Sure, you don’t spend a ton of time on evaluating kickers during the draft. The days of reaching out several rounds to grab a Mike Vanderjagt are long gone. However, the matchup game needs to be played by fantasy owners to eke out the extra point or two, and that starts immediately.
So, stand back from the glory positions for a moment and mine for gold in the secondary slots.
Let’s get started in Denver.
Exclude: Stephen Gostkowski, Nate Kaeding, Sebastian Janikowski
Heroes Week 1
Matt Prater vs. Oakland: It’s a new start in Denver, with John Fox looking to establish the run and build out a defense following last year’s series of shootouts. I still anticipate that we’ll see Kyle Orton air it out with some regularity, particularly against this Oakland secondary. Remember, Nnamdi Asomugha was released and signed in Philly. Finish the first week of a season with a huge effort from the kicker slot.
Josh Brown vs. Philadelphia: This is perhaps one of the most intriguing matchups of the week. I don’t expect a shootout with these sack-happy units involved, but the Bradford-led offense should move the ball. Brown has the leg strength to hammer home long-distance tries, having converted three or more field goals from distances of at least 50 yards in six consecutive seasons. Take the bonus scoring.
Neil Rackers vs. Indianapolis: Everything has been set up perfectly for the Texans. Kerry Collins likely lines up under center for the Colts, perhaps creating an opening for Wade Phillips’ retooled defense. Rackers has scored at least 110 points in five of the past six seasons, and this Houston offense is loaded with safety valve Owen Daniels back in the mix.
Billy Cundiff vs. Pittsburgh: I’m still concerned about the Baltimore offensive line, as the team felt the need to bring in Gurode and McKinnie during camp. However, the signing of Vonta Leach allows me to breathe a little easier with some assurance that the Ravens will be able to move the ball. I don’t anticipate a repeat of the high-scoring AFC Playoff game, but Cundiff will see multiple field goal tries in this one.
Rob Bironas at Jacksonville: Bironas has been one of the steadiest performers at the position for years. Jacksonville is already embroiled in controversy following the late release of quarterback David Garrard. Tennessee should win the field position battle, and Bironas will see multiple tries behind Chris Johnson’s first steps toward 2,000 yards.
Ninjas Week 1
Phil Dawson vs. Cincinnati: Dawson returns for another run in the revitalized Cleveland offense led by Colt McCoy. He’s not a big-legged option, as he’s converted just eight field goals of at least 40 yards in the past two seasons. However, I do believe that the Browns will move the ball effectively behind Hillis and McCoy and that the defense will force the issue against Andy Dalton.
Shaun Suisham at Baltimore: The Steelers’ offense is positively loaded with speed options at wide receiver, the defense remains at the top of the heap and Rashard Mendenhall is primed for a huge season. Even with the slimmed-down Haloti Ngata staring Ben Roethlisberger in the face, I expect the Steelers’ offense to produce points.
Suisham converted multiple field goals in five of his six regular season games last season.
Jay Feely vs. Carolina: We love Feely for his participation in the Twitterverse, and I see great potential for a big game this week against the Panthers. Kevin Kolb and Larry Fitzgerald are ready to stretch the field and reinvigorate the Arizona fan base.
Feely converted 24-of-27 field goal attempts for last year’s iteration of the team. It has to be better by default, doesn’t it?
John Kasay at Green Bay: Kasay likely stands in for Garrett Hartley, who injured his hip during the exhibition season. The 21-year veteran converted 14-of-18 attempts from distances of at least 40 yards for the Panthers last season. He’s a strong spot start against Green Bay.
Flops Week 1
Matt Bryant at Chicago: It’s hard to drop Bryant into this list given the lofty expectations piled on Atlanta this preseason. Still, I don’t believe that you’ll see the offense fly out of the gate with huge returns against the Chicago defense.
The forecast is calling for rain and, well, the Soldier Field playing surface is dubious under the best circumstances. You’ll start Bryant, but don’t expect huge returns.
Dan Bailey at New York Jets: What are your expectations for this game? I’m looking at a fairly low-scoring contest with few chances for Bailey, who wrested the job away from David Buehler. I’ll look elsewhere on the big stage against the vaunted New York defense.
Adam Vinatieri at Houston: There are too many questions in the Indianapolis offense for Week 1 to trust much of anything. As Vinatieri has been primarily a PAT machine of late behind Peyton Manning, I’m not anticipating a huge breakthrough here with Kerry Collins under center.