Slowly but surely, it appears that the NFL is trying to limit the impact that special teams can have in a game.
Look no further than the Chicago Bears’ previous game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Of the four kickoffs by the Cincinnati Bengals’ kicker Mike Nugent, 3 of those kicks went for a touchback. Meaning Bears’ returner Devin Hester only had the opportunity to return one kick for 31 yards.
The Bengals punted the ball four times, of those four times, Hester was able to return 2 of them for a total of 1 yard.
Ever since kickoffs have been moved up to the 35-yard line, the impact of kickoff returns has been minimized.
That impact will also minimize the value that Hester has for the Bears. At best, Hester will have somewhere between 6-8 times to make a return. Though, of those 6 or 8 times, a bulk of those opportunities will be thwarted because of touchbacks.
Expect the same result for the Hester on Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings.
Vikings’ kicker Blair Walsh had 5 kickoffs last Sunday against the Detroit Lions. All five of those kickoffs for Walsh went for a touchback.
As for their punter Jeff Locke, Locke made 5 punts on Sunday. Of those 5 punts, the Lions returned all 5 for a total of 37 yards.
So there may be an opportunity for Hester to have an impact when returning punts.
After week one, Football Outsiders gave the Vikings’ special teams a DVOA percentage of -3.3 %. That mark was ranked as 20th in the NFL. By comparison, the Bears were ranked at 11 with a percentage of 3.4%.