2018 Fantasy Football Draft Prep: Breaking down the AFC North schedules

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Digging into the NFL schedule isn't a process that will clinch you a playoff spot in your Fantasy league, but it will provide some insight that could change your drafting plans. Players you might consider snagging could have a bunch of tough opponents in their future, or a bunch of weak ones. Knowing the difference could save you some headaches in 2018.

In early June, we graded every defense based on talent, depth and coaching, then used those grades to figure out which teams had good schedules and which teams had bad schedules. Below, you'll see how a team's slate of opposing defenses rank -- the higher the number, the easier the schedule. This should serve as at least a tie-breaker when considering two players for one draft pick.

AFC North common opponents: AFC West, NFC South

Baltimore Ravens

Ravens projected opponents defensive ranks -- Run: 13th | Pass: 22nd

Sked specs: Week 10 bye, Week 2 Thursday game at Bengals, one game indoors, two games on turf, one game with opponent coming off a bye week (vs. Saints, Week 7).
Sked notes: This isn't a great outlook for Baltimore. They have two games in the first five days of the season then go on a three-week road trip from Weeks 4-6 before coming home to a rested Saints squad in Week 7. Perhaps they make up for it with zero road games in November (they play at home for three in a row with a bye), but they finish with three away from Maryland over their last five with the ultra-valuable home game against the Browns stuffed into Week 17. It's enough to think twice on every Ravens player, particularly those in the receiving game.

Cincinnati Bengals

Bengals projected opponents defensive ranks -- Run: 10th | Pass: 16th

Sked specs: Week 9 bye, Week 2 Thursday game vs. Ravens, two games indoors, 10 games on turf, back-to-back games with opponents coming off a bye week (at Ravens, Week 11; vs. Browns, Week 12).
Sked notes: Two games in five days isn't exactly a great way to kick off a season, but at least the Thursday game is out of the way early. That Thursday game is the Bengals' only home game until October 7. That same home game kicks off four matchups in five contests where Marvin Lewis' crew is at home. A glorious perk: The Bengals give Fantasy owners dreamy Week 15 and 16 games versus Oakland and at Cleveland before wrapping the season at Pittsburgh, a matchup most people won't have to worry about. That's not enough to reach for Joe Mixon or A.J. Green on Draft Day, but it won't hurt when it gets to your Fantasy semifinals.

Cleveland Browns

Browns projected opponents defensive ranks -- Run: 28th | Pass: 26th

Sked specs: Week 11 bye, Week 3 Thursday game vs. Jets, two games indoors, three games on turf, one game with opponent coming off a bye week (at Steelers, Week 8).
Sked notes: The Browns will play three games in 12 days, two against strong playoff teams from last year. If that doesn't turn you off then just check out the defenses they'll face from Week 10 on. That sets up poorly for Carlos Hyde/Nick Chubb, but could lead to lots of receptions for Duke Johnson. This is also the theoretical set-up for Baker Mayfield to get on the field and start his pro career. It won't be easy but it should lead to tons of targets for Josh Gordon and Jarvis Landry.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Steelers projected opponents defensive ranks -- Run: 31st | Pass: 30th

Sked specs: Week 7 bye, Week 10 Thursday game vs. Panthers, one game indoors, two games on turf, no games with opponents coming off a bye week.
Sked notes: Pittsburgh is saddled with one of the toughest schedules in the league. Does it matter? It shouldn't. There are questions about how changing offensive playcallers could mess with the long-standing chemistry the team has built, but the players you'd consider for Fantasy are too good and too consistent to overlook. Hopefully it means a bunch of high-scoring games, although the Steelers' slate from Week 9 on is about as tough as it gets.

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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