It seems we’ve just gotten our starting lineups settled, and already we have to start juggling them with the onset of the 2011 bye-week schedule.
From this weekend through Week 8, six teams will take a breather. In Weeks 9 and 11, four teams will be off. For some reason, the byes get a bye in Week 10.
Last season, the open dates started and ended a week earlier; but only two weekends featured as many as six resting teams. This year’s schedule, with four consecutive weeks of six-team byes, could raise roster shuffling to an art form.
We’ll get our feet wet this weekend with a modest slate of inactives from the Ravens, Browns, Cowboys, Dolphins, Rams and Redskins. Frankly, Ray Rice’s owners may be the only ones significantly inconvenienced in Week 5.
The schedule gets a little tougher in Week 6, before packing a wallop in Week 7, when the Patriots, Eagles, Bills, Giants, 49ers and Bengals enjoy a respite.
Of course, the bye-week scratches only worsen the toll that injuries have already taken on fantasy rosters. If we’re not careful, some of us may be starting Blaine Gabbert and a pack of gypsies later this month.
The moral of this story? Don’t wait until the weekend to evaluate your starting options. Moreover, it’s not too early to plan ahead for a week when your lineup will be more significantly taxed. Waiting until the last minute will only narrow your options.
FREE AGENT PICKS AND PANS
To win a fantasy championship, it helps to start with a great draft. But filling in your roster throughout the season with the right free agents is also important. Here's a look at players worth considering, and others who would look better in someone else's lineup.
Catch ‘em while you can
Matt Hassebeck, QB, Titans. I was reluctant to recommend him after Kenny Britt bit the dust; but Hasselbeck barely missed a beat against a Cleveland secondary that has been surprisingly stout. Still available in the vast majority of leagues – despite being the eighth-ranked fantasy QB in the land – Hasselbeck can be the answer to your bye-week and injury conundrums.
Ryan Torain, RB, Redskins. True to form, head coach Mike Shanahan has started shaking up his running back corps. While none of us should be shocked that Tim Hightower’s role as the Redskins’ lead back was short-lived, Ryan Torain seemed the odd man out while rookie Roy Helu was being eased into the rotation. Yet after his 135-yard, one-touchdown effort Sunday, the oft-injured Torain heads into his bye week as the team’s featured rusher. For now, anyway.
Stevan Ridley, RB, Patriots. When in doubt, grab a Patriot. The rookie third-rounder out of LSU has been steadily worked into the backfield rotation, mostly at the expense of the diminutive Danny Woodhead. On Sunday, Ridley racked up 97 yards, including a 33-yard scoring scamper. He’s worth a bench spot for now, in the event he emerges as the team’s featured back. BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ role is hardly set in stone.
Isaac Redman, RB, Steelers. If Rashard Mendenhall misses time with his hamstring injury, Redman will share carries with fellow backup Mewelde Moore. Both have played sparingly this season, but Redman is the preferred handcuff as he is the more likely candidate for goal-line carries. With Ben Roethlisberger (foot) also in jeopardy of sitting out a game or two, healthy runners will be even more integral to Pittsburgh’s success.
Don’t be fooled
Laurent Robinson, WR, Cowboys. Since he entered the league in 2007, Robinson has failed to live up to expectations; which is why he’s no longer catching passes in Atlanta or St. Louis. Now, just as he could be on the verge of shedding his underachiever label, Dallas heads into its bye week. When they return, Miles Austin should be back on the field, and Robinson will once again be an afterthought.
Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones, WRs, Texans. You’d think one or both of these guys would step up if Andre Johnson misses time with his hamstring injury. Yet neither caught a pass on Sunday, and both have been remarkably inconsistent and unreliable throughout their careers. Arian Foster and TE Owen Daniels will have to pick up the slack.