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Kicker Corner: Jake Snakes Into Week 12 Lineups

Jake Elliott

Jake Elliott

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

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The flecks of silver in Mason Crosby’s hair offer an air of distinction and prestige. He’s an undeniably handsome man.

There, I’ve said something nice about Crosby. Now for the not-so-nice part: Crosby is the worst kicker in the NFL and he’s costing the Packers wins in what is likely their final season before a years-long, excruciating rebuild.

Crosby, who has converted a league-low 65.2 percent of his field goal tries in 2021, missed yet another crucial late-game kick in Green Bay’s Week 11 loss to the Vikings. A defiant Matt LaFleur batted away postgame suggestions that the team might make a kicker change as Crosby blows kick after kick. “Absolutely not,” LaFleur spat when asked if Crosby’s job was in danger. A principled stance, indeed.

It’s not that Crosby is being asked to bang through a bunch of long kicks. He’s missed four of eight field goal tries between 30-39 yards and three of six attempts between 40-49 yards. Crosby has coaxed through five of five kicks of less than 30 yards; he has that going for him, which is nice.

It’s painfully obvious LaFleur and the Packers won’t -- or can’t -- move on from the 14-year veteran because he’s a Green Bay institution. The NFL’s prestige franchises -- Washington, Dallas, Kansas City, Chicago, Green Bay, and a few others -- are hamstrung by their own traditions. Crosby is a Packers tradition. Therefore, he must stay, no matter how much his inaccuracy hurts the team. There’s no rational explanation for why the Packers would stick with Crosby, who has missed an astounding four of his past six field goal attempts, just as there’s no rational reason for the Bears not to can Matt Nagy -- except for franchise precedent.

Crosby is a nonentity for fantasy purposes -- I said as much last week. If -- a big if -- he rights the proverbial ship in the coming weeks, Crosby could be serviceable. Only three teams have tried more field goals than the Packers in 2021. It’s the kicking-it-between-the-uprights part that isn’t working.

Week 11 Results

Evan McPherson (CIN) at LV
4/4 field goals
21 fantasy points
Rank: 1st

Robbie Gould (SF) at JAC
3/3 field goals
14 fantasy points
Rank: t-4th

Randy Bullock (TEN) vs. HOU
0/0 field goals
1 fantasy point
Rank: t-24th

And now for your weekly dose of kicker notes…

-The once yawning gap between Ryan Succop’s expected field goal tries and actual attempts has narrowed considerably over the past couple of weeks. Succop has attempted five field goals in those two games -- including three Monday night against the Giants -- and is now 5.2 field goal attempts below expectation. Tom Brady’s offense has churned out more yards per game than anyone except the Cowboys this year. Succop should provide a passable floor even in games where Brady and the Bucs pile on the touchdowns. Tampa’s red zone touchdown scoring has cooled of late, offering Succop more opportunity (the only thing that matters).

-Greg Joseph, fantasy’s second-highest scoring kicker through Week 11, is a rather concerning 4.83 field goal tries over expectation. But the Vikings keep games close every week -- or win games going away -- setting up Joseph for some good old process-oriented fantasy viability. It’s tough to recommend Joseph as a top option in Week 12 because the Vikings are three-point road underdogs to the 49ers. There’s not much reason to think the Vikings can’t hang with the ultra-conservative Niners though. That makes Joseph playable.

-With the Falcons listed as one-point favorites over the Jaguars this week, Younghoe Koo technically fits the process. Do you really want to depend on the lifeless Atlanta offense to generate enough yardage and neutral script to give Koo a decent amount of opportunity? Personally, I do not. Koo is a passable Week 12 fantasy option, if only barely.

-The Raiders coming into Thanksgiving as seven-point dogs eliminates Daniel Carlson from fantasy viability. The Raiders’ post-Gruden collapse has turned our favorite waiver wire pickup into a fringe fantasy option (I take no pleasure in reporting this). Carlson has two field goal tries in Vegas’ past couple of games -- in which they’ve been whooped by a combined 73-27. The Cowboys’ rushing attack is primed to humiliate the Raiders before a national, tryptophan-induced TV audience.

-Dustin Hopkins has multiple field goal tries in three straight games. The Chargers’ fourth-down aggressiveness makes me leery that Hopkins can continue his volume-based hot streak, but he satisfies the all-important process with LA being 2.5-point road favorites against the Broncos in Week 12. You could do (way) worse than Hopkins. The Bolts are 6.18 field goal tries below expectation.

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Plug-and-Play Starter

Tyler Bass (BUF) at NO: You got zero or negative fantasy points from Bass in Week 11. The most important takeaway from Bass’ tilting dud: He attempted two field goals while the Bills saw almost no neutral game script. The process! Buffalo should have no issues with the collapsing Saints this week. Keep the faith, Bass truthers. Buffalo is 1.55 field goal attempts over expectation.

Justin Tucker (BAL) vs. CLE: The Ravens are at home, favored by four. You’re setting and forgetting it with Tucker. Baltimore is 0.98 field goal attempts above expectation.

Nick Folk (NE) vs. TEN: This game has all the makings of a Shining-style bloodbath. Folk should have all the game script on his side for the inevitable Super Bowl champion Patriots (I’ve accepted it, and you should too). That the Pats are 7.8 field goal tries over expectation doesn’t matter so much considering the team is more conservative than William F. Buckley on fourth downs.

Matt Gay (LAR) at GB: I squirmed a bit before putting Gay in the plug-and-play section. The Rams are weirdly one-point road underdogs against the Packers, who have allowed the fewest field goal tries (11) in 2021. Gay, for what it’s worth, has multiple field goal attempts in seven of ten games. He’s an OK option. I won’t come to your house at three in the morning and slash your car tires if you use a streamer over Gay this week though.

Greg Zuerlein (DAL) vs. LV: You got three field goals from Legatron in Dallas’ resounding Week 11 loss to KC. You are a lucky dog and should feel bad. Zuerlein should be locked into lineups with the Cowboys at home, favored by four over a Raiders team that’s given up ten field goals over their past three games.

Week 12 Streaming Options

Jake Elliott (PHI) at NYG (7 percent rostered)
I’m not thrilled with myself as a brain-wormed kicker fanatic that I didn’t pinpoint Elliott as a clear beneficiary of the Eagles’ retro-style commitment to the run. Since Nick Sirianni’s team went Full Run Establishment, the team has generated nonstop neutral and positive game script, leading to a surge in Elliott field goal attempts. Philly has the seventh-best point differential since reverting to a 32 percent neutral pass rate in Week 8.

No kicker has scored more fantasy points than Elliott over the past four weeks (he’s nine points clear of No. 1 overall kicker Nick Folk over that stretch). Elliott has drilled all 11 of his field goal tries over those four games, most recently posting a 19-spot in the Eagles’ drubbing of the fading Saints. Elliott, in short, has gone from a fantasy non-factor -- attempting just three field goals in the season’s first month -- to a highly reliable starter in 12-team leagues for as long as the Eagles can keep running roughshod over all comers.

Philadelphia should have little trouble establishing the run like it’s 1981 this week against a Giants defense that has turned into a definitive run funnel over the past month. More than 70 percent of yards gained against Big Blue have come on the ground over the past four games. Giants opponents are rarely short on scoring chances; only the Jets are allowing more red zone possession per game than the G-people. Kickers have averaged two field goal tries per game against the Giants in 2021, and 2.16 attempts in New York losses.

The Eagles as of this writing are three-point road favorites against the Giants with an implied total of 24.75 points. Elliott is in prime position to continue rocketing up the kicker ranks, which must be adjusted.

Robbie Gould (SF) vs. MIN (18 percent rostered)
Stop calling Gould an “old man.” We’re almost the exact same age. An attack on him is an attack on all geriatric millennials. It won’t stand.

Gould delivered for us in Week 11 against Jacksonville with 14 fantasy points. Two of his three field goal tries came courtesy of Kyle Shanahan’s radical anti-analytics stance. No one loves settling for field goals inside the five-yard line like Young Shanny. The point of Shananian football is to win with as few points as possible. Adjust your ranks accordingly.

The Niners being 3.76 field goal tries over expectation through Week 11 probably has something to do with Shanahan’s hatred of touchdowns. But we’ll take it. San Francisco is a 3.5-point home favorite against the Vikings, who have allowed the seventh most field goal attempts on the year. Minnesota is one of only a few teams to give up multiple field goal tries in every single game this season -- mostly because their games are gut-churning nail biters that leave Vikings fans considering the nature of the void that awaits us all.

Anyway, Gould is a perfectly good and fine process play for Week 12. A bonus: He should fit the process again in Week 13 against the Seabags.

Evan McPherson (CIN) vs. PIT (7 percent rostered)
McPherson is, by my considered estimation, no better or worse an option than Gould or Elliott this week. The Bengals are at home, favored by 3.5 points, sporting a total of 24.25 points, making McPherson a sensible process-based play a week after he delivered 21 fantasy points to the faithful kicker streamers among us.

Pittsburgh’s myriad defensive injuries have made the Steelers a far more appealing kicker streaming targets. Last week we saw Dustin Hopkins -- cut by Washington a month ago -- make a couple of field goals on his way to 12 fantasy points against the Steelers. Five of the past six kickers to face Pittsburgh have notched multiple field goal attempts. The Steelers, in fact, are allowing the fifth most field goal attempts through Week 11. That was quite the revelation in my data dump this week.

McPherson has been a reliable fantasy producer in Bengals wins, averaging 2.16 attempts and 11.5 fantasy points in Cincy victories. The Bengals being 3.49 field goal tries under expectation make me more bullish on the rookie’s short-term (and long-term) fantasy prospects.