Scramble for the Ball
Fantasy football, the Loser League, and general goofiness

Scramble for the Ball: B.S. Games

by Bill Barnwell

When we were discussing great fantasy performances against the best defenses last week, some of the performances being discussed were the cheap ones -- those games where a running back gains 27 yards on 19 carries, but scores three times. Corey Dillon had an epic one last year against Detroit.

A couple of superb ones came up in the comments, but I decided to try and quantify the BS game. It was also an excuse to use our expanded game-by-game database, which now goes back to 1970 (Note: that doesn't mean we have DPAR/DVOA for those games).

We had to come up with some rules for defining a BS game, though. What I wanted to find were players who scored a lot of fantasy points while doing little to help his team win. The simple metric? Fantasy points divided by all-purpose yards. Each quarterback and running back had to have a minimum of nine attempts in order to keep out guys who ran with one carry for a touchdown, since the goal is to find players who are really hurting their real team while affecting their fantasy team. Wide receivers will need four catches or more. We'll examine the five biggest BS performances at each position from 1970 to 2006.


1. Steve Bono, KC, 10/1/1995: I don't know whether this was the game where Bono ran the greatest naked bootleg ever, like 70 yards untouched, but he had a pretty epic game. The big news was his rushing, where he ran five times for 74 yards and a touchdown, but his passing was slightly less effective -- 7-for-17 for 78 yards with two scores and an interception.

2. Aaron Brooks, NO, 11/30/2003: Aaron Brooks better in fantasy football than in real football? You're pulling my leg. This about summarizes the Brooks experience. Going 14-for-30 for 121 yards and a score is brilliant enough, but add to that six carries for 11 yards and two rushing touchdowns, and you've got yourself a vintage Brooks performance.

3. Mark Brunell, JAC, 11/12/1995: This was a performance Vince Young would study and come to perfect. Going 13-for-20 for 121 yards, a touchdown and an interception; six carries for 60 yards and a rushing score. He just wins. Sorta.

4. Kerry Collins, CAR, 9/17/1995: Collins must have gotten hurt. Seven completions in 11 attempts for 45 yards and an interception with two carries for nine yards and a touchdown was his line on the day.

5. Bill Troup, BAL, 10/8/1974: Troup put up a performance entirely indicative of the mediocrity this nonsense statistic hopes to encapsulate. Give the man a hand for going 10-for-17 for a whopping 77 yards, throwing a touchdown and an interception, but also running one time for a two-yard score. That's 11.95 fantasy points against only 79 total yards.

Running Back

1. Reggie Evans, WAS, 10/23/1983: Evans played one year in the NFL. He ran the ball 16 times for 11 yards and four touchdowns. In this game, he had 10 of those carries for four yards and three scores. I cannot fathom a more BS performer than Reggie Evans.

2. Christian Okoye, KC, 12/2/1990: A much-better known player was Okoye, but this was not one of his better days. Eleven carries yielded two touchdowns, but only five yards.

3. Norm Bulaich, BAL, 10/31/1971: Bulaich adds something else to the stew: negative numbers. He did have nine carries for six yards and a touchdown, sure, but throw in a catch for -3 yards and you are left with all of three all-purpose yards.

4. John Riggins, WAS, 9/10/1984: Is it a coincidence this came in his post-370 season? Probably, since his numbers on the year were perfectly acceptable. This game, though... 10 carries for 12 yards, one catch for zero yards, two touchdowns. I am sure he did the whole thing with grit.

T5. Kenneth Davis, BUF, 1/20/1990: Short-yardage brilliance. Ten carries for 21 yards and three touchdowns.

T5. Darick Holmes, BUF, 10/20/1996: Short-yardage brilliance, on a much smaller scale. Ten carries for seven yards, but only one score. He actually had a carry of nine yards in the game, which means he had nine other carries for -2 yards.

Wide Receiver

1. Tim Brown, OAK, 9/1/1996: Brown picked up two touchdowns while catching four passes for 31 yards, but what really adds to the mediocrity is his one carry for -9 yards. You know, because he's explosive.

2. Rocket Ismail, CAR, 9/29/1997: Raghib Ismail, possession receiver? On this week, he was. Four catches only netted the Rocket 19 yards and a touchdown.

T3. Five players: Games by Bert Emanuel, Terence Mathis, Muhsin Muhammad, Carl Pickens, and Marcus Robinson all tied here.

T4. Freddie Solomon and Terance Mathis: Both players caught four passes for 21 yards and a score.

5. Reggie Rucker, CLE, 9/12/1976: Rucker attended Boston University, which no longer has a football team because it would interfere with their hockey team beating the crap out of Northeastern each season. Stupid Beanpot. I digress. Rucker had a nice career, highlighted by this game where he caught five passes for 37 yards and three touchdowns, throwing a three-yard run for an even 40 yards.

BONUS -- Ron Middleton, WAS, 9/6/1993: Middleton played ten years in the league, but only had one year with more than six catches. This was it, on a 4-12 team. He averaged 6.4 yards per catch all season. This is merely your garden variety crappy game, with five catches for 15 yards and a score. His long on the day was seven yards, so that's four other catches that averaged 2 yards apiece. Richie Petitbon, everyone!

Since Jason's in rehab this week, here's an FO classic! Check out the Football Outsiders comics archive and Jason's wacky Gil Thorp blog.

Losingest Loser of the Week

QB: Donovan McNabb and Byron Leftwich each put up a -1 this week. One of them will get many more chances to repeat his performance. The other is currently being cranked so he can release his next pass in time for Week 16.

RB: An old KUBIAK darling and a player we told you to avoid are the low scorers here. Julius Jones was once No. 2 on your draft board until, well, Marion Barber III showed up. Now, Jones is an afterthought in dreams of Darren McFadden. Meanwhile, Rudi Johnson's year has seen him seem like the lesser Kenny Watson as opposed to the other way around. They had a 1 and a 2, respectively.

WR: I love me a wideout zero. Thanks, Mark Clayton. You've wasted a roster spot on many a fantasy team with your inability to recover from your ankle injury, but you've made up for it with two catches for nine yards this week. Runners-up are fellow espoused breakout candidates Reggie Brown and Patrick Crayton, both of whom have suffered under the scrutiny of more demanding roles within their respective offenses.

K: Being a Dolphin wasn't enough for Jay Feely, who kicked a single extra point and missed a field goal to tie Leftwich and McNabb at -1 this week. Dave Rayner missed two field goals, but kicked one and got an extra point to even out at 0.

Keep Choppin' Wood Award

Wood was chopped by the referees underneath the goal posts in Baltimore. Your job, your one job, is to make sure to accurately ascertain whether a field goal has made it through the uprights. You've failed at this job. This is like when Lloyd from Dumb and Dumber took the day off from work as a snowmobile driver because of the snowstorm. Well, maybe not.

Best Bets

Last Week: 1-2, 13-15-1 overall

I'm settling into a trend. A trend of suckiness. I need a gimmick.

Green Bay (-4) over DETROIT

I can't possibly put more of my trust into the Packers against the Lions. It's a fluke, people! A fluke!

DALLAS (-14.5) over New York Jets

The Jets have played teams very close this year, looked much better with David Harris at linebacker, and beat the Steelers last week. This is also Kellen Clemens on the road.

Indianapolis (-12.5) over ATLANTA

I don't know who Peyton Manning will be throwing to. I think they will be able to get past DeAngelo Hall, whoever they are.


23 comments, Last at 24 Nov 2007, 8:23pm

1 Re: Scramble for the Ball: B.S. Games

Your metric works fine for RBs and WRs, but for QBs if you're really going for great fantasy/bad real life, the winners I'm sure are a a bunch of 50 pass days. I'm thinking 33-62 for 354 yards with 3 tds and 5 ints in a 35-21 loss. Probably a big -DPAR day that's still 22 fantasy points.

There was one year just before the old Browns moved to Baltimore when they were all offense no defense, went 4-12 I think, and Vinny T threw up a whole bunch of those type of games. He ended up as like the number 4 QB in fantasy football and helped me win a title.

2 Re: Scramble for the Ball: B.S. Games

I think we need to make an exception to the 9-carry rule for Jerome Bettis' epic 2004.

His stat line in week 1 against the Raiders: 5 rushes, 1 yard, 3 TDs. I think that sets the standard for both BS games and touchdown thievery.

He even had two other games that year with a TD but less than 10 yards: week 4 vs. Cincinnatti (6 carries, 9 yards, 2 TDs) and week 6 vs. Dallas (5 carries, 8 yards, 1 TD).

3 Re: Scramble for the Ball: B.S. Games


5. Reggie Rucker, CLE, 9/12/1976: Rucker attended Boston University, which no longer has a football team because it would interfere with their hockey team beating the crap out of Northeastern each season. Stupid Beanpot.

I was at BU for their last home football game - only win of the year - and almost got pepper sprayed. They didn't cut football because it interfered with hockey. They cut it because it interfered with compliance with Title IX and didn't bring in money. Long live John Silber (and by "long live", I mean "in a hole far away from the Hub, where you can't do any more harm").

4 Re: Scramble for the Ball: B.S. Games

Noooo, for the love of Gozer the Gozarian! Don't make Indy a best bet for a fourth week in a row! Have you gone mad, man?!?! You are ruining their once-glorious season! (Okay, so they covered against NE. Big deal!)

How many more starters will your new best bet pick consign to the morgue, you heartless monster. These guys have families to feed and don't need your jinx sending them to early retirement because of a severed spine or bunions or whatever.

A 12.5 point spread? They have Dan Klecko starting at WR!!! They'll be lucky to score 10. Yes, the D might hold Atlanta to negative points, but that's besides the point.

Please, ignore them for a week or five. Let them get healthy, then thrust them back into the spotlight.

Oh... wait a minute... Barnwell? Barnwell? Where have I seen that name before? Oh yes, Patriots Daily! Outside Foxborough! You are in the employ of Belichick and this is how you do it. Madden Curse--the Curse of Barnwell. It's all the same. Dastardly. Masterful, but dastardly.

7 Re: Scramble for the Ball: B.S. Games

Marshall Faulk had a really noteworthy game in 2003 against Baltimore, in what is my favorite NFL game in history (and I'm neither a Rams fan nor a Ravens fan). Faulk had 20 carries for 48 yards and 2 scores, as well as 3 receptions for another 6 yards. That's 2.3 yards per touch! Best of all, he padded his stats with a 16-yard run on 3rd-and-22 (without that, it'd be 22 touches for 38 yards and 2 scores). On his first 5 carries, he had -1 yard and two scores, yet because he scored twice, the fantasy community was convinced that Marshall Faulk was finally back.

That game as a whole was positively bizarre. St. Louis had 121 yards of total offense, but scored 33 points (26 of them coming on offense). They scored 6 times without traveling more than 36 yards- they had a 36-yard TD drive, a 1-yard TD drive, and FG drives of 4, 8, 26, and 36 yards. The two teams combined for 11 turnovers (7 of them coming from Baltimore). The teams combined for 55 points, but only 388 yards. Basically, it's the only defensive shootout I've ever seen in all of my history of watching football. Whenever someone doesn't understand the whole "field position is fluid" concept and thinks that the offense is solely responsible for points scored and the defense is solely responsible for points allowed, I show them the play-by-play log from that game. Unreal.

Also, how does Daunte Culpepper's game against the Dolphins this year not make the cut? 5/12 for 75 passing, 7 carries for 28 yards rushing... and a ridiculous five TDs. 36.55 fantasy points (depending on scoring system), and only 103 yards.

10 Re: Scramble for the Ball: B.S. Games

#9, in week one of the 2004 season, Jerome Bettis had a line of 5 carries for one yard....and three touchdowns. Come on Bill, how did you miss this one?

12 Re: Scramble for the Ball: B.S. Games

I'm not entirely sure on this one, someone can help me out, but I think the Bus may have had a game a few years ago, something like five carries, three touchdowns, almost no yards rushing?


13 Re: Scramble for the Ball: B.S. Games

So I get my loser league team to have one of the three best (worst?) scores of the week, and I don't make the "Top Five" because a lower-case 'u' comes before an upper-case "S".

Damn you, lexical sort!

14 Re: Scramble for the Ball: B.S. Games

Man, Barnwell, will you ever learn? I told you last week the Steelers with points were not a good bet against the Jets, and I was right. Same this week, the Jets will lose, but they will cover.

16 Re: Scramble for the Ball: B.S. Games

I think the BS stat might be interesting with yards per touch instead of all-purpose yards...

17 Re: Scramble for the Ball: B.S. Games

I enjoyed Jamal Lewis against Seattle a few weeks ago rushing 20 times for 37 yards (longest 5 yards) and 4 TDs. Maybe his 4 receptions for 67 yards took him out of BS contention though.

18 Re: Scramble for the Ball: B.S. Games

I think we need to make an exception to the 9-carry rule for Jerome Bettis’ epic 2004.

His stat line in week 1 against the Raiders: 5 rushes, 1 yard, 3 TDs. I think that sets the standard for both BS games and touchdown thievery.

Are you kidding me?! How is that a BS performance? His job, his ONE job, was to get first downs and touchdowns.

The definition of BS performance was that a player actually HURT his team, while still putting up good fantasy numbers.

Bettis was GREAT at what he did. I thought the whole point of Football Outsiders was to distinguish a pathetic run of 8 yards on a 3rd and 10 from a great run of 1 yard on a 3rd and 1.

Football Outsiders have this interesting metric called SUCCESS RATE for running backs. It's one of the more underrated FO stats, IMHO.

Bettis did quite well this game:

2-1: 0 yards. (no success)
3-1: 1 yard. Touchdown. (success)
3-1: 1 yard. Touchdown. (success)
1-1: 1 yard. Touchdown. (success)
1-10: -2 yards. (no success)

Success rate: 60%

That's VERY good. Brandon Jacobs and Lawrence Maroney lead the NFL in success rate this season... at 62%. No one else is above 60%.

So, good sucess rate, good PAR, good DPAR and, I'm willing to bet, good DVOA.

Why on Earth should that be called a BS game?

In fact, the first thing I thought when I read the criteria in the intro: "This is a BAD set of criteria, because players like this will get screwed". It's completely against the INTENT and DEFINITION of a BS performance - and completely against everything FO-ish, at least as I see it.

19 Re: Scramble for the Ball: B.S. Games

A better definition of BS game, btw, would be fantasy points divided by PAR (or DPAR or even DVOA).

I suspect the only reason a definition like this wasn't used is that FO doesn't have the numbers for older games. That lead to the (lacking) criteria of fantasy-points divided by all-purpose yards.

20 Re: Scramble for the Ball: B.S. Games

Culpepper vs Miami this year was the ultimately BS game. 5 TD's for only 103 yards of total offense. Nothing else compares.

21 Re: Scramble for the Ball: B.S. Games

Great work with the best bets: you nailed all three. That said, I would like to echo Bobman: please don't pick the Colts again. It seems to be a bad luck charm.

22 Re: Scramble for the Ball: B.S. Games

re: 7

If I remember correctly, that game also featured a punt that landed fairly short and took a massive bounce backward (toward the punter). The coverage unit had no idea that the ball was behind them, and the returner picked it up and strolled into the endzone.

23 Re: Scramble for the Ball: B.S. Games

I don’t know who Peyton Manning will be throwing to. I think they will be able to get past DeAngelo Hall, whoever they are.

Another pick for Hall Thanksgiving. He looks to be pro-bowl bound.