Updated: November 15, 2011 12:16PM
It seems we’ve just gotten our starting lineups settled, and already we have to start juggling them with the onset of bye weeks.
From this week 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 weeks featured six resting teams. This year, with four consecutive weeks of six-team byes, roster shuffling could become an art form.
We’ll get our feet wet this week with a modest slate of inactives from the Ravens, Browns, Cowboys, Dolphins, Rams and Redskins. Frankly, Ray Rice’s owners might be the only ones significantly inconvenienced.
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 already have taken. If we’re not careful, some of us might be starting Blaine Gabbert and a pack of gypsies later this month.
The moral of the story? Don’t wait until the weekend to evaluate your lineup. Moreover, it’s not too early to plan ahead for a week when your lineup will be more significantly taxed.
Free-agent picks & pans
Catch ’em while you can
◆ QB Matt Hasselbeck, Titans: I was reluctant to recommend him after Kenny Britt bit the dust, but Hasselbeck barely missed a beat against a Browns 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.
◆ RB Ryan Torain, 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, 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.
◆ RB Stevan Ridley, Patriots: When in doubt, grab a Patriot. The rookie out of LSU (third-round pick) 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.
◆ RB Isaac Redman, Steelers: If Rashard Mendenhall misses time with his hamstring injury, Redman will share carries with fellow backup Mewelde Moore. Both have played sparingly, but Redman is the preferred handcuff because 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 the team’s success.
Don’t be fooled
◆ WR Laurent Robinson, 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, the Cowboys head into their bye week. When they return, Miles Austin should be back, and Robinson will be an afterthought once again.
◆ WRs Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones, 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 Sunday, and both have been remarkably inconsistent
and unreliable throughout their careers. Arian Foster and tight end Owen Daniels will have to pick up the slack.
Ladd Biro was voted the 2010 Football Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. Follow all his advice at the Fantasy Fools blog (fantasy-fools.blogspot.com), on Facebook and via Twitter (@ladd_biro).