1. Stephen Gostkowski at Washington
After Week 1 came and went with nary a field goal attempt for Stephen Gostkowski, the Patriots have since provided their special teams virtuoso with multiple tries in six consecutive games. Of course, the man with the golden leg has converted all 17 — giving him a team-record 26 straight makes — and consequently, he is well on his way to leading the league in scoring for the fourth consecutive season. Meanwhile, after Washington conceded six field goal attempts in its first five weeks, it has now allowed 10 in its past three. Gostkowski remains No. 1 both on the field and in our hearts.
2. Brandon McManus at Indianapolis
Over the past five weeks, only two kickers have been afforded more field goal tries than Brandon McManus’ 13, and that’s even with Denver enduring a bye week. The Broncos legman connected on multiple attempts in each of his past four games and should get to swing that big leg of his often this week against a Colts team that loves to turn the ball over.
And for those sharp-minded readers who remembered McManus has kicked just one field goal in his past two meetings with the Colts, well done, but it’s no concern of mine. Say what you will about the downfall of Peyton Manning, but as far as I can tell, this Broncos offense is peaking, putting up 29 and 26 points in its past two games, two of its three highest totals of the year. Meanwhile, the Colts are in freefall making their AFC Championship berth feel like it was a long, long time ago.
3. Robbie Gould at San Diego
Red zone woes that have befuddled the Bears have been a boon to believers in Robbie Gould. In their past three games, Jay Cutler and Co. have ventured into their opponent’s red zone 3.7 times per game, yet have scored touchdowns on just 33 percent of those trips. Bad for the Bears, but great for Gould. The kicker has knocked home eight field goals in those games and 17 total on the season — third most in the league. He should be in line for another muti-field goal game against San Diego, which has allowed 10 tries — second most in the league — in its past three games.
4. Nick Folk vs. Jacksonville
The only way Nick Foles doesn’t finish as top five play this week is if Ryan Fitzpatrick can’t play through the the thumb injury. The Amish Rifle has been announced the starter, so for now, Folk is looking great, facing a Jaguars defense that has allowed three or more field goal attempts in six of its seven games. Thrown in a whopping 20 extra points, and Jacksonville is one of the safest kicker matchups in the league.
5. Josh Brown at Tampa Bay
Josh Brown remains perfect on the season, cashing in on all 15 of attempts this season. Brown’s surefootedness should be especially helpful against the Buccaneers, as his tries could be limited due to the dreadful nature of the Tampa Bay red zone defense. The Bucs’ bend and break defense has allowed opponents to score touchdowns on close to 70 percent of their trips inside the scoring area, by far the worst in the league. That has resulted in just 11 field goal attempts allowed to opponents this season, tied for fourth fewest in the NFL.
6. Dan Bailey vs. Philadelphia
Though the Eagles are allowing fewer than two field goal attempts per game this season, I’ll be damned if I bet against the only (qualified) kicker in football history with a field goal make percentage above 90 percent! Sorry… I don’t usually get this passionate about kickers, I swear. Anyway, Dan Bailey is 14-for-14 this season and has garnered 10 field goal attempts in his past four games. Though the Matt Cassel-led Cowboys offense will struggle against a top-notch Philadelphia defense, Bailey is good enough to take advantage of what few opportunities he’ll have.
7. Chris Boswell vs. Oakland
Only the Ravens are allowing more made field goals per game (2.6) than Oakland (2.5). The Raiders’ cocktail for failure in this area is a perfect blend of allowing teams to venture inside the red zone often but stiffening up once there. Foes are averaging 3.6 trips per game to the scoring area against Oakland — sixth most in the league — yet the Raiders are allowing them to score touchdowns on only a little more than half of those trips. The result: Teams are 18-for-18 on field goal tries against the Raiders. This is great news for Boswell, who since taking over for Josh Scobee in Week 5, has yet to miss a field goal or extra point, going 8-for-8 on both.
8. Josh Lambo vs. Chicago
Kickers have feasted on the Bears of late. Matt Prater and Blair Walsh picked up three field goals apiece, along with a combined six extra points. That’s double-digit fantasy goodness in almost all scoring formats and exactly what Lambo owners should expect this week. Despite weapons dropping like flies around him, Bolts quarterback Philip Rivers has put his kicker in position for multiple field goal attempts in each of the past four games and seven out of eight games this season. Lambo has rewarded owners with 15 field goals, tied for eighth most in the NFL.
9. Mason Crosby at Carolina
Reflexively, this would seem a bad matchup: The struggling Packers offense visits a stout Panthers defense. But a closer look inside the numbers reveals Carolina is an exploitable matchup for kickers. The Panthers yield 19.4 points per game, yet have allowed only 14 touchdowns on the season — tied for fourth best in the league. While this is great for team success, it also means kickers are accounting for 38 percent of all points scored against them, or 7.4 points per game, a higher average than you might expect coming from a top-tier defense. That said, Crosby’s return to productivity will greatly depend on whether the Packers out-of-sync offense regains its usual rhythm and puts him in position to score.
10. Blair Walsh vs. St. Louis
Big Bad Blair has a few factors working in his favor in this one besides his big bionic leg. One, despite recent dominant performances, the Rams have allowed four field goals in their past two games, aligning perfectly with their season average (2.28, tied for 10th most in the league). Two, while Walsh is a sometimes distressingly inconsistent kicker, he has buried 13 straight, including a pair from beyond 50 yards. And finally, only Cairo Santos has attempted more field goals than Walsh in the past five weeks (16-14).
11. Caleb Sturgis at Dallas
Since Tony Romo went down, Dallas has conceded 27 points per game. Their defense is not awful, rather, they are on the field too often because of backup quarterbacks leading the sputtering offense to three-and-out after three-and-out. Opposing kickers have taken advantage of the Cowboys’ woes, to the tune of 11 field goal attempts in their past four games. Combined with all those extra points, no opposing kicker has scored fewer than seven points against Dallas in that time frame. Though the Eagles’ offense has made most want to rip their bleeding eyes out, Caleb Sturgis has netted multiple field goal tries in each of the past three games, connecting on 9-of-10.
12. Mike Nugent vs. Cleveland
I love the Browns. For fantasy purposes, they make for wonderfully simplistic advice: Start everyone against the Browns. In most scoring formats, they are in the top 10 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, opposing defenses and, most importantly for this column, kickers. Cleveland has yielded multiple attempts in six straight games and double-digit scores in three of them. And with the erratic Jonathan Football running the show this week for the Browns, I expect the Bengals defense will create plenty of opportunities for Mike Nugent to pick up his fourth straight multi-field goal game.
13. Graham Gano vs. Green Bay
After three misses on his first six attempts of the season, Graham Gano has buried 10 straight, taking advantage of a Panthers offense making frequent trips to the red zone (3.6 per game). This pattern should continue, as Green Bay has allowed more offenses to venture into the scoring area than all but seven team. Recently, the Packers defense has been an ultra-friendly matchup for kickers, having allowed eight attempts in their past three games as opposed to the five it conceded in their first four contests.
14. Sebastian Janikowski at Pittsburgh
With 1,632 career points, Sebastian Janikowski is 368 away from becoming the eighth member of the 2,000 point club (and the sixth non-Anderson). He currently sits No. 15 all time and trails only the immortal Adam Vinatieri (2,191) on the active list. If someone sent me an “I ❤ Sea Bass,” I’d wear it every day.
OK. On to this week. Janikowski has been a little rusty of late, missing three of his past nine attempts, but two of those were from 40-plus, so the Raiders legend gets a pass from me. That is mostly because he’s facing a Steelers defense that has conceded a league-high 17 field goals the past five weeks. And while that number should drop a little with Big Ben back in the fold, it won’t be this week with the Raiders’ high-flying offense (so weird to say) coming to town.
15. Dan Carpenter vs. Miami
When these two teams last squared off in Week 3, Dan Carpenter netted a season high 11 points, connecting on 2-of-3 field goal attempts and five extra points. Now, I don’t expect the Bills to rack up another 41 points against the Dolphins, but I do expect the returns of Tyrod Taylor and Sammy Watkins — plus the bye-week rested LeSean McCoy — to buoy an offense that has provided Carpenter with just five field goal attempts in the Bills’ four games following the Week 3 drubbing of the Dolphins.
Ryan Succop at New Orleans
Ryan Succop has kicked seven field goals the entire season. Seven. That is an average of one per game, 31st in the NFL. There have been three games this season he was afforded zero attempts. Yeah, I know it sounds like I’m listing reasons you shouldn’t use him this week, buuuuuuttttttt, I actually am optimistic he breaks out — as much as a kicker can — this week! My reasons are threefold:
1. Marcus Mariota returns. In games with Mariota, the Titans averaged 22.4 points per game. In games without him: 6.5.
2. Rob Ryan’s defense been torched this season, giving up the second most total yards and third most points per game. Opponents are averaging 4.0 red zone trips per game.
3. Succop is a reliable kicker (82.4 percent career accuracy) who has drilled his past 12 consecutive field goals, dating back to December of last season.