Championship Week: Stop Kickin’ Around
When attempting to win a Fantasy Football championship, every single factor must be taken into consideration, even kickers. While some of the more advanced leagues have opted to do away with kickers for Fantasy purposes (What did kickers ever do to you!?), the majority of leagues still use them. The kicker position is often one that is overlooked but it would be ignorant to do that at this stage of the game. Even the slightest margin can propel a team towards victory. And for those who think kickers don’t score many points, you are sadly mistaken. Over the past three weeks, the average of the Top 5 scoring kickers in Fantasy have been outscored by just 11 wide receivers and 11 running backs in standard leagues. Essentially, these kickers produce the same number of points as a low-end WR1 or RB1. They’ve outscored names like Demaryius Thomas, Mike Evans, Matt Forte, and LeSean McCoy to name a few. Not to mention, three of those five kickers are owned in 52 percent of CBS Sports leagues or less.
When looking for a kicker, there are a few variables that must factor into the decision. To put it simply, Fantasy owners want a kicker on a team that is going to move the ball down the field but stall when approaching the red zone. While it’s almost impossible to predict when a team’s offense is going to be ‘on’ or not, there are statistical trends that push owners towards one kicker or another. While comparing the red zone efficiency of a team’s offense, another factor that can be looked at is the opposing team’s red zone defense. The teams that have the lowest percentage of touchdowns allowed in the red zone are the matchups owners want to target.
[caption id="attachment_87187" align="alignright" width="375"] Stephen Gostkowski is one of the most reliable kickers in the game. Photo Credit: Keith Allison[/caption]
There are a little more than a handful of kickers owners can call trustworthy or must-start on a weekly basis for Fantasy purposes. All of the kickers below have the qualities you want in a successful Fantasy kicker. Their team’s offenses certainly move the ball, giving them an above-average amount of work combined with their overall talent. Yes, just like any other position in the NFL, some kickers are more talented than others. Also, they know how to take control of their nerves and insert ice in their veins. Perhaps the only position in sports more gut wrenching than being an NFL kicker is being a MLB closer. On to the must-start kickers . . .
- Stephen Gostkowski, NE
- Cody Parkey, PHI
- Adam Vinatieri, IND
- Mason Crosby, GB
- Justin Tucker, BAL
- Steven Haushka, SEA
Besides the above group of kickers, owners may have been scrambling on the waiver wire all season to find that one-week wonder at the position. The following kickers are the ones you should target and start confidently in your championship week . . .
There is absolutely no reason why Bills kicker Dan Carpenter should not be owned. According to CBS Sports, he is owned in just 39-percent of leagues! Over the past three weeks he is the third-highest scoring kicker in Fantasy football with 34 points. Since Week 11, he has had nine or more Fantasy points in four of the five weeks, connecting on 12 of 14 field goal attempts (with two from 50 plus yards). The Bills are a classic example of a team that just cannot score in the red zone. They have a 40.82-percent touchdown rate in the red zone, bad enough for second-worst in the NFL. Carpenter is going to get the opportunities and has a strong leg.
A lot of people might not even know who the Broncos kicker is at this point since they’ve had three this season, but his name is Connor Barth and you’re going to want him on your Championship team. He has been the highest scoring Fantasy kicker in two of the last three weeks (Weeks 13 and 15) and has only played three games. Still only owned in 52-percent of leagues, Barth will rank among the top kickers on a weekly basis like Matt Prater used to. In Week 16, the Broncos take on the Bengals, who rank in the Top 10 in terms of red zone defense. That, coupled with the potency of this offense, is plenty reason to start Barth this week.
Since Week 10 one of the most consistent kickers has been Matt Bryant and he is still out there in some leagues. He has had at least eight Fantasy points in EVERY week since then, notching double-digits in three of those games. He is 17 of 18 on field goal attempts over that span with two 50 plus yard field goals. The Falcons have a strong offensive attack but have scuffled in the red zone over the past three weeks, scoring on just 57.14 percent of their trips as opposed to their normal 65 percent. With the possibility of Julio Jones missing another game, that could contribute to some stalling as well.
Personally, I have never heard of a good matchup for a kicker, but if there ever was one, it’s this week for Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham. The Steelers’ offense is red hot right now and should have no trouble moving the ball down the field, BUT they might have a little trouble getting in the end zone. According to teamrankings.com, the Chiefs are the best team in the NFL when it comes to red zone defense. Teams are scoring touchdowns on just 36.96 percent of their trips to the red zone against the Chiefs. Couple that with the fact that Suisham has scored at least nine Fantasy points in five straight weeks and owners have a strong starter!
Here is another case of a kicker being undervalued, as Caleb Sturgis is owned in just 44 percent of leagues. Sturgis has been a Top 10 kicker for Fantasy purposes all season and has a nice matchup ahead in Week 16 against the Vikings. The Dolphins’ offense has surprised many this season, averaging 23.4 points per game, creating many opportunities for Sturgis. He ranks second in the NFL in field goal attempts with 34. Despite their offensive efficiency, the red zone has troubled this team as well. Their matchup against the Vikings is one that favors Sturgis, as they have shut teams down recently, most noticeably holding the Lions to 16 points last week.
If there is one thing the Jets are good at, it’s screwing up in the red zone. While you might have to worry about Geno Smith coughing the ball up in the red zone, Nick Folk will get his chances in this game against the Patriots. The Jets have nothing left to play for and if nothing else, they always compete against the Pats. While the Jets might not make to the red zone often, they score touchdowns on just 41.03-percent of their trips. That is bad enough for third-worst in the NFL just behind those Bills. The last time the Jets played the Patriots, Folk had his second-highest point total of the season with 13 Fantasy points.
Some Fantasy owners might have an affinity to a certain kicker, whether it’s the guy they drafted and have been holding on to all year, or maybe he plays for your hometown team. Nonetheless, if you own one of the kickers below, get rid of ‘em and start somebody else. Either they aren’t doing their job right or their team has been completely derailed (San Francisco 49ers).
Blair Walsh, MIN
Phil Dawson, SF
Nick Novak, SD
Billy Cundiff, CLE
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