The NFL Schedule is finally here. While many people are focusing on the end of the season for fantasy football and best ball takeaways, other calendar events are worth considering when you’re drafting your best ball teams. Bye weeks typically have a significant impact on how teams think of themselves, whether that means they decide to bring back injured players after that point or start giving rookies more snaps, there’s always something that can change with that extended period of time without a game.
Week 5: Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Chargers, Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 6: Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 7: Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans, New York Jets, Tennessee Titans
Week 8: N/A
Week 9: Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, San Francisco 49ers
Week 10: Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Rams, Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles
Week 11: Atlanta Falcons, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints
Week 12: N/A
Week 13: Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, Las Vegas Raiders, Minnesota Vikings, New York Giants
Week 14: Arizona Cardinals, Washington Commanders
The Titans find themselves in flux this offseason, with a depleted offense that is left relying on a 29-year-old running back and Ryan Tannehill who is 35 and has seen his clean pocket completion rate and big-time throw rate drop for four straight years. Tannehill could be cut as a post-June 1st cut leaving behind less than $10m in dead cap money, but it feels more likely he will make the roster and is given one last chance to show he should be the starter. The Titans will play the Saints, Chargers, Browns, Bengals, Colts and Ravens before a Week 7 bye, on the back of the London game with the Ravens. After the bye week, they have a home game against the Falcons who aren’t terribly imposing and it’s entirely possible a 1-5 Titans team elects to start Will Levis from then onwards.
Reports are all over the place about Javonte Williams’s health and some have him missing the entire season, while others are more optimistic. If the Broncos hold him out until the bye week it means we’ll have eight weeks of Samaje Perine as a lead back in an offense that looks set to run the ball a lot with an upgraded offensive line, followed by Williams returning in time for matchups against the Texans and two fixtures against the Chargers, both of whom ranked bottom six in Football Outsider’s rushing defense DVOA. Betting on injured running backs is a risky proposition, just ask those who got on board with JK Dobbins in 2022, but with such friendly-looking fixtures on paper, Williams could be impactful down the stretch.
Kyler Murray is recovering from a torn ACL and Meniscus injury suffered in mid-December, meaning the usual nine-month recovery would take Murray to right around the start of the season, but that’s only if everything goes to plan, which often isn’t the case. To add to this, Murray will be learning a new offense for the first time in his NFL career during what will be a sizable Cardinals rebuild, where they’ve positioned themselves well with an eye on 2024’s draft class. The Cardinals are unlikely to hold Murray out longer than necessary as the quarterback will need to get used to the offense, and while it might have been tempting if they had a bye week around the middle of the season now it feels more likely Murray starts before their bye week. Particularly as waiting till the bye week would give Murray tough games against the Niners, Eagles and Seahawks in three of the four fixtures he will play post-bye.
The Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars and Atlanta Falcons will all play games in London and return back to America to play without a bye week. For the Ravens, Bills and Jaguars it makes sense to push their bye weeks later on as all have aspirations of a deep playoff run and will want to be rested for when the games start to matter even more. While it might feel like teams need a bye week after playing in London, teams who haven’t had one have actually faired well enough without it. In a relatively small sample, nine teams have not had a bye week after a London game and five of those won their following game.
By now there should be little doubt in people's minds that Anthony Richardson will be starting for the Colts come September unless he looks horrific in training camp. We’ve heard enough quotes from around the team that it’s clear they want him to learn through playing the game rather than watching, and a Week 11 bye will solidify this. If the Colts had a bye week between weeks 5-7 perhaps then it might have made sense to give Gardner Minshew some starts and make sure Richardson was prepared for what was coming, but investing the fourth overall pick in a player to sit them until Week 12 makes little sense when your only other option is Minshew, who completed 57% of his passes in 2022, which was the 65th worst among all quarterbacks.
With the Bucs soft rebuild in force, there will be an early point in the schedule for them to consider where they’re at. Tampa opens their season with games against the Vikings, Bears, Eagles and Saints before their bye week. This early bye week could prompt a number of decisions, not least one centering around the quarterback position. If Baker Mayfield starts the season and stinks things up do we see Kyle Trask for a few games here and if so will he be good enough to hold onto the job, or perhaps the opposite occurs and we see Mayfield start from here on out? It’s also possible the bye week might be the kind of awakening for the Bucs that sees them decide to trade one of Mike Evans or Chris Godwin, in which case they likely end up having two bye weeks unless they land on one of the other three teams with a Week 5 bye.
Breece Hall’s ACL tear was a lot cleaner than other recent running back ACL injuries, like JK Dobbins (torn ACL and LCL) or Javonte Williams (ACL and LCL), but there are reasons to think the Jets might be playing it safe with Hall. During the draft, the Lions took Jahmyr Gibbs at pick twelve overall because they were convinced the Jets would take him before the next Lions pick at eighteen. This would have been an even higher level of draft capital than they spent on Breece Hall in the 2022 draft. If the Jets want Hall back at his best for a post-season run that they are all in on with Aaron Rodgers, then it does make a level of sense that they could hold Hall out for the first six weeks before letting him return in Week 8.