Kickers struggle in empty outdoor stadiums

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NFL kickers had a brutal Week One. Empty stadiums may be to blame.

Kickers missed more field goal attempts in Week One of 2020 than they’ve missed in any opening week since 1982, when field goal kickers were far less accurate than they’ve become in recent years.

So what’s the problem? It may be empty stadiums. San Francisco kicker Robbie Gould predicted before the season that kickers would struggle because the wind affects kicks differently when there are no fans in the stadium.

“I think this year, stadiums will definitely be different from a wind perspective, because the fans usually in most stadiums will knock down the wind,” Gould said.

A data point in favor of Gould’s wind hypothesis is that kickers only struggled outdoors, not indoors. Kickers were 14-for-16 (88 percent) indoors, with the only misses coming from 54 yards and 55 yards. But outdoors, kickers went just 34-for-51 (67 percent). Perhaps Week One will prove to be nothing but a blip, but this is a situation that bears watching: Kickers have to adjust in this very different season.