I surely can't be the only golfer who watches the flight of field goal kicks and thinks of the little white ball doing all the terrible things it does during its flights toward -- and away from -- the pin.
The hooks, the fades, the line drives, the shanks. Kickers hit it fat. Kickers pop it up. Their mechanics go awry under crushing late-game pressure. It all sounds familiar to anyone who has ever grinded on the driving range in the stinging summer heat, discovering every conceivable way to hit -- and mis-hit -- a golf ball.
I've occasionally, between polite and not-so-polite requests to delete my Twitter account, tweeted about how a field goal kick might compare to a golf shot. I'd like to offer a more thorough breakdown of the most common kinds of NFL kicks -- mostly the disastrous kind -- before we jump into the best Week 16 kicker plays.
The Push: This, for a right-footed kicker, is a ball that starts right of the goal posts and stays right. The push never has a chance, even if it only ends up missing by a few feet. You can almost feel the kickers' disgust the second he looks up and sees the sorry flight of the pigskin. This is reminiscent of the mid-iron shot you're trying to smooth -- not too light, not too much mustard -- before a split-millisecond decision ruins everything. The club is too far on the inside of the proper swing plane and you now have a choice of flipping the club head and hitting a nasty hook or leaving the club face slightly opened and pushing from way inside to way outside. The push can come with fantastic contact -- even flush contact. But it launches right and never has a chance of drawing back to the target. A gentle club flip and a muttered curse word are usually in order.
The Banana Hook: Named for the shape of the fruit, the banana hook, unlike the push, can start dead center or even slightly to the right of the field goal posts before the hook takes hold and sends the ball sailing left of left (for a right-footed kicker). This hideous little shot plagues golfers who can't quite get the clubface square at the top of their backswing, those with handsy swings, and power hitters who flail their bodies about in hopes of outdriving any and all comers. I have no data to back this up, but I'm sure I've seen Sebastian Janikowski hit more than a few banana hooks over the past decade and a half. That makes sense, as Seabass is the John Daly of NFL kickers. I once attended a practice round of the old Kemper Open in the D.C. suburbs, where I watched Daly hit the most absurd hooks, time after time, with every club but his ridiculous little putter. The good-hearted cousin of the banana hook, the controlled draw, is one of the prettier NFL kickers to behold.
The Short: Dan Bailey last week drilled a kick from 56 yards only to see it fall a few yards short of the goal posts. He seemed to get all of it -- he just didn't have the leg. I played a mind-numbing amount of golf during high school and college, when every guy believed deep in their marrow that they, like Tiger, could blast a pitching wedge 160 yards (if you can really do this, you're probably just skulling the hell out of the poor golf ball). I'll cop to falling for this testosterone-fueled trick. I'd play the ball near my back heel, get a little extra shoulder turn on it, and hit the ball with a fiery hatred. The ball would bore through the air. It would be right on target. I'd stare it down, trying like a Stephen King character to make it go that full 160. I knew it had no chance though. The ball would come to rest 15 yards should of the pin, and I'd know that a nuclear nine iron or a solid eight would've done the trick. The short is infuriating.
Now to Week 16 kicker plays, with 33 percent more taeks!
Matt Bryant (ATL) at Carolina Panthers ($5,200): Bryant, our high-priced kicker of choice in Week 15 (he managed 14 fantasy points) gets another mouth watering matchup in Week 16. Carolina allows 2.4 field goal tries per game, more than all but three teams. Nine kickers have posted at least eight fantasy points against the Panthers this year. That handy little stat along with Bryant averaging a hearty 2.2 field goals per contest makes him worth the (massive) Week 16 price. Bryant, who has failed to score nine points just twice in 2016, scored 15 fantasy points when these teams clashed in Week 4.
Sebastian Janikowski (OAK) vs. Indianapolis Colts ($5,000): Seabass banged through 15 points worth of fantasy goodness in Week 15 after being highlighted in this space as a mid-priced option. He's now on the rich side of the kicker tracks; only two kickers are pricier in Week 16's FanDuel main slate. Janikowski is fourth in field goal tries this season and the Colts allow 2.6 field goal attempts per game. It hardly gets better for a kicker's prospects. Throw in Oakland's 28-point Vegas total and we have one of the most appealing kicker plays of the season. An incredible eight kickers have scored double digit fantasy points against Indy this season.
Roberto Aguayo (TB) at New Orleans Saints ($4,500): What a strange week in the whacky world of kickers. We have two high-priced guys and two bottom-barrel options. Nothing in between. Matchups dictate what we do here though, so we're once again looking toward Tampa Bay's erratic rookie kicker in Week 16. Aguayo is 17th in field goal attempts -- a not-hateful ranking considering how bad he was in the season's first half. He's notched nine fantasy points per game over the past six weeks and gets his crack at a New Orleans team giving up 2.4 field goal attempts per contest. Only Jacksonville has been gouged for more kicker fantasy points than the Saints in 2016. Eleven of 14 kickers have finished with at least eight fantasy points against New Orleans. That includes Aguayo, who put up 11 points against the Saints in Week 14.
Ryan Succop (TEN) at Jacksonville Jaguars ($4,500): Kickers against the Jags have been some of the most bankable fantasy assets in 2016. But I'll freely admit that Succop's opportunity frightens me. The Tennessee kicker only averages 1.6 field goal per game (28th in the NFL). He's attempted zero or one field goals in six games this season. One of Succop's best outings of 2016, however, came against these moribund Jaguars, who have now allowed at least eight fantasy points to every kicker they've faced except for Dan Carpenter. Kickers average 2.7 attempts against the Jaguars. Succop has averaged 1.9 field goal tries in Titans wins this year, and 0.8 attempts in losses. Tennessee is a four-point favorite in Week 16.
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