Taking Advantage of the 2021 NFL Schedule

by Al Scherer, August 22, 2021

A common rule of thumb for fantasy players has been to completely ignore the NFL schedule and just draft the best players. It’s a long season. The schedules and bye weeks will take care of themselves.

While that has worked for us most years and most people won’t give this year’s NFL schedule a second thought (or likely a first thought, for that matter), there are a few NFL scheduling quirks to be aware of, and that you can use to your advantage.

Two of the most important are:

 

  1. Week 14 Byes

  2. The Week 7 Byes Gauntlet

 

Let’s see how to exploit them, or at least avoid the potential landmines of ignoring them.

 

 

Week 14 Byes

 

Bye Teams:  Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins, NE Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles

 

Hopefully, most of your leagues will start their playoffs in Week 15 this year. But if you are in any that don’t (for example, redraft leagues like the great Scott Fish Bowl), when building your team, you must break ties against players on these four teams. Don’t overload them on your bench, either. You can’t afford bye weeks during the playoffs.

At QB, Jalen Hurts, Tua Tagovailoa, Carson Wentz and somebody on the Patriots (it must be Mac Jones by then, right?) will all be on the NFL’s and your bench that week. You must step up or down even if just a bit at QB this year. Hopefully, you’re not relying on these guys come playoff time in leagues with Week 14 byes. You won’t be able to use them.

At RB, as much as we all love Jonathan Taylor (RB10 ADP per myfantasyleague.com), here, too, step down ever so slightly to an Aaron Jones (RB11), Nick Chubb (RB12) or Austin Ekeler (RB14). Let your opponent figure out how to compete against you without their RB1 in the first round of the playoffs.

At WR, I sure hope you aren’t depending on help from any of these four teams come Week 14 playoff time. If you are, their byes won’t matter to you anyway, because you likely missed the playoffs.

The Week 7 Gauntlet

 

Bye Teams:  Buffalo Bills, Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Chargers, Minnesota Vikings, Pittsburgh Steelers and Jacksonville Jaguars

 

In 2021, the NFL returns to a six-team bye week: Week 7.  And this year, the NFL is pushing to our benches this treasure trove of fantasy starters, with ADPs here per myfantasyleague.com:

That’s 15 starters (!) you and your leaguemates will have to replace! In Flex & SuperFlex leagues, we’re talking 20-plus fantasy starters on league benches!

So how can we leverage this?  Well, it depends on your league type…

fantasy-football-dynasty-league-rankings

Dynasty

We take the longest perspective in dynasty, so there’s little reason to worry about one particularly painful week of overlapping byes. Let your leaguemates laugh at you that one week. If you’re loaded up with these players, that’ll be their only chance. Just leverage the PlayerProfiler Dynasty Deluxe package and Breakout Finder app, draft the best team regardless of bye weeks and beat them over the rest of the season, during the playoffs and into the future.

Redraft

Some say it’s ok to punt a single week in redraft because you’ll make up for it in the other weeks. Well, if your roster is that good, go ahead and punt Week 7.

But, all else being equal, there’s value to be gained in planning ahead. You certainly can’t afford to wait until Week 7 approaches to start looking for replacements. Not only will you have to dump quality players off your bench, as many as one-third to one-half of your league mates will doing the same. As Week 7 approaches, FAAB prices will outweigh the values, and this will be for guys you might actually start only once.

By building a roster not too reliant on Week 7 bye players, you’ll also be in position to potentially scoop up players dropped by other owners as they back-fill to get through that one week.

At the end of your roster, consider stashing a backup or two that has an expected favorable schedule that week. And do so before the league-wide rush to fill Week 7 slots. Try to make this rent-a-player move at least 1-2 weeks before the rush and you’ll have a shot at an interesting filler for that one week.

At RB, look to add to the end of your bench:

 

 

At WR, consider:

 

 

Guillotine

Real quick, what is a guillotine league? It’s a fun, different league type where up to 16 teams draft smaller rosters; typically without kickers or DST.  Instead of measuring wins and losses, the lowest-scoring team is axed from the league each week. And their roster become waiver candidates for the remaining teams.

This repeats itself weekly, with one team being eliminated until, at the end, only the champion stands. Our own “Mad Chatterexplained guillotine leagues last year.

 

So, in guillotine, while winning is ultimately about upside, you must also have a good floor to survive.

 

What to do so that the NFL Week 7 bye week doesn’t become your “bye bye week?”

Well, first, hopefully you draft and manage your roster well enough to get that far. If you do, you absolutely must roster guys early with a shot at producing as your Week 7 starters.

Whatever, whatever you do, you simply cannot back up starters that have Week 7 byes with backups who would sit that same week. If you start with, say, Ezekiel Elliott and Travis Etienne as first two RBs, both with Week 7 byes, I don’t care if you are wearing a Zack Moss jersey as you read this or if you have an autographed Tony Pollard rookie card, you cannot make either your RB3. That’s a sure-fire plan for Week 7 elimination.

 

You’re not winning Week 7 with Pollard sitting on your bench next to Elliott.

 

Instead, target at RB3 someone like a Leonard Fournette or Ronald Jones (Week 9 byes) and hope to get at least RB2 scoring out of them that week. Work to find another RB that might help you through Week 7 during the rest of the draft and your first six weeks.  As mentioned above for redraft leagues, Arizona, Baltimore, and the LA Rams all have great-looking matchups.

Yes, it’s true that you’ll have six weeks to set up your bye week roster through waivers as other teams are eliminated, but doing so is a recipe for disaster. First, teams eliminated early in the season probably didn’t have a lot of great players. Second, know that it’ll be you and 10 to 15 of your closest friends sidling up to that waiver wire feed-trough each week, all eyes and some desperate FAAB dollars laser-focused on the best of the dropped players.

Even if you “win” these claims, you’ll have to burn your FAAB to get through that one week, leaving the best players to other owners for the rest of the season; and for pennies on the dollars you just spent. Instead, plan ahead in both your draft and early FAAB bids so Week 7 doesn’t have to be a killer.

Summary

In most years, we can safely ignore the NFL schedule. And most of your leaguemates are doing the same this year. However, you can get a step up on your league now by constructing you rosters and aligning your FAAB strategies with the 2021 NFL’s schedule changes and bye weeks.