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Thursday, January 5, 2012
Banner year for NFC East punters

By Dan Graziano
ESPN.com

The NFC East didn't have a very good all-around season. It didn't have a great, dominant team. It sent seven guys to the Pro Bowl, which is one fewer than the entire San Francisco 49ers' team sent. This was the first full season in history in which the NFC East, formed in 1970, did not produce at least one 10-win team.

But one thing our division did do well was punt the ball. One of the toughest calls on the final All-Division Team was at punter, between the New York Giants' Steve Weatherford and the Washington Redskins' Sav Rocca. The Cowboys' Mat McBriar was excellent as usual when healthy, but he was injured for much of the year. And Eagles rookie Chas Henry handled himself fine for a rookie. But the decision came down to Weatherford vs. Rocca, and it was a close one.

Fortunately for me, Mark Simon works at ESPN Stats & Information, and he's obsessed with punters. So he can help me sort all of this out. On Tuesday night, I got this email from Mark:
I devised a dorky metric that looks at gross yards per punt, net yards per punt, pct inside 20, fair catch pct, block avoidance pct, and TD return avoidance pct. In tribute to Total QBR, I referred to it as "Roby QPR" (Reggie Roby Quality Punter Rating, LOL) It's totally unscientific... adds everything together, pretty much.

By Roby QPR, Rocca came out 8th best in the NFL, and best in the NFC East… Weatherford beats him out in net (39.2 to 39.0), but Rocca led the NFL in pct of punts inside the 20 AND only had one touchback on 66 punts (beaten only by Brad Maynard’s 1 touchback on 81 punts)

Tough to argue with research like that, folks. I mean, Roby QPR, for goodness' sake! If anyone else cared as much about punting as Mark and I do, that just might catch on.

Mark also sent the following information on Weatherford, which bodes well this week for the Giants if not beyond:
New York Giants punter Steve Weatherford had significantly better punting numbers in Giants Stadium, where he'll be punting on Sunday against the Falcons, than on the road this season. Weatherford averaged 48.1 gross yards/41.6 net yards per punt in home games this season, compared to 43.1/36.8 on the road.

The difference in net yards was notable. Weatherford's 41.6 home net average was sixth-best in the NFL. His 36.8 on the  road was second-worst.

Of course, as I pointed out, Mark meant MetLife Stadium, not Giants Stadium, which is currently a parking lot and not a great place to punt. Mark replied that he still calls Citi Field, home of the Mets, Shea Stadium (also the former name of a current parking lot). But other than that, pretty sweet punter research if you ask me. And makes me feel better about picking Rocca as the All-Division Team punter. Thanks, Mark!