How Important is the NFL Kicker?

Brett Maher, Dallas Cowboys Kicker attempting a field goal vs the San Francisco 49ers in the 2022-23 NFL Playoffs

Dallas Cowboys kicker Brett Maher made headlines during the NFL wild-card round when he missed four straight extra-point attempts in a game the Cowboys ended up winning regardless. He followed that up with a blocked extra-point attempt in the divisional round, before kicking two field goals in the second half of Dallas’ loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

Maher’s now-infamous ordeal isn’t the first time NFL kicking has come under scrutiny. In 2015, the NFL moved extra-point kicks back by 13 yards to make the play more challenging for kickers and more intriguing for fans. While the average conversion percentage has gone down, the questions about how much value kickers add to NFL games remain.

Similar to the conversation about penalty kicks in soccer, we explored whether the outcomes of NFL games this season would have changed if there were no kicks for points (i.e. extra points and field goals).

To start, we broke down the scores of all games in Weeks 1, 2, 8, 9, 17 and 18 of the 2022 NFL regular season and all games of the first two rounds of the playoffs. The sample size allowed us to capture each inflection point of the season — the beginning, middle and end — and account for every team through bye weeks. Taking the final scores, we calculated what the outcomes would have been if kicking points (including extra points, field goals and removed any two point conversions) were a non-factor, and the results were fascinating.

Flipped outcomes

Actual score

No kick score

Week 1 Cleveland vs. Carolina

Cleveland 26 – Carolina 24

Cleveland 12 – Carolina 18
Week 2 Kansas City vs. LA Chargers

Kansas City 27 – LA 24

Kansas City 18 – LA 24

Week 8 New England vs. NY Jets

New England 22 – NY 17

New England 6 – NY 12

Week 18 Philadelphia vs. NY Giants

Philadelphia 22 – NY 16

Philadelphia 6 – NY 12

Final results

After reviewing 101 total games in our sample size of the NFL season, this is what we found:

Change (of any type)


Different outcome

No change

Total number











For the most part, the winners stayed the same (78 percent) when kicks for points were taken out of the equation. Still, nearly 22 percent of games had a different outcome without kicks. In those cases, teams would likely have approached the game differently, with coaches being more aggressive on fourth downs or two-point conversion opportunities. Most interesting of all, nearly 18 percent of games without kicks would have gone into overtime, creating more entertaining end-of-game situations and perhaps more upsets and compelling storylines.

So, should we keep the kick?

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