Say goodbye to bye weeks and hello to the stretch run.
While it's nice not to have to deal with losing star players to scheduled off weeks, there are still plenty of other possible pitfalls to plan around.
Weather: Though winter doesn't officially arrive for more than a month, 'tis the season for rain, snow and wind. If you've got two kickers, go with the guy under a dome or on the West Coast as opposed somebody who is going to have to deal with gales.
Weather can affect even the best players. For instance, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning has thrown 10 career touchdowns and eight interceptions in games where the temperature is between 21 and 40 degrees. Indoors, his TD-to-INT ratio is a sterling 182-75, outdoors it's a more ordinary 109-74. Others aren't bothered at all by the elements. Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb's ratio is 54-23 in windy conditions (15-over sustained breeze), 17-9 when it's between 21 and 40 degrees and 12-4 in precipitation.
Thursday nights: The added television revenues are great for the NFL but incredibly inconvenient for fantasy owners. Aside from the three games on Thanksgiving, there are night games Nov. 29, Dec. 6, Dec. 13 and Dec. 20, and three straight Saturday night games starting Dec. 15.
Flexible scheduling: Starting with Sunday night's Bills-Patriots game, we're in this mode for the next seven weeks. The pitfall is assuming you've got until near game time to make a decision about someone who was originally scheduled to play at 8:15. Seattle Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander, who sat out Monday night with a twisted left knee, provides the perfect example. Sunday's game against the Chicago Bears will now start at 4:15 instead, giving you four fewer hours to check for updates.
Trends: Some teams seem to turn it on down the stretch every year while others appear to run for the bus. The Green Bay Packers (35-12 in December the last 10 years), New England Patriots (31-13), Pittsburgh Steelers (30-16), Baltimore Ravens (27-16) and New York Giants (26-19) always have a finishing kick. The opposite is true for the Cleveland Browns (9-28), Detroit Lions (11-33), Oakland Raiders (14-32) and Dallas Cowboys (16-29).
Sorting the Bills
Playing New England right after the Patriots' bye week has been poison for the Bills the past three seasons. The Patriots, who have won eight straight in the series, have captured those three games by a combined score of 80-39. The last time Buffalo beat New England as the Pats were coming off a week of inactivity was in 2000, 16-13.
Quarterback Tom Brady is 12-1 in his career against the Bills with 2,847 yards, 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. But in the games following byes the last three seasons, he's got five TDs and no picks. Receiver Randy Moss loves to face the Bills, too. He's scored at least once in all four previous meetings with 24 catches for 379 yards and five TDs, including two in Week Three.
Bills receiver Lee Evans has 14 receptions for 247 yards and no TDs in seven previous games against the Pats, including 1/7 /0 in Week Three. Starting quarterback J.P. Losman is 43 of 78 (55.1 percent) for 546 yards with one TD, five INTs and nine sacks for 56 yards in five games against the Pats.
Since you asked
Q: Believe it or not, my top two quarterbacks are (New England's Tom) Brady and (Green Bay's Brett) Favre. I have a chance to deal Favre for (Denver running back) Selvin Young. Now that the Patriots are past their bye week should I pull the trigger?
A: You should be able to select much higher on the food chain than Selvin Young, who ranks 46th in the league with 331 rushing yards. You are in the perfect situation should something happen to Brady, or if the Patriots lose a game but still clinch home advantage throughout the AFC playoffs early. Unless your running back cupboard is bare, I'd hang on to Favre. With 322 or more yards passing in six of the last seven games, he provides the perfect security blanket.
Week 10 eye-popper
Braylon Edwards' touchdown catch against the Pittsburgh Steelers was his 10th of the season and made him the first Cleveland Browns wideout to hit double digits since before the merger.
Gary Collins (11) and Paul Warfield (10) both did it in 1969.