Matthew Berry’s free-agency loves and hates, and what to do with Week 18

    • Senior Fantasy analyst for ESPN
    • Member, FSWA and FSTA Halls of Fame
    • Best-selling author of “Fantasy Life”

Almost everything else in the world has changed in the past year or so, so why should the NFL schedule be any different? The NFL has voted to expand the regular-season schedule to 17 games over an 18-week season. As is always the case, more football is a good thing, so this is a win for all of us.

But there are many implications for this in our little world: What it means for NFL player values as it relates to fantasy football and what it means for your specific league.

Let’s start with the NFL. The truth is … I have no idea.

With an extra week and the fact that 14 teams now make the playoffs, you could argue teams will be fighting even harder for even longer, and maybe that means it’s less likely that teams rest players. On the other hand, the season is now even longer with still just the one bye week, so maybe teams are more open to sitting the “borderline” guys in any given week — those players who are banged up and could likely go if it was a playoff game, but maybe with a longer schedule, they decide to not push it that week to rest that sore ankle or tweaked hammy.

The truth is likely somewhere in the middle and not at all actionable, as it will be on a player-by-player, team-by-team, week-by-week basis. It will all depend on who it is, what the player’s injury history might be, who else the team has, where they are in the season, what their playoff chances are, and the risk tolerance of the coach and medical staff.

As anyone who has listened to our Fantasy Focus Football podcast or watched Fantasy Football Now on game-day Sundays can tell you, Stephania Bell will often discuss how aggressive or conservative some medical staffs and coaches are. It’ll be a case-by-case basis, and your friendly neighborhood TMR will be here every day to help you navigate it.

But your league, well, now that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of footballs.

One prevailing issues in how to set up your league has been what to do with Week 17. Some leagues don’t like to play Week 17 because of all the uncertainty around playing time. The challenge there, of course, is by not playing Week 17, you either have to start your playoffs a week early (Week 13) or you play “win or go home” one-week battles in the playoffs.

The part that stinks about “win or go home” is when you roll your entire league all season long as the No. 1 seed and then lose in the playoffs because you faced Alvin Kamara (and apparently it would have killed Sean Payton to, I don’t know, let Drew Brees throw it to Michael Thomas or Jared Cook or really do anything but just keep handing it off to Alvin Kamara every damn time — and yeah I’m totally over it, why do you ask?!)

Anyway, I’m excited because I was always torn. I love using two weeks for each playoff round, as it is much more likely that the better team will win. But I didn’t love playing Week 17. So it’s been a trade-off one way or the other. Until now. For leagues I run, I say playoffs start Week 14, same as always. Semis are Week 14 and 15. Final is Week 16 and 17. No games in Week 18. Play DFS together as a league or something.

To me, that is the fairest way. Four teams make the playoffs in a 10-team league. Now if you want six teams to make the playoffs in a 12-team or deeper league, you’ll either have to start in Week 13 and play through Week 18 or just do single elimination, starting in Week 15. (Byes for the top two seeds, first round in Weeks 13 and 14, semis in 15 and 16, final in 17 and 18).

For what it’s worth, ESPN default 10-team leagues will start their playoffs in Week 15 this season, with four teams making the playoffs. Semis are Weeks 15 and 16. Final is Week 17 and 18. Of course, ESPN League Manager leagues, in which someone takes charge of being the league manager, are customizable, so you can adjust the settings however you want, just like I do.

Regardless of how it plays out this season — and more importantly, how you and your league decide to address this — it clearly will be something different.

But in a world of turbulent change, it’s nice that there’s at least one thing that remains the same, unrelenting in its stubborn sameness: The offseason Love/Hate list.

Like its predecessors, this year’s edition differs from the preseason or weekly “Love/Hate” columns. In this, I am looking at players whose value improved (“love”) or went down (“hate”) as a result of offseason moves. Just because the player is listed as a “love” here doesn’t mean I actually like his fantasy value — I merely believe that it went up.

In other words, Andy Dalton gets a mention in the “others receiving votes” section of “QB love” not because I think he has a big fantasy season ahead, but because he’s now the starter for the Chicago Bears. Last season at this time, he was the backup to Dak Prescott. He’s still a very low-end QB2/bye-week fill-in for fantasy this season, but his value as a starter for the Bears is greater now than as a backup for the Cowboys, you know?

Let’s get to it.

Offseason quarterback moves I love

Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles

Haters see a guy who played four games last season with a brutal completion percentage (52%) on a rebuilding team with an early draft pick.

I see a guy

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