Commentary

Top Week 5 fantasy matchups

Owners should look to start Philip Rivers, Matt Ryan; avoid LeGarrette Blount, others

Originally Published: October 6, 2011
By Danny Tuccitto | Football Outsiders
Matt Ryan/Roddy WhiteKevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesMatt Ryan and Roddy White are both good fantasy plays this week against Green Bay.

Week 5 marks the first time on this year's NFL calendar that fantasy football lineups get adversely affected by team byes. Just how adversely depends mostly on the strategy you used during your fantasy draft. The vast majority of people meticulously monitor the byes on draft day and make sure to select primary backups that don't have byes overlapping with starters. Others -- like me -- say, "damn the torpedoes," and just pick the best player available regardless of whether byes overlap or not, figuring it's something that can be dealt with later via trades or free agency.

Of course, whichever draft-day camp you're in, the byes have to be maneuvered around in one way or another. After all, you need a legal lineup. With this in mind, let me offer up one sneaky strategy to use that's likely to not only help you deal with your bye-week situations, but give you a leg up on the competition in your league. Words of warning: This only works if you're in a league with head-to-head matchups each week. If you're not, feel free to ignore what I'm about to say and skip down to the player comments.

Alright, let me lay out the situation. Let's say you have one stud running back -- say, LeSean McCoy -- and two marginal starting running backs such as LeGarrette Blount and Shonn Greene on your roster. In Week 8, McCoy plays at home against Dallas, but Blount and Greene are on bye, which means that you'll be having to start (at least) one subpar backup in three weeks unless you make a trade between now and then.

Most people in that situation will indeed be looking to make a trade. So, in that situation, the optimal thing to do is to look specifically at the roster of the team that you play in Week 8, and trade either Blount or Greene (or both) to that person for one (or more) of their running backs who don't have Week 8 byes. In other words, what you're trying to do is to pawn your bye-week problem off on the very team that would have benefited from it in the first place. You're essentially turning a game that you would likely lose because of having to start a subpar backup into a game you're likely to win because now your opponent is in that situation instead of you. In honor of my two friends who came up with this strategic ploy, I'll call it the Franco-Rubenstein Screw Your Neighbor theory of trading.

The beauty of the Franco-Rubenstein theory, of course, is that head-to-head leagues are a zero-sum game. The only way you win is if the other team loses. So, if you're in a position of having to bench Blount and Greene in a likely Week 8 loss, why not screw your Week 8 opponent instead, and force them to have Blount and Greene on their bench against you instead? Most people who play fantasy football are, like you, dealing with their bye-week situations as they arise during the season. If your Week 8 opponent has the wherewithal to notice that a trade with you means essentially forfeiting your game three weeks from now, so be it. Odds are, they won't have said wherewithal, and you'll end up with one extra win rather than vice versa. So, now that I've introduced the Franco-Rubenstein Screw Your Neighbor theory of bye-week trading, let's proceed with the players that Football Outsiders' fantasy matchup analysis says you should target and avoid in your Week 5 games.