Often times special teams can be overlooked in the big picture of games but more so they can also be the difference between winning and losing close games. To compile the rankings I used a combination of the special teams DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) calculated by Football Oustsiders.com as well as ranking from Sports Illustrated done by Rick Gosselin and his yearly special teams rankings, which is based on how teams stack up statistically. The DVOA combines field goals, extra points, kickoffs, kickoff returns, punts, and punt returns. I also looked at some of the players and specialists that each team had on their rosters when making the list.
1. New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints were the easy selection at number one. They were number one in Gosselin’s rankings and number three in total special teams DVOA. Kicker Wil Lutz was also named to the 2019 Pro-Bowl.
2. Kansas City Chiefs
Dave Toub’s unit ranked second in total DVOA at 4.1% and found their way into number six on Gosselin’s list while being ranked in the top five of multiple categories. Harrison Butker showed to be true in the clutch once more this season, making 33 field goals which led the NFL. The Chiefs return game came alive late in the year and huge special teams play vs the Houston Texans in the Divisional Round led them to number two on this list.
3. Cincinnati Bengals
Cincinnati held the highest Special teams DVOA at 4.6%. Kick returner Brandon Wilson had a 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, and kicker Randy Bullock also made a 57-yard field goal. At least something went good for the Bengals.
4. Houston Texans
After another year in the top five for DVOA, Houston also averaged 9.5 yards per punt return, and was ranked number one in punt coverage on Gosselin’s list.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jags ranked in the top ten for both DVOA and Gosselin’s rankings. Kicker Josh Lambo led the NFL with a 97.1 field goal percentage, the highest for a kicker with at least 18 attempts.
6. New England Patriots
Under Bill Belichick the Patriots have always had very good special teams and not much has changed, even in year 20.
7. Washington Redskins
The Redskins ranked seventh in DVOA for overall special teams. Punter Tress Way averaged the most yards per punt at 49.6 yards and also had the longest punt of the year at 79 yards.
8. New York Jets
The Jets ranked fourth in overall DVOA and also ranked in the top five in punt returns, kickoff coverage, and opponent punting.
9. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers were eighth in overall DVOA and ninth on Gosselin’s list overall. Kicker Chris Boswell didn’t miss the point after all season long,
10. New York Giants
NYG ranked in the top five in punt returns, kickoff coverage, but lost a valuable piece in Antonio Hamilton to the Chiefs via free agency.
11. Detroit Lions
The Lions ranked 13th in DVOA, and for the second straight season were in the top ten. Ageless wonder Matt Prater ranked in the top 15 for FG percentage at 83.9%.
12. Chicago Bears
Punter Pat O’Donnell had 80 punts this year, one of which was a 75 yard bomb, which ranked second in the NFL for 2019.
13. Philadelphia Eagles
Philadelphia had the third fewest penalties on special teams with only 13. Their DVOA was a flat 0.0%.
14. Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings were in the top 15 for DVOA at .8%. Kicker Dan Bailey was 4th in the NFL with a 93.1% on field goals.
15. Cleveland Browns
A .8% special teams DVOA sums up a very average year for the Browns. Punter Jamie Gillian had a 71 yard punt tying him for fourth in the NFL.
16. Buffalo Bills
The Bills were in the top five for kickoff returns, kick starting point, punts inside the 20, and penalties. They did however have a low DVOA at -1.2%.
17. Miami Dolphins
A below average season for Miami on special teams as they only had a DVOA of -.2%
18. San Francisco 49ers
While they did have a positive DVOA of 1.0%, punter Mitch Wishnowsky struggled in 2019 averaging only 44.9 yards a punt.
19. Seattle Seahawks
Seattle had 33 punts inside the 20, which ranked third in the NFL. They were also ranked third in opponent field goal percentage at 69.6%.
20. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts gave up a league high four blocked kicks in 2020, but also led the NFL with 14 points scored.
21. Green Bay Packers
Green Bay only averaged 4.5 yards per punt return, a league worst.
22. Los Angeles Rams
The Rams had a negative DVOA at -1.5%. They also ranked worst in kickoff coverage. Punter Johnny Hekker did rank third in the NFL in average punt yards at 47.4 yards.
23. Denver Broncos
It was an average year on special teams for Denver. Punter Sam Martin was their brightest spot with 31 punts downed inside the 20, which put him at sixth in the NFL.
24. Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders were ranked 25th on Gosselin’s list as well as 25th on the DVOA rankings. I put them slightly higher because Punter AJ Cole was in the top five for punts inside the 20 with 33.
25. Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals had a poor special teams DVOA of only -2.4% and their kick return had a very low DVOA of -4.5%.
26. Tennesee Titans
It was a rough year for the Titans on special teams. They were dead last in field goal percentage at 44.4% and they made only eight field goals all regular season. Greg Joseph helped solidify the position in the playoffs but it was still a rough season in Nashville.
27. Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta was ranked 28th in DVOA at -1.1% but were tied for second with 12 points scored and ranked first with five special teams takeaways.
28. Dallas Cowboys
This pretty much sums up the Cowboys season from the special teams’ perspective. Dallas was also dead last in net punting, punting, and kickoff returns.
29. Carolina Panthers
Carolina had the second lowest DVOA at -4.1%, and allowed a league worst 18 points allowed. They also were tied for worst with Philadelphia with three giveaways on special teams.
30. Atlanta Falcons
Younghoe Koo had a really good season but their ST DVOA was a dismal -2.09.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
For once Colin might not be that far off. Tampa was last in several categories inducing opponent punting and opponent net punting.
32. Los Angeles Chargers
All you need to know about the Chargers…
Ranked dead last in DVOA, kickoff starting point, and punts inside the 20.