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- More: Early season preview
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 West common opponents: AFC North, NFC West
Broncos projected opponents defensive ranks -- Run: 15th | Pass: 23rd
Sked specs: Week 10 bye, Week 7 Thursday game at Cardinals, one games indoors, two games on turf, no games with opponent coming off a bye week.
Sked notes: The Broncos are one of three teams that open the season with back-to-back home games — and it's the only time they play two in a row at home all year. They have two separate stints where they play on the road three times in four weeks. There also isn't a window where they have several consecutive favorable matchups until (maybe) Weeks 14 through 16 (at San Francisco, vs. Cleveland, at Oakland). You must remember all of this before drafting Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Royce Freeman or any other Broncos players.
Chiefs projected opponents defensive ranks -- Run: 26th | Pass: 32nd
Sked specs: Week 12 bye, Week 15 Thursday game vs. Chargers, no games indoors, two games on turf, one game with opponent coming off a bye week (vs. Cardinals, Week 10), Week 11 road game in Mexico City vs. Rams.
Sked notes: Patrick Mahomes is going to get tested all season long. The Chiefs begin the season at the Chargers, then at the Steelers before a respite at home against the 49ers. After that, it's five straight difficult matchups. They're on the road for four of their first six games, and seven of their first 12 overall. This is no cakewalk for Mahomes to ease into as a first-year starter. If he gets flustered it'll throw off the entire offense, which is a problem since so many Chiefs are desirable Fantasy choices. Mahomes is a must-watch before Draft Day.
Los Angeles Chargers
Chargers projected opponents defensive ranks -- Run: 20th | Pass: 25th
Sked specs: Week 8 bye, Week 15 Thursday game at Chiefs, no games indoors, two games on turf, one game with opponent coming off a bye week (vs. Broncos, Week 11), home game in London vs. Titans Week 7.
Sked notes: Two straight road games aren't easy. Three straight road games are a challenge. Welp, beginning in Week 6, the Bolts (technically) play four games in a row on the road! One of those is a "home" game against the Titans in London. There is a bye week after that one, but it's part of what is otherwise a tricky schedule. The good news? Expect a fast start as only the Rams present a serious challenge for the Bolts' offense between Weeks 1 and 7. Alternatively, they'll have a tough go of it in December, so there could be a point you'll choose to sell high on your Chargers players.
Raiders projected opponents defensive ranks -- Run: 12th | Pass: 31st
Sked specs: Week 7 bye, Week 9 Thursday game at 49ers, one game indoors, two games on turf, one game with opponent coming off a bye week (vs. Chiefs, Week 13), Week 6 home game in London vs. Seahawks.
Sked notes: Jon Gruden's return to the sideline begins with a home date against what's expected to be the best defense in the league in the Rams. That's followed by four road games in five weeks including a London tilt with the Seahawks in Week 6 before the bye. It sounds worse than it is — they'll play the Dolphins and Browns as part of those weeks and get the Colts and 49ers right after the bye. What really is worse is their back-half schedule ripe with tough defenses. Maybe their easiest late-season matchups come at home against the Chiefs and Steelers, both of which could put up big points on the scoreboard and force the Raiders to chase points.