This NFL Week 9 kicker breakdown is brought to you by long time sponsors ‘How to Outthink Yourself’ energy drinks and ‘Refusal to Commit When the Stats are Staring You Right in the Face’ potato chips.
Early on last week, we learned Leonard Hankerson for the Falcons would be out against the Buccaneers. Whenever players get injured early in the week and I know they have been previously injured during the season, I always go back through game logs and see what the touches and targets were like for those games. Turns out Hankerson was out Week 5 when the Falcons hosted the Redskins, and the biggest benefactor in this game was TE Jacob Tamme. 10 targets, 8 catches, 94 yards. Looking at his salary, an economical $4,800, I quickly texted my all things sports confidant and associate and told him I would be heavily invested in him. The TE position has been historically frustrating for me, so I was ecstatic that I found one I was confident in so early in the week.
Sunday comes and goes, and I get thoroughly slaughtered. 81 unique lineups featuring healthy doses of Dalton and Fitzpatrick at QB. Le’Veon, Peterson, Lynch, Forsett, and Woodhead at RB. Gates, Eifert, Green, and Bennett at TE. Injuries and bricks abound, boys. Notice a name missing? I only had one lineup with Tamme. So what happened?
I just couldn’t pull the trigger. I play exclusively GPP’s (mainly 250 and 100 man leagues) because I am mentally unable to handle the pressure of committing to one or two lineups for cash games. However, if there is a player I feel is light years ahead of others that week in value I will overexpose myself to him. I have faith in my process, and in my research. Some weeks those players hit paydirt, some weeks they goose egg me, but at least they get rostered. Despite all the time I spent breaking down the other TE matchups and continuously coming back to Tamme, I somehow found a way to not play him at all.
I wish I could relay exactly what my methodology behind the blunder was, but I can’t remember. The only thing that makes sense is that I lacked the courage to roster a $4,800 player, a guy that is at best the 4th option on an offense, a guy who’s name is not at the top of recommended plays by writers and experts more knowledgeable than myself. 21.3 points and 2.5% ownership later, I was left licking my thousand dollar day wounds and frantically doing NBA research to start building lineups in an effort to recover.
This is not a woe is me story. It’s not a ‘my guys all got their TD’s vultured’ complaint, or an ‘I shouldn’t have played that guy this week’ hindsight observation. I knew Tamme was the play, I knew nobody would be on him, and I knew it would open up my lineups due to the low salary. When I do my kicker picks, the vast majority of my lineups use the kickers I recommend. It’s not an issue of pride or standing by my laurels, it’s because I did all this damn research for a reason and decided they are the optimal plays. One of the worst feelings is knowing, not guessing or ‘feeling’, but knowing a player has the potential for a huge day but chickening out on rostering him. The next time you are in this position, hopefully you will think about this story and listen to your instincts. Our brains are very powerful, but also very fickle. You can convince yourself of almost anything if you allow it to happen, but if the facts are slapping you in the face and you still decide to audible then you will end up costing yourself shiploads of money in the long run.
I liked the picks last week, and the price brackets. Hit on 3 of 4 (fading Hauschka), but it’s been a few weeks since we hit a top scorer. Let’s go 4 for 4 this week and notch a top 2 scoring kicker. As always, if you can afford Gostkowski he is a top play especially since bad weather has yet to come to Foxboro, but for parity’s sake he won’t be our Lock.
Bankroll Lock of the Week – Caleb Sturgis – PHI – $5,000
Variation Audible – Josh Brown – NYG – $4,800
Punt of the Week – Sebastian Janikowski – $4,500
Hide Your Kicker, Fade Your Points – Blair Walsh – MIN – $4,900 (Heavy Wind concerns, very low total)
A successful week by my standards, and that is to score 8+ points from the kicker position. Fanduel is slacking on pricing in my opinion. Some of the jumps in salary seem lazy week to week. The fact that Lambo was $4,500 last week was a huge oversight, evidenced by his 10.4% ownership and his $4,700 price tag this week.
Our Bankroll Lock of the Week was Nick Folk, scoring 9 points on 2/2 FG’s and 2/2 XP’s. I feel like we got unlucky and lucky at the same time with this pick, as Fitzpatrick was knocked out of the game against Oakland fairly early. The offense suffered as a result, and I feel like Folk was primed up for opportunities had this not happened.
The Variation Audible was Mason Crosby, getting a very generous 6 points off a 56 yard FG and 1 XP. Happy to get what we did, I’m also happy to learn that Denver’s defense is rapidly approaching GOAT status. Not so sleeper alert for Week 9: Denver defense at Indianapolis is going to be a really strong play.
Punt of the Week regular Josh Lambo gave us 10 points on 2/2 FG’s and 2/3 XP’s. This game was a disappointment for me on the scoring front. Injuries to Keenan Allen and Ladarius Green hampered the offensive consistency, and thus slowed down Lambo’s opportunities, but at minimum salary you should be thrilled to get 10 considering what $8,900 RB’s scored this week.
The Hide Your Kicker, Fade Your Points pick was Steven Hauschka, getting a predictable 6 points. Despite being big away favorites, really low Vegas totals tend to result in low scores for kickers. The Dallas defense is better than the general public gives it credit for, and it showed in this game.
Week 8 Sunday Monday Scoring (No TNF or London Game)
A better-ish week for the model. Home dogs and favorites did decent this week, away favorites were hit and miss, and away dogs performed about as expected. Chargers should not have been dogs, and I will repeat that the pricing is still pretty lazy. The $4,600 and lower bracket made up 48.5% of the field. Lambo, being priced incorrectly, was 10.4% owned over the weekend as he should’ve been. Low owned and underperforming kickers made up 2 of the top 3 spots. Only 2 of the 6 kickers priced $4,900 and higher scored below 10.
Bankroll Lock of the Week – Caleb Sturgis – PHI – $5,000 – The Eagles are away favorites (-3) against the Cowboys with a total of 43.5. Despite the unfavorably low total, our model projects favorable statistics this week for Sturgis, and I’m expecting a large amount of opportunities for the former Dolphins kicker. Sturgis is averaging 12.3 PPG over the last 3 games, and is 9/10 on FG’s and 7/8 on XP’s over that span. The Eagles are 4th in Total YPG over their last 3 with 432, while the Cowboys are allowing 332 YPG, good for 10th in the league. The issue for the Cowboys is that they are just struggling to stay on the field. Save McFadden carrying the load through the run game, they just fail to move the ball so their defense is on the field more. Their defense is better than the public thinks, and their 4 game losing streak is due to the offense not being able to generate any yards.
The Eagles are leading the league over the last 3 games in plays per game, with 78.7. The entire sporting world had written off Chip Kelly and his nonsense ways, but it is starting to look like the team is coming around and hopefully they are keeping a detailed log of every single person who has trashed their team and makes them eat their shorts when they make the playoffs. In typical fashion, the public and even the experts are quick to make a headline. People forget that Kelly completely overhauled their roster, and one of the most overlooked aspects in the strategy of football is team cohesion, or chemistry.
The Eagles are 2nd in the league over their last 3 in rushing yards with 173.7 against the Panthers (26th), Giants (31st), and Saints (14th). Dallas is ranked 19th against the run over their last 3, giving up 118 YPG. The passing game is ranked 13th over the last 3, averaging 258.3. After struggling early in the season, as expected, the Eagles are beginning to perform better through the air mainly because the receivers are actually beginning to catch the ball.
Most importantly, the Eagles are converting their 3rd downs at our sweet spot, 37.78%, while the Cowboys are holding teams at 33.33%. Perfect. The Eagles are averaging 3.7 RZ Scoring Attempts a game over their last 3, converting to TD at a perfect for us 36.36%. Meanwhile, Dallas is only allowing 2.7 RZ Scoring Attempts per game over their last 3, but are allowing 3.5 at home this season. They are holding teams to TD on those attempts at 37.5%. If you’ve been following the articles all season, you will remember that these numbers fall in our or are very close to the 38-42% sweet spot for these statistics.
With the Redskins all but locking up a loss against the Patriots and the up and down Giants playing at the surprisingly decent Buccaneers, the Eagles have a chance to take the lead in the NFC East at 4-4 this weekend. Coming off a bye, I fully expect the Eagles to be in peak form and anticipate a minimum of 4 FG opportunities for Sturgis.
Aggressive Floor – 13 Ceiling – 24
Variation Audible – Josh Brown – NYG – $4,800 – The Giants are away favorites (-2.5) against the Buccaneers with a very high total at 50. Brown is 15/15 this season on FG’s, and 22/23 on XP’s. Brown has scored double digits in 4 games this season. He had 7 points last week on 7/7 XP’s. Don’t expect this to happen every week, as every team doesn’t get the joy of playing against the Saints defense on a weekly basis. The Giants are converting on 3rd down at a terrible 25% clip over their last 3, but are at 38.46% on the season. The Buccs are allowing teams to convert at a 41.94% rate over the last 3, so hopefully these can offset each other some.
The Giants offense is only ranked 25th in total yards over their last 3, generating 317.3 YPG. This is against the Saints (27th), Cowboys (10th), and Eagles (12th). One bad defense and 2 above average ones. Tampa Bay, however, is allowing only slightly fewer YPG than the 27th ranked Saints, ranked 24th allowing 392 YPG against Atlanta, Washington, and Jacksonville. Tampa Bay is ranked 30th against the pass over the last 3, allowing 323.3 YPG through the air while only allowing 68.7 YPG against the rush. Fortunately for us, the Giants don’t run the ball well if at all (27th – 94.5 YPG on the season), but they are capable of throwing the ball well. Last week, they generated 329 passing yards against the Saints, showing against bad secondaries they can move the ball. The Buccs are in this category.
The Giants are averaging only 2.7 RZ Scoring Attempts over the last 3, but had 4 last week and are 10th over the season with 3.4. They are converting these attempts to TD’s on the season at a 48.15% clip, but over the last 3 they are at 75%!!! Here is where the highs and lows of the stats need to come together for the model to accurately project what we need. Tampa Bay are allowing 5 RZ Scoring Attempts per game over the last 3, and are 31st ranked in this stat on the season. Allowing teams to convert at a 66% clip to TD is not favorable for us, so we are giving credence to the Giants inability to convert on 3rd down here while still being able to move the ball through the air. The high total gives us faith that Brown and his accuracy should get 3 opportunities to get us some points at a decent salary.
Aggressive Floor – 10 Ceiling – 21
Punt of the Week – Sebastian Janikowski – OAK – $4,500 – Oakland are away dogs (+4.5) playing at Pittsburgh with a high total of 48. Criminally underpriced this week, Janikowski is averaging 10.6 PPG over his last 3. He has only scored less than 9 points twice this season, getting 1 point in Week 1 and 6 points against Denver in Week 5. He did miss 2 FG’s in the game, barring that he could’ve scored at least 13 had he made those. 13 is what he has scored the past 2 weeks, once against the swiss cheese Chargers, and the other against the Jets. Janikowski has scored at least 9 points in all 3 of their away games, and the Oakland offense is on the rise.
In the sweet spot, the Raiders are converting on 3rd down at 42.11% over their last 3 games, and close to 44% on the season. The Steelers are allowing teams to convert on 3rd down at 41.86%, being so close together in those sweet spots this is great for the projections. Oakland is only averaging 2.3 RZ Scoring opportunities over their last 3 and converting to TD at 42.86% over that span, but this stat is a little misleading. The Raiders have been scoring touchdowns from beyond the RZ lately, but let’s see how the Steelers are faring anyway. Allowing 4 RZ Scoring Attempts a game and opponents are converting those to TD’s at 33.33%. Outstanding for us.
Oakland is averaging 383.7 YPG over their last 3, pretty good considering their opponents have been the Jets (11th), Chargers (21st), and Broncos (1st). Pittsburgh is allowing the 20th most YPG over the last, at 380.7 against the Bengals, Chiefs, and Cardinals. While I’m not sure what to make of the Steelers defense overall, I do know that they are struggling all around with injuries. I believe Le’Veon Bell being out with injury will be a huge blow to their offense. DeAngelo Williams has not been getting 1st team reps for awhile now, and with Big Ben still obviously injured I expect to see some inconsistencies from the offense giving the Raiders offense more time on the field.
Oakland are averaging 103 YPG rushing over their last 3, while Pittsburgh are allowing only 90.3. Over the same span, Oakland are averaging 279.3 YPG passing. Pittsburgh are allowing 290.3 through the air. Playing at Heinz Field is never an easy task, but I am a believe in the Raiders and feel as though they are surging. I am expecting at least 3 FG opportunities for Janikowski this weekend.
Aggressive Floor – 9 Ceiling – 18