The 2021 NFL schedule—and the league’s first-ever 17-game schedule—were revealed yesterday, and there was one big thing many immediately noticed that would impact fantasy football leagues: The Week 14 bye week.
Bye weeks are not starting until Week 6 now, and the Week 14 bye (which four teams have in 2021) is the latest bye week since the NFL expanded to 32 teams in 2002. The problem? Many fantasy leagues start their playoffs in Week 14.
Now, that almost has to change. But with the change, what is to be done with Week 14 for leagues that have always done a 13-week regular season and planned to keep it that way? There are two primary solutions:
Option 1: Add a 14th regular season game.
Option 2: Add a Week 14 bye (i.e., end the regular season in Week 13 and skip Week 14 before starting the playoffs in Week 15).
(In ESPN leagues, Option 2 can be done—you’ll have to set your schedule to 14 games—by going to LM Tools, then Edit Head-to-Head Schedule, then hit edit NFL Week 14 and “Assign Bye” to all the teams in the league. However, before you do this, if you already have your league schedule set to 13 games, you might want to take screenshots or write it down before you set your schedule to 14 games so that the schedule remains the same—you’ll just have to manually set it then eliminate Week 14 via “Assign Bye”.)
It’s easy to see arguments against both sides. For the first option, you need to first figure out what you want the 14th game to be (a non-divisional game involving corresponding divisional finishes from the previous year is probably the way to go in 10-team, 2-division leagues, and on a rotational basis in 12-team, 3-division leagues) and then to mess around with the schedule to set it up (for example, ESPN sets the 14th matchup randomly. But for the second option, you’ll miss out on action with fantasy-league implications in middle of the NFL season (this year, that includes a Week 14 Bills-Bucs matchup); also, it feels weird to just take a week off. Ultimately, there is no ideal solution, which is unfortunate.
And in both cases, you now can’t have a two-week semifinal round if you don’t want to play in the final week of the regular season, when players sometimes will rest ahead of the NFL postseason.
NFL.com even has this bewildering note on League Settings in fantasy football leagues:
Note: those who make the actual NFL schedule have a tough time doing so, so don’t be surprised if it’s hard to meet a predetermined set of rules (i.e. everyone in division plays each other twice, out of division once, that kind of thing); it may mathematically not be worth your time to try to make something complicated work.
Overall, the solutions are not perfect. (Just as the NFL’s own solutions for its schedule are not perfect with an odd number of 17 games causing uneven home/road splits and an extra interconference matchup per year.) So these issues are things that fantasy leagues should be discussing—with league commissioners using transparency on the direction the league will go with the needed changes—in the coming months leading up to kickoff on Thursday, September 9.
2 is lame. Skip a week?
NFL ruined perfection
Just add another game.