There are times during the fantasy season that the good teams separate themselves from the bad teams because of outside factors that can be planned for. Injuries happen and can’t be discounted. If you were one of those guys who went two boots on running backs with your first two picks or highest auction prices and ended up with Adrian Peterson and Thomas Rawls, you’ve been swimming upstream all season. Your pain is something that can be empathized with.
However, being caught shorthanded by design is a completely different animal and we’re running into the teeth of the storm over the next month as the annual bye week death march begins.
In The Shop league, I pay attention more than most to the waiver wire before bye weeks set in. If someone needs to pick up a quarterback or a kicker or a bench player that has potential, but hasn’t lived up to it (Michael Floyd is an example) and they drop them to make a late roster change or bye week pickup, I’ve been known to pounce on that player.
I’m guessing The Shop league isn’t all that different than the ones that you’re in. You have owners that take very different approaches to dealing with bye weeks and roster moves. In our league, Tommy Pants almost singlehandedly makes the Week 17 free-for-all for transaction money lucrative. He’s never satisfied with his roster and is always looking for the next big thing. Last year, he made 43 roster moves – an absurd amount that only paid off to keep other owners from picking those players up. He’s the guy who picked up Peterson when he hit the waiver wire in the off chance he might be back for Week 16 or 17 (like he’s going to be in the championship game – he struggles to make the playoffs with any consistency).
On the other end of the spectrum you have Fat G. He claims to be an analytics guy, but it seems to only pertain to the draft. He typically makes two or three rosters moves all year – dumping a kicker or injured player during his kicker’s bye week and then reversing course and picking the guy back up after the bye. He’ll know full well that he is going to face a week or two where his roster is going to be gutted due to byes and is willing to accept going up with the JV team for a week or two.
Considering what is coming up in the next four weeks, it’s something fantasy owners should be looking at now for the long-term benefit of their rosters. In the next two weeks, 12 teams are going to be on bye – Baltimore, Los Angeles, Miami, New York Giants, Pittsburgh and San Francisco this week and Arizona, Chicago, Cincinnati, Houston, New England and Washington in Week 9.
It doesn’t get much easier in Weeks 10-11, when eight more teams are on bye – Buffalo, Detroit, Indianapolis and Oakland in Week 10 and Atlanta, Denver, New York Jets and San Diego is Week 11.
For the savvy fantasy owner, now is the time to start assessing your own roster and the roster of other teams in your league. Owners who are in a dogfight for a division championship or those fighting just to keep their playoff head above water, they can’t simply give away a week and wave the white flag.
If you don’t have one of those weeks staring you in the face, you can get surprisingly strong value in trade by pointing out that you’re doing the other owner a big solid when he or she needs it most. If you may be facing a grim prospect for a coming week, now is the time address it. Too many owners go to set their weekly lineup and are stunned to see that they drafted too many guys who are sitting in Week 9. It’s a chance for you to take advantage of that problem to solidify your roster and make noise during the next four weeks while other teams are struggling to field decent lineups.
It may not seem like much, but once the sharks start circling, you don’t want to be in the water. You want to be the person throwing the life preserver in for panicky ones.
- Can the Raiders play every game on the road? Oakland is now 4-0 on the road for the first time in forever. Their lame duck fans have only seen one of their five wins, but as long as the keep winning, the Black Hole has no complaints.
- How about Jay Ajayi? He topped 200 yards rushing Sunday for the second straight game and he joins some pretty prestigious company – O.J. Simpson, Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams as the only guys who have ever done it.
- Don’t sleep on the Lions. They’ve won three straight, granted all of them at home, but they’re how 4-3 and their three losses have been by one, three and seven points. With a couple of decent bounces, we may be talking about the Lions in different terms. They don’t look like the toothless Lions we’ve seen in years past.
- Maybe it’s just me, but if someone was to offer me Jordy Nelson in a trade straight up for Davante Adams, I don’t think I would take the deal.
The Razor’s Edge
10. Bad News Bears – At the least the Cubs are keeping Chicago sports fans from dwelling on how bad their football team. The Bears went into Lambeau Field to restore the NFL’s longest running rivalry, which saw Chicago win at Lambeau Field. But, Brian Hoyer gets hurt and joins Jay Cutler on the sideline and third-stringer Matt Barkley completed eight of 15 passes – six to his teammates and two to Packers defenders. The Bears have scored 17 points or less in all but one game and John Fox’s defensive genius is getting tarnished by this group. The Bears front office can’t hide behind the success of the Cubs forever. Eventually they’re going to be under the spotlight and the locals will see just how bad this team is. It sounds like Cutler to the rescue next week, but what exactly will he be rescuing?
9. Welcome Under the Bus – Ryan Fitzpatrick didn’t much care to be benched, although the decision was forced on the hands of the Jets brass for having the worst passer rating in the league and double-digit interceptions. But, when running joke Geno Smith made the most of his first start in two years by going down to what appears to be a season-ending injury halfway through, Fitz got the call from the bullpen. Following the game, he made a point at his press conference to say the Jets owner, general manager and head coach have no faith in him. He gets by on his belief in himself and nobody else. What? When the season is over, Fitz, you may want to clean everything you want out of your locker, because if you don’t, it’s probably going to end up in a dumpster in January.
8. Turn Your Head and Goff – There have been seven rookie quarterbacks that have made starts so far this season from high picks to undrafted guys. Not among them? The first overall pick Jared Goff. Coming off another loss and four picks by Case Keenum, it may be time for the Rams to start taking a hard look at themselves, realize they’re not a team that is going to make the playoffs and put in the quarterback they invested so much to get – for better or worse. You aren’t going to sell Keenum jerseys and, if defenses don’t have to respect the pass, Todd Gurley’s life will continue to be miserable.
7. Paying the Bills – Buffalo had become a feel-good story over the last month, winning four straight and heading down to Miami as a road favorite. The happy story turned tragic in a hurry, as they allowed 256 rushing yards to get hung on them and, just when they’re starting to make believers, they turn into the same old Buffalo teams that haven’t been in the playoffs this millennium. Until they can clean those things up (and hopefully fire Rob Ryan), they’re going to be a fun team to watch in the regular season and they’ll be sitting next to you watching others teams once the playoffs begin.
6. One Minute to Midnight – The Washington Redskins had a chance to make a statement Sunday with a road win at Detroit. With 1:05 to play, Kirk Cousins ran a 19-yard read option to give the Redskins what looked to be their fifth straight win. Not so fast, brother. The Redskins defense was still on the field. They gave up plays of 23, 14, 20 and 18 yards in the final 65 seconds to turn a four-point lead into a three-point loss. You don’t get many opportunities to win road games, but to blow a lead that fast as almost criminal – even in Washington D.C.
5. Kelly’s Zeroes – You get a sense of déjà vu when you watch the San Francisco 49ers. They look like world-beaters in prime time on opening weekend and stink the joint out after that. Chip Kelly came in talking a big game about his system and how it will revitalize San Fran’s football legacy and, when they dominated the Rams 28-0 in the Monday night opener (like they did Minnesota a year earlier), the mad scientist was making believers. Six games and six losses later, nobody is buying what Kelly is selling. The 49ers have allowed 33 or more points in five of their six losses, have changed quarterbacks due to ineffectiveness, not injury and four of their six losses have been by 17 or more points. Maybe it’s time for Chip to give up his NFL dreams and go back to college, where his maniacal way of coaching can succeed.
4. Purple Reign? – Minnesota was the last undefeated team in the league despite having the NFL’s worst rushing attack and an offensive line that has been a revolving door since training camp. Coming off their bye week, the Vikings appeared to still be on vacation against the Eagles, who should have been charged with felony assault on former Bird Sam Bradford. The Eagles hit Bradford 19 times, sacked him six times and caused a Minnesota offense that didn’t have a turnover all season to cough it up four times. The shine is off the Vikings pretty quickly and things could get uglier on offense if they don’t change how they approach aggressive defenses, because they have the blueprint now.
3. 18 Feet of Groundwork – Remember back when the Ravens were 3-0? It’s hard to believe that they are the same team we’re seeing now. On Sunday, the Ravens lost their fourth straight game, making Geno Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick look like Pro Bowlers and dropping their fourth straight game. But, the most shocking? Coming in with a quarterback on the injury report with a sore throwing shoulder and making him throw 44 times while running the ball just 12 times. The Ravens managed just six yards rushing. Six! Are you kidding? The Jets aren’t an overpowering run defense. Good, but not great. It may be official. Baltimore has hit bottom and there’s nowhere to go but up from here.
2. Putting Your Worst Foot Forward – Sunday night’s 6-6 tie between Seattle and Arizona was a classic old school football that left both teams contemplating the future of their kickers after Chandler Catanzaro and Stephen Haushcka both missed chip shot field goals in the final three minutes and change of overtime. However, for the Cardinals, the tie is a much more bitter pill to swallow because of the dominance they displayed the entire game. Coming into the game with a 3-3 record, the Cardinals couldn’t afford to drop to 3-4 with the Seahawks moving to 5-1 with a road win in hand over them. The Cards outgained Seattle 443-257 and had a time of possession advantage of 46:21 to 28:39. They dominated the game, but the difference came down to two missed Catanzaro field goals – a 39-yarder that was blocked and a 24-yarder in OT that hit the left upright after the Cardinals got the ball inside the 1-yard line. Seattle didn’t win, but the tie for Arizona may as well be a loss. You may want to crown Seattle’s ass because they took a huge step to reclaiming the NFC West title by leaving with a tie.
1. Just Quinn, Baby – You get the feeling we’ve seen this movie before. The Atlanta Falcons under head coach Dan Quinn come out of the gate looking like stone cold killers only to collapse once they taste prosperity. Last year the Falcons started off 5-0 only to lose six of their next seven and become a playoff afterthought. This year they started 4-1 with wins over Carolina, New Orleans and Denver, but have lost their last two to drop to 4-3. It’s how they lost Sunday that is the most troubling. Championship teams don’t blow 17-point leads at home, much less having a 10-point lead midway through the fourth quarter only to allow San Diego to score on their last three possessions, the game-winner coming after the Falcons failed on a 4th-and-1 in overtime on their own side of midfield. Quinn took a chance that seemed to show no faith in his defense, which is never a good idea when you were hired to bring toughness to the defense. Here we go again, Falcons fans.