Below are each of the bye weeks for each team for the 2016 NFL season.
|NFL Team||Bye Week|
|Week 4||Philadelphia, Green Bay|
|Week 5||Kansas City, Seattle, New Orleans, Jacksonville|
|Week 6||Minnesota, Tampa Bay|
|Week 7||Dallas, Carolina|
|Week 8||Miami, Pittsburgh, NY Giants, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Baltimore|
|Week 9||New England, Cincinnati, Arizona, Washington, Chicago, Houston|
|Week 10||Buffalo, Indianapolis, Oakland, Detroit|
|Week 11||NY Jets, Denver, San Diego, Atlanta|
|Week 13||Cleveland, Tennessee|
Everything was going smoothly… until Week 13.
I had already began patting myself on the back for another great year. I had dialed up all the right moves. I struck gold after DeMarco Murray fell to me in the fifth round. I hit the lottery by picking up Terrell Pryor, Sr. early in the season. I found a discount when I traded for Isaiah Crowell from a desperate owner mid-season.
Everything looked perfect entering the final week of the fantasy regular season.
Well, until it didn’t.
The NFL bye weeks hit me hard. Failing to look ahead, I now had a nearly empty roster with the most important week of the season approaching. I couldn’t start Murray, who I rode all season and finished as a top-five rusher. Pryor, the breakout wide receiver coming off six catches for 131 yards, was stuck on my bench. Crowell, inconsistent most of the year, was a solid no. 2 running back and still the 15th ranked running back in standard scoring. With their teams’ byes all falling in Week 13, I couldn’t play nearly 40 percent of my entire scoring and was left with few options.
I would love to point the finger at someone (or anything) else, but I can’t. Let’s just chalk it up to mismanagement on my part and leave it at that.
You can’t even imagine the pain I felt watching T.J. Yeldon meander for a measly 55 yards. The torture of seeing Devontae Booker essentially walk his way to 35 yards is indescribable. While I ultimately scraped by with a tie, allowing me to limp into the playoffs, I was disgusted. I felt ashamed.
This is a cautionary tale. You can choose to learn nothing from my mistakes and head into your draft without a bye week strategy. Or, you can think ahead so you don’t have to suffer like I did.
Even though the full schedule hasn't been announced yet, it's never too early to establish a plan for next season. The following tips will help you structure a NFL bye weeks strategy that will guide you through your draft and carry you the entire season.
Stack byes together in one week
This approach is like ripping off a Band-Aid; just get it over with at one time.
Bye “stacking” is simple in theory but difficult in practice. Using the 2016 average live draft results, you could have potentially fielded a great roster using only players that had the same bye weeks. Assuming you had a mid-round pick in a 10-team league, you could have used your first pick on David Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins or A.J. Green, depending on your draft philosophy. Then, you could have taken Lamar Miller in the second round, Brandin Cooks or Jordan Reed in the third, Julian Edelman in the fourth and Larry Fitzgerald in the fifth.
Although that’s a roster to make any fantasy owner jealous, this is only an ideal scenario and difficult to predict. If just one owner in your league targeted the same player, you would have to reach for another player with the identical bye or deviate from your plan entirely.
Another problem with bye stacking is that you are basically forced to “punt” a week and take at least a few zeroes. Finding enough roster spots without dropping anyone is difficult when you have to essentially replace your whole team.
Spread byes out over the season
Cushion the blow of bye weeks by scattering them throughout the season.
The key point here is awareness. Before your draft, compare players to see when their bye weeks occur. While you should never choose a player based solely on his bye week, you can use this information as a tiebreaker if you rank two players similarly.
By consciously drafting players who have different bye weeks, you limit the impact it has on your team. You will inevitably have to sit your studs at some point due to a bye. You don’t want to make this worse by having to bench other high-scorers at the same time. In addition, adding a few replacements each week is much easier and more manageable.
Ignore bye schedule altogether
As a great philosopher once said, “Shit happens.”
Stars suffer injuries. Key players you build around crumble. Potential keepers become droppable. Sleepers sometimes never wake up.
Just like any other strategy, don’t get too boxed in. It is more crucial to stay fluid and flexible in-season. Becoming too rigid may cause you to miss an opportunity later on. Any active fantasy owner knows that their Week 17 roster is often drastically different from the one they started the season with.
One way to stay flexible is by accumulating depth. Stock up on positions where talent is most scare, like running back or wide receiver. By studying the opponents in your league, you can identify areas to exploit. For example, if most teams carry only one quarterback or defense, there will be plenty of waiver wire options as the season progresses. Rather than carrying a backup at these positions, fill out your roster with running backs and wide receivers. These are likely more valuable long-term anyway and will give you more choices when bye weeks start.
Don’t bother worrying about (most) tight ends, defenses or kickers
Stop hoarding non-essential positions. Get rid of roster clutter.
Part of your roster flexibility is understanding that not all positional depth is created equal. You can never have too many running backs and wide receivers. As mentioned earlier, backup quarterbacks should only be added if your league tends to put a premium on having more than one. Tight ends, defenses and kickers are almost always droppable during bye weeks, unless they are elite at their position.
This is primarily because there is just so little difference in actual production among the middle of these groups. The point spread from the third-ranked kicker to the 19th in standard scoring leagues was only 30 points for the entire season. The Vikings, Broncos, Cardinals and Chiefs defenses were virtually unstoppable all season. But, the 10th ranked D/ST only outscored the 19th by about 30 points also.
Studs like Travis Kelce and Greg Olsen were the cornerstones for many championship team’s last season. However, the difference between the 10th and 19th ranked at this position was just 20 points all year.
Using this knowledge, feel comfortable in only rostering one of each of these positions. And, don’t hesitate to drop them during a bye week if needed.
Study your league rules
As a fantasy owner, you should constantly be looking for any edge.
Reviewing your league’s rules is always a good practice, but it can especially help you during bye weeks.
If your league processes its waivers on certain days, you may be able to strategically drop a player so that another opponent can’t pick him up. Wait until the last possible moment, usually Sunday morning, to drop someone. If you league uses an auction-based system, this will also help you reacquire that player if you want. Just make sure you put in a high enough bid early so that it will run through on the first available day claims can be made.