When the New Orleans Saints visit the Minnesota Vikings this weekend, NBC Sports will debut a new “SNF Kicks Tracer.” The tracer graphic will map the flight of the football on all field goal attempts during the Sunday Night Football game, giving fans at home a clearer view than ever of the ball once it leaves a kicker’s foot.
The tracer is the latest installment in the network’s SNF Kicks technology, which NBC began rolling out a couple weeks ago when the Patriots played the Chiefs. SNF Kicks measures the trajectory and speed of the football when kicked, and includes a “good from” feature that indicates the furthest distance from which a made field goal attempt would have been successful.
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“As we continue to use the most cutting-edge technology to enhance our Sunday Night Football broadcast, we are excited to add the tracer to our coverage,” said Fred Gaudelli, executive producer of SNF, in a press release. “With many games coming down to field goals, this new element will illustrate the flight of the football, while also providing many statistics pertinent to the kicking game.”
TrackMan‘s radar system is used to detect ball movement from when the football is kicked through to when it touches the net behind the uprights. To determine the greatest distance of where a kick would be good from, TrackMan measures not only the full trajectory, but also whether the ball is hooking or slicing during flight. The good from statistic is currently available only on made field goals kicked from at least 45 yards. However, NBC has plans to expand on its Sunday Night Football usage of TrackMan technology.
“By the end of the season, we hope to be showcasing the technology on kickoffs and punts, and eventually make our way to the passing game,” Gaudelli said in the press release.
TrackMan is also used to provide metrics for NBC’s Golf Channel coverage as well as MLB’s Statcast system. NBC’s latest announcement does not specify whether the TrackMan tracer will be used during live field goals or on replays, but fans will likely want live kicks to be augmented. As more kicks are recorded and sample size grows, NBC will be also able offer metrics on what makes an optimal kick—whether a certain speed is more successful in a certain wind direction or temperature, say.