The bell on door at The Shop may as well have been a dude other than Ezekiel Elliott standing next to (not inside) a Salvation Army kettle Monday morning – by the way, give folding money, not change. It was ringing like nobody’s business by fantasy owners either thrilled or upset by what took place in the weekend games.
One recurring theme was how many low-scoring fantasy games there were. If you looked at the scoreboard, there were plenty of points scored, but it was how they were scored that made such a huge difference in winning and losing in the fantasy playoffs. Why were the fantasy scores so low while the point totals of the games were consistently up there? Kickers were to blame.
The kicker is the ugly cousin of the fantasy football world, even though they can be the most consistent fantasy scorers if you hook into a good one. Sunday may have been the most prolific day for kickers in the history of the NFL and, while fantasy owners were looking for touchdowns being scored six points at a time, more times than not, they had to settle for field goals being scored three at a time.
How insane was the scoring? On an averaging week, you may have a half-dozen kickers that score nine points in a game. It usually requires at least a couple of field goals and three or four extra points. If you get a couple of early field goals, teams often go for two-point conversions later in the game to make up for missing touchdowns.
On Sunday, there were 13 games played. In those games, 13 kickers scored nine or more points. The numbers were stunning, including Chris Boswell (18), Danny Bailey (14), Nick Novak (13), Sebastian Janikowski (13), Caleb Sturgis (12), Will Lutz (12), Mason Crosby (12), Matt Bryant (11), Stephen Gostkowski (10), Adam Vinatieri (10), Justin Tucker (10), Dan Carpenter (9) and Connor Barth (9).
Of the 10 kickers who scored double-digit points, field goals made up the lion’s share of their points. The top 10 scorers combined to score 125 points. Of those points, only 23 of them came on extra points. The other 102 points came via field goals – a whopping 34 field goals.
If you wonder why your fantasy team won or lost a game that was lower scoring that what you’ve been used to, there is an easy explanation. The kickers who got drafted in the last round or got scooped off the waiver wire were the reason and many of them were probably sitting on benches or the other waiver wire because most teams keep just one kicker because they don’t have fantasy value. Who doesn’t have value now? Kickers likely have helped decide a lot of championships because Sunday saw more field goals than touchdowns in most of the games that were played.
- Sunday was the 43rd time the Giants played the Lions. Incredibly, it was the first time the two teams met where both of them had a record above .500.
- Nobody expects Miami to make any noise in the playoffs, but, at 9-5, it may be difficult to keep them out if the rest of the AFC doesn’t take care of its business.
- How is a Lambeau Leap legal, but a Zeke Leap is a 15-yard penalty? Something needs to change there.
- Is it just me or does the thought of having the Raiders in Las Vegas sound like a really bad idea? With the entourages that tend to follow young players into the league, the thought of having legal gambling and inside information sounds like a recipe for a big bowl of trouble.
- Don’t sleep on the Falcons. They don’t have a great defense, but have scored less than 23 points just once this season and have scored more than 35 or more in seven of their 14 games.
The Razor’s Edge
10. Once, Twice, Three Times a Challenge – The NFL does a pretty good job of identifying inherent problems in its game and makes changes accordingly. When Baltimore found a loophole in the rules to tackle every player on a punt and get eight simultaneous holding calls, you knew that rules would change. When New England put in some crazy formations to mix eligible and ineligible receivers, the rule changed. There has to be a change made to the NFL’s replay rule. In Thursday’s Seattle-Los Angeles, Pete Carroll had to burn three challenges in the first half because the refs screwed up spotting the ball and replay proved it. If the NFL is going to keep replay, do it so teams aren’t penalized by incompetent referees who routinely make mistakes. Let them get up to two challenges wrong, even it means throwing a half dozen challenge flags and getting them all confirmed.
9. Remove Your Kaep and Move On – If not for the Cleveland Browns, the San Francisco 49ers would be roasted on a weekly basis. Not only are the 49ers losing on a regular basis, nine of their 13 losses have been by double-digit scores, including seven by 17 points or more. To hear Colin Kaepernick say that a culture change is needed in San Francisco is an understatement. The first thing to do is get rid of Kaep and Chip Kelly and it will be a good starting point for a franchise in ruins.
8. Escape From New York – In a season when the Giants have the look of a Super Bowl contender, the Jets look about bad as any team in the league. Ryan Fitzpatrick only gets work when other guys get hurt. On Sunday, the Jets lost their 10th game of the year. Leading 7-0 at home, the few remaining Jets fans that are left felt good about having a 7-0 lead after the first quarter against Miami and they were facing veteran backup QB Matt Moore. Sounds like a good day for the Jets, right? Nope. New York gets outscored 34-6 in the final three quarters and Moore, who threw just 14 passes and completed 10 of them in the final three quarters, but four of those 10 completions were touchdowns and the Jets lost their 10th game of the season. Watch your back, Todd Bowles. There may be a knock coming to your door.
7. Plucking the Bird – Coming into the season, the Arizona Cardinals were a favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, because they had an offense that could put up big points and a defense capable of shutting down teams. On Sunday, Arizona was officially eliminated from postseason contention, after losing 48-41 at home to New Orleans. We already knew the Cardinals stunk on the road, losing five of six games. The high powered offense has scored 30 or more points just three times this season. The stout defense has allowed 30 or more points five times. Few teams came into the season with higher expectations and fell harder than the Cardinals and they were their own worst enemy in the process.
6. Respect the Towel – A case can be made that Steelers fans bringing Terrible Towels into an opposing stadium isn’t the best idea. We get that the Steelers fans travel well and always have a strong fan presence, but the Towel to them is sacred. When Jeremy Hill grabbed a Terrible Towel and tried to tear hit – he failed, just as he failed to average two yards a carry – you knew there was going to be trouble. The next time he carried the ball, the Steelers defense exacted a little revenge, knocking him briefly out of the game. Be sure of one thing – the Steelers won’t forget and, as long as Hill is in the lineup for the Bengals, he will be a marked man – by design and because he deserves it.
5. The Un-Magnificent Seven Part Two – We are now 14 games into the 2016 season and, after starting the season with a seven-game losing streak, the Cleveland Browns have matched that with their second consecutive seven-game losing streak – taking their current losing streak to 14. They have scored 13 or fewer points in six straight games and have lost their last five games by 25, 21, 15, 14, 13 and 20 points. It’s bad enough that you keep losing, but the Browns aren’t even competitive anymore.
4. Fail to the Chiefs – Kansas City had a chance to make a statement by taking down the Tennessee Titans at home Sunday. They could have improved to 11-3, kept possession of first place in the AFC West and Tennessee did everything to help them achieve that goal. After opening a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, the Chiefs tried to hold out off the Titans. With three minutes to go, the Titans appeared to tie the game with a Derrick Henry touchdown, but Tennessee decided to go for two points to take the lead. It failed, but they got the ball back and, with time ready to expire, Ryan Succop lined up to kick a 53-yard field goal. It came up short, but Andy Reid called a time out that gave him another chance and he made it. The Chiefs will make the playoffs, but this was a loss that will come back to haunt the Chiefs as the likelihood of them playing on the road has risen significantly.
3. Get On the Bus, Gus (We Don’t Need To Discuss Much) – Jaguars owner/Saddam Hussein stunt double Shad Khan made news Sunday when he announced that, after losing 48 of the 62 games he had coached with Jacksonville, he was told after his most recent loss – a 21-20 loss in which the Jags blew a 13-0 lead with two minutes left in the first half to journeyman QB Tom Savage. Despite being loved by his players, a 14-48 record is worthy of being fired. But, the Jaguars were on the road and Khan informed Bradley after the game that he was fired and had to take the plane ride back home knowing that he was now an outsider on the team plane. Some organizations do things right. The Jaguars aren’t one of them.
2. Falling Off the Horse – Minnesota was the talk of the NFL when they hit their bye week with a 5-0 record and everyone was talking about a potential Super Bowl run. Since then, they’ve lost seven of nine games and will need a miracle finish in which teams like Green Bay, Washington and Tampa Bay will have to lose out just for the math to make sense that they can be a playoff team. It’s one thing to lose to a good team, but Minnesota got pounded 34-6 by an Indianapolis Colts team that has had problems getting out of its own way. The Vikings were supposed to be a team that would be on the verge of locking down a playoff berth by now. Instead, they’re candle is flickering and most now expect it will be officially snuffed out next Sunday by the Packers.
1. Things Are Getting Rocky – We’ve known all season that the Denver Broncos have the defensive ability to make another Super Bowl run, but their offense was so anemic that they’ve struggled to keep their heads above water. Not only have the Broncos been eliminated from defending their division title, but at 8-6, they’re a long shot to even make the playoffs following a 16-3 home loss to New England. When you can’t run the ball – 58 yards on 17 rushes Sunday – you aren’t going to win a lot of games and the defending champs can admire their rings all they want. It’s going to take a while before they earn another at this rate.