We have given you endless warnings of the fantasy trouble that lies ahead with the thickest bye weeks. Six teams will be on bye each of these next two weeks (Nos. 8 and 9). Then, four teams on bye in Week 10 means half of the NFL will be off in the three weeks following this one.
That is a lot of fantasy options to replace in lineups—about half of them, to be honest. We will help you prepare for the carnage right here with a few insider trading tips.
If you can juggle your roster to have flexibility in the next couple of weeks, you stand to gain a huge advantage over others. Some fantasy-starter-quality options are going to hit the waiver wire, and you will want to gobble up some real estate there.
1. Trade your Week 8-9 bye players
This is the most obvious way to score flexibility in the next few weeks. If you don't need to replace your starters, you can use your bench to load up on talent.
If you are struggling to know which players are better for the long haul, let the masses decide. The ownership percentages represent a relative market value of a player in fantasy. A player owned in 100 percent of leagues is a must-have, while a player owned in a mere 50-70 percent is waiver fodder in standard leagues.
Use the ownership numbers as currency or price tags, like yours truly does. Even if you don't necessarily like one player over another, if he is owned in more leagues, the odds are you will find someone who values him.
2. Cut your backups with Week 8-9 byes
OK, so no one trades in your league. It is fantasy football, after all—fantasy fast food compared to the exquisite dining of fantasy baseball, where owners actually spend their free time agonizing over the makeup of their roster.
You need another way to juggle your roster. Do it with the waiver wire. Cut your reserves that have the Week 8 and 9 byes.
You are not going to start them anyway in the coming weeks, and the stress of other teams' rosters during this stretch will keep other teams from picking them up. Use your waiver wire as an extension of your bench.
Again, reference their ownership percentages in your leagues. Don't cut anyone owned by more than 70 percent, because they will still be desired enough to stash through their bye week.
3. Cut your handcuff running backs
This can be a dangerous one, because you will be toying with fate of your elite running back, but you need a bit of luck to win in fantasy football anyway. Gamble on your starter staying healthy for a few weeks, unless his name is Darren McFadden, DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews or LeSean McCoy. (Those guys never stay healthy.)
The point here is your handcuffs are merely taking up the roster spots that are at a fantasy premium right now. Everyone is going to have to do the same thing to make space on their roster. Also, there are some very low ownership percentages on real good handcuffs like Kendall Hunter (39 percent owned in CBS Sports leagues) and Robert Turbin (12 percent owned).
No one values your handcuff as much as you. Those players will be the last ones anyone is fighting for in the waiver scrum that takes place the next couple of weeks. And, if you miss out on your handcuff, you can score someone else's anyway.
4. Cut your reserves at QB, TE, K and D/ST
You should only own one kicker and defense/special teams in leagues anyway, but this is even more important during these bye weeks. You only start one quarterback, tight end, kicker and defense/special teams in standard leagues, so even if your backup is a good one owned in over 70 percent of leagues, the odds are no one is going to rush to stash players at these positions in the coming weeks.
We have already seen how much the backup quarterbacks rise and fall week to week this season. There will be a good one available to you off waivers in one-quarterback formats when you need one.
There are barely enough tight ends to stock starting lineups in fantasy right now, much less make them worthy of sucking up a bench spot. Find a tight end you like just enough—perhaps even an undersold Coby Fleener—and just ride the roller coaster with him. The depth of your fantasy roster for fantasy crunch time will be better off for it.
Heck, even Jimmy Graham owners had to suffer the indignity of a fantasy goose egg at the position, and they will have to do without him again this week (the Saints are on bye). The tight end position just isn't important enough to put your options at running back and wide receiver at risk to keep backups here.
Also, see the roster trends review on kickers below, if you want to position yourself with a kicker who has already been through his bye week.
5. Punt, per Newton's Third Law of Motion
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
If multiple owners in your league are following the above advice, you might be better off going the divergent route. Everyone is selling their bye players for a song? Stock up on them and take the goose eggs. After the bye weeks are clear, you are going to have an embarrassment of riches for your starting lineups when everyone is playing with scraps and waiver-wire fodder.
Football fans hate punts. You are likely the person who plays Madden 25 and goes for it on 4th-and-long on your own 20.
But there is something to be said here for losing the battle but winning the war.
Save for a few fortunate folks, no one goes undefeated in fantasy football. Your fantasy team might be better off just loading up on studs all on the same bye week, taking the loss there and being full strength the rest of the way.
Reviewing the players past their bye
If you want to make for roster flexibility and trade for players who have already had their bye week, here are the teams to look at:
- Week 4: Green Bay Packers and Carolina Panthers;
- Week 5: Minnesota Vikings, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Washington Redskins;
- Week 6: Atlanta Falcons and Miami Dolphins.
That is a mere one-quarter of the NFL thus far. The New Orleans Saints and the mostly fantasy-irrelevant Oakland Raiders are added to this pool this weekend.
So, you will want to use this information by the premium positions and the elite fantasy options:
- Aaron Rodgers > all but Peyton Manning
- Cam Newton > all but Manning, Rodgers and Drew Brees
- Matt Ryan and/or Robert Griffin III > Tom Brady, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick
- Adrian Peterson > everyone...duh...still
- Doug Martin and/or Alfred Morris > all but A.P., Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy, Matt Forte, Arian Foster, Marshawn Lynch and, perhaps, Reggie Bush (outside of PPR)
- Eddie Lacy, Le'Veon Bell, Lamar Miller and/or Steven Jackson > backs in the No. 15-25 range in the rankings
- Jordy Nelson and/or Vincent Jackson > receivers in the No. 12-25 range
- Antonio Brown, Pierre Garcon, Mike Wallace and/or Steve Smith > receivers in the No. 20-40 range
- Roddy White > any receiver on your bench amid his injury woes
We feel inclined to mention White is a great buy-low candidate right now. The loss of Julio Jones (foot) for the season will make White a potential top-five fantasy receiver down the stretch. White just needs to get healthy, and the Falcons figure to hold him out until he is 100 percent.
White owners should read his bye-week quotes. There is a lot of good stuff in this Atlanta Journal-Constitution story by D. Orlando Ledbetter.
While White is banged up, he is at least through his bye and might be able to contribute in Week 8, 9 or 10—unlike half of the NFL teams' receivers.
Thursday night start 'em, sit 'em
- Seattle Seahawks: Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Steven Hauschka and Seahawks D/ST
- Arizona Cardinals: Larry Fitzgerald
The question marks above start with Fitzgerald and his tender hammy, but he ends that debate with the tweet above. You can sit him of you have a top-30 fantasy receiver on your bench, because the Seahawks do have those shutdown corners; otherwise, you run Fitzgerald out there against everyone. The performance against the 49ers last week proved that point.
We rate Wilson as a top-12 fantasy option at quarterback still. You drafted him to play. Stick to your guns and expect him to reward your faith with 250 yards passing, two touchdowns through the air and a rushing score.
- Seattle Seahawks: Robert Turbin, Christine Michael, Golden Tate, Sidney Rice, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and Zach Miller
- Arizona Cardinals: Rashard Mendenhall, Andre Ellington, Michael Floyd, Andre Roberts, Rob Housler, Jay Feely and the Cardinals D/ST
The Cardinals are a surprising third best against receivers to date, so you cannot trust any of the interchangeable Seahawks receivers in the passing game. Also, we will still remind you Turbin is the handcuff for Lynch, not Michael (14 percent owned).
Mendenhall has not only dropped into a full timeshare with Ellington, he also faces a Seahawks front that is fifth best in fantasy against running backs. Neither back is a good play this week, nor are the fringe to off-the-radar Cardinals above.
Roster trends review
We break down the most-added players from Tuesday night's waivers run by position:
I try to work every day to get myself back in position where I can come out here and run full speed. I'm not able to do that . . . When I try to "burst," the knot is there. I think another week of rehab could put me in position where I could start gaining some confidence and doing things I normally do.
Vick can still stand in the pocket, but expect the Eagles to give Foles one more look, particularly since he was very good against a solid Bucs defense in Week 6. Foles winning the Eagles job will make him a must-start quarterback through the heaviest three weeks of the bye season coming up.
The short-term adds of Joseph Randle and Brandon Jacobs trumped the longer-term ones (Andre Ellington and Zac Stacy), only because they went from rags to riches. Randle and Jacobs are both solid starts in their matchups this week—at Philly and versus Minnesota. Ellington (versus Seattle) and Stacy (at Carolina) face much tougher matchups.
It was interesting to see both Ryan Mathews and Stevan Ridley on this list. Both had performances that put them back in fantasy-starter graces this week. They are a lot better than they have shown, so expect numbers closer to their Week 6 form going forward.
Jarrett Boykin and Harry Douglas get boosts because they rise their depth charts due to injury. Both are viable fantasy adds to handle the byes and might even be sleepers to start in standard leagues for as long as Randall Cobb (IR: Designated for Return—Week 15), James Jones (knee) and Roddy White (hamstring/ankle) remain banged up.
Rueben Randle, Brandon LaFell and Keenan Allen are the performance-based additions this week. We have to warn you, though: Their production figures to be inconsistent if you're hoping they can prove to be starters in standard leagues. Most likely, they serve as suitable bye-week replacements.
Randle really needs an injury to Victor Cruz or Hakeem Nicks to truly be starter-worthy in fantasy. Eli Manning just isn't good enough behind that patchwork Giants offensive line to support three starting receivers in fantasy.
How bad is the position right now with Rob Gronkowski (arm/back) still out and Jimmy Graham (foot) nicked up and on bye? Bad enough that two undrafted free-agent rookies, Joseph Fauria and Tim Wright, are the two most-added tight ends in fantasy. Both are decent options amid their emergence as important parts of their offenses, but they are merely bye-week replacements still.
Miami hasn't been good against running backs (third worst in fantasy), but the Bills are eighth worst against opposing defenses in fantasy. The Dolphins and the Chargers (at Jacksonville) are easily the best two streaming options off waivers in most leagues. The Falcons, Vikings, Panthers and Rams are your fallback options.
The masses are slowly catching on to what we have preached for weeks on Mason Crosby: 2012 is a distant memory. Crosby is back to being one of the elite kicker options in fantasy, especially with the banged-up receiving corps and renewed running game for the Packers. Think: more stalled drives in the red zone as Eddie Lacy eats up the middle of the field and Aaron Rodgers struggles to sort through his limited targets in the end zone.
Crosby has had his bye already, so if you are looking for roster flexibility, here is a ranking of the kickers who can be set-and-forget options through the beef of the bye season:
- Mason Crosby
- Matt Bryant
- Blair Walsh
- Caleb Sturgis
- Kai Forbath
- Shaun Suisham
- Graham Gano
- Rian Lindell
The above guys are most likely available in your league, save for the resurgent Crosby now or the elite preseason pick Walsh. The difference between the top kickers and the low-end ones tends to be only a couple of points a week over the long haul. Do not gum up your roster owning two kickers because you don't want to drop your kicker.
Eric Mack, one of the giants among fantasy writers, is the Fantasy Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report this season. Follow him on Twitter, where you can ask him endless questions about your team, rip him for his content and even challenge him to a head-to-head fantasy game. You can also listen to him on his podcast that he deprecatingly dubbed the Fantasy FatCast.
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