An NFL team’s schedule should not be the most important factor in whether or not to draft a player. We can hope to predict whether a certain schedule will yield great Fantasy results, but we really are just speculating.
What we can do is minimize risk based on schedule. Specifically, we can avoid defenses we know will be good in the Fantasy Playoffs.
You should draft your Fantasy team with the thought that they will perform no matter how difficult the regular season schedule. It is a marathon, not a sprint to the Fantasy Playoffs.
Now once you are in the playoffs, the schedule matters more. Whenever one bad week from one of your stars ends your season, I would say every possible factor is a big deal.
2017 Schedule Analysis
A team’s schedule should not be a major deciding factor in picking a player. But if you have two or three similarly rated guys, it can be a tipping point.
With that said, the initial team schedule can be helpful. I went through last season’s defensive rankings for each position for Fantasy points against.
I know, A LOT has changed in the past six months. Guys came back from injuries, some switched teams, and that little draft thing happened. It is just the easiest and really only predictor available.
So using each team’s rankings, I then calculated season-long, as well as Weeks 14-16 totals. This way we have a quantifiable value to see which teams have the generally easier schedule for each position. Let’s start with signal callers.
2017 Schedule Analysis – Quarterbacks
There was only one team that has a schedule ranked in the Top 3 easiest for both season-long and the playoff weeks (14-16), or for what I will shorten to SL and PW: that team is the New Orleans Saints.
Drew Brees gets Atlanta twice in the playoff weeks, and the Falcons gave up the second-most points to quarterbacks last season. The NFC South had no team ranked in the Top 18 in points against quarterbacks. They will also play the NFC North this year, which also has three bad pass defenses.
With that said, Tampa Bay, Chicago, and Atlanta all rank in the Top 7 in both SL and PW, mostly because of the aforementioned bad pass defenses in their respective divisions.
While many are projecting a serious regression for Matt Ryan, he will get the hapless Saints’ defense twice in the Fantasy Playoffs, surrounding a game against Tampa Bay.
The two teams on the opposite end of the spectrum are Indianapolis and Washington. The Redskins are in the bottom three for both SL and PW. The Colts aren’t far behind with the fifth hardest season long schedule and hardest playoff weeks.
The big factor against both teams is they get the staunch Denver Broncos’ pass defense in the Fantasy Playoffs. If you are counting on Kirk Cousins or Andrew Luck to carry you to a championship, you could run into a buzz saw.
2017 Schedule Analysis – Running Backs
If there was one team that I would not want to have a favorable schedule for running backs it would be the Patriots. Of course, though, they are one of just two teams in the Top 5 for both SL and PW rankings.
I would bet that there will be four different running backs that lead New England in scoring at least one game this season: Dion Lewis, James White, Mike Gillislee, and Rex Burkhead.
The other team ranked in the Top 5 for both sets of rankings is the Patriots’ division rival, the New York Jets. I was already trying to obtain both Matt Forte and Bilal Powell as a running back platoon, but after seeing this I’m all in on them.
The Jets’ last two games of the Fantasy Playoffs are against the Saints and Chargers, who gave up the third and fifth-most points to opposing running backs.
The Falcons actually have the easiest playoff schedule for running backs. As we already pointed out, they will get the Saints twice during that timeframe. Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman will both be boosted slightly in my rankings.
As far as difficult running back schedules, the Rams take the cake. They have the second-hardest schedule for both SL and PW. Good luck with Todd Gurley, as he faces the third and second-toughest run defenses in the league to end the Fantasy Season.
The other team with a difficult route for running backs is San Francisco. Carlos Hyde has the hardest season-long schedule and the sixth-toughest playoff slate. I was already staying away from him, but now I have even more initiative.
2017 Schedule Analysis – Wide Receivers
Similarly to the quarterbacks, the teams with the easiest schedules for wide receivers are New Orleans and Tampa Bay. Atlanta is not that far behind.
This is another effect of the NFC South and NFC North having generally weak pass defenses. With the lead receiver from each of these three teams already going in Round 1, this will really affect the secondary receivers. Willie Snead, DeSean Jackson, and Mohamed Sanu should all get late-round bumps.
Weirdly, there is not a single team in the bottom five for both SL and PW schedules. Kansas City is last for season long, but in the middle third for the playoff weeks. Dallas has the toughest playoff schedule, so maybe Dez Bryant should get a slight knock. However, they are in the top half for the season.
The Jets and Steelers both have the worst average between the two schedule sets. Quincy Enunwa is going so late so this won’t affect his stock and Antonio Brown cannot be affected. I would knock Martavis Bryant slightly.
2017 Schedule Analysis – Tight Ends
Of all the positions, the tight end schedule is the clearest. Chicago has the easiest schedule by both sets of rankings. Zach Miller was a surprise last season, but the Bears did draft Adam Sheehan. Both players need to be on your radar as they get Cincinnati, Cleveland and Detroit in the Fantasy Playoffs, all bottom-five defenses against the Fantasy Tight End.
Four other teams have Top 5 schedules for tight ends because of ties: Green Bay, Baltimore, Minnesota and New Orleans.
Green Bay signed Martellus Bennett in the off-season and he is in line for a big year now with an easy schedule. Kyle Rudolph was an elite tight end option last year, and has the set-up for another with the Vikings. Coby Fleener was slightly disappointing last season, but he will have every chance to bounce back this year.
Baltimore has three tight ends in competition with old-man Ben Watson; Crockett Gilmore and former first-round-pick Maxx Williams. That is definitely a situation to watch as the pre-season goes on.
As far as the other end, the Rams have the hardest schedule for tight ends. They have the third-toughest season long schedule and the hardest playoff route. With no clear cut starter there, this does not have too much Fantasy impact.
The Colts actually have the hardest season long schedule, so be wary of Jack Doyle. He has the feeling of a flash in the pan and now the cards are stacked against them.
2017 Schedule Analysis – D/ST
No surprises here, as Tennessee and Jacksonville have the easiest schedules for team defenses. This is due to the awfulness that is the AFC South quarterbacks. Houston and Indianapolis are also both in the Top 8.
The team that really has a boost in the Fantasy Playoffs is Seattle. The Seahawks get Jacksonville and the Rams in Weeks 14 & 15. What’s the over/under for interceptions thrown by Blake Bortles and Jared Goff in those two weeks?
Seattle closes with the Cowboys, who protected the ball extremely well last year. I could see Dak Prescott regressing in that area though, so Seattle may be worthy of a Round 14 pick and not the next to last round.
All of the hardest schedules for team defenses are in the NFC East, AFC East and NFC South. This has to do with the explosive offenses in these three divisions. Most of these quarterbacks take care of the ball as well.
2017 Schedule Analysis – Kickers
Just kidding. Check out our draft kit and position rankings!
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