There’s gold in fantasy garbage points

Ah, sniff the air everyone. The fantasy playoffs are here. And keep sniffing, so are fantasy garbage points. Points that owners get for no good reason at all. Now all garbage is not created equal (When’s the last time you went back into the garbage for a lollipop? Hardly ever. But go back in for a t-shirt you threw out and had second thoughts on? I’ve done it, and so have you).

The first kind is easy to recognize: Shonn Greene running through uninspired Redskins for his third TD in the final minute of a blowout win over Washington. Roy Helu, after that Greene TD, getting 12 yards on a carry that gave him an even 100, and bonus points in plenty of leagues. And the coup de grace of Week 13, Pierre Garcon’s 85 yards receiving and two touchdowns in the final three minutes when Indianapolis trailed New England 31-10. A fantasy point is a fantasy point, no matter when you get it. But is it possible to predict garbage points?

It just might be. Why?

Because there is another kind of garbage point: the time-honored tradition of being able to recognize who the best teams in the NFL are, and who is their obscure backup running back that only plays when they don’t want their other guys injured. He could be good for 40 rushing yards and a score in garbage time on a weekly basis. They’re not worth owning otherwise, but when you have the right matchup, they can be worth a nice ten spot for you. After all, the great teams motor through December with blowouts aplenty and who would you rather play if you had a choice: a garbage-time RB or one of the Colts RBs?

I thought so.

So who are the nurse sharks of the fantasy world?* There are really only four teams who fall into the category of “We can blow you out every week and spend the fourth quarter laughing and ordering hot dogs** while our second team chews the clock until it hits 0:00.” Their identities are:

Green Bay Packers, John Kuhn: 38 fantasy points on the season. 36 of them on TD runs. His best rushing game is five yards. But take a look at his trends. With the Packers winning by more and more every week, he’s been in the end zone on pretty much a weekly basis since the beginning of November.

New England Patriots, Stevan Ridley or Shane Vereen: As Michael Fabiano told me, he’s playing against Ridley in the playoffs this week and he’s scared out of his mind that he’s going to run for 50 yards and a TD. It’s not that the Patriots have favorable fantasy matchups, but on the field they should be up by 28 in the fourth quarter of every one of their remaining games.

San Francisco 49ers, Kendall Hunter: The majority of his work comes after Frank Gore has run for his customary 125 yards and a TD and the 49ers are up by 20 in the fourth quarter. Then it’s Hunter almost exclusively. The 49ers finish the season @ARI, PIT, @ SEA, @ STL so he has a possibility of fourth-quarter dominance in three of those four games.

Dallas Cowboys, Felix Jones: This is based more on projection than past performance. I think Dallas is going to blitz its way to the NFC East crown despite their hiccup against Arizona. I know it’s weird to be talking about Jones in this way, but this is the reality for him. Dallas has nice fourth-quarter potential at TB in Week 15, and two games against the New York Giants, who have had a lot of difficulty stopping the run against all levels of RBs this season.

*Nurse sharks are known for eating anything on the bottom of the ocean floor. So the comparison is legit. I guess I could be a nurse shark too, because at least once a week I decide I need to clean out the refrigerator by eating whatever’s been there for a few days. So my dinner one night could very possibly be mac and cheese, a piece of cornbread, guacamole and the last piece of prosciutto.

**Mark Sanchez only.

See Jason Smith on NFL Fantasy Live, airing Sundays at 11:30 a.m. ET on the Red Zone Channel, and Tuesday-Friday on NFL Network at 2 p.m. ET and 12 a.m. ET/9 p.m. PT. He writes fantasy and other NFL pith on NFL.com daily. Talk to him on Twitter @howaboutafresca. He only asks you never bring up when the Jets play poorly.

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