By James Fotheringham (@NFLHypeTrain)

The NFL players may feel caught in a landslide with no escape from reality, but if the current proposals in the CBA come to pass it has an effect on more than just those in the NFL. The players aren’t exactly in step with the NFL or the owners, however the prospect of a 17 game regular season with 2 bye week leaves a lot of questions for Fantasy Football.

If you’ve not been following the CBA talks then you’re probably best taking a listen to the podcast or looking it up on Twitter. However, the main talking point has been the prospect of a 17th game and an extra bye week to accommodate it. There’s a lot of water to flow under the bridge yet and I can see this one running and running, but if the NFL and the owners get their way, the fantasy world may be scrambling to figure out how to best use the extra time given to them.

Current Setup

For those who haven’t yet dipped into fantasy or who play in customised leagues, it’s probably worth me breaking down how the season runs under the current NFL system. (Note: All games mentioned are regular season NFL games).

Of course, many leagues will customise this depending on how many teams there are in the league. Some just do the Semi-Finals and add a week onto the regular season while others go for a full 8 team playoff schedule. There’s even an option (which I’ll explain more later) where you can have a 2 week playoff game (usually makes SF in weeks 13+14 and Final in weeks 15+16).

The Proposed Setup for the NFL

So, if the CBA in its current draft were to stand then we would have 19 regular season weeks (+1 game week + 1 bye week). Immediately discount week 19 as it’s the same scenario as the current week 17 (qualified teams will rest starters and eliminated teams will experiment or tank). It leaves 18 usable weeks.

Some may argue that teams may qualify earlier, and this rest their starters earlier, but the new play-off setup with only the #1 seed guaranteed a bye week means there should be more games with something on the line.

So how best to use these 18 weeks?

A Few Ideas

Based on 8/10/12/14 team leagues (which are the most common) there are some options you can think about. Some of these are more complex than others. My advice would be unless you’ve got your thinking head on, I’d stop after #3.

  1. Status Quo – The setup that has been rocking all over the world for some time now could stay put. Just extend the regular season by those 2 weeks and have a Week 18 final, 17 for the semis, 16 for the wildcard round and 1-15 for the regular season.
  2. Fortnight Fight – In the final 4 each matchup can be over 2 weeks (15-16 and the final in 17-18). It’s a system I like as it needs you to think over a longer period and gives you a chance at redemption if one of your studs has a dud week. Could also do this with the wildcard round but that makes a week 13 playoff start and with bye weeks still likely to be happening it’s a risky option.
  3. Bring it all forwards – Pick the 3 weeks after the last bye week (predicting 14, 15, 16) and have the title decided while every team has something to play for. As I mentioned earlier, I actually don’t think it should be a worry if the playoffs also change but this would keep the timeframe exactly in step with the previous version.
  4. Two Seasons – A bit more radical this. Have a Week 1-9 Season and then restart with a 10-18 season. The first 7 weeks as the regular season and then a SF in the 8th week and a final in the 9th. Mid-season draft so you can reset with what you know, and you get to do the fun bit twice. You’ll have to have some strong tie breakers as with 7 games it could be tough to get only a final 4 but something like Points difference would work. In an 8 team league this could really work. Any more and you hit schedule issues and not every team plays every team. Of course, bye weeks may this potentially chaotic but with only 8 teams, if you make the roster size large enough it shouldn’t be too bad.
  5. League average (Nominated bye week) – Takes a bit of thinking to get your head around this one. Rather than playing head to head against one team, all the teams combine to make an average score. If you beat the average you get a win, otherwise it’s a loss. It means if you were in one of these matchups where you are the 2nd top scorer and play the top scorer you don’t get stung by it. With so many bye weeks to consider but no matchups you can choose a week (probably when your top pick is on bye) to nominate as a bye week where your score does not contribute to the average and you get neither a win or a loss. You could make 1 or 2 of these compulsory and they must be declared either pre-season or before the MNF game of the week before (depending on if you want it all setup in the pre-season or you want to manage things as they go on. Might be useful for injuries too…).

Mind Blown – Image Credit: Vincent Le Moign

There are a few possible formats but there’s one major question with will need answering before formats can be sorted. When will the latest bye week be? If there’s going to be teams on bye in week 14 it really limits the number of options as the fantasy playoffs cannot coincide with a bye week.

An interesting sub-plot may also be how the bye week gaps are determined. With 2 bye weeks per team are they all going to be equally split (so week 4+9, 5+10, 6+11, 7+12 and 8+13) or will it be a random split. Assuming they won’t be daft and give a team two bye weeks within a 3 week span this should lead to mayhem on the waiver wire but nothing fantasy owners haven’t seen before.

I’ll be watching on with interest as talks progress. If this does go ahead then the platform owners are then commissioners are going to be scrambling to setup leagues and setting with the new formats. It shouldn’t affect draft strategy too much unless they make a mess of the bye weeks, but it could bring fatigue and injuries even further to the front of peoples minds. Best ball won’t be affected, nor will Rotisserie leagues but those aren’t as common.

Whatever it ends up being, I can’t wait for free agency and the chance to talk about fantasy relevance again. It’s been too long since December!

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