This time of year is always the point that tests the temerity of fantasy football owners. Once the bye weeks begin, the weak get weeded out, and those who have built or drafted depth on their roster benefit. Being able to start a full complement of first-string pro running backs despite your top two guys being on the bye, against competition who can only conjure up a couple of backups, is a tremendous advantage.
In recent seasons, there have been bye weeks with four teams off at a time, significantly reducing the number of fantasy players owners have to work with. That is difficult enough, and still puts pressure on every fantasy owner. But this season there is a tougher test. Starting this week, for the next two weeks, the NFL has scheduled a larger total of six teams to enjoy a bye week.
This mandatory team vacation is anything but for you. The change will severely limit starting fantasy rosters in weeks 6 & 7. In week 6, The Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots, Jacksonville Jaguars, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings and Cleveland Browns will be biding their time. The next week, the Ravens, Bears, Saints, 49ers, Rams and Titans will have owners scrambling for replacements. How you compete at this time can make or break your season. Every game at this juncture is critical.
So, how do you accomplish your best? Follow these four reminders to keep you progressing toward your postseason aspirations.
During these two weeks, more than any other time, it is important to play matchups with your backups or semi-stars. At a basic level, take a look at what defenses in the league are giving up through the air and on the ground, and exploit the appropriate weaknesses.
Maybe an inferior receiver gets his chance to shine for you because he is facing a poor secondary. Or perhaps you notice a defense giving up a lot of goal line scores, and decide to take a chance on a player who gets carries almost exclusively at the stripe. If you are able to garner more in-depth data, such as whether a defense shuts down wide receivers but gives up a lot to tight ends, that is even better.
To fill necessary positions, make trades right now. If you have been contemplating that monster deal, today is the time to execute. Multiple-player deals can be especially beneficial, as there are bound to be players you acquire that normally would be on your bench, but at this time will be in your starting lineup.
Keep in mind that if you are struggling at 2-3 or 1-4 going into these weeks, there is not really anything for you to lose by taking a chance, especially in redraft leagues. Try to turn your fortunes around in a hurry.
When you are hoping for all you can get from your reserves to squeak by with a win, it is important to not be adding to your risk with chaps whose style of play dictates it. Guys like Amani Toomer or Santana Moss who have giant, productive days followed and preceded by whimpers will not be your best bet.
Better to focus on men like Corey Dillon, who is always good for some nice gains, or receivers like Derrick Mason, who racks up the catches and yards even if he doesn’t find the end zone.
Particularly in points per reception leagues, starting a player who snares seven passes for 60 yards and no touchdowns is better than a more exciting guy who grabs a forty-yard score on his lone catch of the afternoon.
Take time right now to assess the full spectrum of your roster, seeing where you can make some cuts, and where you can’t. With busy jobs and busy lives, it is easy for any of us to procrastinate dropping that marginal player who is injured, or tossing that extra defense we picked up to cover an early bye week.
It is key to use the waiver wire at this time, because the guys you add can be plugged in right away. Take someone like 49ers wideout Arnaz Battle, for instance. He is likely available to try adding in most leagues this week. If the receiver who is normally your third starter at WR is forced to imitate your top pick at the position, it is a good time to insert a hot hand. Battle comes off a strong showing for San Francisco, catching two short touchdown tosses. Why not plug in a player such as this rather than trotting out someone like Keenan McCardell yet again.
Joe Levit provides fantasy football presentations for corporate outings or client appreciation events. Go to www.FantasyFootballSpeaker.com and find out what this service is all about. Joe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.