Bye Week Options: Quarterbacks
Nearly 30 years ago, way back in 1990, the NFL figured out a way to get more games on television and thus more revenue. The league expanded to a 17-week season and scheduled each team with one “BYE” week to keep the 16-game season intact. Fantasy owners have to account for each team’s BYE and adjust either during the draft or free agency to have a complete starting lineup. Most owners will draft enough running backs and wide receivers to offset any BYE-week concerns, but a common strategy is to leave the draft with just one quarterback and “stream” the position throughout the season. “Streaming” refers to the process of adding and dropping players according to weekly matchups as opposed to projected season-long production.
For the 2019 season, BYE weeks begin in week four and conclude in week 12. The following table highlights which team is off in each of those weeks.
|Week 4||New York Jets||San Francisco 49ers|
|Week 5||Detroit Lions||Miami Dolphins|
|Week 6||Buffalo Bills||Chicago Bears||Indianapolis Colts||Oakland Raiders|
|Week 7||Carolina Panthers||Cleveland Browns||Pittsburgh Steelers||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|Week 8||Dallas Cowboys||Baltimore Ravens|
|Week 9||Atlanta Falcons||Cincinnati Bengals||Los Angeles Rams||New Orleans Saints|
|Week 10||Denver Broncos||Houston Texans||Jacksonville Jaguars||New England Patriots||Philadelphia Eagles||Washington Redskins|
|Week 11||Green Bay Packers||New York Giants||Seattle Seahawks||Tennessee Titans|
|Week 12||Arizona Cardinals||Kansas City Chiefs||Los Angeles Chargers||Minnesota Vikings|
For this article, I’m going to focus on the top 12 quarterbacks by ADP according to data provided by Fantasy Pros. Also, none of the top 12 QBs have a BYE in week four, week five or week eight, so we won’t be addressing those weeks.
I looked at which teams appeared to provide the least resistance to QB scoring in fantasy football, and you will see three of them referenced several times throughout this article: they are the New York Jets, the Houston Texans, and the Kansas City Chiefs. Here is my rationale.
The New York Jets have been a below-average defense for the last several years and the improvements they made in the offseason will do little to help them defend the passing game. They signed LB C.J. Mosley and drafted DL Quinnen Williams, but lost CB Morris Claiborne and CB Buster Skrine. The Jets don’t have a player who can provide a consistent threat to opposing QBs and they finished as a bottom-10 defense in passing yards allowed (4,343 – 24th), passing TDs allowed (29 – 23rd), and QB rushing yards allowed (353 – 29th). The Jets did manage 13 interceptions (15th), but five of them came in the first game against Detroit–skewing those numbers greatly. The Jets had considerably more success defending the RB position, and the defensive additions appear to bolster that aspect of the team. As a result, look for opposing offenses to attack the Jets through the air and to have success doing so in 2019.
The Houston Texans might come as a bit of a surprise as a team to pick on at QB because they were such a good fantasy defense last season. Digging a little deeper, however, suggests Houston’s defense played so well against bad teams that the final numbers weren’t as representative of the defense as they might appear. Houston faced 310 passes against the following “Murderer’s Row” during the 2018 season: Blaine Gabbert, Eli Manning, Nathan Peterman, Cody Kessler, Blake Bortles, Brock Osweiler, Case Keenum, Colt McCoy, Sam Darnold, and Nick Foles. Against those quarterbacks (310 passes), Houston allowed 2,327 yards and 13 TDs while collecting eight INTs. In 237 attempts against higher quality QBs (Tom Brady, Andrew Luck, Dak Prescott, Marcus Mariota, and Baker Mayfield), Houston allowed 2,048 yards and 13 TDs with seven INTs. Houston benefited from an extremely easy schedule and still finished 27th in passing yards against (4,375 yards) and passing attempts against (591 attempts). Also, Houston has a very good offense that should force teams to play from behind against them, leading to more passing and more opportunities for opposing QBs to rack up “garbage-time” stats.
The Kansas City Chiefs struggled to contain opposing offenses last season, and that trend should continue in 2019. Kansas City hired Steve Spagnuolo as Defensive Coordinator and they brought in new faces DE Frank Clark and SS Tyrann Mathieu. Clark has become a fearsome pass rusher, but it will be hard to replace the production of the departed duo of LB Justin Houston and LB Dee Ford (22 combined sacks, 12 combined forced fumbles and one interception). Mathieu replaces Eric Berry; it’s safe to say Berry’s best years are behind him and Mathieu is a considerable upgrade. Kansas City also possesses an explosive offense and led the league in points scored (565), total yards (6,810) and yards per play (6.8). With an offense like that, opposing QBs have more chances to accumulate fantasy points either because they are trying to keep up with the scoring or they are running more plays than normal. Last season, Kansas City was last in the NFL in passing yards allowed (4,721) and passing attempts allowed (632), they were 31st in completed passes allowed (406), and they finished 25th in passing TDs allowed (30). I don’t expect much difference in game-planning against the Chiefs in 2019.
WEEK 6 (Oct. 10 – Oct. 14)
Player(s) affected: Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
Luck is currently being selected late in the third round as the second QB off the board. Luck gets the earliest BYE of the group in week six, so you could acquire his suggested BYE week pairing during the draft and then drop him after week six to open up another roster spot if you wanted to.
Replacement option(s): Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
Prescott is currently going off draft boards in round 10 and gets to face the New York Jets in week six. Prescott benefits from being behind one of the elite offensive lines in the NFL, and he has Ezekiel Elliott at RB to keep defenses honest. Dallas acquired Randall Cobb to replace Cole Beasley in the slot and lured Jason Witten out of the Monday Night booth and back onto the field at TE. Prescott also has the benefit of an entire offseason with Amari Cooper. Add in the expected growth from second-year WR Michael Gallup, and Prescott is blessed with talented players at each of the skill positions. Prescott should fill in admirably for you in week six should you elect to go with Luck as your starting QB in 2019.
In Case of Emergency: If Prescott is unavailable or is being drafted too early for your taste, you could do worse than Kirk Cousins in the 11th or 12th round for week six. Minnesota faces Philadelphia, a team that was much better against the run than the pass in 2018. Philadelphia’s secondary is the weak spot of the defense, and Cousins should be able to find Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen regularly in this contest.
WEEK 7 (Oct. 17 – Oct. 21)
Player(s) affected: Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns; Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
If you opted to grab Mayfield near his current sixth-round ADP or Newton in the eighth round, you’re staring at a week seven BYE and might opt for one of the following to get you through the week.
Replacement option(s): Tom Brady, New England Patriots; Joe Flacco, Denver Broncos
Some call him the G.O.A.T. and some think he is the worst thing to happen to the QB position, but whatever your opinion of Tom Brady is, it’s hard to argue with the numbers. Just like the top option in week six, Brady and the Patriots get to square off against the New York Jets in week seven. Acquiring Brady will cost you a draft pick in the 10th or 11th round, but his success against the Jets might make him a worthy roster stash. Last season, Brady had his second-best fantasy season against them.
New England returns most of Brady’s pass catchers from last season in Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, and James White. The team also drafted a prolific WR out of Arizona State in N’Keal Harry who provides Brady with a physical presence on the outside. Demaryius Thomas joined the team in April on a one-year deal, but his impact is likely to be minimal given his production in recent seasons. The biggest hole will be at TE with the retirement of Rob Gronkowski, although some in the industry think a return is possible, so stay tuned.
If you insist on leaving your draft with just one QB, Joe Flacco is going undrafted in all but the deepest of leagues. Denver is going to be hosting the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night that week, and we’ve already discussed what the Chiefs defense brings to the table. Denver is thought to be installing a new offense under OC Rich Scangarello that will be similar to the offense Flacco had so much success with back in 2014. Now five years is a long time in the NFL, but it’s encouraging to know Flacco has experience in the offense as a newcomer to the team.
Flacco has some intriguing weapons at his disposal as Courtland Sutton showed flashes as a rookie and seemingly is a better fit with Flacco and his proclivity to launch the deep ball. Emmanuel Sanders had his 2018 cut short with an Achilles injury, but he was in the midst of a career year before that. Sanders will move back into the #2 WR role with Sutton manning the #1 position, a role Sanders flourished in from 2014-2016 opposite Demaryius Thomas. Another second-year player, DaeSean Hamilton looks like he will man the slot WR position and has the short-area quickness to be effective in that role. Flacco also benefits from an accomplished receiving RB in Phillip Lindsay, and the Broncos will employ Lindsay in a 1-2 punch with Royce Freeman which should open up the play-action passing game. Flacco isn’t the guy who is going to throw for 4,000 yards and 30 TDs, but you only need one good game from him; week seven seems like the perfect opportunity to get that game.
WEEK 9 (Oct. 31 – Nov. 4)
Player(s) Affected: Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons; Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints; Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams
Ah, week nine. This is the only week in which we have three top-12 QBs off. Perhaps you decided to roll with Matt Ryan as your starting QB in the sixth round, waited until the eighth round to grab his division counterpart in Drew Brees, or maybe you decided Jared Goff was the best choice in the ninth round. If you opt for one of this trio as your guy, you’ll need an alternate plan for week nine, and that’s where the following two come in.
Replacement option(s): Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings; Nick Foles, Jacksonville Jaguars
Kirk Cousins was mentioned as an alternate option back in week six, but he’s the best option for your team now in week nine. Minnesota draws the primo matchup against Kansas City this week, even though the game will be played at Arrowhead Stadium. We already have seen how good the tandem of Thielen and Diggs are, but the team moved to a more run-centric approach when Kevan Stefanski was promoted to the position of Offensive Coordinator. This might very well cap Cousins’ season-long ceiling. Fortunately for us we just need one good game from him, and Minnesota’s week nine contest should afford Cousins the perfect opportunity to provide it. Kyle Rudolph somewhat surprisingly returned to the team following the drafting of Irv Smith Jr in the second round, but Rudolph is still a red zone threat and must be accounted for. There is not much depth behind Thielen and Diggs as Laquon Treadwell has underwhelmed since being selected in the first round in 2016. Treadwell could still become a factor, but recent performances suggest otherwise. Dalvin Cook has looked explosive when healthy and provides a nice outlet for Cousins, so the Chiefs will have to account for him on every play. I’d expect these two explosive offenses to light up the scoreboard in week nine, and you could reap some of the rewards by rolling with Cousins. You like that?!?!
The Jaguars mercifully ended the Blake Bortles experiment this year and plucked former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles away from the Eagles to try and right the ship in 2019. Foles is basically free, carrying an 18th-round price tag and likely going undrafted in most 12-team leagues. Foles will again team up with his QB Coach from 2017 in John DeFilippo, whom the Jaguars selected to take over as Offensive Coordinator. One has to expect the offense to be better, but it is still a bit of an unknown.
The strength of the offense is the run game and Leonard Fournette. Despite a down season in 2018, the presence of Fournette will force defenses to respect the run, ideally making Foles’ job at least a little easier. The biggest area of concern for Jacksonville has to be at WR where they have five guys who could all end up contributing.
The Jaguars returned Dede Westbrook, Marqise Lee, D.J. Chark, and Keelan Cole from last season and their combined 118 receptions for 1,382 yards and six TDs. Jacksonville also went out and signed Chris Conley, a player Foles has a history with during his stint in Kansas City. Lee missed all of 2018 with an ACL injury but has flashed potential when healthy. Westbrook appears to be the most promising of the group, compiling the majority of the stats mentioned earlier (66 catches, 717 yards, and five TDs). Chark is entering his second year and the third WR spot will likely come down to either him or Conley. The team had 167 targets vacated when T.J. Yeldon and Donte Moncrief left the team, so those targets will find another home in 2019; it’s just that nobody is sure how they will be distributed. Fortunately, that doesn’t matter to us as long as the week nine targets are completed!
Jacksonville gets to face one of our three target teams in week nine as they do battle with Houston. We also have some data points with Foles against Houston; he faced them in week 16 last season as a member of the Eagles. Foles had a tremendous game, piling up 471 and four TDs against just one INT. Now I’m not saying the 2019 Jaguars are as good as the 2018 Eagles, but maybe they’re half as good? If we get a game from Foles that’s half as good as that one, that’s a one-week stopgap I’m OK with.
WEEK 10 (Nov. 7 – Nov. 11)
Player(s) affected: Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans; Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles
Deshaun Watson is coming off draft boards as the third QB and he is typically selected early in the fifth round. Perhaps waiting for a few rounds will make you feel better about grabbing your QB, and you nab Carson Wentz in the eighth round. Either of these former first-round NFL draft picks will force you to reassess your starting QB as we head into week 10. Fortunately, we have three viable options to replace them.
Replacement option(s): Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens; Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans, Eli Manning, New York Giants
The only replacement option in week 10 that will require you to use a draft pick is Lamar Jackson in the 12th round. Jackson was utilized as a glorified RB for the first nine games of 2018, attempting just 12 passes but carrying the ball 28 times. John Harbaugh replaced Flacco with Jackson following Baltimore’s week 10 BYE, and Jackson posted solid fantasy numbers for the rest of the season.
Jackson isn’t listed as an option here because of his passing acumen, but because he has such a stable floor due to his rushing ability. Jackson has a myriad of players at WR, but none stand out as difference-makers at the position. The most likely starters at WR for Jackson appear to be rookie WR Marquise Brown, Willie Snead, and Chris Moore. At TE, Mark Andrews seems the best bet to start, but 2018 first-round selection Hayden Hurst could get involved more after suffering an injury early last season.
Baltimore draws division-opponent Cincinnati in week 10, and although they are not one of the three defenses discussed earlier, they still present a nice matchup. Last season, Cincinnati finished 29th in passing yards against (4,524) and 28th in passing TDs against (34). Cincinnati also surrendered the sixth-most rushing yards to QBs (309), which is another plus for owners of Jackson in week 10. The Bengals didn’t make any changes on the defensive side of the ball during free agency or the draft, so a repeat performance might be in store. Jackson’s first start last season was in week 11 against Cincinnati and, while he didn’t have a good game passing (150 yards, one INT), he did rush 26 times (!) for 119 yards. Jackson should be able to produce as a fine replacement for fantasy teams in week 10.
Unless you play in a very large league, Marcus Mariota should be available on the waiver wire when you need him for week 10. Mariota is being drafted late in round 18–beyond the end of typical leagues. Much like Jackson, Mariota brings a running element to the QB position that gives him a nice bump to his weekly floor. In week 10, the Titans will play host to the Kansas City Chiefs, and we already know how they like hemorrhaging points to the QB position.
Mariota has regressed each year as a passer, but the healthy return of Delanie Walker, the continued improvement of Corey Davis, and the additions of Adam Humphries in free agency and A.J. Brown through the NFL Draft should give Mariota the best chance to return to his 2016 form; in that season, he posted more than 3,400 yards and 26 TDs. Tennessee also made moves to shore up an offensive line that surrendered 47 sacks by signing guards Rodger Saffold away from the Rams and drafting Nate Davis in the third round out of UNC-Charlotte.
Mariota benefits from having two quality options in the backfield with him in Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis. Henry provides the physicality while Lewis provides the receiving prowess that will force defenses to account for either player when they are in the game. Tennessee is still being regarded as a run-first offense, but I expect them to be heavy underdogs to the Chiefs in week 10; this mean they will be forced to move to a more pass-happy approach to keep up. This, combined with the changes on offense and the potential for Mariota to pad his fantasy points with some rushing stats, makes Mariota an excellent replacement option for week 10.
In researching this article, I was surprised to find that Eli Manning was better than I remembered last season. Manning is nearly universally going undrafted in 12-team leagues, and not just because the Giants took Duke QB Daniel Jones with the sixth-overall pick in the NFL Draft. Manning lost Odell Beckham Jr and will be 38 years old at the start of his 14th season, but he still threw for nearly 4,300 yards and had 21 TDs to 11 INTs. For reference, his career averages are 3,925 yards, 25 TDs, and 16 INTs, so he actually scored more than he normally does in fantasy leagues last season.
Manning is bolstered by arguably the best RB in the NFL: Saquon Barkley. Barkley was just as advertised in his rookie season, dominating in almost every conceivable way leading the league in yards from scrimmage (2,028). Barkley was at his best on the ground, rushing for 1,307 yards and 11 TDs. Despite his success running the ball, Saquon was also massively involved in the passing game, hauling in 91 passes (on 121 targets) for 721 yards and four TDs. There is no reason to think Barkley will be any less involved heading into this season, so his presence will only help Manning’s numbers.
The absence of Beckham has already been touched on, and his loss cannot be overstated. However, the Giants will be returning all the other components to their receiving corps. Sterling Shepard now becomes the de facto number one while Golden Tate is entrenched as the other starter. New York also has Evan Engram at TE, though he’s more of a glorified WR with his deficiency in blocking and proficiency in receiving. All three of these options seem like more of the possession-type receiver as opposed to an explosive-type, but all stats count towards the weekly fantasy total.
The Giants will be on the road against the Jets in week 10 in a “Battle for New York”, and we’ve already discussed the opportunities the Jets defense provide for opposing QBs. Manning might be on his way out following the 2019 season, but he should be a serviceable option for your fantasy team in week 10.
WEEK 11 (Nov. 14 – Nov. 18)
Player(s) affected: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers; Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
A couple of mid-round options face week 11 BYEs in Aaron Rodgers, who is currently a fifth-round selection, and Russell Wilson who can be had in the seventh or eighth. Fortunately, we have a couple of options to get us through this late-season BYE.
Replacement option(s): Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers; Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
A Monday Night matchup awaits Philip Rivers and the Los Angeles Chargers as they face division-foe Kansas City in Mexico City, Mexico. This game will mark the third time since 2016 that the NFL has played in Mexico as part of the NFL International Series. Despite this being an “away” home game for Rivers, getting a chance to show off his arm in front of more than 100,000 people makes him an enticing option–especially given the matchup. It’s hard to justify a pick in the 10th round for a BYE week that comes in week 11, but Rivers does provide a nice security blanket if injury strikes.
Rivers will be surrounded by an enticing array of weapons, including Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, a healthy Hunter Henry, Melvin Gordon (maybe) and Austin Ekeler. Allen has shed the injury-prone tag that haunted him early in his career and has become a true #1 WR. Mike Williams will benefit from the team moving on from Tyrell Williams and was a nice surprise after a mostly lost rookie campaign in 2017. Henry is a valuable part of the offense and could finish the season as a top-five TE if his role remains constant. Rivers has had success against Kansas City in the past, and last season was his best fantasy-wise.
If the Chargers elect to play hardball with Gordon, his absence will have an impact, but both Ekeler and Justin Jackson have proven to be able to offset his production enough to make the offense still run smoothly. Gordon missed the team’s week 15 game last season against Kansas City, and the Chargers eked out a one-point victory in which Rivers threw for 313 yards and two TDs (including the game-winner AND two-point conversion to Mike Williams). A division game on a Monday night with 100,000+ fans is a recipe for Philip Rivers fantasy-goodness in week 11.
We detailed what makes Lamar Jackson a fantasy asset in the section for week 10. The only difference between Jackson in week 10 and Jackson in week 11 is the opponent. Baltimore hosts Houston in week 11 in what looks like a juicy matchup. Savvy owners might be wise to snatch up Jackson before week 10 if he’s available and hold him through week 11 to take advantage of the upside he brings to the table these two weeks.
WEEK 12 (Nov. 21 – Nov. 25)
Player(s) affected: Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs; Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals
Hopefully this late in the season, missing your starting QB for a week won’t determine whether or not you make the playoffs. However, if you went with last year’s #1 QB (by quite a bit) and got Patrick Mahomes in the second or third round or took a chance on rookie Kyler Murray in the ninth, week 12 will present you with a BYE week hurdle. Here’s an option to clear it.
Replacement option(s): Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders
The final BYE week only presents us with one viable option, much like the first BYE week, and that option is Derek Carr. You can get Carr as late as the 15th round, but most likely he’ll be available on the waiver wire if he struggles during the season to this point. Remember, we’re not looking for a guy to lead us to the playoffs; we’re just looking for a guy to provide enough fantasy points to get us through one week. For week 12, you could do worse than Carr.
Carr and the Raiders get a date with the New York Jets in week 12, and–though it is a road game–it’s still too good a matchup to ignore. The Raiders skill position players have undergone wholesale changes as the team brought in Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams through free agency, along with drafting Josh Jacobs in the first round of the NFL Draft. Brown has to be considered an upgrade over Amari Cooper, even if only slightly, and Williams gives the team a legitimate deep threat. The depth chart at WR behind those two is wide open, so anyone could contribute as a third WR when the team elects to roll out that formation. Jacobs looks like a three-down RB, but the team has utilized Jalen Richard a lot in the passing game; the usage split will be interesting to see this late in the season.
The team did lose Cooper and Jared Cook (fresh off a top-five TE season), but the team looks to be leaning on the newcomers and Darren Waller at TE to fill the void. Waller is a size/speed freak, but his limited production is a concern. The pickings are slim in week 12, but Carr should provide enough production to be a viable option for the week. That’s all we’re looking for.
In Case of Emergency: If Carr is unavailable, Jameis Winston gets a domed matchup in Atlanta in a division battle. Atlanta has a powerful offense and Tampa Bay has more questions at RB than answers right now, which might force Winston and the passing game to carry the load. Atlanta finished in the bottom 10 of both passing yards allowed (4,372) and passing TDs allowed (33), and Tampa Bay brought in Bruce Arians to guide the team. Arians is known for getting the most out of his QBs, so Winston could be a sneaky play in week 12. Winston had his best season against Atlanta last year, so we have recent history to lean on as well.
BYE weeks can be difficult to navigate if you aren’t prepared for them. Don’t pass up value during your draft to account for BYE week clashes, but keep in mind they can be a deciding factor if two guys are close in value. Hopefully, this guide will get you through your QB BYE week troubles unscathed and set you up for fantasy success in 2019!
(Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire)