2024 NFL Schedule: Everything fantasy football managers need to know

The NFL released its schedule in full Wednesday and the first thing I wanted to know about was when teams didn't play.

When fantasy football is your thing, the bye weeks are essential.

Let's establish some bye week rules up front. I think it's a folly to draft with a heavy lean into bye weeks. The future is unwritten and unknowable. The roster you draft today (or even in August or September) can and will often look radically different by the time bye weeks step into your life. Bye weeks can be a draft-day tiebreaker, but it's generally a mistake to take it past that.

Still, we need to do a little planning. So, let's first examine the eight weeks with byes for 2024, and after that, we'll try to discern which teams might have harder or easier schedules to open the year (September) or to close the year (in Weeks 15-17, the fantasy playoffs).

Okay, the byes shake out this way:

Week 5: Lions, Chargers, Eagles, Titans

Week 6: Chiefs, Rams, Dolphins, Vikings

Week 7: Bears, Cowboys

Week 9: Steelers, 49ers

Week 10: Browns, Packers, Raiders, Seahawks

Week 11: Cardinals, Panthers, Giants, Buccaneers

Week 12: Falcons, Bills, Bengals, Jaguars, Saints, Jets

Week 14: Ravens, Broncos, Texans, Colts, Patriots, Commanders

I'll never quite understand why every NFL bye week isn't a standard four teams, but you'll notice (as usual) that some of these bye weeks aren't like the others. Only two teams are sitting in Weeks 7 and 9, while a whopping six teams are on holiday for Weeks 12 and 14.

I've been playing fantasy football for a while (when I first got into the game, Brett Favre was a new, somewhat unknown player). I've heard all sorts of bye-week strategies. Some managers like to draft late bye weeks, kick the can down the road, figure their roster will turn over significantly before they ever have to face a roster deficit (or they can do some roster massaging later in the year, when the decisions are made off a greater understanding of the player pool and team needs). Some managers stack their byes together, figure they can punt one week but do great in the other weeks. Plenty of managers draft with little or zero consideration to bye weeks, and I don't think that's unreasonable, in the right league. You know your context better than outsiders do.

One thing I'm open to considering — and please understand this is a low-end tiebreak, nothing else — is trying to land a few players on the "skinny byes"; that is, players tied to teams that share a bye with just one other NFL club. The idea is that when you roster those players, you won't miss them that much when they're off (30 NFL teams play that week) and they'll offer utility when the heavier byes kick in. But you know the NFL is a snow-globe league, and how quickly injuries and chaos take over. I'd never aggressively steer into this idea, it's just a way to break a tie after several more important factors have produced a stalemate.

The Bears and Cowboys share a skinny bye in Week 7. That doesn't mean DJ Moore will score 13 touchdowns or Ezekiel Elliott will find the fountain of youth back in Dallas. It's just a small little tiebreak thing. The Steelers and Niners share a skinny bye in Week 9.

One of my primary fantasy goals is to get off to a good start, acquire some leverage. I like to play fantasy football with a microscope (focus on what's in front of me) and not necessarily a telescope (focus on things far away from me).

Let's be clear on one thing — right now we're looking at all of this stuff with a telescope — September is almost four months away. We have no idea what teams will be injury-ravaged before the first kickoff. But it's fun to imagine who might come out hot in September, so let's examine the schedules as such.

I ran the math on which teams had the easiest and hardest schedules based on the sum of their opponent projected win totals (the team over/unders). This is a somewhat crude way to do it, and it doesn't incorporate weather, schedule flow, coaching, home and road dates, the perceived strength of a team's offense versus defense, etc. It just asks "How good are your September opponents collectively expected to be, right this second?"

With that in mind, here are the "easy" September schedules, if that's even knowable

Bengals: Patriots, at Chiefs, Commanders, at Panthers

Jets: at Niners, at Titans, Patriots, Broncos

Lions: Rams, Buccaneers, at Cardinals, Seahawks (three home games is nice)

Niners: Jets, at Vikings, at Rams, Patriots

Chargers: Raiders, at Panthers, at Steelers, Chiefs

Commanders: at Buccaneers, Giants, at Bengals, at Cardinals (three road games stings a bit)

Seahawks: Broncos, at Patriots, Dolphins, at Lions

Using the same methodology, here are the "hard" September schedules

Chiefs: Ravens, Bengals, at Falcons, at Chargers

Ravens: at Chiefs, Raiders, at Cowboys, Bills

Patriots: at Bengals. Seahawks at Jets, at Niners (three road games as big underdogs, likely)

Jaguars: at Dolphins, Browns, at Bills, at Texans (three road games)

Falcons: Steelers, at Eagles, Chiefs, Saints

Vikings: at Giants, Niners, Texans, at Packers

Titans: at Bears, Jets, Packers, at Dolphins

Rams: at Lions, at Cardinals, Niners, at Bears (three road games)

I am not someone who puts a lot of stock into "easy" and "hard" fantasy playoff schedules. So much will change before we get to Week 17. It's a snow globe league. But if looking ahead to the holidays is your thing, I have some schedule ranks for you. This is all in pencil, gamers.

"Easy" Week 15-17 Schedules (weather is not factored in)

Chargers: Buccaneers, Broncos, at Patriots

Colts: at Broncos, Titans, at Giants

Cardinals: Patriots, at Panthers, at Rams

Falcons: at Raiders, Giants, at Commanders

Bengals: at Titans, Browns, Broncos

Packers: Rams, at Dolphins, Lions

Cowboys: at Panthers, Buccaneers, at Eagles

Saints: Commanders, at Packers, Raiders

Jaguars: Jets, at Raiders, Titans

"Hard" Week 15-17 Schedules (weather is not factored in)

Steelers: at Eagles, at Ravens, Chiefs

Texans: Dolphins, at Chiefs, Ravens

Browns: Chiefs, at Bengals, Dolphins

Lions: Bills, at Bears, at Niners

Dolphins: at Texans, Niners, at Browns

Giants: Ravens, at Falcons, Colts

Niners: Rams, at Dolphins, Lions

For whatever that all means. The future remains unwritten. Go draft like a champion today.

Perhaps you want the whole enchilada, how a team's schedule cumulatively grades from Weeks 1-17, based on those team over-unders. There's a ton of noise baked into this, but I'll give you the data if you want it. Again, this cuts off Week 18. And this list will look comically askew once the season kicks in; that's how the NFL is:

Falcons 122

Chargers 126

Bears 127

Jets 128

Saints 128

Bengals 130

Colts 130

Panthers 131

Commanders 133

Dolphins 133

Cardinals 133

Giants 134

Broncos 134

Eagles 134

Chiefs 134

Buccaneers 135

Seahawks 136

Raiders 136

Jaguars 136

Packers 137

Lions 138

Niners 138

Rams 138

Ravens 138

Browns 139

Cowboys 139

Titans 139

Vikings 139

Patriots 143

Steelers 144

Texans 144

Bills 144

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