Fantasy Football Strength of Schedule and Bye Week Trends

By Kyle Dvorchak
Kyle Dvorchak

Bye Weeks

The bye week is largely a nuisance to fantasy gamers and rarely a piece of information that gets incorporated into serious strategies. Every player has a bye week and the difference between a Week 7 bye and a Week 11 bye is essentially personal performance based on each owner's desire to start the fantasy regular season hot or finish strong.

There are a few scenarios worth exploring. The first is the value of immediate practice amidst the COVID crisis.

Early Bye Weeks

NFL teams appear to be a long way off from organizing entire practices so most offenses are going to be missing out on much-needed practice time to coalesce as a team. Therefore, the teams with bye weeks earlier in the season may be able to get a leg up on their competitors with a free week near the beginning of the season. Check out all of the bye week's and you'll notice that the first round of byes comes in Week 5 but the Packers and Lions each added Day 2 running backs and that's it. Week 6 gives the New England Patriots a chance to potentially make a quarterback change by getting Jarett Stidham extra reps if he has yet to make a start. If there's any edge in viewing 2020 bye weeks through this lens, it's small and rapidly diminishing. By the time other young offenses like Miami and the LA Chargers get a week off half the league has already done so. This idea is worth using as a tie-breaker at most but is best saved for staying ahead of depth chart moves as the bye weeks roll in.

Dreaded Week 13

The second bye week strategy only applied to two teams in a select few formats but it is important. Carolina and Tampa Bay share the final bye week during Week 13. A handful of larger season-long leagues and some season-long tournaments begin their playoffs in Week 13. If you play in one of these leagues and a bye week for your fantasy team isn't on the table, Panthers and Bucs have to be discounted. Losing Christian McCaffrey for a regular season game is manageable but in a single-elimination playoff game, that mountain may be too high to overcome. If you can earn a first-round playoff bye week, taking the high-risk play of attempting to align McCaffrey's (or any other Buc/Panther) bye with your playoff bye has an equally high payout. This is especially true in large tournaments that reward the largest risk-takers with 1st place prizes in excess of $100,000.

Strength of Schedule

Strength of Schedule (SOS) should be viewed in a similar light as bye weeks; worth noting but not to be valued over talent, situation, opportunity, or much else. Opposing defenses don't show much (if any) ability to defend certain positions consistently from year to year. Not the only, but one of the quickest explanations for this is that great offense beats great defense in the modern NFL. For reference, watch the Patriots historic defense turn into a Big 12 level unit versus Lamar Jackson last year. So, are schedules useless? Not quite.

One data point that does predict fantasy points in an individual game with some accuracy is the game total-how many points Vegas expects to be scored between both teams. Just like in DFS, season-long players should look for shootouts. Let's zoom in on the fantasy playoff schedule.

Kansas City

Chiefs Fantasy Playoff Schedule

fantasy football playoff strength of schedule Kansas City Chiefs
You don't need me to tell you to draft players on the Chiefs but it's worth noting that they face the Saints and Falcons in Weeks 15 and 16. Those teams were 5th and 13th in points scored last season. Mecole Hardman stands out as a player who could benefit tremendously from a game that sees the Chiefs battling to outgun another talented offense. Hardman saw just 41 targets in his rookie campaign but he turned those targets into 538 yards and six scores. If he's projected to pick up a few extra targets in any game, there's no way you're benching him.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire is already priced in the second round of most drafts but Damien Williams could split time with him early in the year. If CEH sputters early, he could be the ideal trade candidate for teams looking to add a high-upside back before the playoffs.

Philadelphia Eagles


Eagles Fantasy Playoff Schedule

fantasy football playoff strength of schedule Philadelphia Eagles
The Cardinals ran a play every 25.7 seconds last season-4th-highest in the league-and now Arizona has added DeAndre Hopkins to a nucleus of young talent. The Cowboys' 6.5 yards per play led the league last year and then they picked up CeeDee Lamb in the first round of the draft. You want your fantasy players dueling Dak Prescott late in the year.

If the Eagles don't sign a has-been plodder to stifle their backfield, Boston Scott could be in for a significant role especially in games the Eagles find themselves losing. From Week 14 through the Eagles single playoff game, Scott averaged 5.2 receptions per game and posted 7.9 yards per target. He was electric in space and showed that he can be a consistent producer as a receiver out of the backfield. Back and forth games will be ripe for Scott in PPR leagues. Jalen Reagor and DeSean Jackson are likely to trade off snaps as deep threats on the outside for Philly but Jacksons' spotty health makes investing in him for late-season games unwise. He hasn't played a full season since 2013 and missed most of last season with a core strain. Reagor may start slow, as most rookie receivers do, but given Philly's lack of depth at receiver, he should be expected to own a growing role throughout the year. By the time fantasy playoffs arrive, Reagor could be the No. 1 receiver on a team playing in lucrative games.

New York Giants

Giants Fantasy Playoff Schedule

fantasy football playoff strength of schedule New York Giants
The Giants' schedule relies on progression from two young teams, Cleveland and Arizona, to be particularly special but both of those are possible. Baltimore averaged 31.9 points per game, 1st in the league, last year. Saquon Barkley can't be pushed beyond the second overall back so the added value has to come from somewhere else. Daniel Jones topped 28 fantasy points four times in 2019 and his opponent scored at least 30 points in every single one of those games. Jones' ability to break the pocket and scramble combined with his propensity to sling it deep is amplified when the Giants are in a shootout. He's one of the better late-round QB targets before getting into his final three weeks. Jones' partner in crime, Darius Slayton scored two touchdowns in half of his passers' four blowups en route to 740 yards and eight scores as a rookie. Stacking the duo, even if just for their games versus powerhouse offenses, is a brilliant strategy in the middle rounds of your draft.