If you missed out on this column’s premier Week 4 kicker — Steelers’ not-so-secret red zone weapon Shaun Suisham — you didn’t miss much.
Suisham connected on his only field goal attempt of the week, a chip shot in the first quarter, before the Steelers scored a few touchdowns and subsequently packed it in against the lowly Tampa defense.
Our other Week 4 options, Robbie Gould and Shayne Graham, posted five fantasy points apiece while game script went off the rails and their respective quarterbacks performed poorly for most of the game.
Remember that kicker production is closely linked to two factors: positive game script — their teams moving the ball consistently down the gridiron — and quarterback performance. Without those factors in our favor, we have little hope of picking kickers most likely to put up a nice chunk of fantasy points every week.
We’re still going to incorporate red zone stop rate, especially as the season wears on and sample sizes become more reliable, but we’re going to continue to de-emphasize an opposing defense’s red zone success if Vegas projections tell us a kicker’s game script is likely to be positive.
Here are three kickers I’m targeting everywhere in Week 5.
Mike Nugent (CIN) at New England Patriots
Nugent, who started the 2014 season with a 15-point outing against Baltimore, takes on a Patriots’ defense that, for all its shortcomings, has been one of the best in the red zone. Opponents are scoring touchdowns inside the 20-yard line just 46 percent of the time against New England. Only five defenses are better.
The Rotoviz Streaming Kicker app is a big fan of Nugent’s this week, and Vegas projects the Bengals to score 23.5 points against a Patriots’ defense that is allowing 22.5 points per game through four weeks.
I think Nugent has a reliably positive script in this one and I see Andy Dalton as a sneaky play against a secondary that just gave up 258 yards and three touchdowns to Alex Smith. The Patriots are allowing 3.8 red zone scoring opportunities per game — eighth most in the league.
Nugent is available in more than 90 percent of leagues.
Cody Parkey (PHI) vs. St. Louis Rams
Fantasy’s No. 3 kicker through four weeks, Parkey had his first bad week of the 2014 season as the Philadelphia offense crumbled against the 49ers. I wouldn’t let that dissuade me from rolling out Parkey against the Rams this week.
St. Louis’ red zone touchdown rate leaves something to be desired. At 54 percent, the Rams are middle of the pack in allowing touchdowns to opponents once they breach the red zone. Parkey, before his dud in San Francisco, had averaged 12.9 fantasy points per game over the Eagles’ first three contests. Vegas has the Eagles scoring 27.25 points against the Rams this week — more than enough for Parkey to put up a nice line in Week 5.
St. Louis, when adjusted for strength of schedule, is allowing 8.5 fantasy points per game to opposing kickers. Parkey is owned in just 40 percent of leagues.
Nick Novak (SD) vs. New York Jets
Only Blair Walsh has scored more fantasy points than Novak this season. The Chargers aren’t exactly prolific in the red zone as they continue to use Eddie Royal as their main red zone weapon, and while this might drive Ladarius Green owners absolutely bonkers, it should be good news for those rolling with Novak against Gang Green.
Only five defenses allow more production to opposing kickers than the Jets, when adjusted for strength of schedule, and Vegas has the Chargers putting up 25 points in a home game against New York. And here’s a good formula for Novak in Week 5: Philip Rivers is dialed in like never before, the Jets’ secondary is among the worst in the NFL, and the Chargers are heavy favorites.
Novak’s game script should be nice and positive against a defense allowing 2.5 red zone scoring chances per game.