Having faith in NFL kickers can be fleeting

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My friend Nick Canepa, who has covered pro football for more years than even he cares to remember, always has a one-word response whenever an extra point or a field goal is missed or blocked.

“Kickers.”

Sums it up nicely, doesn’t it?

If you’re a bettor, is there a worse feeling than when you are either trying to hold on to a winning wager or pull a rabbit out of the hat when you see a placekicker trot on to the field? You suddenly have a queasy feeling in your stomach. You break out into a sweat. You’re preparing to unleash a tirade of profanity-laden words.

With one swing of the leg, you’re either celebrating or shredding that bet slip.

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For money line bettors, Sunday’s Bears-Broncos game is a case in point. Denver was down late, but scored with 31 seconds left to erase what was a 13-3 deficit to lead 14-13.

Chicago quickly moved the ball and asked Eddy Pineiro to win it for them. Pineiro had made two field goals earlier in the game. Now, from 53 yards out, in altitude, he was asked to deliver.

The ball cleared the uprights. Final score: Bears 16, Broncos 14. The Chicago money line bettors got paid. The Broncos fans who took the three points also cashed.

Not a good result for the sports books I’m guessing. But the point is there’s an inherent risk involved anytime you see a kicker performing.

Will the holder botch the snap? Will the kick get blocked? Will it stay straight or hook to the left or not hook at all and go wide right?

In the first two weeks of the NFL season, there have been 115 field goals attempted. Of those 115, 23 have missed or have been blocked. Granted, each of those misses was from 30 yards or beyond, but of the 32 NFL teams, only 14 are still perfect after two weeks.

And the worst is yet to come. You think you have knots in your stomach now? Wait until the weather turns nasty in November and into December and guys are kicking in snow and rain as the footing becomes treacherous. Or it’s 10 degrees with the wind chill and the football feels like a brick.

Good luck with all of that as you try to cash that three-team parlay before Christmas and the make or miss of a field goal is the difference between your kid getting a really nice present or one not so cool.

The teams that have kicking issues know it. The Bears apparently addressed theirs for the time being with Pineiro after Cody Parkey was let go following his infamous “Double Doink” that ended Chicago’s 2018 season with its playoff loss to the Eagles. The Jets signed Sam Ficken last week after cutting Kaare Vedvik loose. Who knows if he’s the ­answer long-term?

Even the great Adam Vinatieri, who is likely headed to the Hall of Fame one day, is off to a bad start, going 1-3 on field goal attempts for the Colts.

Teams that have kicking issues try to address then. As the great John McKay once said while coaching the woeful Tampa Bay Buccaneers: “Kickers are like horse manure … they’re all over the place.”

In the sports wagering world where the number 3 is critical, it’s the kickers who many times decide whether you win or lose your bet. Even extra points, which were gimmies until the NFL moved back the spot a few years ago, can be Chiller Theater. Vinatieri has missed three extra points in Indianapolis’ first two games. New England’s Stephen Gostkowski, another normally reliable kicker, has missed two PATs so far this season.

Every NFL team over the course of its history has had mishaps with kickers. The good ones usually are able to minimize the risk.

But make no mistake about it, when you’re betting on football, you better handicap the kicking game into your equation. In the end, that’s the real gamble.

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About the Author

Steve Carp

Steve Carp is a six-time Nevada Sportswriter of the Year. A 30-year veteran of the Las Vegas sports journalism scene, he covered the Vegas Golden Knights for the Las Vegas Review-Journal from 2015-2018.

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