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Kicker Corner

Kicker Corner Week 16: We're Trustin' Dustin

by Denny Carter
Updated On: December 26, 2021, 8:39 am ET

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Let’s start with a quick update on which teams are making terrible fourth-down decisions and what it may or may not mean for kickers’ Week 16 fantasy prospects. 

The below numbers -- covering Week 8 through Week 15 -- are courtesy of esteemed analytics radical Ben Baldwin. 

Ben Baldwin data
https://rbsdm.com/stats/fourth_downs/

-Check out Our Chargers, as aggressive as ever. See below for more on what this might mean for Dustin Hopkins

-The Bills are shockingly bad with fourth-down decision making this season. That’s good for Tyler Bass. Such a conservative approach should keep him viable even if the Bills struggle this week against New England. 

-The Browns have gotten way less good/aggressive on fourth down as the season has worn on. That’s resulted in multi-field goal games for Chase McLaughlin in two of the team’s past three outings. 

-Baltimore’s fourth-down decision making continues to suppress Justin Tucker’s fantasy ceiling (though he's somehow fantasy's second-highest scoring kicker). It’s not the old Flacco days when John Harbaugh would choose a 58-yard Tucker field goal try on fourth and one. The Ravens want to score touchdowns. Imagine that. 

-The Niners continue to be among the worst fourth-down decision makers in the league. Kyle Shanahan appeases the boomers and “takes the points” whenever he can. That’s excellent for Robbie Gould. Read more on Gould below. 

Week 15 Results

Robbie Gould (SF) vs. ATL
1/1 field goals
7 fantasy points
Rank: t-12th

Jason Sanders (MIA) vs. NYJ
1/1 field goals
7 fantasy points
Rank: t-12th

Brandon McManus (DEN) vs. CIN
1/2 field goals
5 fantasy points
Rank: t-18th 

You’re yearning for your weekly dose of kicker notes, I know. 

-The ever-loving process, long may it reign, slapped us on the wrist in Week 15 when we defiantly used Nick Folk against the Colts. Nothing about Folk’s matchup made him a decent play. The Colts were home favorites. The Patriots had a low implied total. And we got five fantasy points out of fantasy’s top kicker. Please forgive us, process. We know not what we’ve done. 

-Just as Ka’imi Fairbairn and Matthew Wright were in play last week in the Houston-Jacksonville game, Wright and You might accuse me of breaking my months-old pledge never to tout a Jacksonville kicker in this space (Fairbairn was fantasy’s top-scoring kicker in Week 15). That was before the Jaguars toppled the statue of Urban Meyer though. The pledge is no longer valid. If we’re desperate, we’re playing Matthew Wright, who is a real player in the NFL. Almost every kicker gets theirs against the Jets. Eleven of 14 kickers to square off against New York this season have logged multiple field goal tries; eight of them have scored at least nine fantasy points. Eddy Pineiro, meanwhile, is the more solid Week 16 process play against the Jags since the Jets are at home, favored by two. The Jaguars are allowing a robust 8.9 fantasy points per game to kickers, higher than every team but the Jets. New York is 6.02 field goal tries below expectation this season because they suck. Jacksonville is 9.12 field goal attempts below expectation because they suck. 

-Brett Maher has eight field goal tries over the Saints’ past three games. He can thank Taysom Hill and his ever-expanding package, which has created the necessary game script for multiple field goal attempts. This week the Saints are at home, favored by three over the Dolphins. Miami has allowed the sixth-most field goal attempts on the season; in losses, Miami has given up an average of 2.14 attempts. You could do way worse than Maher in Week 16. I might like him over Younghoe Koo, who’s mentioned below. Fair warning though: Maher in 2019 missed ten of his 30 field goal attempts as Dallas’ kicker. He can be … volatile. 

Plug-and-Play Starter

Nick Folk (NE) vs. BUF: You’re wiping away the tears from last week’s Folk dud and using him this week against Buffalo. The Pats are at home, favored by 2.5 points, and ready to run roughshod over the Bills’ marshmallow-soft front seven. The Patriots are 11.57 field goal tries over expectation. 

Matt Gay (LAR) at MIN: You're starting fantasy's seventh highest scoring kicker with the Rams headed into the week as 2.5 point road favorites against a Minnesota team allowing a hefty 2.21 field goal tries per game. In 2021 losses, the Vikings are giving up 2.44 field goal attempts on average. 

Evan McPherson (CIN) vs. BAL: Josh Johnson getting the call for the Ravens -- with Tyler Huntley banished to the COVID-19 list this weekend -- makes McPherson a far more solid play. The Bengals are now seven-point home favorites with a decent 24.5 point implied total. See the above chart as proof of Zac Taylor's love of the three pointer. 

Greg Zuerlein (DAL) vs. WFT: Dallas is at home against the fading Football Team. When these teams clashed in Week 14, Greg the Leg made all four of his field goal attempts on his way to a cool 13 fantasy points. Washington is allowing a 54 percent touchdown rate on red zone possessions, among the NFL's lowest. Fire up Legatron in Week 16. 

Tyler Bass (BUF) at NE: Bass, who mustered two field goal tries during the Bills-Pats Snow Bowl debacle in Week 13, is just barely preferable to the streamers this week. In fact, if you wanted to play Gould or Hopkins over Bass, I wouldn’t chastise you in front of your spouse and children. The Bills are 2.5 point road dogs and they’re 0.38 attempts over expectation. Hopefully Buffalo can keep it close. 

Matt Prater (ARI) vs IND: Prater managed two field goals in last week’s embarrassing loss to Detroit, proving once again that Arizona’s yardage-churning offense can produce opportunities for its kicker even when things go sideways. The Cards are one-point home favorites this week against the Colts. You’re still playing Prater. Arizona is 0.51 field goal tries under expectation. 

Week 16 Streaming Options

Dustin Hopkins (LAC) at HOU (30 percent rostered)
The Texans, like a zombie corpse exposed to sunlight for the first time in decades, have shown signs of life in recent weeks. They’re kicking and twitching. They’re making weird sounds. Something is leaking out of their ear. And they’re matriculating the football down the field and scoring points. It’s all a harbinger of the End Times. 

It doesn’t really matter for Week 16. The Chargers are 10.5-point road favorites against Houston with an implied total of 28.5 points -- the highest of Week 16 as of this writing. Hopkins, meanwhile, was fantasy’s ninth highest-scoring kicker from Week 9 to Week 14, before his zero-attempt performance in Brandon Staley’s Week 15 Analytics Bowl against the Chiefs. Hopkins, despite Staley’s determination to score touchdowns and trigger the boomers, had multiple field goal tries in five of six games before the Bolts’ Week 14 loss to Kansas City. 

Hopkins profiles as a nice floor option against the Texans. Houston is allowing a lowly 1.78 field goal attempts per game but allows the 11th most kicker fantasy points per game (7.5). That makes sense: Only the Jets have given up more extra points than the Texans, who allow four red zone possessions per game -- the league’s fourth-highest average. 

Even if Staley remains (rightfully) aggressive near the goal line, Hopkins should get his against the Texans. I like the scoring chances of an offense with the NFL’s eighth-highest expected points added (EPA) per play against a defense allowing the eighth highest EPA per snap. And the Bolts shouldn't have to push for touchdowns the way they did against a superior Chiefs team in Week 15. 

Elliott Fry vs. PIT (0 percent rostered)

The unvaccinated Harrison Butker is out for Week 16 after landing on the COVID list Monday. The Chiefs are massive home favorites, as per usual, making Elliott "Fish" Fry a fantastic streaming option. No team has a higher implied total (28.5) than KC this week and the team has multiple attempts in eight straight contests.

Fry has made all of one professional field goal. Last year, he subbed in for Younghoe Koo and made his lone field goal attempt along with one of two extra points. In four years at the University of South Carolina, Fry made 75 percent of his field goals and 99.5 percent of his extra points. His college career ended during the second Obama administration (sorry to get political) so it's hard to say how trustworthy he might be this week against the Steelers. 

The Chiefs are 4.03 field goal attempts below expectation. 

Jake Elliott (PHI) vs. NYG (19 percent rostered)

Elliott is an undeniable process play with the Eagles at home, favored by 10.5 points over the lifeless G-people. The Giants are allowing the tenth most field goal tries on the year. New York is allowing a lovely 2.4 field goal attempts per game in their ten losses. 

Elliott, meanwhile, has posted elite numbers in Philadelphia victories. He's averaging 2.72 attempts per game in Eagles wins (and one per game in losses). The Eagles not being particularly aggressive on fourth downs and boatloads of positive game script has made Elliott a locked-in fantasy option when the green birds are heavy favorites. You may recall Elliott flopping the last time the Eagles faced the Giants. Do you best to remove that memory from your ravaged brain and trust the process in Week 16. 

Robbie Gould (SF) at TEN (27 percent rostered)

If you picked up Gould last week, you’re probably sticking with him in Week 16. The Niners are 2.5-point road favorites against a struggling Tennessee team going in the complete opposite direction of Kyle Shanahan’s high-T 49ers. 

Gould was on the unlucky side of the process spectrum in Week 15 against the Falcons. He had four extra point attempts and just one field goal try. Nevertheless, we persist. Stunningly, the Titans have allowed the second-most field goal attempts on the season, which checks out when you consider how stingy they are in the red zone. Tennessee opponents have managed a touchdown on just 51.9 percent of their red zone opportunities; only six teams have given up a lower red zone TD rate. The Titans over their past two losses -- Week 13 against the Patriots and Week 15 against Pittsburgh -- have allowed a mind-bending 11 field goal attempts. My mind: It’s bent. 

The 49ers over the past six weeks have somehow turned into an elite NFL offense. They sport the league’s third-highest expected points added (EPA) per play over those six weeks, trailing the Packers and Chiefs. Jimmy G and company should have little issue generating positive script against the faltering Titans. San Francisco is 0.6 field goal tries under expectation. Get your Gould. 

Younghoe Koo (ATL) vs. DET (41 percent rostered)
I maintain my disdain for “gut calls” while hypocritically telling you that my gut doesn’t feel great about Koo’s Week 16 spot, despite being a reasonable process play. 

Yes, the Falcons are 4.5-point home favorites against the Lions. And yeah, they have a note-hateful total of 24.25 points. But Dan Campbell’s analytics-fueled Lions are surging, having dusted the Cardinals in Week 15 after a season of near wins against superior opponents. The Falcons might technically be playoff contenders, but they stink out loud. They’re fresh off getting steamrolled by the 49ers in Week 15. That the Lions aren’t favorites is something of a surprise (this assumes Jared Goff will come off the COVID-19 list by Sunday. If he doesn’t, Koo is far more likely to benefit from positive game script). 

Alas, Koo makes sense from a process standpoint. No team has allowed more field goal tries than the Lions (35) even though Detroit gives up a touchdown on 68.2 percent of their opponents’ red zone possessions, the sixth-highest rate in the NFL. Ten of 14 kickers to face Detroit this year have had multiple field goal tries and Koo has notched a decent 1.88 field goal tries per game in Atlanta wins. Koo will also have the luxury of kicking in a dome while other kickers might be subject to nasty winter weather. 

If Campbell’s Lions don’t make minced meat of the Falcons, Koo should have a decent fantasy floor here. The Falcons are 0.09 field goal attempts over expectation.