It's time, daily gamers, for your fantasy kicker midterm, and because I'm not sure how college kids take exams today -- I can only assume it involves a chip inserted into one's brain that can detect knowledge of a given subject -- we'll do this the old school way.
We'll go multiple choice, the way we did it in the Stone Age, in 2005, when texting friends and family made you tech savvy enough to be one of Donald Trump's 400-pound hackers.
Which yardage statistic correlates closest to kicker fantasy production?
What matters most when identifying the week's best fantasy kicker plays?
The answers, as you surely know because you think of little else but fantasy football kicker optimization, are B and A, respectively. I outlined before Week 1 that study after study has shown that these are the factors on which to focus when chasing kicker fantasy production. I thought it was high time we look back at the season's first half to see how this formula has shaken out in selecting kickers.
The below chart shows the 10 teams allowing the most per-game kicker fantasy points in 2016.
FF points per game allowed to kickers
Passing yardage allowed per game
Field goal attempts allowed per game
224.6 yards (8th)
287.8 yards (31st)
267.4 yards (24th)
238.1 yards (11th)
247.1 yards (17th)
241.9 yards (13th)
286.7 yards (29th)
222.4 yards (7th)
285.4 yards (27th)
275 yards (25th)
Six of these 10 teams are in the bottom half of pass defenses (as determined solely by yardage allowed) and all but one of these teams is in the bottom half in field goal tries allowed per week. This fits nicely with my borderline religious belief that properly analyzing a player's opportunity -- rather than his skill set or strengths -- is the skeleton key for long-term fake football success.
Unashamedly chasing kicker opportunity so far in 2016 would have done you quite well. There's little to no shame in our game, even when we're yelling up the basement stairs for mother to bring us the meatloaf.
The Niners and Jaguars stand out as outliers in the passing yardage allowed column. Opponents of Jacksonville and San Francisco have had an easy enough time bludgeoning these teams via the ground attack (no team gives up more rushing yards than the 49ers and only five teams allow more than the Jags), so context is important here. It might even be #important. And believe me, that's important.
Let's get into our Week 9 FanDuel plays, in which we continue to attack the teams listed above.
Adam Vinateiri (IND) at Green Bay Packers ($5,000): Perhaps this is the one week in 2016 where Vinateiri will be something of a DFS fade after a devastating two-point outing against Kansas City in Week 8. He's still mint price on FanDuel, so you're getting no discount, but a decent matchup nevertheless. Green Bay gives up 2.4 field goal attempts per contest -- eighth most in the NFL. I'd rather run with Mason Crosby (see below) as a football-kicking beneficiary of a game Vegas sees as the week's highest scoring. But if you've built the rest of your lineup and have a few hundred bucks remaining, Vinatieri isn't a bad tack-on in Week 9. By a measure of opportunity, this matchup against the Packers is the veteran's best of 2016.
Cairo Santos (KC) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars ($4,700): All but a single kicker -- Josh Lambo in Week 2 -- have scored more than nine fantasy points against Jacksonville in 2016. Kickers, in fact, have logged a stunning 41 fantasy points against the Jags over the past three weeks. The Jaguars will likely be a target for kicker touts (we have a union and most of our mothers love us) for the remainder of the season. Santos, highlighted last week in this space, scored 13 points despite missing a short field goal against the Colts. Kickers are averaging 2.7 field goal tries per game against the Jags. Santos has nine field goal attempts over the past three weeks as the Chiefs' schedule has softened and the offense has had little trouble moving the ball. He could be the play in another chapter of our collective Bye Week Apocalypse.
Mason Crosby (GB) vs. Indianapolis Colts ($4,700): Crosby has notched two or more field goal tries in five of his seven games this season, so opportunity hasn't been a problem for the Green Bay kicker. No team allows more field goal tries than the Colts, who have seen six kickers score more than 10 fantasy points against them in 2016. Probably that has something to do with Indy getting shredded for 287.8 passing yards per contest. Only the Jets' moribund secondary allows more aerial yards per game. There's no reason to think Aaron Rodgers and company won't have their way with the Colts' defense this week, and I think we'll see Crosby reap some of the benefit. I would prefer Crosby over Santos if only due to uncertainty around the Chiefs' quarterback and running back situation.
Will Lutz (NO) at San Francisco 49ers ($4,500): I swear on my neck tattoo that states Matchups Matter that this is not an overreaction to Lutz's Week 8 explosion against Carolina. Lutz has put up great numbers in each of the Saints' objectively good matchups this season, while struggling when New Orleans plays a defense that doesn't suck. Even the beleaguered Roberto Aguayo stumbled into 10 fantasy points against the 49ers. Teams don't struggle to advance the pigskin against the zombie of the Niners, as we've seen time and again. The 49ers are one of only three teams being gouged for more than 400 total yards per contest. Drew Brees' offense could fall out of bed and propel the Saints to 350 total yards in this one. I'm into Lutz as a minimum priced play despite the 49ers allowing only two field goal tries per week. I believe his floor -- like many Saints this week -- is more than solid.
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