Bye weeks are a necessary evil for fantasy managers. There will
probably never be a perfect system that allows for byes to come
at a reasonable time for the players and coaches AND doesn't create
a headache for fantasy owners, but the current 4-6-2-4-4-2-2-4-4
setup (or some variation of it) over a nine-week period isn't great
for anyone. Among many other questions that could be asked, how
does giving 25 percent of the teams a week off after at least 12
consecutive games (byes in Weeks 13-14, in other words) to begin
the season help the product or the teams?
While a perfect bye-week solution will likely always remain elusive,
fantasy managers have little choice but try to power through a
stretch of the season during which we have one or two weeks where
half of our regular starting lineup is on vacation or multiple
weeks where one or two key contributors get a weekend off. To
that end, I decided it might be helpful to look ahead at the next
three troublesome weeks (Weeks 7, 9 and 10) and help managers
find potential bye-week options that could give a fantasy team
the extra win that can often be the difference between a playoff
berth and long offseason.
Four teams were on a bye last week (Falcons, Saints, Jets, 49ers).
As I laid out in the first paragraph, there are eight more weeks
with at least two teams going on a bye. In five of those weeks,
at least four teams will be off. The worst one is the upcoming
week when six take a break. The worst part about this weekend?
Perhaps that four of the six teams have high-powered offenses,
meaning many of the foundation pieces of fantasy teams (Josh Allen,
Ezekiel Elliott, Dalvin Cook, Najee Harris, Austin Ekeler, etc.)
will not be available.
While I acknowledge that Weeks 8, 11 and 12 will be problematic
for some, most fantasy managers should be able to work around
two teams enjoying a weekend off. Four is challenging and six
figures to be highly problematic, so the goal of this article
will be to highlight players with good matchups in the assigned
weeks over the next month who can be had for free now in the majority
of deep leagues.
Let's be clear: many of these players are longshots who can potentially
give us 8-10 points at the non-quarterback positions and 15-18
points at quarterback.
Teams on bye - Bills, Cowboys, Vikings, Steelers, Chargers,
and Matt Ryan
may still be available in some shallow leagues. If they are, they
are better options than the two listed below.
Garoppolo (vs. IND) - The Colts
(fifth-most fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks) have faced
six quarterbacks so far, four of which have enjoyed season-best
fantasy efforts. LB Darius
Leonard has not been operating at 100 percent for most of
the season and CB Xavier
Rhodes has worked through multiple injuries, contributing
to the team's early defensive struggles. The Colts have done a
good job against the run - they are allowing 4.1 yards per carry
despite having already faced Tennessee and Baltimore. Garoppolo
hasn't been anything special in his four starts, although he has
managed 19.9 fantasy points in three of them. Indianapolis appears
to be finding a groove offensively of late, which means Jimmy
G & Co. may need to throw more than usual to keep pace.
Tagovailoa (vs. ATL) - The Falcons
have kept a couple of quarterbacks (Daniel
Jones and Zach
Wilson) in check, but they have allowed 30-plus fantasy points
to Jalen Hurts,
Tom Brady and
Tagovailoa did not play a particularly good game in London last
weekend, but that kind of thing can happen when a quarterback
is missing three of his best weapons (DeVante
Fuller and Preston
Williams). Miami is about as bad as it gets running the ball,
so passing-game volume should not be a problem for Tua in this
game and perhaps for the remainder of the year.
Juszczyk (vs. IND) - It is a sobering
thought that any bye-week crunch could lead us to consider a fullback,
but Juszczyk is the team's designated passing-down back until
further notice. He has at least three catches and four targets
in each of the last three games and somewhat surprisingly ranks
third on the team in targets (16), catches (14) and receiving
yards (135). If San Francisco ends up in a negative game script
with the Colts on Sunday night, there is a distinct possibility
Juszczyk could give managers at least 6.5 fantasy points for the
fourth consecutive game.
Brown (vs. ATL) - Did we not just
establish the Dolphins can't run the ball? Yes. But are we not
desperate? While Atlanta has been reasonably good at limiting
fantasy production by individual running backs, the Falcons have
coughed up at least one rushing touchdown in four of five outings.
In the one game a running back did not score against Atlanta,
Tom Brady threw for five touchdowns. Brown seems like a reasonable
bet for a short-yardage score after the Jets converted a pair
versus the Falcons in Week 5.
Gage (vs. MIA) - Gage has played
in two games this season: he was shut out on two targets in Week
1 and followed that with a five-catch, 28-yard effort on seven
targets before suffering an ankle injury in Week 2. Olamide
Zaccheaus essentially served as his replacement in Weeks 3-5,
posting 3-32-1, 1-15-0 and 2-20-0 lines. In short, the No. 2 receiver
in this offense has not been a good place to find fantasy production.
However, two things are working in Gage's favor this week. First
and foremost, he returned to practice this week. Just as importantly,
Jones nor Xavien
Howard played in Week 6 due to injury. If both cornerbacks
can't make it back for this weekend, Calvin
Ridley and Gage would have the opportunity to go against a
secondary that just allowed 18 catches for 234 yards and a touchdown
to Marvin Jones,
and Jamal Agnew.
Harris (vs. SEA) - The Saints' receiving
corps is averaging 25 PPR fantasy points this season - the second-lowest
mark in the league (Chicago, 22.1) - so let's not pretend an advantageous
matchup is all we need here. With that said, Harris has been the
closest thing to a consistent fantasy option that this passing
game has offered so far. He has done it despite drawing more than
three targets only once. New Orleans-Seattle figures to be a ground-and-pound
slugfest between two teams trying to hide their quarterbacks,
but the Saints have already proven they are not afraid to take
a few play-action deep shots to Marquez
Callaway and Harris. Since Callaway is likely on most fantasy
rosters following his fluky two-TD game in Week 5, Harris gets
the recommendation here.
(vs. SEA) - There is no great reason why Chicago is running
an offense that averages around 54 plays each week. There is also
no particularly good reason opposing tight ends are enjoying the
kind of success they are against a defense with as much talent
as Tampa Bay has in its front seven. The Bears don't have passing-game
volume working in their favor this year, but the Buccaneers once
again boast the one defense that can bring running games to a
halt. In other words, Chicago may ask Justin
Fields to attempt more than 20 passes for only the second
time of his brief career. Kmet is getting a healthy target share
for a tight end in 2021 (16.6 percent), so he could be poised
for roughly eight targets if the Bucs jump out to an early lead
and neutralize the Bears' ground game as expected.
Teams on bye - Lions, Seahawks, Buccaneers, Football Team
Bridgewater (vs. DAL) - In a couple
of weeks, we can assume Jerry
Jeudy will be ready to roll, which should serve as a boon
to the entire offense. The presence of the Cowboys on the schedule
for any quarterback this season is kind of a mixed blessing; Dallas'
offense forces the opposing offense to keep pace (good), but the
defense is averaging nearly two interceptions per game (bad).
It seems reasonable to assume that one or two of four playmakers
Patrick or Noah
Fant) will be able to help Bridgewater throw for a couple
of scores - as four of six quarterbacks who have faced the Cowboys
have done - even if he commits a couple of turnovers while doing
Taylor (vs. MIA) - At some point,
the Dolphins figure to turn things around defensively. After all,
this is largely the same defense that yielded only 21 TD passes
versus 18 interceptions in 16 games last year. Entering Week 7
this year, Miami is sporting a 13:2 mark. Every quarterback has
managed at least 17 fantasy points against the Dolphins, including
both rookies they have faced. Taylor has been on IR since we last
saw him in Week 2, which means that many fantasy managers have
likely forgotten how well he started the season. As will be the
case in most weeks this season, there is a good chance Houston
will fall behind by multiple scores in this one. If/when they
do, Taylor has enough mobility to give his fantasy managers a
decent floor. His risk for negative points is slim because he
takes care of the ball and he has enough talent at receiver to
offer a decent ceiling.
Ingram (vs. MIA) - The Dolphins
have perhaps been even more forgiving versus running backs than
quarterbacks, allowing nine double-digit fantasy performances
to the position. Included in that bunch are season-best efforts
Singletary (17.1) and Peyton
Barber (23.2). For all of the Texans' problems this season,
they have been able to find a way to give Ingram at least 15 touches
in four of six games. In the two games he failed to reach that
mark (which were the first two starts of Davis
Mills' career), the Bills and Panthers shut down just about
everything Houston tried to throw at them. Miami has clearly shown
in it is not at that level through six weeks, so it is conceivable
that Ingram could be a low-end RB2 in that matchup.
Drake (vs. NYG) - The Giants have
no excuse to be as bad as they are against the run. Losing LB
for the season certainly did not help, but the combination of
Lawrence flanking NT Austin
Johnson should make even the most average NFL linebacker look
somewhat capable. That does not appear to be happening here, as
three running backs have topped 100 yards rushing against New
York and seven backs in all have scored at least 10 fantasy points.
Drake is probably not a threat to top the century mark given his
recent (lack of) usage. However, the combination of Josh
Jacobs' continued struggles (3.4 YPC or worse in all four
of his games, long run of 15 yards), Drake's big Week 6 and the
change in leadership in Vegas would seem to be pointing to more
of a role for him moving forward.
Jackson (vs. TEN) - Not a lot of fantasy managers
know Jefferson is the WR52 in terms of total points. His problem
is the same as any other third receiver in any other high-flying
offense: consistent opportunity. Cooper
Kupp has seen at least 10 targets in every game, which has
undoubtedly impacted Robert
Woods. It is not hard to imagine if Woods is being impacted,
Jefferson would be even more so. The twist in this situation is
that Jefferson - known more as a route-running possession receiver
- is working in 67/33 (Jefferson/Jackson) kind of split with Jackson
as the clear-out receiver in this offense. Not only is this a
highly volatile role for fantasy purposes, but the split also
makes it nearly impossible to trust either one.
That brings us to the current state of the Titans, who are very
good offensively but quickly moving toward a state of emergency
in the secondary. First-round pick Caleb Farley is done for the
year and Kristian Fulton is on IR, robbing them of two of their
top three corners. Breon Borders looked like a fish out of water
on Monday night, while Jackrabbit Jenkins has struggled for the
bulk of the season. The combination of Tennessee's offense and
weak secondary is a good recipe for the Rams to take a few deep
shots against either rookie Elijah Molden or 2020 seventh-rounder
Moore (vs. IND) - The start of Moore's
NFL journey has not been a smooth one, although that kind of thing
can happen when you suffer a quad injury that sidelines you for
most of the preseason and follow that up with a concussion in
your third professional game. Moore has seen his routes drop each
week, so it is not as if we have much of a reason to believe in
him at this point. However, the Week 6 bye will be the first time
the Jets' coaching staff - especially first-time OC Mike LaFleur
- will have a chance to reassess the offense. HC Robert Saleh
seemed to admit the need to get Moore more involved earlier this
week. Zach Wilson
already knows what he has in his draft classmate.
The Colts have been beaten up by wide receivers despite not facing
many of the league's best passing games, giving up WR1-level production
to DeVante Parker and Brandin Cooks while getting grilled by Marquise Brown in Week 5. Assuming the Jets used their bye week well and
found some ways to get Moore working out of the slot more often,
there will definitely be an opportunity for him to make this game
his coming-out party - assuming he doesn't do so against the Patriots
or Bengals over the next two weeks. Indianapolis simply does not
have a cornerback capable of matching Moore's speed and quickness,
so it is up to LaFleur to use that to his advantage.
Tonyan (vs. KC) - Yes, we have reached
that point with last year's breakout tight end. Were it not for
a throw Aaron Rodgers had no business making on a Monday night
about a month ago against the Lions, Tonyan would be scoreless
for the season and rank much lower than TE35. Tonyan isn't experiencing
touchdown regression nearly as much as he is getting ignored,
which is a hard thing to grasp one year after a player scores
11 touchdowns and does not drop any of his 59 targets. Nevertheless,
the Chiefs could give him an opportunity to revisit the end zone.
Six tight ends have managed at least 10 fantasy points against
Kansas City, including four in the last three weeks. The Chiefs
have surrendered three consecutive TE1-level performances to Dallas
Goedert (16.6), Dawson
Knox (20.7) and Ricky
Seals-Jones (15.8). That kind of a trend is a hard thing for
fantasy managers to ignore and something that will undoubtedly
show up on tape for HC Matt LaFleur as he plans to attack the
Chiefs' defense that week.
Teams on bye - Bears, Bengals, Texans, Giants
(vs. CLE) - The primary reason the Browns are the third-most
forgiving defense versus quarterbacks right now is that they have
already faced Patrick
Herbert and Kyler
Murray - a trio that has combined for 13 touchdowns and zero
interceptions against their defense. Cleveland has allowed four
touchdowns to the quarterback position in its other three games
combined. New England's preference is to run the ball and lean
on its defense, but that may not be possible against a Browns'
defense that has given up very little to every other running back
it has faced outside of Austin
Ekeler. As a result, the Patriots could be forced to turn
to a pass-heavy attack as they did in losses to the Saints and
Buccaneers - two other teams who stop the run well. Jones has
not shown much of a ceiling yet, but most fantasy managers are
typically happy if they can simply get a lot of volume from their
bye-week fill-in at quarterback. Jones should provide that.
Winston (vs. TEN) - Whereas Jones
should be able to give his fantasy managers volume, Winston probably
will not. Any game against the Titans this year figures to be
a relatively high-scoring affair, so the Saints probably will
not have the luxury of leaning on Alvin
Kamara as a runner all game long. It might not be a bad thing,
however, as the Titans' injury woes in the secondary are unlikely
to improve much the rest of the season. By this time (mid-November),
and Tre'Quan Smith will likely have at least one or two games
under their belt, which should allow HC Sean Payton to open up
the offense. He may need to in this contest. Winston has already
proved he has a high ceiling with less than 30 pass attempts per
game, which may end up being the path of least resistance versus
the Titans. Imagine what is possible if the reins are loosened
ever so slightly for Winston as his receiving corps returns to
Barber (vs. NYG) - As with anything in fantasy, we
have to take a few chances when projecting three weeks ahead.
is a very good running back whose all-purpose talents are being
wasted with the Raiders. He also is not getting much help from
his line. (Pro Football Focus does not have a single lineman with
a run-blocking grade of 60 this season.) However, the harsh reality
is that Jacobs is not playing up to his abilities, likely due
to injury. Jacobs was among the best backs in the league in yards
after contact over his first two NFL seasons. This year, he is
tied for 47th among 49 qualifying players at 1.2. Perhaps a Week
8 bye is what he needs to rediscover the form that made him so
good in 2019 and 2020. It is also possible the new leadership
in Las Vegas decides it makes little sense to keep feeding him
like a featured back when he clearly isn't playing like one.
We discussed the Giants' run defense earlier. The last two lead
backs to face New York topped 24 fantasy points. Four backs in
all have topped 20 fantasy points against the Giants. As long
as New York's offense continues to operate as if it is running
in quicksand, more running backs will be able to amass the kind
of volume necessary to top 20 points. The only question here is
the Raiders come out of their Week 8 bye and go with more of a
hot-hand approach until Jacobs heals up and/or establishes himself
as the unquestioned best back in Vegas.
Williams (vs. MIA) - One of the few reasons I am
still holding on to Williams (and adding him in leagues that he
was dropped) is because of a recent article/tweet I read that
compared how similar Alex
Collins' breakout 2017 campaign with the Ravens was to Williams'
season so far. Other reasons include watching Latavius
Murray and Le'Veon Bell doing almost nothing to threaten the
defense whenever they run. The notion that Baltimore has yet to
lose since minimizing Williams' role (and making him inactive
two of the last three weeks) misses the bigger point: the Ravens
could easily be 2-4. Williams' big-play ability makes everything
about this offense better. If ball security and/or pass protections
issues are the major concerns here, let him work those out in
the game. Lamar
Jackson has a way of covering up for mistakes anyway.
For all I know, this could be a moot point if Baltimore insists
on playing matchups with its running backs as it has insisted.
However, there is a possibility that Murray's ankle injury could
keep him out of Week 7. In theory, that should lead to Williams
being active again. IF Williams can show out against what has
been a reasonably good Bengals' defense, then the Ravens will
have the bye week to ponder if it might be time to rethink their
current backfield arrangement. And if that happens, Williams would
come out of the bye against a Miami defense that has yielded at
least 19.1 fantasy points to a running back in four straight games.
Smith (vs. TEN) - See Jameis Winston above. The reality
of the situation is that Marquez
Callaway or Deonte
Harris could also be the receiver that hauls in a 50-yard
touchdown against the vulnerable Tennessee secondary. Right now,
we will go with Smith since he should return to the lineup in
the next week or two and assume a prominent role immediately.
Further consider that Smith may not be the only Saints' receiver
to pay off in this contest, as the Titans have allowed three receivers
from the same team to score at least 10 fantasy points four times.
(vs. IND) - The second half of what was said earlier about
applies here as well - specifically about how the Colts have performed
against opposing receivers - so there is no need to repeat that.
Moore profiles as a slot receiver but is inexplicably seeing more
usage outside now to accommodate Jamison
Crowder, who the Jets considered cutting this offseason if he
didn't accept a pay cut. Jacksonville has been forced into playing
Agnew more following the loss of D.J.
Chark. Considering the Jags' new primary slot receiver recorded
consecutive double-digit fantasy efforts in his first two games
in his new role, it might be time to acknowledge Agnew might have
some staying power. The biggest thing he has working in his favor
is Trevor Lawrence,
who has targeted the San Diego product on 17.6 percent of his throws
since the latter's promotion.
Conklin (vs. LAC) - New HC Brandon
Staley's defensive philosophy may be difficult to execute, but
it is simple in theory: force offenses to nickel-and-dime their
way down the field and make them try to be perfect over a 10-
or 12-play drive. That means receivers will struggle to get behind
his defense. As a result, his defenses tend to give running backs
light boxes and tight ends relatively free access over the middle
of the field. Unsurprisingly, the Chargers have surrendered an
average of 79.3 yards to tight ends and yielded a touchdown to
the position in five of six games.
Doug Orth has written for FF Today since 2006 and been featured
in USA Today’s Fantasy Football Preview magazine since 2010.
He hosted USA Today’s hour-long, pre-kickoff fantasy football
internet chat every Sunday in 2012-13 and appears as a guest analyst
on a number of national sports radio shows, including Sirius XM’s
“Fantasy Drive”. Doug is also a member of the Fantasy
Sports Writers Association.