2017 Fantasy Football Draft Prep: NFC North schedule breakdown
Think the Packers will waltz to another division title? They might, but the schedule actually favors the Vikings.
You can do plenty of research when it comes to every NFL skill-position player, but none of it would matter if you knew they'd have a tough schedule, or even an easy one.
This June, we graded every defense based on talent, depth and coaching, then used those grades to determine which teams had the easiest and hardest schedules. The results are published by division. The goal is to draw some conclusions about Fantasy players who you might not start every week regardless of matchup.
NFC North common opponents: NFC South, AFC North
Bears team defensive grades -- Run: 4 | Pass Rush: 4 | Pass Coverage: 1
Sked specs: Week 9 bye, Week 4 Thursday game at Packers, three games indoors, four games on turf, no games with opponents coming off a bye week.
Sked notes: It's already bad enough that the Bears have a quarterback dilemma, a lack of established receivers and a dreadful secondary, but facing five playoff contenders to start the season is salt in the wound. In fact, most of the Bears schedule features opponents who should be able to simply outscore them. Three of their last four games are on the road.
Bears projected opponents defensive ranks -- Run: 16th | Pass: 14th
Predicted record: 3-13
Lions team defensive grades -- Run: 4 | Pass Rush: 5 | Pass Coverage: 5
Sked specs: Week 7 bye, Week 12 Thursday game vs. Vikings, 10 games indoors, 12 games on turf, three games with opponents coming off a bye week (at Saints, Week 6; at Packers, Week 9; vs. Browns, Week 10).
Sked notes: The league really gave the Lions a raw deal. They play three opponents coming off a bye including at the Saints and at the Packers, they three of their last five on the road and at no point all season do they even play two straight games at Ford Field. Making matters worse is an early-season list of opponents that will make anyone considering Ameer Abdullah cringe.
Lions projected opponents defensive ranks -- Run: 11th | Pass: 20th
Predicted record: 6-10
Green Bay Packers
Packers team defensive grades -- Run: 6 | Pass Rush: 6 | Pass Coverage: 8
Sked specs: Week 8 bye, Week 4 Thursday game vs. Bears, four games indoors, four games on turf, back-to-back games with opponents coming off a bye week (at Bears, Week 10; vs. Ravens, Week 11).
Sked notes: The Packers have two huge games right out of the gate (Seahawks at home, Falcons on the road), but really have it good after that. The division helps, as do the games against the Saints, Browns and Ravens. Aaron Rodgers will do his thing regardless of opponent and the run game should have plenty of good matchups -- assuming the Packers can find a reliable run game.
Lions projected opponents defensive ranks -- Run: 7th | Pass: 11th
Predicted record: 13-3, NFC representative in Super Bowl LII
Vikings team defensive grades -- Run: 9 | Pass Rush: 10 | Pass Coverage: 9
Sked specs: Week 9 bye, Week 12 Thursday game at Lions, 10 games indoors, 10 games on turf, no games with opponents coming off a bye week.
Sked notes: The easiest schedule in the NFL goes to the Vikings, which is kind of sad considering their lack of dominant offensive talent. Five of their first seven are at home, most of which are against weak defenses, so there's a chance for some good numbers early. A three-game road trip against the Lions, Falcons and Panthers starting in Week 12 might be when the offense starts to stall out, and a Week 16 game at Green Bay might not bode well. Keep an eye on the Vikings run game in training camp -- whoever their lead back is should be a priority Fantasy pick.
Vikings projected opponents defensive ranks -- Run: 3rd | Pass: 2nd
Predicted record: 9-7
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