When it comes to betting NFL games, analyzing kickers is like a prostate exam. Nobody looks forward to it, it’s never fun, but it’s a necessary part of maturing as a bettor. More importantly, if you ignore it, it can come back to haunt you.
The possibility of bettors being haunted by kickers has never been greater than in 2023. It’s the perfect storm. Lots of unproven kickers combined with the NFL’s 2015 rule change pushing extra points back, and one less preseason game for kickers to get on the same page with their holder and long snappers.
If you don’t play fantasy football, you might not be aware of how dicey the field of 32 kickers are this season.
Five rookie kickers
Anders Carlson (Packers), Jake Moody (49ers), Chad Ryland (Patriots), Blake Group (Saints) and Bradon Aubrey (Cowboys) are all rookies on teams with high expectations. Would anyone be surprised if at least two of those kickers were absolute busts? Just ask the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who wasted the 59th overall pick on kicker Robert Aguayo in 2016. Close your eyes and imagine you’re holding a ticket on one of these teams and a youngster listed above trots out for a 47-yarder on the road. If that thought makes you cringe, then maybe wait a few games to see how these legs look before betting on their teams.
The Rams are expected to deploy Dallas Cast-off Brett Maher, who seemed to have the yips last season and will receive the ball from a rookie long snapper in 2023. I wouldn’t trust Maher with a crossword puzzle after watching him go 1-for-6 on extra points in the playoffs?
The Lions, likely one of the most high-powered offenses in the NFL, have Riley Patterson (a solid 85.7 FG%) who has only attempted four kicks over 50 yards. Carolina’s Eddy Pineiro has only tried five kicks over 50 yards, but to his credit he made all five.
Steelers’ kicker Chris Boswell was one of the league’s most reliable kickers, but he inexplicably only booted 71.4% of his FG (20-for-28) last season. Tampa Bay kicker Chase McLaughlin is a journeyman who played on six rosters in four seasons and has a FG% of 78.8. There are also red flags with Minnesota kicker Greg Joseph who hit 86.9% of his extra points last season (40-for-46) and only converted 68.8% of his field goals at home. Jets’ kicker Greg Zuerlein hasn’t had a FG% over 83% since 2018.
Who can be trusted?
The aforementioned 12 teams have uncertain kicker situations and bettors need to take that into consideration especially in games expected to be close. In Week 1, for instance, the Cowboys (-3/-3.5), 49ers (-2.5), and Packers (+1) will all be on the road with rookie kickers.
While there’s been a lot of gloom and doom in this article there are also a couple trustworthy kickers in crunch time. One of them is obvious, as Baltimore’s Justin Tucker is headed for Canton and seemingly always comes through in the clutch.
The other name you can trust might surprise casual fans. Giants’ kicker Graham Gano is 21-for-21 the last three seasons kicking in the forth quarter when the Giants are up or down by 7 points or less. That includes an impressive 7-for-7 from 50+ yards. Gano was also 28-for-28 (13 XPs) on kicks in away stadiums last season.