by Ray Kuhn
Yes, I know that selecting a kicker is not exciting. It is something that is begrudgingly done, and often times with just fleeting thought. Keep in mind that there is some variability here, but that they ultimately could be the difference between winning and losing. Let’s take a look at the rankings.
- Justin Tucker – Baltimore Ravens – at Pittsburgh
- Adam Vinatieri – Indianapolis Colts – vs. Cincinnati
- Dan Bailey – Dallas Cowboys – vs. Detroit
- Chandler Catanzaro – Arizona Cardinals – at Carolina
- Graham Gano – Carolina Panthers – vs. Arizona
- Shaun Suisham – Pittsburgh Steelers – vs. Baltimore
- Matt Prater – Detroit Lions – at Dallas
- Mike Nugent – Cincinnati Bengals – at Indianapolis
- To me, Tucker is as dependable as they come and what you can consider a “down year” for him can be blamed on Baltimore’s offensive struggles. Tucker has a track record of success in the playoffs, and with four field goals of 50-plus yards this season (a long of 55), he also has the length. It is also important to note that among teams playing this week, the Steelers have allowed the most points to kickers so far this season.
- I am not going to get on the soapbox of how the Panthers are allowed to host a playoff game with a losing record, but it is the reality of the 2014 playoffs. Regardless, the Panthers showed up this week and their defense limited Matt Ryan’s offense to just a field goal. Arizona’s offense has a lot less going for them as they are hoping Drew Stanton is healthy enough to make the start. To me, that means, rookie kicker Chandler Cantanzaro will figure largely in the outcome. On the season Catanzaro has missed just four goals, one of which from beyond 50 yards, so we know he is efficient.
- Adam Vinatieri finally missed a kick this week, but that doesn’t mean he is any less dependable. This is especially true both in the playoffs, and at home in the dome where weather will not be an issue. The main concern here is the Colts’ offense in general, but I would expect them to bounce back this week now that games matter for real again. The fact that Vinatieri has made 10 field goals from beyond 40 yards, including three greater than 50 yards, shows that he still has leg strength.
- If you are going under the assumption that Detroit will lose, then Matt Prater won’t be a terrible pick for this week if you are limited to only taking one player from each team. Much has been made of the struggles the Lions had in the kicking game earlier in the season, but they appear to have righted the ship with Prater. He has been successful on 80.8% of his kicks so far this season, and will benefit from favorable kicking conditions in Dallas.
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