Week 3 Kickers: No Haters, Just Prater

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It’s been a year since a football has left Graham Gano's right foot and failed to sail through the uprights.

I’m almost certain Gano -- the former Panther and current cornerstone of the Giants franchise -- has missed a kick or two in practices over the past 365 days. But he hasn’t missed an in-game kick since Week 2 of 2020. He’s made 35 straight, in fact, and needs ten more to set the NFL record for most consecutive field goal makes, held by Adam Vinatieri.

It’s a record no one will tell their grandchildren about, unless your grandchildren are loosely related to Graham Gano. Maybe not even then. Not even Joe Judge will care if his guy enters the NFL record books with 45 consecutive field goal conversions. Field goals, you see, are a symptom of failure. They are one of the suboptimal outcomes of not putting the ball in the end zone. Not as bad as failing to convert a fourth down or committing a turnover, but an outcome that elicits sighs or shoulder shrugs or forced, empty-eyed hand clapping, Jason Garrett style.

Even the longest, most impressive field goals leave coaches and quarterbacks shaking their collective heads on the sideline, fixating on what could have been.

The Giants have turned 33 percent of their red zone possessions into touchdowns; only the Chargers and Patriots have been worse through Week 2. It’s a continuation of 2020, when the Giants managed TDs on 46 percent of their red zone possessions -- the league’s second lowest rate behind the Jets. New Yorkers love their field goals. Everyone says so.

The Giants’ red zone shortcomings sting when one considers the team is averaging precious few (three) red zone possessions per week. The G-People’s inability to convert red zone possessions into six points has been a boon for Gano, and could clear the way for him to claim the all-time consecutive field goal record.

Thanks, the Giants say. I hate it.

Week 2 Results

Brandon McManus (DEN) at JAC
3/3 field goals
13 fantasy points
Kicker rank: 6th

Matt Prater (ARI) vs. MIN
2/2 field goals
12 fantasy points
Kicker rank: 7th

Chase McLaughlin (CLE) vs. HOU
1/1 field goals
7 fantasy points
Kicker rank: t-15th

Ryan Succop (TB) vs. ATL
0/0 field goals
Fantasy points: 6
Kicker rank: t-19th

Now for some kicker notes…

-Dustin Hopkins has been fine and dandy through two weeks. I’m legally required to request you drop him ahead of Washington’s Week 3 game against Buffalo. The Bills are 9.5-point home favorites and Washington has the week’s second lowest implied total (18.5 points). Hopkins, meanwhile, is 3.53 field goal tries over expectation. That’s not ideal.

-If you somehow haven’t parted ways with Younghoe Koo, do so now.

-Rodrigo Blankenship is fun and quirky and seems to have bulked up his arms a little bit over the offseason. That’s good. Without Carson Wentz -- who managed to injure both ankles last week -- he’s a hands-off fantasy option.

-Ryan Succop is 3.03 field goals under expectation through Week 2. I don’t anticipate much bounce back from Succop thanks to the Bucs’ red zone aggressiveness. To disciples of the kicker process, Succop will look like a must-play every week this season. He’s not.

Plug-And-Play Starters

Daniel Carlson (LV) vs. MIA: I hereby declare Carlson -- available in 68 percent of leagues and fantasy’s top scoring kicker -- an every-week starter. Jon Gruden has finally stopped shoehorning his 1990s play calling approach into the modern NFL and the Raiders are shredding opponents, creating plenty of neutral and positive game script, and giving Carlson all the opportunity he needs to be a top-end fantasy producer. Carlson has six field goal attempts through two weeks and now goes against what will likely be a Tua-less Dolphins team with no hope of keeping pace with Vegas. The Raiders are four-point home favorites. Carlson Szn will continue.

Tyler Bass (BUF) vs. WFT: The Bills are 9.5-point home favorites against Washington, which has been gouged for seven field goals in the season's first couple weeks. You're slappin' the Bass in Week 3.

Greg Zuerlein (DAL) vs. PHI: Rostered in 90 percent of leagues, Zuerlein is a solid process play this week against the Eagles. The Cowboys are at home, favored by four, with an implied total of 27.75 points. That Greg the Leg is 2.46 field goal attempts over expectation doesn’t bother me too terribly much. Dallas can pour on yardage against anyone and they trust Zuerlein to kick from the stadium parking lot if necessary.

Harrison Butker (KC) vs. LAC: Butker is now 2.19 field goal tries under expectation as the Chiefs offense continues to be annoyingly good at cashing in touchdowns. I refuse to say Butker drafters must start their guy every week, no matter what, but it’s never going to be easy to bench a kicker on a team with an implied total of 31 points. KC is once again a home favorite in Week 3 against the Bolts. While Butker fits the process, as per usual, I won’t call the cops if you quietly drop Butker for one of this week’s streamers.

Justin Tucker (BAL) at DET: Tucker has been fine through two games, scoring 18 fantasy points, the 12th most among kickers. He’s 1.63 field goal attempts under expectation. The Ravens enter Week 3 as heavy road favorites against a Detroit defense that stands no chance at repelling Lamar Jackson. Don’t worry about the Lions holding Mason Crosby without a field goal. The Packers haven’t attempted a field goal since 1969.

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Week 3 Streamers

Matt Prater (ARI) at JAC (39 percent rostered)

You smartly rostered Prater ahead of Week 1 because you’re a smart fantasy manager who reads a smart kicker column on the internet's smartest fantasy site, NBC Sports Edge. You’ve gotten a steady 20 fantasy points out of the veteran through two weeks on the strength of three field goals -- including a mammoth 62-yard bomb in Week 2 against Minnesota -- and nine extra points.

Prater remains available in six out of ten fantasy leagues as the corrupt media censors my kicker takes. Snatch him if you can this week: Prater’s situation could hardly be better. The red-hot red birds -- second in the league in total yardage -- are 7.5 point road favorites against the moribund Jaguars. Arizona’s 29.75-point implied total is the week’s second highest, trailing only KC. I would be remiss -- and I haven’t been remiss since the late-90s -- if I didn’t mention Prater’s actual field goal attempts (4) is below his expected attempt (4.63). That’s a good thing.

Jacksonville has allowed six field goal tries through two weeks, the second most in the league. Only Washington -- thanks to Graham Gano’s gratuitous 22-point Thursday night showing -- has given up more fantasy production to kickers. Don’t think too terribly hard about this one -- you’re playing Prater if you have him. Yes, Kyler Murray and the Cardinals will score a bunch of touchdowns against Urban Meyer’s squad. Prater should get his too.

Brandon McManus (DEN) vs. NYJ (21 percent rostered)

McManus, colloquially known as McGoatus, should be treated as an every-week fantasy starter on a team that has shown it can maintain positive and neutral game script thanks to a solid defense and a high-functioning if unspectacular offense.

While McManus is a little over his expected field goal attempts (by 0.71, to be exact) we’re not hesitating to use him in a game that has Denver at home, favored by 11.5 points. The Jets have failed to slow their first two 2021 opponents and have little chance of doing so against Teddy Bridgewater and company. New York has given up six field goal tries through two weeks, the second most in the league. Nick Folk last week put up a nice 13-spot against the Jets. McManus is next.

Graham Gano (NYG) vs. ATL (4 percent rostered)

Gano’s aforementioned Thursday night showing was enough to set back the anti-kicker movement 50 years. They may never recover from watching a kicker win folks a truckload of cash in DFS single game contests with five field goals and two extra points. Graham Gano, thank you for your service in the Kicker Wars. May they have no end.

He’s in a good spot this week against a lousy Atlanta offense being bulldozed by all comers. The Giants are three-point home favorites in this one, marking the first time they’ve been favored since the second Obama administration (apologies for getting political). Don’t worry about the Falcons having allowed just one field goal attempt through two games. The three-pointers will come, and with the Giants love of the field goal, I expect Gano to have multiple tries in this one. That he’s 1.33 field goals over expectation doesn’t bother me too much since we’re a mere two games into the year.

Atlanta is allowing nearly 390 yards per game through two weeks. Falcons opponents -- the Eagles and Bucs -- have average four red zone possessions per game. Only five teams have allowed more red zone visits. Gano has multiple field goal tries in ten of his past 17 games (not bad considering he’s kicking for a terrible team). He’s also made 36 of his last 37 kicks -- not that kicker accuracy matters. Lock him in against the hapless Falcons.

Zane Gonzalez (CAR) at HOU (0 percent rostered)

This analysis only applies if the Panthers retain Gonzalez and stop a real life experiment in streaming kickers.

Gonzalez, signed last week after the Panthers curiously released Ryan Santoso, hit two of his three attempts in Carolina’s Week 2 humiliation of the Saints, scoring nine fantasy points in his debut. The Panthers aren’t just OK; they’re good. Maybe really good. And whoever is kicking for Carolina should reap the benefits of persistent positive game script.

Week 3 finds the angry-looking cats as 7.5-point road favorites against Houston on Thursday night. Don’t fret about the Texans only allowing two field goal tries through two weeks. The Jaguars on opening day against Houston were forced to forgo a few field goal attempts as they entered catchup mode in the second quarter. And the Browns in Week 2 bludgeoned the Texans in the red zone, limiting Chase McLaughlin’s opportunity.

Gonzalez fits the process. That’s all that matters.