One of the major pieces of news to come out of the NFL owners' meetings recently was the decision to increase the length of extra-point attempts, turning a 19-yard kick into a 33-yard kick. The goal is to make the point-after try at least marginally more difficult; kickers in today's NFL are still good enough to make the longer kicks with relative ease, but it's not as automatic as the shorter ones.
A point to think about in the aftermath of the change is how it affects teams who play in open-air stadiums in windy locales (like, say, Orchard Park). Do these teams need to pay a premium to make sure they have a top-notch kicker, or can they keep going about business as usual? More importantly, how good have kickers become at handling adverse weather conditions? For the purposes of this exercise, "field goals" henceforth refers to kicks attempted from 33 or fewer yards out.
Going back to 1998, Buffalo Bills kickers have made 56 of 67 field goals in the second half of the season (November onward); two of the 11 misses were blocked. In that same situation, opposing kickers have made 51 of 54 field goals, including one block. The first thought that comes to mind, aside from how disheartening it is to see how much better opposing kickers are in Buffalo than Bills kickers, is that playing in Buffalo late in the year doesn't matter much to kickers. After all, they're in the NFL for a reason; they're good at what they do. You don't land one of 32 professional kicking jobs by letting the elements take you off your game.
How much better are Bills kickers on the road when the calendar turns to November? Again, going back to 1998 in the second half of the schedule, Bills kickers converted 43 of 45 field goal tries in open-air stadiums. Apparently, the weather mattered a great deal to Buffalo's kickers. Rian Lindell, in particular, was susceptible to Buffalo weather from close range, going 29-for-35 at home while making all 33 attempts on the road. Opposing kickers, for comparison's sake, made 47 of 51 open-air field goal attempts when playing against the Bills. They were slightly worse at home, but not so much that it stands out as a trend.
In the end, is the increased distance likely to matter? Probably not. Kickers are very good at what they do, and in the last 10 years as a group, they've hit 91.2 percent of all field goal tries from exactly 33 yards. While that is a step down from the 98.8 percent of extra points they've made in that same span, it's not so drastic that every point-after attempt is going to be a nerve-wracking experience. It could affect game strategy, to an extent, and there will certainly be times where a game is decided by a missed attempt. Of course, that's likely the point of changing the distance to begin with: adding some drama without drastically changing the game.