So, what goes through your mind before making an NFL pick against the point spread? Last week's performance? Injury reports or a team's past record against non-divisional opponents? Being a favorite of 3 or more points or record in November over the past five years? The real POINT here is we could and do invent hundreds of different reasons before venturing a decision on which team to wager upon. Surely, one factor never has come up until the past few seasons. The kicker or strength of kicking game.
Don't Go Away
Up until the monumental rule change involving the extra point, it was foregone conclusion that a touchdown meant seven points until the last two minutes of the game, when it might mean six or eight, depending on the final score situation. The worst NFL kickers were automatic to make an extra point. A lock where you were already computing 7 points into your thinking, even before it potentially happened. We all headed to the bathroom or to the fridge for a beer, knowing 7 points were to be on the board. Well, those days are now over baby.
As a great example, we submit last week's Denver Broncos-New Orleans Saints game as the prototype. Most preferred offshore sportsbooks, including Bovada, BetOnline and Diamond Sports had the Saints firmly -3 at kickoff. New Orleans botched a late extra point, which normally rendered a tie toward overtime resulted in the Broncos unlikely 2-point runback for the outright 25-23 win. Great suspense, but would traditional, serious bettors as a majority vote for this? I think not.
Even the automatic isn't a given anymore. Atlanta Falcons kicker Matt Bryant hadn't missed an extra point in almost eight seasons, yet shanked one in Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles in a 24-15 loss. A key miss at that point and a bigger key thus for a Falcons teaser bettor with +8.5. As a whirlwind of Eagles money came in late from most top online sportsbooks, making that bet look unbeatable.
If you're looking for the kicker to blame for losing money on the Minnesota Vikings last Sunday against the Redskins, you might feel better now. The Vikes released Blair Walsh on Tuesday after he missed a sure extra point. Though he was already walking the plank when Minnesota brought in two kickers to audition last week. Sadly, Walsh will forever be remembered for blowing that easy field goal in the Wild Card playoff game last year that would have beaten the Seahawks. The forgotten detail it was about 5 degrees in Minneapolis with a 40-mph wind against the NFL's luckiest team. Then again, no one ever feels sorry for a kicker.
The Worst NFL Game This Season
Speaking of the Seahawks, there would be no debating their awful October 6-6 tie vs. the Cardinals wins the award as the worst NFL game of the year, highlighted by kicking disasters. If a tie is like kissing your sister, this one was like French-kissing your grandma. Displayed before a national TV audience on NBC Sunday Night Football, both kickers missed chip-shot field goals that would have ended the game in overtime. Thankfully, each kicker didn't have a chance to attempt an extra point. No doubt the Cards kicker Chandler Catanzaro will be looking for another NFL team to boot for next season. That is, if he lasts with Arizona through this one.
Why the Cowboys & Ravens lead their Divisions
Yeah, I know the Boys are sudden Super Bowl favorites with Dak and Zeke making headlines. And the Ravens have been playing great defense with steady QB Joe Flacco and great head coach John Harbaugh always in command. But I say give a massive bonus to guys like Pro Bowl kickers Dan Bailey and Justin Tucker, who never do and never will miss an extra point. Especially with the game or your betting dough on the line. Conversely, keep them in mind as enemies, should you choose to wager against Dallas and/or Baltimore later this season. They seem like robots, immune to pressure, weather conditions or -3.5 betting lines with ten seconds to go in the game.
Which brings us to another "extra point". The lack of a head coach having confidence in his kicker to make one!! A question Steelers coach Mike Tomlin would never answer and might kill you over if brought it up after last week's huge 35-30 loss to the Cowboys. Pittsburgh elected to try a two-point conversion on their opening drive on the way to missing three more during the game. Possibly an NFL record. And a blunder that might have cost Steelers bettors their -3-wager money had the Cowboys not won outright. What looked like a great advantage for anyone betting the Steelers in the first quarter turned out to be a disaster the longer the game continued. It seemed like Pittsburgh was constantly trying to make up those lost extra points while anyone betting the Cowboys gained confidence. Kicker Chris Boswell had the day off.
No Obvious Solution
Before you think drafting an NFL kicker in the early rounds to meet this new level of importance, think again. Like many, I endorsed the Tampa Bay Bucs drafting Roberto Aguayo from Florida State last year in the 2nd round. Aguayo was perhaps the NCAA Division One's all-time best kicker. He's flopped this season, causing his teammates to shun him and may be out of a job next year. A total embarrassment unless he converts every extra point and field goal attempt remaining.
Therefore, back to where we started. Many important factors to consider before selecting on which NFL team to wager upon. But based upon what we've seen this season, I'd throw in the kicker with some respect as a viable factor to also keep in mind. Strange though. Based on point spread math, a miss or doink off the upright might benefit you getting points. Sorry, can't offer you any betting strategy advice there.
Glenn Greene covers the games from a betting angle every week exclusively at OSGA.com. For weekly betting insights, inlcuding previews and picks from Glenn, click here.