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NFL Rule Changes: New Kickoff Rule Impacts Jets, Giants Differently

The NFL voted today to change the rules for kickoffs, moving the kickoff from the 30-yard line to the 35-yard line. The league's justification was that the change will reduce injuries on one of the game's most dangerous, though exciting. plays.

This change is likely to impact the New York Jets and New York Giants differently. In terms of returns, the Jets have Brad Smith, one of the game's most explosive return men. Among returners who had at least 40 attempts a season ago, Smith had the best average per return, 28.1 yards. He returned two kickoffs for touchdowns. The Giants were without return man Domenik Hixon last season due to a knee injury, and as a team they averaged only 19 yards per return, 31st in the league. Even with Hixon the Giants are generally only an average kickoff return team.

Thus, judging from 2010 results, you would think this change will hurt the Jets return game much more than the Giants. It will likely limit Smith's opportunities to make big plays, something the offensively-challenged Jets counted on in 2010. The Giants got no big plays in their kick return, so the change should not make much difference.

In terms of kick coverage, neither the Jets nor Giants have one of the league's strongest-legged kickers so it will be interesting to see how the new rule affects their coverage -- and how they kick the ball off. In 2010 15 NFL kickers who were active for at least 12 games averaged a distance of more than 65 yards, a distance that would now put the ball in the end zone and likely result in a touchback. Nick Folk of the Jets (62.6 yards per kickoff) and Lawrence Tynes of the Giants (61.8) were not among them.