July 15, 2008

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In 1990, Jim Henson and Sammy Davis Jr. passed away. "Wind Beneath my Wings" was song of the year. The college football title was split between Georgia Tech and Colorado, which helped lead to the eventual formation of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS). Heaped onto these unfortunate happenings that same year was one of the most devastating events to ever impact the fantasy football season -- the NFL decided to give every team a week off and add an extra week to the end of the NFL schedule. And the "bye" week was born.

While the bye week is often the bane of fantasy owner's existence, players and coaches love them. Byes are not going away; they're here to stay. But that doesn't mean you have to let them obliterate your fantasy football season. Here are some ways to handle the bye weeks, both before and during the season:

Tip No.1: Depth wins bye weeks. Talent wins championships.

This might be the best general fantasy advice I was ever given. When selecting a player at a particular position, take the best player at that position, regardless of his bye week. Let's assume you've drafted Joseph Addai and you have the opportunity to take the next highest rated RB on your board, Laurence Maroney, as your RB2. You really like him, much better than either of the RBs behind him ... let's say they are Willie Parker and Maurice Jones-Drew. But Maroney and Addai have the same bye week. "I don't care", I reply. While you're busy wondering how I got to your draft site and how I was able to read your mind, you should take Maroney as your second RB. Don't worry if they have the same bye week. You never know what injuries might strike or which situations might change. Maybe Jones-Drew cuts the wrong way and sprains his ankle in Week Two. Maybe Rashard Mendenhall takes over the job from Parker. Maybe you swing a blockbuster trade. And this decision is even easier when it involves two players at different positions. You'll have multiple options at the other positions, too. Don't worry about it. At worst, you take a bad loss one week and dominate the rest.

Tip No. 1a: If you like two players equally, take the one without a bye week conflict.

This is the corollary of the above rule. Of course, how often do you like two guys equally? But if you really can't decide, make your life easier and avoid a messy bye week situation.

Tip No. 2: If you play in a standard redraft league, worry about bye weeks during the season, rather than at the draft.

This is really an extension of Tip No. 1. I'm aware that there are exceptions, because leagues come in all different shapes and sizes. The number of teams and variety of roster sizes can fluctuate from league to league. Some leagues restrict the amount and types of add/drops you can make. But the general rule is this: the shallower the league and lower add/drop limit you have, the more you should worry about the bye during the season.

If you're in a 16-team league with little talent on the waiver wire, and you have limited moves, go ahead and worry about it at the draft. Otherwise, you can worry about it during the season. Wait to see how the season plays out in the early going. Maybe by the time your stud's bye week arrives, you've got a five-game lead and can take a chance of having a hole at RB. Maybe your sleeper pick is leading the league in TDs. Maybe that backup you selected is now starting due to the usual injuries. Trying to guess how the season will play out is an exercise in futility. But if you have to make a move, you should be able to do so. You can play the matchup game in any given week. There is always something available on the waiver wire, especially in shallow leagues, and it is usually worth grabbing at least for one week.

Tip No. 3: Don't draft two defenses or two kickers. And especially don't draft two with the same bye week!

Particularly if you're in a league that limits the number of moves, this is just stupid. And didn't you just read Tip No. 2? Why the heck are you drafting two kickers or two defenses anyway? If you're in one of those leagues that requires you to draft multiple defenses, don't pick both defenses with the same bye week! I know this goes against Rule No. 1, but like most things in fantasy football, defenses and kickers should be treated differently than skill players.

Tip No. 4: The bye weeks run from Week Four through Week 10. Weeks Four and Eight have six teams on bye, while all other weeks have six.

Just so you know, in case you are in one of those fantasy owners with limited transactions or in a very deep league, especially if you're planning to allow the bye weeks to affect your drafting strategy.

Tip No. 5: Be aware of the upcoming bye no later than the previous weekend, and act immediately.

If you know you're planning to drop your fifth WR to pick up a defense to spot start in two weeks, why wait? Make the move now. Who's going to be more popular -- your fifth WR or a defense during a bye week? Why burn a waiver wire spot (or lose out because of your low spot in the order) or use your extra FAAB money when you don't have to? This is not a case where the second mouse gets the cheese. Be proactive.

Tip No. 6: Is the bye out of the way for a player you like? Go out of your way to trade for or buy him.

A player who has had their bye already is more valuable than one who hasn't. Despite this being quite obvious, it's amazing how often fantasy owners will ignore this fact.

For example, let's assume you have Frank Gore and your opponent has Larry Johnson. Let's further assume that they are, and will continue to be, fairly equal in value all year -- which is not a huge stretch. According to Average Draft Position (ADP), these players are being drafted immediately after one another. It is now Week Six. And let's assume Gore has out produced LJ slightly. Now is the time to act. See if you can trade Gore to the Johnson owner. Why? Well, LJ will have already had his bye last week. Gore's bye will not occur for another three weeks, and the other owner probably is not even looking three weeks down the road. If successful, you'll have just acquired the services of a top running back for an additional week. I'm sure I don't need to tell you the value of that.

Tip No. 7: Use my handy dandy guide to avoiding bye week trouble

(This can also be used during the draft if needed)

I've ranked the bye weeks below in descending order based on who are the toughest players to lose that week, along with my rationale for the ranking, followed by suggestions of whom to grab as fill-ins at the "big three" positions.

First, a couple disclaimer notes:

1) The suggestion of a player to grab (either on Draft-mas or that week) is based on a) an attractive matchup, and b) a player who is usually taken between picks number 100 and 200.

For example, let's suppose you drafted Joseph Addai and need a fill-in for Week Four. San Diego has an attractive rushing matchup that week against Oakland. But suggesting that LaDainian Tomlinson would be a great start is about as beneficial as giving Rogaine to Troy Polamalu. And going to the other extreme, how likely is it that Tomlinson's backfield partner, Darren Sproles, makes a contribution in that game?

2) The attractiveness of a matchup is based on last year's numbers for fantasy points against. I looked at the "leaders" (the bottom third) in both rushing fantasy points against as well as passing fantasy points against. Some teams, such as Detroit and St. Louis, appeared on both lists (and you'll see those matchups listed often below). Others, such as Oakland, only had trouble against the rush. Other teams (e.g. Minnesota) were horrible against the pass but were great against the run.

You'll notice that Minnesota is not listed below, because I also made some "subjective adjustments." Some of last year's most torched teams, like the aforementioned Minnesota, with the addition of Jared Allen, bolstered their pass-rush in the off-season. Or a team like Buffalo, which also had trouble defending the pass, should be much healthier this year. I think they will be greatly improved. Meanwhile, even though they have improved their overall defense, I think a team like New Orleans still has trouble in the secondary and therefore will have trouble defending the pass.

3) I apologize in advance for the running back replacement suggestions. But more RBs go in the top 100 than nearly any other position, so I used what I could.

Now that you know how the wires are connected, let's look at how to defuse the bye week bombs.

Week 4: Lions, Colts, Dolphins, Patriots, Giants, Seahawks

The absence of the Colts and Pats players this week is huge. This bye week removes both of the top two QBs (Peyton and Brady), two of the top five WRs (Moss and Wayne), plus Addai and Maroney from the active player pool. Add in the inferior Manning (Eli), Matt Hasselbeck, and the serviceable Jon Kitna, and this is a rough week for QBs. RB could also be tough with Brandon Jacobs and Ronnie Brown out in addition to Addai and Maroney. At least if you have any of these players, the bye comes early, and you can get it out of the way


QB: Alex Smith/Shaun Hill (SF) vs. NO, Jake Delhomme (CAR) vs. ATL, Kellen Clemens/Chad Pennington (NYJ) vs. ARIRB: Michael Pittman (DEN) vs. KC, DeAngelo Williams (CAR) vs. ATLWR: Reggie Williams/Jerry Porter (JAX) vs. HOU, Donte' Stallworth (CLE) vs. CIN, Bryant Johnson (SF) vs. NO

Week 8: Bears, Bengals, Broncos, Packers, Texans, Vikings

The loss of Adrian Peterson is the biggest hit. This is also a tough week for WRs, with T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Chad Johnson, Andre Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Greg Jennings and Donald Driver all out. The Carson Palmer owner won't be too happy either. Plus, there are tons of popular sleepers who will be out this week: Matt Schaub, Sidney Rice, Matt Forte, Ryan Grant, etc.


QB: Phillip Rivers (SD) vs. NO, Jake Delhomme (CAR) vs. ARIRB: Sammy Morris (NE) vs. STL, Leon Washington (NYJ) vs. KC, Kolby Smith (KC) vs. NYJWR: Antwaan Randle El (WAS) vs. DET, Jabar Gaffney (NE) vs. STL, D.J. Hackett (CAR) vs. ARI

Week 9: Chargers, Panthers, Saints and 49ers

The most obvious loss this week is LT. But losing Gore and Antonio Gates hurts, too, especially with Vernon Davis also out on bye. And did I mention Steve Smith, Marques Colston, Phillip Rivers and Drew Brees?


QB: JaMarcus Russell (OAK) vs. ATL, Matt Leinart/Kurt Warner (ARI) vs. STL, Tarvaris Jackson (MIN) vs. HOURB; Cadillac Williams (TB) vs. KCWR: Reggie Williams/Jerry Porter (JAX) vs. CIN, Ronald Curry (OAK) vs. ATL

Week 10: Cowboys, Redskins, Ravens, Bucs

The week off for the Cowboys is what makes this week tough. But Clinton Portis and Willis McGahee will probably both be picked among the top 10 RBs drafted. And the Ravens, 'Skins, and Bucs are all teams that could surpass expectations (unless you believe RotoExperts head honcho, Ben Ice, who expects Tampa Bay to go to the playoffs every year). If you're riding players on those teams to a surprisingly strong season, this week will cut you deeply.


QB: Clemens/Pennington (NYJ) vs. STL, Matt Ryan (ATL) vs. NO, Alex Smith/Shaun Hill (SF) vs. ARIRB: Leon Washington (NYJ) vs. STL, Maurice Morris (SEA) vs. MIA, DeAngelo Williams (CAR) vs. OAKWR: Bryant Johnson (SF) vs. ARI, Kevin Walters (HOU) vs. CIN,

Week 7: Cardinals, Eagles, Jaguars, Falcons

It is possible that the loss of the Falcons players will hurt no one. If losing a rookie QB, a timeshare RB and some solid but not spectacular WRs hurts you that much, you've got bigger problems. Just don't ask the Brian Westbrook owner for sympathy this week. If you decided to double up on Arizona receivers, you might want to just write this week off and pray for a miracle. The three other starting QBs -- Donovan McNabb, David Garrard and Matt Leinart (Kurt Warner?) -- all have question marks, but if you've been riding them to this point, this will be a tough break.


QB: Delhomme (CAR) vs. NO, Schaub (HOU) vs. DETRB: Ahmad Bradshaw/Derrick Ward (NYG) vs. SF, Leon Washington (NYJ) vs. OAK, Chris Brown (HOU) vs. KCWR: D.J. Hackett (CAR) vs. NO, Limas Sweed (PIT) vs. CIN, Randle El (WAS) vs. CLE

Week 5: Browns, Jets, Raiders, and Rams

Marc Bulger, Steven Jackson and Torry Holt owners will be hurting here. Derek Anderson, Jamal Lewis and Braylon Edwards (and Kellen Winslow Jr.) owners will be hurting, too. But anything you're getting from your Jets and Raiders should be a bonus, so losing them this week can't hurt that much.


QB: Tarvaris Jackson (MIN) vs. NO, Rex Grossman/Kyle Orton (CHI) vs. DETRB: Sammy Morris (NE) vs. SF, Chester Taylor (MIN) vs. NO, DeAngelo Williams (CAR) vs. KCWR: Bernard Berrian/Sidney Rice (MIN) vs. NO, Jabar Gaffney (NE) vs. SF, James Hardy (BUF) vs. ARI, Devin Hester (CHI) vs. DET

Week 6: Bills, Chiefs, Steelers, Titans

Some good players will sit out this week too, but the drop-off from Marshawn Lynch, Larry Johnson, Lee Evans, Dwayne Bowe, Ben Roethlisberger or Vince Young just won't seem as dramatic as what you'll be dealing with during some of the other weeks.

QB: Tarvaris Jackson (MIN) vs. DET, Clemens/Pennington (NYJ) vs. CIN, JaMarcus Russell (OAK) vs. NO, Grossman/Orton (CHI) vs. ATLRB: Leon Washington (NYJ) vs. CIN, Kenny Watson (CIN) vs. NYJWR: Ronald Curry (OAK) vs. NO, Randle El (WAS) vs. STL, Bernard Berrian/Sidney Rice (MIN) vs. DET, Devin Hester (CHI) vs. ATL

Mark Strausberg knows all the words to the Super Bowl Shuffle and is not sure whether he should be proud of that or ashamed of it. He doesn't run like lightning or pass like thunder, but he'll respond if you email him at mstrausberg@rotoexperts.com

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