had 49 kick return chances, and you can chalk a lot of this up to the Giants defense giving up a ton of points and resulting in kick offs.
What Team Has The Most Field Goal Attempts?
Both the Atlanta Falcons and Dallas Cowboys were tied with the most field goal attempts, sitting at 40 each over the 2019 season. However, neither team were particularly great at making them, as Atlanta finished at 80%, and Dallas was at 75%.
What Team Has The Most Field Goal Makes?
The Kansas City Chiefs, and Harrison Butker had the most field goal makes of any team in 2019. Butker made 34 total field goals out of 38 tries. The Chiefs have been one of the top field goal units for quite some time.
Who Allowed The Most Punt Return Yards?
The Carolina Panthers allowed the most punt return yards to opposing teams in 2019. They allowed 487 total return yards, which was over 100 more than the next team. Carolina also allowed a total of 40 punt returns to go with it.
Who Allowed The Most Kick Return Yards?
The Detroit Lions allowed 1,284 kick return yards to opposing teams, which was the most in 29. However, volume was a big part of that as they saw 52 kick return opportunities against them, which was also the most in 2019.
Who Allowed The Most Field Goal Attempts?
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers allowed a total of 43 field goal attempts to opposing teams. The next closest team was the Denver Broncos with 39 allowed. Kickers against Tampa Bay hit 37 of the 43 for an 86% field goal percentage.