The mediocre fantasy owner says the same thing every year: I hate bye weeks. Meanwhile, the shrewd owners in the room roll up their sleeves, get to work.
Smart GMs appreciate bye week season because it makes the game more complicated, more dynamic, more nuanced. And on my clipboard, it's also the unofficial start of trading season. Everyone is in love with their roster back on draft night; no one has injuries or gaps or a crummy record yet. But with September just about complete, the season has some personality to it - a little definition, a flow to the year. Immediate goals are now different. Motivation varies from team to team.
The first thing to appreciate about 2013 bye weeks: they're not created equal. Let's have a look at how the nine incomplete-schedule weeks break down:
Week 4: Packers, Panthers
Week 5: Vikings, Steelers, Bucs, Redskins
Week 6: Falcons, Dolphins
Week 7: Raiders, Saints
Week 8: Bears, Titans, Colts, Chargers, Ravens, Texans
Week 9: Broncos, Lions, Giants, Cardinals, Niners, Jags
Week 10: Browns, Chiefs, Patriots, Jets
Week 11: Cowboys, Rams
Week 12: Bills, Bengals, Eagles, Seahawks
Back in the day, the NFL had uniformity with bye weeks, four teams sitting in each instance. That's no longer the case. You'll miss your primary Packers and Panthers this week, sure, but at least they're in a thin bye week, making replacement and maneuverability a little easier. You'll also get that marginal advantage with the Falcons and Dolphins (Week 6), the Raiders and Saints (Week 7), and Cowboys and Rams (Week 11).
Conversely, the Week 8 and Week 9 bye weeks are going to be difficult in many leagues. Six teams rest in both instances. The more players you have active in those weeks, the better. Keep the bye weeks in mind when negotiating trades; the layout of the sit-downs might become a key tie breaker as you close on a deal.
It gets late very early in a fantasy football season - in most leagues, you have 13 regular-season games to secure your playoff spot. After Monday's Oakland-Denver game, three of those precious games are gone. If you're 1-2, you might be forced into an aggressive stance for Week 4. And the 0-3 teams can't sit around and wait for a shiny day, it's time to get moving. Conversely, some 2-1 teams and most 3-0 teams can take a long-term view, focus on the future and not sweat the present so much.
Mind you, when in doubt, I'm a play-for-today kind of guy. The NFL reshuffles so damn fast, I'm not going to pretend I have a firm grasp on what will happen two months from now. Go back and read anyone's prediction article in August, there's red ink all over it. And anything we say today with respect to teams and players will look, on some level, silly in a month or two. That's simply the nature of the league.
I also refuse to expect miracle comebacks when it comes to long-term injuries. Again, it's play for today. I made a controversial Andre Johnson for Marques Colston deal two seasons ago in the Friends & Family League and got crushed for it, but it turned into the right play.
In the Stopa 8K League this week, my so-so team moved Roddy White for Antonio Brown, feeling I needed to aggressively chase a Week 3 victory. I got lucky when Brown had the game of his life Sunday night - I could have easily taken a Reggie Wayne type of offer and lost anyway - but this isn't about the outcome, it's about the process. We'll figure out tomorrow tomorrow, especially on teams that demand immediate attention.
A few of my favorite Tip Drills, notably applicable for this time of year:
-- At the beginning of each week, locate the desperate teams, the teams with poor records, injury woes or bye-week hell. They should be the easiest people to deal with.
-- If you need to win immediately, consider trading players while they're in their bye week. You get value for them and it offers immediate help. Flip side, if you're off to a terrific start, look to pick off star players from the team stuck in bye-week blues.
-- So long as you're not flushing talent in the process, look to diversity the roster a little bit. Multiple players on the same roster could be problematic later, especially in Week 8 and Week 9.
-- Be open-minded to trading today's hurt player for someone who can help you immediately. No one knows how long Danny Amendola will be out, or if he'll get hurt again. The tricky thing about holding a Roddy White type of player is the "restore confidence" week he needs to show you before he's truly startable again. That's another game you lose in the process.
-- Look ahead on the schedule when considering pick-ups, especially at the positions that are most matchup driven. This is especially critical when you're low on FAAB - at that point, you need to be a week ahead on guys. Ask yourself "what backup is one key injury away from relevance?"
Consider those strategy points and add some of your own in the comments. I'll add some Week 3 scouting notes and observations as the evening goes along.
• Let's jump back to Antonio Brown for a second. I'm a fan of his, always have been - even though he's really a No. 2 wideout shoehorned into a No. 1 role. He was the lead item on the 2013 Wallet List. Obviously I traded for him recently, in a critical league.
That all said, now is a perfect time to explore a possible sell-high. Tick off the key points here: he just had a monster game viewed by all of football; his quarterback rarely plays a full season (and currently toils behind a terrible line); and the Steelers are basically frosted if and when Ben Roethlisberger can't play. I know in a lot of competitive and sophisticated leagues you can't make this sort of angle work, but I'd at least try. You don't have to draw attention to Brown as you open talks; simply let it be known you want to move a receiver.
• I know this has about zero chance of happening, but if I ran the Vikings I'd start exploring an Adrian Peterson trade. Maybe you can get something similar to the ridiculous haul the Cowboys landed in the Herschel Walker deal. Peterson is terrific but he's also in his seventh year; you know how shelf life works for a professional running back. The 2013 season is just about shot for Minnesota and a major rebuild is probably needed. Christian Ponder is not the answer at quarterback.
Let's be clear on this - I'm not suggesting a Peterson giveaway. And obviously you need to sell it to your fan base, somehow. But if Trent Richardson, someone who has never flashed major ability in the NFL (look at the efficiency stats), can command a No. 1 pick, imagine what Peterson might go for.
It's a passing league, amigos. Running backs really aren't that important. When the Broncos or Packers or Saints fall behind by 10-14 points, comebacks remain very much in play. How do you feel about the Ponder-led Vikings when they fall behind early?
• Bilal Powell was an afterthought in most fantasy leagues a month ago. Into Week 4, he's looking like a valuable and credible starter. It's a crazy game, this numbers racket. (Kudos to my buddy Mike Salfino, who was out in front of the Powell angle all during the preseason).
Chris Ivory is out for an extended period of time in New York, and maybe Powell is the better back to start with. Powell has more pass-catching experience and he's super in blitz pickup. Powell had so-so numbers in the first two weeks of the year (but a solid 31 touches) before the 158-yard jamboree against Buffalo. There's no immediate threat to playing time here (Mike Goodson does not scare me at all). Welcome to the Circle of Trust.