Words by Jonnie Carlyle, Rankings by Paul Charchian
1. Stephen Gostkowski at Indianapolis
Like most players with ‘New England’ if front of their name, Gostkowski is the equivalent to fantasy kicker gold in 2015. He’s had at least three made field goals in three straight games, including 6 of 10 from 40+ yards and plays on the 2nd highest scoring team averaging 41 plays in opponent territory. When the Colts aren’t busy lying about the status of their quarterback, they’re allowing the 3.5 attempts inside Lucas Oil and the 4th most attempts overall in the NFL.
2. Josh Brown at Philadelphia
Though he lacks the both the high-powered offense and run-up-the-score mindset of Gostokowski’s Patriots, Josh Brown leads the NFL in field goals made and is third in attempts thanks to a 30th ranked New York red zone touchdown efficiency. Brown is one of two kickers to average double digits this season and historically is a perfect 11/11 as a Giant against Philadelphia. The Eagles have surrendered the 4th most made field goals in 2015 and are the only team to face double-digit field goals and extra points without a miss from the opposition.
3. Brandon McManus at Cleveland
If anyone is celebrating Peyton Manning’s right arm’s recent move to Del Boca Vista, it is Brandon McManus owners. McManus has as many 3+ field goal games though 5 as Bronco kickers had in all of 2014 and has yet to miss despite 7 of his 12 attempts coming from at least 40 yards, including 2 50+ yard makes (of a league high 4) away from Mile High. After facing just one attempt through the first two weeks, the Browns have watched six kicks go through the uprights in the last three weeks and have allowed at least 27 points in four of five.
4. Justin Tucker at San Francisco
If these were “who does the best Matthew McConaughey driving a Buick on an empty highway at night impersonations” rankings, Justin Tucker would hands down be the your top option. Fret not Tucker owners, however, as he’s still one of the league’s most accurate kickers. Since 2013, Tucker has only missed two kicks shorter than 50 yards and none in 2015. Tucker has also been one of 2015’s most active kickers, tied for 3rd most attempts and has yet to have less than two attempts in any game. The 49ers have only faced eight field goal attempts, but that’s likely because they can’t keep the opposition out of the end zone as they’ve faced the 3rd most extra points.
5. Chandler Catanzaro at Pittsburgh
If there is something to be said for opportunity, and there is, few in the league have it better than Arizona’s Chandler Catanzaro. Unfortunately for Catanzaro, the offense he plays has been too efficient (the league’s most efficient in the red zone). A true feast or famine play, the Cardinal kicker has four games with at least four extra points, but only one with more than one field make (and two with none). That one game, Catanzaro was perfect on five attempts. Should there be any red zone regression against a Steeler defense that’s only allowed five touchdowns since Week 1, Catanzaro will likely be the beneficiary.
6. Matt Bryant at New Orleans
Maybe Matt Bryant didn’t like those Washington kids walking on his lawn or his soup was too hot and cold at the same time; whatever the reason I wouldn’t look too much into his two missed field goals in Week 5 as he hasn’t missed two in a game since 2012. Bryant’s ceiling has been capped in the first five weeks as Atlanta is scoring 74% of the time they enter the red zone, but he’s yet to put up less than six points in any week and he gets the league’s most kicker-friendly team in Week 6. No team has given up more points to the position than the Saints, who’ve surrendered at least two field goals and two extra points in every week but one.
7. Steven Hauschka vs. Carolina
Playing the part of Jimmy Hart to Seattle’s Legion of Boom, Steven Hauschka is one of three kickers with at least three 50+-yard makes, has yet to miss on any of his 11 attempts and has been buoyed by the NFL’s least efficient red zone offense (scoring touchdowns on just 27% of their trips). The Panthers have faced the 3rd fewest attempts, but have only played four games and have done so facing Jacksonville, Houston, Drew Brees-less New Orleans and Tampa Bay.
8. Robbie Gould at Detroit
In every game not started by Jimmy Clausen, Robbie Gould has at least two field goals with three makes in 75% of them. Gold from anywhere on the field, Robbie also has a 50+-yard make in three of four Clausen-less starts, too.
-checks to see if Jimmy Clausen is still in league- He is. How? And Yikes.
-checks to see if Jimmy Clausen is starting in Week 6- He isn’t. Woo!
The Lions have only allowed seven field goals, but when you’re surrendering over three touchdowns a game, that’s likely to happen. In games when Detroit hasn’t yielded six touchdowns, they’ve conceded two field goals in three of four.
9. Travis Coons vs. Denver
In his last two games, Travis Coons has made eight field goals. For comparisons sake, you know how many teams have fewer than eight made field goals all season? 15, including 9 teams that have played a full season thus far. Taking advantage of an offense that’s only been able to turn one of three red zone attempts into touchdown, all Coons’ kicks have come from 43 yards and in. The Broncos are likely to be a stiffer test than any team Cleveland has faced thus far, but without DeMarco Ware and maybe Aquib Talib, the Browns could very well reach the three attempts Denver’s last two opponents notched in their last two.
10. Cairo Santos at Minnesota
Sadly, Kansas City lost their best offensive player when Jamaal Charles went down with an ACL tear in Week 5. However, that should mean a boon to the prospects of their second best offensive player, Cairo Santos. And if you think I am joking, consider the actions of the guy who knows the Kansas City offense better than anyone, Andy Reid. Needing to score on their final play and sitting on the Chicago 48-yard line, Reid decided to bet on the leg of the 23-year old instead of the arm of Alex Smith for a 66-yard try. Santos’ kick came up well short, but the attempt spoke volumes. In his last seven starts, Santos has 19 made field goals and faces a Viking team that has surrendered at least two made attempts in their last four.
11. Graham Gano at Seattle
There was a time when you wanted to avoid the Seahawks at home in any positional considerations and I suppose that is still the case if the name Jimmy Clausen is involved in any capacity. However, in games not “played” (observed really) by Clausen, the Seahawks have given up at least nine points to kickers 75% of the time with each of those kickers setting their season high. Graham Gano has had at least two field goal tries in all four games and while he’s struggled from anything longer than 50 yards, he’s made at least two attempts in three of four games.
12. Josh Lambo at Green Bay
Despite posting a week with no attempts, Josh Lambo has still made the 5th most kicks through five weeks with at least two made in every week he’s attempted one. The former soccer player showed he has some power too, as he hit the go-ahead 54-yard kick late in the 4th quarter in Week 5. So what’s Lambo doing outside the top-10, you ask? The Packers have been brutal to opposing kickers. Since Robbie Gould’s four makes in Week 1 no kicker has made more than one kick and only Greg Zuerlein has attempted more than one.
13. Mason Crosby vs. San Diego
If you play in one of those funky leagues that awards extra points for an inordinate amount of extra points, Mason Crosby just may be the play for you. Crosby has had only one game with more than one made field goal, with the other four games combining for 14 extra points to just four field goals. Chances are the Chargers will do their part too, as they’ve only allowed more than one field goal once but have given up 14 touchdowns in the other four games (sound familiar?). Given the strengths and weaknesses of these two teams, is their any reason to expect a stray from the norm? Crosby’s floor should be safe in Week 6, but just don’t expect the ceiling to be much higher than that or you’re bound to end up like me on my prom night, disappointed.
14. Nick Folk vs. Washington
Otherwise known as “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” around my dwelling for some shenanigans in his rookie season against my beloved Bills in 2007, Nick Folk has had three field goal attempts in two of his last three with his lone 50+ yarder sandwiched between. Folk’s production has been hindered by one of the league’s (surprise, surprise) most red zone efficient offenses, but hasn’t prevented him from posting at least seven points in all four games thus far. After facing just two attempts in the first two weeks, Washington has surrendered eight in their last three with seven of the tries coming on the road.
15. Dustin Hopkins at New York Jets
Dustin Hopkins faces one of the stiffest tests in Week 6 as the Jets have only allowed two made field goals through four games, but if his last three weeks are any indication he may just be up to the test. Since taking over for Kai Forbath, Hopkins has scored at least six points in every week and has made seven of eight tries in his last three, including a 52-yard blast to send Week 5’s game into overtime.
Mike Nugent at Buffalo
If Mike is anything like his (not)brother Ted, the kicker should be rearing to go as a Nugent has never passed up the opportunity to hunt some Buffalo. It’s likely the Bengals will move the ball in Week 6, they lead the NFL in total offensive yards, but may find reaching the end zone tough as the Bills have only allowed four touchdowns on eight trips inside the red zone to teams not named New England. The Bengals faced a similar task in Week 5’s matchup with the Seahawks and the Nuge tied his season high in field goal makes. Should Week 6 follow suit, Nugent could be in line for a big day at Ralph Wilson Stadium.