Strength of Schedule
“Do I play Marquise Brown vs the Steelers or Mecole Hardman at the Broncos? Do I flex Sony Michel vs the Jets or Terry McLaurin vs the Eagles?” Every week, hundreds of questions are asked regarding who to start and who to bench. Almost always, our answers are based on matchups. Playing the right matchups will be the difference between an average team and a championship team. Now let’s be clear, you are never supposed to bench a top guy like Saquon Barkley just because he is playing a tough defense. Anyone drafted in the first 3-4 rounds should be fairly matchup-proof. While a team’s schedule can help you decide between a couple of early guys you are considering, this concept is mainly focused on the fringe starters that are drafted rounds 5-9. Let’s get to the stats.
I assigned a ranking of 1-4 to all team defenses based on yards given up per game and points given up per game in 2019 and any offseason moves made (includes coaching changes, player acquisitions/departures, player health, draft picks, and even QB changes such as Jameis Winston Tom Brady changing the pace of the game). The worst defenses are assigned a 1. The best defenses are assigned a 4. I then took each defensive ranking and assigned it to each team’s schedule. I added a half point to each away game, and subtracted a half point for each home game. For example: The Falcons play Seattle week 1. Seattle is ranked a 3. Since the game is in Atlanta, Seattle is assigned a 2.5 on the Falcons’ schedule. The Falcons play at Dallas week 2. Dallas is ranked a 3. Since the game is in Dallas, the Cowboys are assigned a 3.5 on the Falcons’ schedule. I continued this practice for each of the 32 NFL teams’ schedules and added up each team’s totals for weeks 1-16 (most fantasy leagues do not play week 17). What I found was interesting.
The following chart demonstrates each team’s opponent’s ranking totals in order from the easiest schedule to the most difficult schedule. As you can see, the Seahawks have a far better schedule than the Jaguars. This might help you decide between drafting guys like Chris Carson vs Leonard Fournette in the 3rd/4th round or guys like DK Metcalf vs DJ Chark in the 4th/5th round.
I took this data and broke it down into a few new important categories. I invented four new terms that quantify the amount of games
DM- Desirable Matchup (Playing against a 2 at home or a 1 on the road)
UM- Undesirable Matchup (Playing against a 3 on the road or a 4 at home)
HDM- Highly Desirable Matchup (Playing against a 1 at home)
HUM- Highly Undesirable Matchup (Playing against a 4 on the road)
This chart paints a more in-depth picture. It quantifies the amount of games that are favorable matchups or unfavorable matchups for each NFL teams’ fantasy purposes. Some things that stand out are the lack of UM+HUM for Miami and TB. They may not have a ton of great matchups, but Mia has 2 tough ones while TB has 1. On the other end of the spectrum, Jax, Ten, Pit, Den, LV, and TB all have two matchups considered desirable at all.
Take this for what it is. It is a preseason ranking system that measures the assumed difficulty of schedules for fantasy purposes. Some teams do better against the run. Some do better against the pass. Injuries happen. Key players will test positive for Covid. All of these things will change the rankings a bit, but as you enter your draft you can only plan for things as they are right now. Hope this helps!