Plugging the Holes: AFC North
Important offseason questions about the Ravens, Browns, Bengals and Steelers
Last Wednesday, Football Outsiders began its Plugging the Holes series, in which it targets the offseason issues facing each team in the NFL by division. Aaron Schatz continues with the AFC North.
In this edition, Outsiders looks at the Ravens' field-position advantage, the Bengals' QB dilemma, the Browns' new offensive coordinator and the Steelers' age issues.
Baltimore Ravens: Can Billy Cundiff possibly have this many touchbacks again?
Going into 2010, Cundiff was a run-of-the-mill kicker who had bounced around the NFL. Between game rosters and preseason, he had suited up for nine teams in nine seasons. Cundiff had just 11 touchbacks in his career, on more than 200 kickoffs.
So it was a shock, to say the least, when Cundiff had 40 touchbacks on 79 kickoffs in 2010. Cundiff was the first kicker to have a touchback percentage of more than 50 percent since the kickoff line was moved back from the 35-yard line to the 30 in 1994. FO metrics scored Cundiff's kickoffs as 15.0 estimated points of field position over average; Olindo Mare was second at 7.7 points.
Cundiff's touchback rate went from 6 percent to 51 percent, a rise of 45 percentage points. Before last year, the greatest improvement in touchback rate since 1994 belonged to Michael Husted, whose touchback rate improved by 22 percent in 1997. Even before 1994, it was extremely rare for a kicker to hit touchbacks half the time. It's safe to say that nothing like this has happened before.
To read the rest of Football Outsiders' analysis of the Baltimore Ravens, plus answers to key questions for every other team in the AFC North, you must be an ESPN Insider.
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With Super Bowl XLV in the books, Football Outsiders starts looking ahead to 2011 and the biggest issues every NFL team will be facing.
February 9: Plugging the Holes - AFC East
February 10: Plugging the Holes - AFC West
February 11: Plugging the Holes - AFC South
February 14: Plugging the Holes - AFC North
February 15: Plugging the Holes - NFC East
February 16: Plugging the Holes - NFC West
February 17: Plugging the Holes - NFC South
February 18: Plugging the Holes - NFC North