"You play to win the game!"
Ever since Herm Edwards uttered those six words in a news conference in 2002, they have been used as a mantra in sports, and the fantasy game is no exception. There's really no reason to be a manager in a fantasy football league if you're not trying to win, week in and week out.
However, there's a much older saying, from way back in the 1500s, to which one should also pay heed. Namely, "Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater."
Look, I'm all for fielding your best team each and every week and constantly doing your best to stay up-to-date on your league's waiver wire and NFL injury reports to make sure your roster remains as good as it can possibly be. That said, there are some weeks -- especially in today's NFL, where multiple teams are on a bye on any given Sunday -- when you look at your options and you simply have to throw up your hands.
Perhaps this week, where only the Jets and 49ers are on a bye, you'll be able to manage just fine and dandy without the players getting a brief respite from the rigors of the NFL season. However, there's bound to be at least one week over the next few months where all of those "vacationing players" could come back to bite you.
For example, in two weeks, players from Buffalo, Chicago, Indianapolis and Oakland will all be watching from the comfort of their own living rooms. Perhaps you're already dealing with injuries to the likes of Drew Brees or Ben Roethlisberger. Maybe you're in a dynasty league and are stuck with Lamar Miller in your IR slot or have to keep Melvin Gordon around in the hope he finally reports. Now, add to the equation the forced timeouts from Josh Allen, Marlon Mack, T.Y Hilton, Josh Jacobs and Darren Waller. Suddenly, your potential lineup might well be looking pretty sad when Week 6 rolls around.
Even going up against a last-place team this weekend, you may well be hard-pressed to feel good about a starting lineup that was forced to scrape the bottom of the barrel if for some reason you had drafted one of the myriad quarterbacks currently on the shelf, Le'Veon Bell, Raheem Mostert, George Kittle and a certain "no longer in the league" WR who shall not be named.
Some fantasy managers, when faced with this kind of looming adversity, will dive headfirst into the waiver wire. They'll do whatever they can to get any warm body into their lineup to avoid a goose egg. While I admire this attitude in theory, I'm fully opposed to it in practice. The veteran move is to stand pat. Sure you could roll the dice and end up pulling a one-week surprise like Taylor Gabriel or Jordan Akins out of your hat -- but you could just as easily (and quite frankly, more probably) wind up with a Jordan Wilkins or a Geronimo Allison, who both cost you points in Week 3.
And at what long-term cost? The following Sunday, none of these gambles will be in your starting lineup as bye-week players return. Meanwhile, the valuable handcuffs and lottery tickets you had to jettison to pick up your bye-week replacements were free to be snatched up by anyone in your league. There's ostensibly a reason you drafted certain players to your bench a month ago instead of drafting the one-week wonders you're considering. Perhaps you have the next Daniel Jones sitting on your bench, and that will give you a much better chance to improve your roster in search of playoff wins than a waiver-wire gamble will give you to earn one win this week. It's just not worth it.
So, yes. Herm was absolutely right. You do play to win the game -- but never at the cost of winning your league championship. Stacking byes on draft day, knowing full well that there is going to be that one week during the season that your chances of a victory will be practically zero is a savvy veteran move that sacrifices that one game in exchange for potentially being able (injuries aside) to start your No. 1 lineup in every other game during the bye-week period of the season.
In other words, if you're otherwise happy with your roster, and see that you'll be without Matt Ryan, Alvin Kamara, Cooper Kupp and John Ross for Week 9 action, and your only tight end or kicker is either looking doubtful to suit up due to injury or perhaps is also on a bye, relax. Don't make a move simply out of some perceived "obligation" to do everything you can to win each and every game. Remember, every TITLE is likely to have one L.