Week #5: A Holler from the Cheap Seats
John Holler - 10/3/2017

It’s the time of year that separates the prepared fantasy owners with the unprepared, much in the same way that some people have their windows boarded up and sandbags in place days before a hurricane hits and others are scrambling in the hours before the eyewall comes ashore to make a frantic run to Home Depot. It’s bye week season, boys and girls.

For the most part, the NFL does a good job of scheduling games. They’re they only major sport with a symmetrical games-by-division process – 32 teams in eight four-team divisions in which fans can determine 14 of the 16 games on the schedule and their locations 20 years out if they so choose. The only difference in the scheduling is that the divisions within a team’s conference that they don’t play all four teams, they play the team that finished in the same divisional spot from the year before – which is why New England plays Pittsburgh and Houston this year and the Jets play Jacksonville and Cleveland.

Other than that, the competitive balance is identical, with one major exception – the bye weeks.

For fantasy owners, the bye weeks rank somewhere between an annoyance to a calamity. There is even an arcane theory that some owners run to try to get as many players who share the same bye week, which we consider to be lunacy. You NEVER give up a week in a fantasy setting because it could turn out to be the difference between winning a division and getting a playoff bye to having to play in the first round of the playoffs or (for others) even the potential of missing the playoffs.

However, the NFL has never fully grasped the concept of maintaining competitive balance in the league by scheduling the bye weeks in a uniform, easy-to-do manner.

Here is the 2017 bye week schedule, which runs from now until the Sunday before Thanksgiving::

WEEK 5 – Atlanta, Denver, New Orleans, Washington.

WEEK 6 – Buffalo, Cincinnati, Dallas, Seattle.

WEEK 7 – Detroit, Houston.

WEEK 8 – Arizona, Green Bay, Jacksonville, Los Angeles Rams, New York Giants, Tennessee.

WEEK 9 – Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles Chargers, Minnesota, New England, Pittsburgh.

WEEK 10 – Baltimore, Kansas City, Oakland, Philadelphia.

WEEK 11 – Carolina, Indianapolis, New York Jets, San Francisco (originally, Tampa Bay and Miami were scheduled here, but their Week 1 game that was postponed by Hurricane Irma was rescheduled here since both had the same bye week by dumb luck more than anything else).

The problem that fantasy owners run into, which we caution against every year, is ending up with too many players on the same bye week. Because it makes such little sense, owners could draft Todd Gurley, Aaron Rodgers, Leonard Fournette and Larry Fitzgerald and be unaware that they share the same bye week. Others may pay attention when they’re drafting their team, but make moves during the season without that same attention to detail and end up with an overload of players on the same bye week

Personally, I’ve never had a problem with the bye weeks because I’ve always viewed my roster as being a stockpile. I’ve developed an eye for talent, so I tend to stash players who could break out, like RBs Tevin Coleman and Derrick Henry and WRs Sterling Shepard and Adam Thielen. They’re available on the cheap on draft day, but have the potential to be big if things fall their way.

For others, the bye week is an annual tooth-pulling, because they don’t have depth and have come to depend on too many of their frontline players to carry them from one week to the next. These are the same type of people who hit the Chicken Switch on trades and often don’t look at the potential bye week ramifications – I’ve been much more willing to part with a star talent if I know his bye week coincides with the week I play the person I’m trading him to.

It’s going to test the mettle of fantasy rosters as guys that have been counted on are forced to sit out a week, but there is a bigger issue as it pertains to the competitive balance of the real NFL. The biggest problem with the bye week imbalance is that it is so easily fixed, yet the NFL has refused to do it.

The number of games that tip the balance of power happen all the time. For example, in Week 6, the Bengals have a bye week. The following week, they have a divisional matchup with Pittsburgh, who doesn’t have a bye. In Weeks 6 and 7 San Francisco has to play Washington and Dallas, both of whom are coming off byes. In Week 10, New England plays Denver in prime time in a game that could have huge implications in the AFC postseason. But, the Patriots will be coming off their bye week with two weeks to prepare, while Denver will have played at Philadelphia the previous week.

The easiest way to solve this problem is the simplest. For teams who have bye weeks, give all teams from a division the same bye week and have them play each other on the week they return from the bye. With seven bye weeks in the season, you could split a division to have six teams off twice, but the same rule would apply – have them play each other when they return.

This could also clean up the ugliness that players feel for Thursday night games. If you have, let’s say Baltimore-Pittsburgh or Oakland-Kansas City or Green Bay-Chicago or Dallas-anybody else from the NFC East., they could play each other in a divisional TNF matchup that would split up their bye weeks and make for more competitive games.

Will the NFL adopt this policy? Probably not, because it makes too much sense. In the meantime, fantasy owners who have Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman, C.J. Anderson, Demaryius Thomas, Drew Brees, Michael Thomas, Kirk Cousins or Jordan Reed are going to suffer this week. And the cycle will continue until days before Thanksgiving.

It’s what the NFL does and fantasy owners have to live with it.



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