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Take steps to ensure your season doesn't go bye-bye

A stable of fantasy running backs including Jamal Lewis, Domanick Davis, Kevin Jones and Clinton Portis would make any owner happy.

But only if he's willing to throw in the towel on Week Three.

The black hole left on that lineup sheet would loom even more imposing than what Oakland Raiders opponents face from rabid fans in McAfee Coliseum. That's because the Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans, Detroit Lions and Washington Redskins are the first quartet to reach the dreaded -- at least for fantasy owners -- bye week.

If you didn't use a cheat sheet that included bye weeks, which most of them do these days, you're probably going to have to pay the pauper some time during the next eight weeks, especially if your league doesn't allow weekly transactions.

Now is the time to address your bye week miseries, whether through trades, the waiver wire or in a supplement draft. But first, you must identify the problem weeks.

It was much easier when the league byed by division, but unfortunately, those days are gone. Now there seems to be little rhyme or reason to the NFL's formula. The rest of the bye schedule:

Week Four: Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers.

Week Five: Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings, New York Giants and Oakland Raiders.

Week Six: Arizona Cardinals, Green Bay Packers, Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers.

Week Seven: Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars, New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Week Eight: Atlanta Falcons, Indianapolis Colts, New York Jets and Seattle Seahawks.

Week Nine: Buffalo Bills, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos and St. Louis Rams.

Week 10: Cincinnati Bengals, New Orleans Saints, San Diego Chargers and Tennessee Titans.

It won't be until mid-November, when fantasy owners hope to be busy making their playoff push, that we can all let down our bye guards.

Only after you've plugged your roster holes should you worry about strategizing for the off weeks. Some teams usually play well following the extra week of rest, others fall flat on their faces.

The Vikings, for instance, are 13-3 coming off a bye while the Broncos and Eagles are 12-4. Rest normally means rust for the Seahawks and Giants (3-13), as well as the Bengals (4-12). But generally, teams with better overall records have the better post-bye records as well, though the Bears (10-6) and Cardinals (8-8) are exceptions to that rule.

Like most statistical trends, the bye patterns are cyclical. And there is no better evidence than the Bills.

From 1990 through 1998, the Bills went 9-1 following a bye, not coincidentally while they were winning four consecutive AFC championships and making the playoffs seven times. But from 1999 through 2004, when they had an aggregate 45-51 record, the Bills went 1-5 following a bye.

Remarkably, the only victory came in 2001, during their 3-13 season, with a 13-10 decision at Jacksonville. That year, the Bills had only 10 days off instead of the traditional 14 because they resumed play on a Thursday night.

The Bills have averaged 19.9 points per game the last six seasons but that figure drops to 12.3 after a bye. They haven't scored a touchdown the week after a bye since 2002 and have had precious few individual highlights.

Travis Henry is the only Bill to crack 100 yards rushing the week after a bye since 1999, with 126 in a 17-16 loss at Kansas City in 2002. Eric Moulds, with 112 yards in an 18-16 loss to Indianapolis in 2000, is the only receiver to crack 100, and the best passing yardage is Rob Johnson's 246 against the Colts.

Drew Bledsoe threw for 76 yards and four interceptions in a 29-6 loss at New England last season and for 104 in a 10-6 loss at Dallas in 2003. Since 1999, the top Bills rusher has averaged 64.8 yards the week after a bye, the top receiver 58 yards and the passing leader 179 yards.

It makes you wonder what else can go wrong after this year's bye, when the Chiefs come calling at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Nov. 13.

e-mail: tborrelli@buffnews.com1

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