October 04, 2011
You can tell a lot about a fantasy owner by his or her view of bye weeks. It's not uncommon to hear roto players bemoan the bye week, but to the sharper fantasy player, it's a gift from the gods. The game is about to get more complicated, and that means there's more opportunity, more chances to get a leg up. Roll up your sleeves, it's time to go to work.
Bye week season is also the start of trading season in most leagues. Let's face it, there's little incentive for teams to trade in the early weeks. Most owners like their roster out of the draft, no one's hurt yet, everyone has their rose-colored glasses on. But now we're four weeks in, the season has some personality to it, players are dropping likes flies, there's some separation in the standings, and now the league is taking almost 20 percent of the teams out of play for a while.
Let's have a look at the way the byes are set up this year. All bye weeks are not created equal, friends.
-- Week 5: Browns, Cowboys, Rams, Dolphins, Redskins, Ravens
-- Week 6: Broncos, Titans, Chiefs, Cardinals, Chargers, Seahawks
-- Week 7: Bills, Bengals, Patriots, Giants, Eagles, 49ers
-- Week 8: Falcons, Bears, Packers, Raiders, Jets, Buccaneers
-- Week 9: Lions, Vikings, Panthers, Jaguars
-- Week 10: All 32 teams play
-- Week 11: Colts, Saints, Steelers, Texans
The most important thing to note here is that we have four jumbo-sized bye weeks — six teams sit out from Weeks 5-8 — and two smaller bye weeks (just four teams are on holiday in Weeks 9 and 11). It might not sound like much, but there's a distinct advantage to the teams that receive the later bye weeks. It's certainly easier to replace a bye-week player during one of the four-sit weeks, and all things equal, I'd prefer to have my best players in play for as long as possible, as opposed to having them sit early on.
In other words, if I were looking at a similar player on the Patriots (Week 7 bye) and Saints (Week 11 bye), all else equal, give me the Saint. This is not a primary way to make decisions, but it's a handy tie breaker.
When you combine the start of the bye weeks with the personality of your league standings, trading becomes a lot easier. Teams sitting at 1-3 and 0-4 don't have the luxury of sitting back and hoping things turn around; they need to get better now, they need to start winning immediately. If you're in that unenviable spot, consider trading name players as they hit their bye in exchange for immediate help. This is not to suggest flat-out giveaways — you don't want to move Jason Witten(notes) for Kellen Winslow(notes) just to cover yourself in Week 5 — but there needs to be a sense of urgency on your part.
If you're off to a 4-0 start (or a 3-1 start with an edge on the tiebreakers), you can go the opposite way: find the teams that need to win now and see if they're willing to liquidate on a star player who doesn't help in Week 5. Maybe you can get a nice price on Andre Johnson(notes), if you're willing to wait on his return. Maybe the Ray Rice(notes) owner will sell him at 90-95 cents on the dollar because he needs to win now. Maybe a team that's overloaded with Week 5 bye-week players will cut you a good deal because they don't want to flag this week's game. When you're looking for trading partners, ask yourself one simple question: who has the most incentive? Or in different terms, who's the most desperate?
The bye week season is your friend, gamer. The player pool opens up because we need to start more fringy guys; more than ever, make sure you're doing your diligence with FAAB bidding and free pick-ups. Trading is a sure bet to increase. We know a little more about the teams now, at least we think we do. Now's the time to make your push, to get into position to get into position.
• If Ben Roethlisberger(notes) doesn't miss any starts — and it's looking like he has a sprained foot, not a broken foot — it's time to look into Antonio Brown(notes) in deeper leagues. Brown had a bang-up camp, as you probably remember, and he's topped 67 yards receiving in three straight games. He hasn't scored yet or broken a big one, but that's coming. He's also had a lengthy punt return in three straight weeks, if that matters to you. He's going to finish the year as the team's No. 2 receiver, by production anyway.
• While I agree with all the accolades handed to the Panthers for their handling of Cam Newton(notes), let's acknowledge one fact: they're using the shotgun as the base offense in Carolina. That's a logical play, given the offense Newton ran at Auburn, but it also limits the theoretical upside of DeAngelo Williams(notes) and Jonathan Stewart(notes) (albeit they both ran well at Chicago). Garbage-time production has been very good to Newton and that might not change anytime soon, as the Panthers will be heavy underdogs the next two weeks (New Orleans, at Atlanta). I might need to start a midseason league just so I can own Steve Smith somewhere, anywhere.
• It's quaint and all for Rex Ryan to mandate that his Jets go back to "ground and pound," but after watching New York plod for 3.1 yards a carry through four weeks, I'm not optimistic this is the best idea. Granted, the underlying theme to a philosophy change would be reeling in Mark Sanchez(notes) (who was horrendous at Baltimore), but if the Jets have any faith in Sanchez at all, they'll let him take some Week 5 shots against the vulnerable Patriots secondary. I expect Dustin Keller(notes) in particular to be a nice play against the New England safeties, and look for a lot of LaDainian Tomlinson(notes) in the passing game.
• I'm no fan of the Chiefs, Todd Haley or Matt Cassel(notes), but let's be fair here — Kansas City has played two solid games in a row (narrow loss at San Diego, then a home win over Minnesota). Dwayne Bowe(notes) in particular has gotten off the mat, with a tasty 14-275-2 line over the last three weeks. Assuming he's healthy after the Week 6 bye, the Chiefs face some inviting pass matchups (Oakland, San Diego, Miami, Denver, New England); a schedule that could make Bowe a WR1 again.
• Until the Dolphins harpoon a league-average or better solution at quarterback, there's not much to get excited about with Brandon Marshall(notes). The sixth-year wideout has always been more of a possession guy than anything else — he carries a modest 12.3 YPC for his career — and in order to be a dominant scorer in the red zone, you need a quarterback who can make quick decisions and produce accurate touch throws. That's never been Chad Henne's(notes) game, and I'm not holding out a lot of hope for Matt Moore(notes) either. Marshall only has four touchdowns in 18 Miami games, and that's no fluke, that's a fact of life.
• I didn't expect much from rookies A.J. Green(notes) and Julio Jones(notes) this year, figuring the adjustment to pro ball and the shortened preseason would keep them under wraps. Score one for the precocious wideouts: Green has looked like an uncoverable freak through the opening month, and while Jones doesn't jump off the screen in the same way, he's taking full advantage of defenses that are initially concerned with Roddy White(notes). In leagues that start three wideouts (or two wideouts and a flex), Green and Jones have earned the right to be deployed every week.
• I suppose I might feel differently when bid-placing time hits Tuesday night, but I doubt I'll be the "winner" on Ryan Torain(notes) anywhere. The three primary backs in Washington all have differing skill sets, Mike Shanahan has no deep allegiance to any player (or any need to tell us the truth, week-to-week), and the Redskins don't play in Week 5 to begin with. If you'll give me Torain at a bargain cost, fine, I'll make room and get ready for the headache from Week 6-on. But I'm not going to bid aggressively in him. We're all throwing the same blind dart when it comes to Shanahanism.
• The 49ers front seven is getting a lot of ink (okay, bandwidth) as the club is off to a 3-1 start, but it's not really a new story: San Francisco allowed just 3.5 YPC last year, stingiest in the NFC. The current edition has maintained the same 3.5 mark, and the Niners haven't allowed a rushing touchdown all year. It could be some tough sledding for LeGarrette Blount(notes) in Week 5.
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Image courtesy Associated Press