As the booming 55-yard punt that rolls into the end zone illustrates, raw numbers don't always tell the story of a punter's effectiveness. So to quantify a punter's value to his team, SI adapted the quarterback rating. For completions, we substituted fair catches, downed punts and punts out-of-bounds. Incompletions we replaced with returns and touchbacks. Instead of passing yards and touchdowns, we plugged in net yards and punts downed inside the 20. Assuming a 99-yarder with no return as the best outcome and one returned for 109 yards and a TD as the worst, we used a series of multipliers to arrive at a perfect punter rating of 100 and a lowest possible rating of -68.1. Like the quarterback rating, this isn't a perfect system—it doesn't take into account factors such as outkicking your coverage (see Shane Lechler, who leads the league with a 51.4 gross average)—but it shows who consistently combines the elements of effective punting. Here, then, are SI's inaugural punter ratings, for the 2009 NFL season through Dec. 7 (minimum 40 punts).
MAT MCBRIAR(above), Cowboys