QB Fantasy Scoring: Do We Want Garbage Time or Close Games?

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We wanted to give you some data about QB scoring and the age old fantasy friend: Garbage time. We use the garbage man drop all the time on the show describing fantasy efforts that are truly gross as games close out. 

On Thursday’s Fantasy Footballers podcast, we put the question to the test: do QBs perform better in garbage time/blowout games or when the score is close?

What About Garbage Time?

We looked at every QB over the last five years with a couple of simple parameters:

  • The QB had to start the game and their team had to end up losing the game
  • The QB had to attempt at least 16 pass attempts, which cut out players
  • We set the line at 12 points difference in the final score as a blowout. 

NOTE: Keep in mind there are some simple limitations to this method as some games that feel like a blowout for the majority of the game do end up finishing in the one-score category. We also only looked at QB scoring for this segment. In the coming weeks, we will discuss other positions (RBs & WRs) and their findings in these situations.

A couple of years ago, Scott Spratt of PFF wrote a great article trying to quantify garbage time from a fantasy points per play perspective. He found that when a team’s win probability goes under 20%, they throw 70+ percent of their plays. That rate sounds great but their fantasy points per play were very much in range when the game was in question and the win probability floated between 40-60 percent.

Let’s compare the data between blowout losses and close games over the last five years.

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To Blowout or Not…

Among the 484 “blowout losses” where a QB hit those parameters over the last five years, the findings were rather grim for QBs.

Only 27% of those QBs in losses of 12+ points finished with 18+ fantasy points. We chose that threshold because 18 fantasy points are a top-12 mark we shoot for when talking about fringe QB1 plays and streamers off the wire. The other nearly 75% of QBs averaged only 197 passing yards and 0.5 TDs. Gross.

Last week, the Jets were in garbage time mode for most of the second half against the Ravens. Joe Flacco threw the ball 59(!) times and finished as the QB21. His WRs (Corey Davis– WR31, Elijah Moore– WR52, Garrett Wilson-WR53) were mostly irrelevant while the RBs (Breece Hall & Michael Carter) combined for 19 targets. Flacco was inefficient throughout the game and finished with a total of two third downs converted. Yuck.

Of the 632 instances of one score losses, 57% of QBs in one score losses finished with 18+ fantasy points. That’s more than double the rate of blowout losses. When games were within one score, these QBs averaged 257 passing yards & 1.5 passing TDs. That’s 60 more passing yards and a full TD more.

Main Takeaways

Vegas totals matter.

Target games with high totals, high implied totals.

Don’t assume garbage time will always happen.

Inefficient offenses often stay inefficient… the entire game.

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For Week 2, we have games with heavy favorites. Don’t assume you’re getting garbage time points from QBs and their weapons.

    • HOU @ DEN (-9.5)
    • SEA @ SF (-9.5)
    • CHI @ GB (-9.5)
    • TEN @ BUF (-10.5)
    • ATL @ LAR (-10.5)


Nathan Gahan says:

Does this also mean that you shouldn’t target QBs on teams that are heavy favorites in a given matchup? Or is it roughly the same as for QBs in close games?

Definitely target QBs on heavy favorites. It means they have huge team implied totals worth leaning into.

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