Cassy Aite

What Does Bye Mean in Fantasy Football?

Feb 21
5 minutes

When you join the fantasy football ranks as a newbie, you’re immediately sacked by terminology, drafts, strategies, and more. While most of it’s relatively straightforward for even a lukewarm NFL fan, some of it isn’t as obvious. One of those terms is bye or bye week. Thankfully, it’s one of the easier concepts to understand.

If you want to move closer to a fantasy league championship, research is paramount. So “what does bye mean in fantasy football?” Let’s find out.

What Is a Bye Week in Fantasy Football?

Empty Lambeau Field during a bye week

A bye in fantasy football typically refers to one of the following:

  • 1. Your fantasy football team isn’t paired against another opponent for a given week. Generally speaking, this is only common in leagues that have an odd number of teams. Because not every team has an opponent, someone in your league has to sit out. Think of this as an “off week,” which gives you time to retool your lineup.
  • 2. A real-life NFL team isn’t playing. Throughout the season, the NFL schedule features one bye week for each team to rest per season. This means you'll have to find a replacement for each one of your players at some point including your starting quarterback or running back. Because fantasy football mirrors the NFL season, your league can have up to 18 weeks of play during the regular season (we recommend making your championship finals in week 16 or 17 to avoid dealing with players resting in week 18 who already clinched playoffs IRL).
  • 3. Your place in the standings earned you a bye in the playoffs. Not every league will have a playoff bye depending on how many people are in it. But some leagues will give one or two teams a bye in the first round of the playoffs. If you’re lucky enough to earn this spot, you have one less game to play, and thus, a mathematical advantage that brings you one step closer to the title.

But more than anything, “what does a bye mean in fantasy football?” equates to preparation and strategic thinking. You’re going to need to plan ahead with your lineup for bye weeks to take advantage of the other league managers but also to avoid any catastrophic embarrassing losses.

Potential Bye Week Problems in Fantasy Football

Saquon Barkley getting njured

Keeping a watchful eye over bye weeks is a necessity throughout the season, as potential issues may arise depending on how you draft. Being aware of your bye weeks during the draft is also a good idea but don't alter your strategy too much just because of a bye-week schedule.

For example, If you're in 2 QB league and there are two superstar QBs at a good ADP you want, don't hesitate just because they have the same bye week; you might be able to pickup a few flyers that week, or, maybe it won't matter that week because you already clinched a playoff spot.

But before you put together draft and regular season strategies to navigate the bye week, identifying problems and how they can affect the outcome of your season is essential.

Flex, Superflex, 2QB League Issues

In a flex league, you only get one additional spot while a superflex league provides you with two (often where one of those spots can be QB/RB/WR/TE), and in a 2QB league you can start 2 quarterbacks. Traditionally, a winning superflex starting lineup has two QBs, so if one is on his bye week, you can still slot a tight end, running back, or wide receiver into that slot — not a big deal if you have a decent player on your bench that can replace your bye week superflex QB.

However, in a 2QB league, this becomes a bit more tricky because unlike the Superflex format, you can only start another QB in their place and not a RB/WR/TE. Good quarterbacks are harder to come by, so if either of your starting QBs are on a bye week, you'll have to turn to trades or the waiver wire to find a suitable alternative. In 2QB leagues it's always best to have 3 QBs on your team to avoid the dreaded 'squeeze'.

Getting “Squeezed”

Getting squeezed occurs when you have no suitable QB (or no QB at all!) to start due to an NFL bye week. Even some of the most seasoned fantasy managers may have this happen due to an injury or an opponent hoarding QBs—most often in 2QB leagues.

Avoiding the squeeze often starts on draft day. If you let the problem fester until bye week and have no suitable quarterbacks, you’re probably going to pay a steep price for fantasy points—most often as a trade. Other savvy managers will take notice and can even hoard quarterbacks (a great move to strike a one-sided trade with a desperate 'squeezed' manager or to drain their opponent that week of any good options which can pretty much guarantee a win).

But again, look at the waiver wire to see if you can find some options or make a trade early. Also remember, fantasy strategy is as much about offence as it is about defence, so look for opportunities to squeeze others as it could end up winning you a championship with the trade of the year. Especially pay attention to QBs with a bye week in weeks 12-16 as those are make or break weeks where managers can be squeezed.

Complete Oversight

Although the NFL season is relatively short in comparison to baseball or hockey, endurance is crucial. That is to say—you often can’t afford to have an off-week yourself just because of a bye week in your league or a bye week for your best players.

Amateur fantasy players may not have the tenacity to wrap their heads around a bye week in their own league—the type where a number of players may not have an opponent. They may just take the week off and that’s that.

However, any time off during the fantasy football season should be used to prepare for the future. Like making trades that benefit you based on your league standings, reviewing the performance of bench players, looking at upcoming matchups, and checking the rankings of various position players is ideal. Don’t lose focus.

Bye Week Strategies for Fantasy Football League Success

Highmark Stadium full of Buffalo Bills fans

A bye in fantasy football can create some difficulties but also opportunity, learning how to take advantage of them can save your fantasy team from becoming a perennial bottom-dweller and catapult you to a championship.

What does bye mean in fantasy football? It’s a time to employ these tips and hacks to prep from Day 1 and even some steal a few victories throughout the season.

Draft Accordingly, But Don’t Overcompensate

Whether you play a flex, 2QB, or superflex fantasy football league has a strong impact on your draft choices. 2QB and Superflex requires you to draft QBs early and often while flex leagues allow you to wait until the middle rounds and draft other NFL players instead—specifically RBs, WRs, and TEs in most cases.

However, inexperienced players often let bye weeks dictate who they draft—something that most veteran players tend to ignore when talent is still on the board.

In an overwhelming amount of draft scenarios, talent and higher ADP should remain your priority above all else, including the bye week. Putting too much of an emphasis on covering your bye week through the draft is a recipe for disaster and can lead to you leaving great players on the board.

Draft Your QBs Early in 2QB and Superflex Leagues

If you’re entering a 2QB or superflex league, make sure that you don’t leave any good QBs on the table. This is often confusing for first-time superflex or 2QB managers, as the importance of drafting QBs isn’t nearly as high of a priority. In salary cap/auction drafts they are roughly 1.8x-2x as valuable as their typical dollar value (ex. Patrick Mahomes might typically be worth $31 in 1QB leagues but in 2QB leagues he should be worth ~$55).

After the draft you should keep an eye out for breakout players, especially breakout QBs. The best time to pickup or trade for a breakout QB is in the first 3-5 weeks before they get scooped from the waiver wire or their value erupts and they are too expensive to trade for.

Keep an eye on the waiver wire or opponents’ rosters for some pickups prior to your bye week to find a QB if you can’t field two starters for either a waiver claim or trade op—don’t get squeezed into a loss.

The ADP Choice

A wild card is when it’s your turn to draft and you have two similar ADPs that you’re looking at and not sure who to draft. In this case, you don’t want to have more bye week conflicts than necessary. So if drafting one player means you have multiple starters out during the bye week while drafting the other player can limit this to one, the choice is a no-brainer.

If you happen to be unsure about a pick in this scenario, we also recommend looking at Vegas sportsbook futures odds to determine who 'Vegas' thinks the better performing player will be (ex. I compare 2 WR futures to see who is more likely to have the most receiving yards or who is more likely to be the OPOY or more receiving TDs). Vegas sportsbooks spend $100's of millions each year hiring the best software developers, data scientists, and genius analysts to set accurate lines.

Squeeze Your Opponents

Whether you’re in the middle of a draft or you’re checking the waiver wire, you can always flip the script on your opponents in terms of a squeeze. As you’re checking out bye weeks, scope out some of the injuries around the league and the rosters of your fellow league members.

The idea of squeezing isn’t always necessarily to make them unable to field a QB—although that does almost assure them of a loss—but also to dangle a few trades out there that are significantly skewed to your advantage.

The key here is diligence. Whether you drafted well or poorly, you have opportunities through injury, the waiver wire, or through the mismanagement by your opponent to set off a squeeze. You just have to take advantage.

Take the Strategic “L”

Whether it’s the Philadelphia Eagles, Detroit Lions, Cincinnati Bengals, or whomever else, NFL teams have been known to take a strategic loss for a variety of reasons. Avoiding a more difficult divisional rival in the playoffs or improving their chances of a high draft pick can often lead to a team taking a dive during the regular season—unless you have a rivalry game like Browns-Steelers, Patriots-Jets, or Cowboys-Commanders.

The same logic can apply to your fantasy football season. While you usually don’t want to take a loss, some scenarios may make bye-week management unnecessary. For example, if you’ve already locked up a playoff spot and you match up favorably with your opponent, there’s little need to stress about getting squeezed.

Taking the strategic L could even be an opportunity to strengthen your team for playoffs - making a trade that serves your opponent the W on a silver platter but benefits you long term (example - maybe your star QB, Josh Allen, is on bye but their star WR1, Stefon Diggs, is also on bye and they need a W to clinch the playoffs. Maybe you can trade them a WR2 that isn't on bye that week like Deebo Samuel for their bye-week Stefon Diggs if they believe it guarantees them a win and they're desperate for one. Pay attention to game times because if your WR2 plays Sunday night or on Monday and the matchup is close, you'll have a lot of bargaining power and need to act quickly within a short window).

Sure, if you've already clinched the playoffs you can kick your feet back and let a bye week unfold with little stress but you always want to stay alert for any great waiver pickups or deals during your bye week. You may also want to stick it to an opponent who’s particularly obnoxious or talking smack; killing their playoff hopes and dreams.

Coaching Matters for Bye Weeks

Coaches have been known to play rookies or up-and-coming players the week before or after the bye week. With the additional week off, this gives NFL coaches the opportunity to feature certain players, as well as rest other players. Pay attention to snap counts, injuries, and player efficiency during the season, especially early in the season and around bye weeks. This may hint at the coaches plans of a rookie RB taking over from the inefficient veteran starting RB after the bye week.

This is your chance to capitalize. Some fantasy football managers don’t pay attention to coaches around the bye week—leaving them hurt by resting players or blind to bad trades that can benefit your squad or waiver-wire studs that go unnoticed. Snap counts are a secret to getting inside an NFL coaches' head. A coach may say one thing in the press conference about 'wanting to give a player more opportunities' but often the snap counts will reflect their true thoughts.

Six Weeks To Get Your Act Together

Brock Purdy of the 49ers calling a play

Although you should have an NFL schedule in hand while you’re drafting, remember that you have six weeks until you even have to worry about the bye week in real life. That should give you more than enough time to sift through the what-ifs and coordinate various plans in different scenarios.

When the bye week finally strikes, just remember to use Vegas player props via Wise Guys Edge to give you a notable advantage on potential sleepers or waiver wire wizards that could save your season or winning streak.

The bye week shouldn’t mean bye to your season. It’s just a hurdle that great players know how to jump over.