The NFL's schedule gurus should be ashamed of themselves. Last year they put two teams on bye during Week 14, one of the most precious weeks of the Fantasy Football season because it's the last time to get a win and cement a playoff berth before the playoffs. The two teams -- Arizona and Washington -- weren't exactly powerhouses for Fantasy but for the few Fantasy managers who counted on guys from those squads, it made their league's regular-season finale harder than it needed to be.

But this year, Week 14 is a Fantasy hellscape. SIX TEAMS ARE ON BYE.



And it's not six crummy teams, either. The Ravens! The Texans! The Colts! (and the Patriots, Broncos and Commanders too.)

All on bye!

AND AND AND it comes two weeks after ANOTHER Byenado in Week 12 that features the Falcons, Bills, Bengals, Jaguars, Jets and Saints sitting out.  

The audacity of these slate-makers, sitting in their fancy offices twirling their styluses and ordering gourmet food every day. Who do they think they are, anyway?! I bet they use all-caps in their emails like an idiot. 

Well, what they've done is create a major curveball that will almost certainly tilt at least one manager in every league (and maybe as many as four). It means having to be exceptionally prepared for that final stretch run, beginning in Week 12 and then again in the regular-season finale. Sadly, they'll have to replace some of the best talents in Fantasy at a crucial time.

As the Week 14 Byenado goes, it's not enough to put those primo Ravens, Texans, Colts, etc. on a Don't Wanna Draft list, but it is something you've gotta know about long before Week 14 if you want to give yourself every chance to get into the Fantasy playoffs.

That's the biggest takeaway from the 2024 NFL schedule release, but it's not the only one.

More bye-related issues

Week 14 is the most impactful and most egregious Byenado ever. Week 12 gives Week 14 a run for its money.

But even Week 6, with four teams on bye, is painful. No Chiefs, no Dolphins, no Rams and no Vikings. No bueno. That's a lot of star power missing in the middle of the Fantasy slate.

I guess the silver lining is that those three weeks -- 6, 12 and 14, are as bad as it gets in terms of byes. Half of the league will be on bye in those weeks, meaning the rest of the league takes a breather otherwise. No one's on bye for the first four weeks or the last four weeks, and Weeks 8 and 13 (Thanksgiving week) are bye-free.

More weekdays and holidays for football

This isn't a huge deal for Fantasy managers, but Weeks 1, 5, 6, 7 and 10 feature international games that require you to stay on top of your lineups at days and times you're not quite used to. Thanksgiving Week is Week 13 this year with a Black Friday matchup the day after, and that's followed up by Week 17's parade of matchups that include two games on Christmas (a Wednesday), a game the day after on Thursday, and five more games that haven't been scheduled yet. I don't know what that means, that's new for 2024. Week 17 is typically when the Fantasy championship happens.

Anyway, if you have a mobile phone, USE IT. Be on top of your lineups every week -- that goes without saying -- but those weeks listed above will require extra attention so that you're up to speed on who's in and who's out for all of those games.

Who has it easy to begin the year?

A deeper dive into every team's defenses and thus which matchups are good/bad will come later this offseason. But at first blush, these teams seem to have lucked out in September:

  • Look for a good start from the Bengals as the host the Patriots in Week 1, the Commanders in Week 3 and play at the Panthers in Week 4. Their Week 2 showdown at Kansas City won't be as easy but it does figure to be high-scoring. This should make you feel better about all Bengals players, including Zack Moss, who's been overlooked in drafts this offseason.
  • The Texans have a nice opportunity to build on their offensive momentum from last year with matchups against the Colts, Bears, Vikings and Jaguars in the first month. Even the matchups after versus the Bills and Patriots aren't considered tough. Most Texans are popular in Fantasy drafts already, but it's nice to know things won't get tough too soon.
  • Caleb Williams and the Bears open the season home against the Titans, then play at Houston on Sunday night, then take on the Colts (Matt Eberflus' former team). Their trek through the AFC South is about as soft a landing as possible for Williams to get acclimated to the pros, particularly since their entire divisional schedule is shoved into Weeks 11 through 18.
  • Once the Packers get back from Brazil they start a stretch against the Colts, Titans, Vikings, Rams and Cardinals with three of those five at home. That's a nice run to get the offense revved up again like it was last season. The Titans look like the toughest run defense in that group -- that's a good thing for Josh Jacobs.
  • It could have been worse for the Bills. Opening against the Cardinals in Week 1 should be great, then they play at Miami, versus the Jaguars. Those first three games should help them work the kinks out of their passing game before they take on more challenging defenses like the Ravens, Texans and Jets in the three games after.
  • We could look really foolish early on for trashing Justin Herbert's Fantasy value this offseason. The Chargers begin 2024 against the Raiders, Panthers, Steelers and Chiefs. All four of these teams have some questionable secondary issues that might make Jim Harbaugh & Co. attack through the air, especially if their offensive line can be trusted to protect Herbert for more than 2.5 seconds. All I'm saying is that Herbert could have some strong numbers early.
  • Other teams with not-too-bad beginnings: 49ers, Lions, Seahawks, Steelers

Who has it rough to begin the year?

Here are the squads that have some complications ahead of themselves to begin their campaigns:

  • The Jets got dealt a rough hand. Yeah, taking on the Titans and Patriots in Weeks 2 and 3 can't be called bad, but they begin the year with a Monday night game, a Sunday 1 p.m. ET game, then a Thursday night game. That's three games in 11 days. And that first Monday game? At San Francisco.
  • The Cowboys have tough opponents in Week 1 at Cleveland and Week 3 versus Baltimore. The Saints at home in Week 2 isn't a cinch, either, and even the Giants will come into the year with a revved-up pass rush. This is a daunting start for the Cowboys re-tooled offensive line and perhaps a warning shot to whoever runs the ball for them to begin the year.
  • It's not enough to make you pass on Bijan Robinson or Drake London, but the Falcons open the year with the Steelers, at the Eagles, and then games against the Chiefs, Saints and Buccaneers. At least those last three are all at home.
  • Before you draft any Raiders, please know that they take on the Ravens and Browns within the first four weeks along with a Chargers defense that, at bare minimum, will be better coached and as fresh as possible in Week 1.
  • Other teams with not-easy starts: Broncos, Cardinals, Jaguars, Patriots, Rams

Three in a row

Teams have a chance to get worn down when they play three games in a row on the road. Conversely, teams tend to be better rested when they stay at home and play three straight in their own building. And remember, not all home games are at home -- some teams have international games scheduled as home games when they're clearly NOT at their home stadiums.

Three in a row on the road: Bills, Bears, Vikings

Three in a row at home: Bears, Cardinals, Chargers, Falcons, Saints, Vikings

Thursday blues

Thursday Night Football is unique in that teams have less than four days to recover from their last game and install a new game plan against a new opponent. It makes for uninspiring football most weeks. And to the delight of the NFL's owners, it's become must-watch prime-time viewing. The days of unpopular teams playing on Thursdays are gone.

In fact, Thursday night games can be flexed starting in Week 14, so teams that are winning late in the year might be forced into short-week situations.

Bottom line? It's a good thing if you don't play on a short week. Players get normal rest, coaches can take their time with game plans. And it's a bad thing when you do have to play on Thursday night.

It's even worse when you have to play TWO Thursday night games during the season.

The Cowboys, Dolphins, Giants and Jets are locked into two Thursday night short-week games each this season. The Cowboys and G-Men will have both of their divisional games on Thursdays including Thanksgiving afternoon. The Dolphins have Thursday games Week 2 versus Buffalo and Thanksgiving night in Green Bay while the Jets host the Patriots for a short Week 3 tilt then take on the Texans on Thursday night of Week 9. Yep, the Jets play two Thursday-night short-week games in a seven-week-span (with an international game and two prime-time games in between).

Other teams are scheduled for multiple Thursday night short-week games but could get flexed out of them. Those teams are the Bears, Bengals, Browns and Seahawks with Chicago and Cleveland potentially playing two Thursday games five weeks apart!

It's worth noting that the Lions and Packers have back-to-back weeks on Thursday, but that starts on Thanksgiving when both teams play different opponents, then get a normal week's rest before their next game against each other. That Week 14 Thursday night game isn't a typical Thursday night short-week situation, though it could be flexed out for another matchup.

Some teams don't have to hate Thursdays: Eight teams don't have any short-week situations. That includes the Chiefs, who open the season on a Thursday but that's not on short rest. The Raiders also don't have a Thursday game; Kansas City and Las Vegas do have a game on Black Friday, which is kind of like a Thursday game but obviously with a little more time to rest.

The other six teams without a Thursday night game scheduled: Arizona, Carolina, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, L.A. Chargers and Tennessee.

DSTs to stream

You could take a DST that you think will be consistently good all season long, or you could stream DSTs and play the matchups from week to week. If you're not too lazy, the streaming option has more potential to pay off than the set-it-and-forget-it DST. Here are my favorite DST streaming choices, ranked in order of how I'd take them:

  1. Chargers (Week 1 vs. Las Vegas, Week 2 at Carolina, Week 3 at Pittsburgh)
  2. Seahawks (Week 1 vs. Denver, Week 2 at New England)
  3. Bengals (Week 1 vs. Patriots, good matchups in Weeks 3 and 4)
  4. Vikings (Week 1 at N.Y. Giants)
  5. Saints (Week 1 vs. Carolina)
  6. Buccaneers (Week 1 vs. Washington, good matchup in Week 3)