Kickers put the foot in football with an 11.9 FP average in the Divisional Round. That is so far off a normal week for kickers that it's hard to say much about a system predicated on kickers doing what kickers usually do. When a "Sit" kickers puts up 11 FP, and that group (of one) is tied for the lowest scoring group of the week, does that mean the system worked or not?

Start/Sit Decisions For Kickers in Week 19, 2016

Recommendation

Average FP

W

L

T

PCT

Sit

11.0

0

1

0

0.500

Neutral

13.0

1

1

0

1.000

Marginal Start

12.0

3

0

0

0.500

Start

11.0

2

0

0

N/A

As a reminder, the table shows the Average FP of the kickers in each category. A “Win” is if the recommendation is right, relative to scoring 7 FP. For example, three kickers who rated as a “Marginal Start” last week scored over 7 FP, so there were three “wins.” No “Marginal Start” scored under 7 FP, which would have been a “loss”, and none equaled 7 FP, which would have been a “tie.” Remember, a “Sit” kicker who gets less than 7 FP is a “win” for the system (none of those last week) and over 7 FP is a “loss” (one of those); a tie is a 7 FP day (none).

For the playoffs, I’m skipping the seasonal record and missed kick sections.

Last week’s comments

I’ll start by just giving the fantasy points for last week’s kickers in my scoring system (end of the article):

Player

FP

Chris Boswell

21

Dan Bailey

15

Mason Crosby

14

Stephen Gostkowski

11

Nick Novak

11

Matt Bryant

10

Steven Hauschka

8

Cairo Santos

5

I'll start by reviewing my playoff-long comments from two weeks ago:

There are three basic fantasy systems for the playoffs. First is a week-to-week format like daily fantasy where you can change your roster. Second is a format where you draft players at will just like seasonal fantasy. And third is a playoff-only format where you can only pick one player per team to fill out your lineup.

Here's my first comment from last year's Wild Card Week: "For the week-to-week crowd, I’d go with a “Start” and I’d lean Chris Boswell over Steven Hauschka. Boswell has a better average FP and has more consistently put up 7 FP."

This year, it's the same two kickers in the top category for the Wild card round. Of course, now "Marginal Start" is the preferred group, and Hauschka has the better stats. I worry about him missing kicks, of course, but even with that issue all year he has out-pointed Boswell. I think both are good options. If you just hate having your kicker miss short kicks, stick with Boswell. But the higher-scoring option is likely to be Hauschka.

And Hauschka (8 FP) did beat out Boswell (5 FP). Hauschka missed yet another EP, but then, so did Boswell. Hauschka was a decent pick overall, and although you could have done better, he didn't kill you. Boswell was a poor choice and cost you 3-6 FP.

Mason Crosby would be the third choice if "Starts" had been any better than "Neutrals" as a group. But they haven't. Matt Prater would be the third choice if I thought his QB was healthy and offense functioning now like it did for most of the year. But they are not. Over the last four weeks, Crosby has averaged 2 FP/G more than Prater, with 3 weeks over 7 compared to 1 for Prater. So I'm going with Crosby as my third option. Prater is 4th.

Crosby got a solid 8 FP. Prater (10 FP), however, out-scored him thanks to two long FGs. I think his offense still didn't look good, but like anything in fantasy football, sometimes a couple breaks are better than good analysis.

Among the others, I guess I'd opt for Gould even though his QB is struggling. I'd still prefer Bad Eli to the cluster of backups playing for the other three teams. And Good Eli could show up for the playoffs.

Gould (8 FP) was an above average option. Eli did some good things but he did struggle on a few throws, so we got Good and Bad Eli. Nick Novak (11 FP) and his once-and-future starting QB topped all scorers, but I don't feel bad steering clear of him. Andrew Franks (8 FP) did as well as Gould so no credit for avoiding Franks. And while I don't think it took any great insight to sit Sebastian Janikowski, his 2 FP were the worst score of the week.

The only “Marginal Start” I’d go with is Cairo Santos. While the Chiefs might struggle moving the ball, especially in the end zone, I think they will get in scoring range – especially on turnover or special teams plays – enough to give Santos several FG attempts. And he’ll have good weather indoors. All things being equal, I’d rate these three Boswell, Hauschka, then Santos. But if salary cap is an issue and Santos is cheaper, I’d go with him and use the cap savings on an upgrade elsewhere.

Santos was the top scoring kicker on the week, so this was a pretty good call. My comments on Chiefs struggles in the red zone held up and they clearly beat the Texans on turnovers and special teams play, although it’s arguable how much those factors contributed to Santos’ scoring. Once J.J. Watt was hurt, the Chiefs’ were much better on offense and at scoring TDs. I did miss on Hauschka over Santos though.

In draft from any team formats, I’d get Stephen Gostkowski or Dan Bailey, the most likely three-game PKs, before an offensive player who will likely be one-and-done. I'd also consider getting Matt Bryant, who is averaging 2 FP/G more than any kicker in the playoffs.

The jury is out on these calls.

Boswell's advantage in this format is that he's highly likely to have at least two and possibly three games, with a slight chance at a 4th, despite his generally low scoring. I'm not sure that justifies a pick before an offensive player.

Boswell again moved on, and he put up an astounding 21 FP, so if you bet on him to get three games, congratulations. This has been a good call.

As a fan, my rooting interest is with the Chiefs and Cairo Santos, but he's a decent risk to be one-and-done so I can't plug him for fantasy. I'd also stay away from Prater and Andrew Franks, who are very likely to get only one game.

Santos not only just played once, he was the lowest scorer in a high-scoring week. Avoiding him was even better than dodging Prater and Franks.

Hauschka has been inconsistent but is the closest thing to a sure two-game kicker as there is this year, except Gostkowski (remember, NE will play either MIA if they win or the HOU-OAK winner in the Divisional round, all three of which look like sure NE wins) and maybe Boswell.

Hauschka got his two games and was respectable both weeks, but you could have done better. So I'd say this call was right enough, but nothing special. Gostkowski enters his second game this week.

I see the other two games as toss-ups. I lean GB over NY and so Crosby over Gould if looking for a two-game kicker. But I like the Giants' chances vs. DAL better than the Packers' prospects, so Gould actually has a better chance of a three-game run than Crosby, even though the former is less likely to make it to two-games.

I was wrong about Crosby, he got his third game – and was a good scorer last week.

I think HOU with Brock Osweiler will beat OAK with Connor Cook. But OAK is the better team outside of the QBs, and Osweiler is bad enough to give OAK a chance. Neither team is likely to survive the next round, so their kickers are one- or maybe two-and-done. I'd avoid this situation if possible; if you have to pick one, I'd lean Nick Novak.

Novak got two games and even scored a good 11 FP in the Divisional Round, so he was a better option than I predicted.

This would be my rank ordering:

  1. Gostkowski
  2. Bailey
  3. Bryant
  4. Boswell
  5. Hauschka (these top five are the most likely to get two games in my opinion)
  6. Crosby
  7. Gould
  8. Santos (middle three have a decent shot at two games)
  9. Novak
  10. Janikowski
  11. Prater
  12. Franks (bottom four most likely to only play once)

I would draft Gostkowski and Bailey around 80 picks into a draft, Bryant a round later then wait to try to grab one of my other Top 5 when I felt a kicker run had started. Worst case, I would avoid getting stuck with one of my bottom four.

In the “one player per team” format, kicker would be the last position I’d worry about. I’d take a the highest-rated kicker from the list above if I had a choice (in 8 to 11-man lineups) or default to any of them if I had to fill a 12-man roster.

The validity of the rank ordering and my draft strategy remain to be seen, but it's already clear I missed on Bailey by putting him so high.

On to the single week comments for the Divisional Round:

I’d pretty much go with the system this week if you’re rank ordering the kickers only by points. That means play the "Marginal Starts" first. The only reason I wouldn't rank those three guys in the same order as the system is that Stephen Gostkowski is outdoors, the other two are in domes. So you could move Gostkowski down to #3.

Gostkowski's 11 FP was just fair for the week, but probably didn't kill your team's chances. If you did move him below Dan Bailey (15 FP), you were rewarded with the #2 score for the week. But if you put Gostkowski under Matt Bryant (10 FP), as suggested, you lost a point. Probably not a tragedy.

Because of weather concerns in KC, I'd rank the "Starts" over the "Neutrals" and have one less thing to worry about on Sunday. Nick Novak is clearly the guy to avoid.

The weather turned out not to be a factor, once the game was moved later in the day, and so if you took my advice you missed out on Boswell's monster 21 FP. And dodged Santos' 5 FP. So a mixed thing. Also bad about this advice is that it made Steven Hauschka (8 FP) the #4 guy and probably didn't help you get Mason Crosby (14 FP), who has the 3rd-best kicker on the week.

In salary cap formats, I’d go with the cheapest of the three "Marginal Starts." But if you need to shave an extra hundred bucks or thousand, you could go with either of the two "Starts" if they are cheaper.

I didn't check the actual cap numbers, but if this advice steered you to Hauschka, I was wrong, and if to Bailey or Crosby, I was pretty good. In either case, I didn't send you to Boswell or Santos so your opinion on this call depends on whether it's more important to you to avoid a bad week or score a big one.

This week’s recommendations

Marginal Start

%Own

% Wins

Average FP

Matt Bryant

ATL

91

88%

11.0

Stephen Gostkowski

NE

93

62%

8.6

Mason Crosby

GB

63

64%

8.1

         

Neutral

     

Chris Boswell

PIT

11

47%

7.9

The kickers are in order from top to bottom of the points the algorithm says they’ll score – it’s not highly accurate but I’d pick a guy at the top of a category over one at the bottom if I needed a tiebreaker.

The “% Owned” column is taken from ESPN’s fantasy leagues. It provides a rough guide to who may be available in most leagues. For the playoffs, I’m using the Week 17 ownership stats.

The “% Wins” column is the percentage of time the kicker has gotten a “Win” as defined by the 7 FP standard: a win is scoring more than 7 FP, a tie is equaling 7 FP, and a loss is less than that. In calculating the percentage, a tie counts as half a win.

Average FP is based on the algorithm's scoring system.

Comments

For the playoffs, I’ll review all the kickers as the %Owned column is just a regular season stat.

Watch the weather and don't forget to watch the news. As of now, the weather looks like it will be fine for the AFC game. The NFC game is indoors, so you may want to play it safe and lean that way.

Just to repeat where I am with the algorithm right now: I think it's important to face the reality that right now, you should look to the "Marginal Start" group to pick your weekly kicker. I've kept the category labels consistent with the algorithm and will cover available "Starts" below, but I'll go over the "Marginal Starts" first because subjectively that's the first place I'd look myself.

First, since I used the Vegas Over/Under to generate the algorithm, I want to point out how extraordinary the O/Us are for this week. The GB-ATL O/U is 61. That is the highest for the year, topping NO at ATL in week 17, which at 58.5 was over 4 points higher than the next highest (54, three games, all with NO). In fact, only one game has ever been higher since the merger: the Greatest Show on Turf Rams at SF in 2000 (63, the 34-24 final was under). The PIT-NE game at 51 is also pretty high; only 19 of 256 matchups in the 2016 regular season had a higher O/U. The median game this year was at 45 (hat tip to Pro Football Reference).

With that out of the way, you can probably expect plenty of points scored this week, which usually translates to high kicker points as well. And three of the four PKs are projected as "Marginal Starts." I'd go with Matt Bryant as my first choice, as he is the highest ranked by the system, has the highest average FP on the year, and the highest %Wins. And while I don't think you can really go wrong with any kicker if you're looking to save money in cap contests, I wouldn't chase last week's points by just picking Boswell. He has been the most inconsistent of the four and this could be the week that his coach goes for two while his team stops stalling in the red zone: Boswell could follow up his 21 FP with a goose egg.

Background

Just to review my objective: to identify kickers who are going to score more than seven fantasy points (FP) in the upcoming game. I chose 7 FP because that was around the average kicker scoring in 2006 and 2007. The average is more like 8 FP now but I have not been able to find a formula that consistently picks “winners” at the 8 FP level but have one that works for 7 FP. I think kicker fantasy scoring is too erratic to try to predict the exact scores of kickers or identify who will be the best kicker each week. I’ll be happy if I can predict which kickers will do better (or worse) than average most weeks: two-thirds of the time would be really good, as far as I’m concerned. This will help me pick kickers to start each week who will, on average, keep me competitive and not put me at a big disadvantage to my opponent.

The scoring system I’m using: Extra Point = 1 FP; Field Goal under 40 yards = 3; FG 40-49 yds = 4; FG 50+ = 5; Missed EP = minus 1; Missed Field Goal under 40 yards = minus 1.

To make a prediction on what kicker is going to score each week, I’ve come up with an equation that considers a kicker’s average scoring so far this year , how many points the Las Vegas oddsmakers think his team will score in the upcoming week, and how widely he is owned (a wisdom of the crowd input). I then turn that prediction into a recommendation on whether to start or bench the kicker.

My recommendations fall into four categories: “Sit” the kicker when he’s very likely to score fewer than 7 FP; “Start” him when he’s very likely to score more than 7 FP; consider him a “Marginal Start” if he’s fairly likely to top 7 FP; and “Neutral” when it’s a crapshoot what he’ll do.