2017 Fantasy Football Draft Prep: NFC South schedule breakdown

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 South common opponents: NFC North, AFC East

Atlanta Falcons

Falcons team defensive grades -- Run: 6 | Pass Rush: 6 | Pass Coverage: 7
Sked specs: Week 5 bye, Week 14 Thursday game vs. Saints, 10 games indoors, league-high 13 games on turf, one game with opponent coming off a bye week (vs. Buccaneers, Week 12).
Sked notes: The schedule starts off easy enough, but things get iffy. The Falcons play three straight on the road including their Super Bowl rematch with the Patriots in Week 7, then face nothing but playoff contenders and the Saints to round out the season. What it really means is a lot of high-scoring games down the stretch, including three in a row at home against the Bucs, Vikings and Saints, which isn't bad. Week 16 at New Orleans could be juicy for Fantasy as well. Perhaps Matt Ryan won't regress as much as people seem to think.
Falcons projected opponents defensive ranks -- Run: 20th | Pass: 3rd
Predicted record: 10-6

Carolina Panthers

Panthers team defensive grades -- Run: 10 | Pass Rush: 7 | Pass Coverage: 3
Sked specs: Week 11 bye, Week 6 Thursday game vs. Eagles, three games indoors, five games on turf, one game with opponent coming off a bye week (at Jets, Week 12).
Sked notes: An easy schedule helped the Panthers make their Super Bowl run a couple of years ago. They're in a similar spot now, though their pass defense isn't as strong and their offense is an enigma. But they can't blame 2017 on a bad slate -- they have two difficult matchups in their first eight and finish the season with home games in Weeks 14 through 16. Carolina's biggest issue might be their offense just not being as explosive as many of the teams they face.
Panthers projected opponents defensive ranks -- Run: 8th | Pass: 1st
Predicted record: 9-7

New Orleans Saints

Saints team defensive grades -- Run: 5 | Pass Rush: 3 | Pass Coverage: 4
Sked specs: Week 5 bye, Week 14 Thursday game at Falcons, 10 games indoors, 11 games on turf, no games with opponents coming off a bye week.
Sked notes: It's another year where Drew Brees will attempt a ton of passes, be it because the matchup says so or because the Saints are playing from behind. Of course, that was the case last season and Mark Ingram still found over 1,000 rush yards -- and he barely had over 200 carries! That said, the schedule does not start out so hot with three of four on the road and the lone home game against the Patriots. Be patient with your Saints.
Saints projected opponents defensive ranks -- Run: 26th | Pass: 4th
Predicted record: 7-9

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Buccaneers team defensive grades -- Run: 6 | Pass Rush: 6 | Pass Coverage: 6
Sked specs: Week 11 bye, Week 5 Thursday game vs. Patriots, four games indoors, four games on turf, one game with opponent coming off a bye week (at Bills, Week 7).
Sked notes: For a team with questions in the run game but unlimited potential in the passing game, the Bucs schedule sets up beautifully. There's a four-game stretch starting in Week 3 that might rattle Jameis Winston, but from Week 7 until the end of the year his toughest matchups are few and far between.
Buccaneers projected opponents defensive ranks -- Run: 19th | Pass: 6th
Predicted record: 11-5

Senior Fantasy Writer

Dave Richard has spent nearly his entire career covering the National Football League. Beginning with NFL.com at the boom of the Internet, Richard was that site's first Fantasy Football writer before transitioning... Full Bio

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