There are few things more maddening to fantasy owners than what us long-timers call “Garbage Time.” It seems like every week there is a team that falls behind by 14 or more points and, late in the game, defenses are willing to give up small chunks of yards to keep the clock moving – even if it results in a late touchdown.
In Week 1, Drew Brees was being throttled by Minnesota. He didn’t go over 100 passing yards until four minutes were left in the third quarter. He finished with 291 yards.
In Week 2, Bears QB Mike Glennon looked awful in the first half of their humbling loss to the Buccaneers, throwing for just 116 yards. He finished with 301 yards and a touchdown – better than a lot of QBs who were fighting hard to win.
In Week 2, Aaron Rodgers trailed the Falcons 31-7 in the first minute of the second half, having thrown for just 85 yards and no touchdowns. His Packers would lose 34-23 and he would finish with 343 yards and two TDs.
Last Sunday, Russell Wilson had a giant fantasy day (373 yards and four touchdowns) but 162 of those yards and two of those touchdowns came in the fourth quarter after the Seahawks were behind 30-16.
It happens every week and, for each of those quarterbacks listed, there are players on the receiving end of those yards.
I’ve had youngsters come into The Shop and say that there is a word for that – “game flow.” As a man in a profession where a sweet flow is a good thing, to give that end-of-game heartbreaking cheese yards and scores a name that sounds so positive doesn’t accurately reflect it.
It’s garbage time. Period.
Don’t get me wrong. I ended up with Tony Romo on my roster almost every year of his career and the only times I tended to play him were in games I thought he would be behind by 14 points on the road. I called him the Garbage Man because he could turn a 10-point loss into a fantasy-winning stat line.
When you lose to garbage time points – like DeVante Parker scoring with no time left on the clock in a game long-since decided, it hurts. But it isn’t game flow. It’s garbage time and should be viewed as such.
- If someone had told you that, through three weeks of the season there would be six teams that had scored 40 points in a game and two of those came from the Rams and the others came from Jacksonville and Kansas City, you wouldn’t get many takers.
- If someone would have told me a month ago that the top three yardage receivers would include Antonio Brown, I would have replied, “Yeah, so what’s your point?” If someone would have told me the other two would be Minnesota Vikings wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, I’d ask that you be tested. Yet, there it is and there they are.
- Rumors of the death of Marcedes Lewis were greatly exaggerated. In his first two games, the Jaguars tight end had been targeted just four times and caught none of the passes thrown this way. On Sunday, he burst back into the spotlight. He was only targeted five times but caught four of them and three of those were in the end zone for touchdowns. If you played him Sunday, head to Vegas now while you’re still hot.
- I thought the NFL was allowing more creativity among players. If you missed it, check out the play near the end of the Denver-Buffalo game. Von Miller knocked down his friend Tyrod Taylor on a third-down incompletion that was going to lead to a punt with Denver down by seven points. He pulled his hand away as Taylor reached for it. They both got a laugh out of it, but the laughing stopped when the refs called Miller for unsportsmanlike conduct and kept the drive alive.
The razor’s edge
- A Game of Inches – On a week when the other three teams in the NFC North won, the Detroit Lions were looking to stay alone atop the division. They overcame a 17-3 deficit to the Falcons, who find it difficult to hold a big lead, and had a chance to win in the final seconds when Matthew Stafford hit a slant pass to Golden Tate short of the end zone. It can be argued as to whether there was enough time to run another play or visual evidence to overturn the call on the field. For a team that won a lot of games in the final seconds last year, this time the last-second theatrics went against them. They lost the tie-breaker lead in the division and lost ground to all three division rivals. Not a way to go down, especially if you watch the tape and are convinced the 10-second runoff wasn’t necessary because Tate scored.
- Going Over the Falls in a Barrel – The Denver Broncos headed to upstate New York to do what everyone thought they would do – throttle the hapless Bills and their no-name offense. The Broncos held the Bills to just 272 yards of offense and 75 rushing yards on 33 carries. Yet, the Bills scored six times thanks to 10 Denver penalties – including a couple of critical ones – and two interceptions. This isn’t a deal-breaker for the Broncos season, but it a “W” they had penned in, not penciled in and may come back to bite them if tie-breaker scenarios come into play at the end of the season.
- Too Little, Too Late – The Giants entered their divisional showdown with Philadelphia at 0-2 and on the brink of being knocked out of contention for a playoff spot only three games into the season. In their first 11 quarters, they had scored just 13 points and trailed 14-0 heading into the fourth quarter. Without warning, the Giants came to life, scoring three touchdowns in a little more than five minutes to take a 21-14 lead. The defense lost that lead in 90 seconds and, once they got the lead again at 24-21, gave up a field goal with 58 seconds to play and, after a three-and-out drive and a 28-yard punt by Brad Wing, lost as time expired on a 61-yard field to drop to 0-3 overall, 0-3 in the conference and 0-2 in the division. The G-Men aren’t dead yet, but they’re on life support.
- Burning in Chicago – Given what happened to the rest of the division in Week 3, the Steelers had a chance to take control of the AFC North. Instead, they went into Chicago, where they had lost five of six meetings at Soldier Field since the AFL/NFL merger. Make that six out of seven and it was painful to watch. Chicago ran the ball 38 times for 220 yards – 138 yards and two touchdowns from Jordan Howard and 12 carries for 78 yards from Tarik Cohen. Pittsburgh was the better team – numbers like that usually result in blowouts, not overtime losses, but that sort of production allowed to an opponent, much less one with little to nothing in terms of a passing game. The Steelers didn’t lose any ground because everyone else in the AFC North lost, but it was a missed opportunity.
- The Bucs Stopped Here – Following a dominating performance in their first game of the season after having their Week 1 game postponed by Hurricane Irma, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers wanted to set the tone against Minnesota’s backup quarterback Case Keenum, who had beaten former Bucs teams the last two times he played them. Keenum completed 25 of 33 passes for a whopping 369 yards and three touchdowns. Minnesota lit up the injury-depleted Bucs secondary and took a 21-3 halftime lead. Trailing against Minnesota’s defense is never a good thing. Jameis Winston threw three interceptions, two of them in the end zone and all three were bad passes that were clearly his fault. Losing in Minnesota is nothing to be ashamed of, but it seems as though everyone has tapped the brakes on the Cinderella Bucs story for now.
- Everything New(ton) Is Old Again – After looking unstoppable against pedestrian housecleaned offenses from San Francisco and Buffalo, the Carolina Panthers finally played an offense capable of putting up points in the New Orleans Saints. The Panthers struggling offense couldn’t count on their defense throwing a near-shutout. Cam Newton was going to have to equal Drew Brees’ production – against a much worse defense. Not only did Newton not meet that challenge (at home, no less), he threw for just 167 yards with no touchdown passes, three interceptions and a passer rating of 43.8 against a defense that had been gashed by Sam Bradford and Tom Brady. In his last two possessions, he got picked off twice and was benched in favor of Derek Anderson. Something isn’t right with Newton and not only is he losing his grip on being a must-start fantasy QB, unless his shoulder heals up quick, the Panthers will have to change things in a hurry at New England and at Detroit the next two weeks to avoid circling the drain.
- Birds of Prey or Pray? – The conventional wisdom is that the Seattle Seahawks are the prohibitive favorites to win the NFC West, but few are looking at them as legitimate Super Bowl contenders that can string together three wins in the postseason, largely due to a dismal offensive line. But, on a day when Russell Wilson threw four touchdowns, its defense got taken downtown in Nashville. In eight drives from the start of the second quarter to the start of the fourth quarter, Tennessee scored seven times – four field goals and three touchdowns. Seattle did enough offensively to win this game, but dropped to 0-2 on the road and don’t have the swagger we’ve been used to seeing in the Great Northwest. They’re still a playoff team, but a Super Bowl team? Not if you watch this game film.
- Not Ready for Prime Time – After convincing wins on the road at Tennessee and an unholy beat-down of the Jets, the Raiders had a dancing swagger they brought to Sunday Night Football with a road matchup against the Redskins. It’s one thing to lose. It’s another completely to be dominated. With five minutes to play in the game, Oakland had run just 36 offensive plays and gained 71 total yards. David Carr threw two picks and 247 fewer passing yards than Kirk Cousins, Marshawn Lynch rushed for 18 yards – more than half the team total – and Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree combined for just two catches for 13 yards. The Raiders knew they were going to have a fight on their hands going cross country to play a hungry Redskins team in prime time. But the beating they took was jarring and eye-opening. Great teams typically don’t get done so completely and decisively. As a non-conference loss, it doesn’t hurt as much as a division game, but the Raiders got exposed for all their flaws and weaknesses by a team most don’t view as a playoff team, which has to be a concern. Who’s dancing now?
- Escape from New York (technically New Jersey) – Miami was expected to be the next team to cut a notch in their holster as the latest team to slap the Jets around. In their first two games, New York had been outscored 66-32 and had the looks of a team capable of going 0-16…until the Dolphins came to Met Life Stadium. Of their 11 drives prior to a garbage-time touchdown that prevented a shutout as time expired, the first seven ended in punts and the last four featured two interceptions and two turnovers on downs. Of their eight drives prior to the fourth quarter, none of them lasted more than six plays and four of them were three-and-outs. In eight drives, Jay Cutler managed three first downs. It seems clear that if Jay Ajayi isn’t healthy, the Miami offense is going to struggle – against anyone, not just good teams.
- London Broiled – The Baltimore Ravens proved they could beat teams from Ohio in their first two games and most believed we would see their true mettle in Weeks 4-5 vs. Pittsburgh and at Oakland. Instead, it appears as though the Ravens players didn’t make it through customs and we were seeing the reincarnation of 1987 scab teams. It wasn’t like they were running up against New England. This was Jacksonville. The Jags outgained the Ravens 410-186 and scored on eight of their first 10 full possessions – four touchdowns and four field goals. The Jacksonville defense is no joke, but, in some scoring formats, Joe Flacco had minus fantasy points after completing eight of 18 passes for 28 yards, two sacks, two interceptions and a passer rating of 12.0. With the twice-annual Pittsburgh bloodbath coming this week and a bar fight with the Raiders after that, they both got a lot of film to watch as to just how bad the Ravens can be when they’re off their game early and make Bortles look like Brady.