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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.
NFC East common opponents: NFC South, AFC South
Cowboys projected opponents defensive ranks -- Run: 16th | Pass: 2nd
Sked specs: Week 8 bye, Week 12 Thursday game vs. Redskins, 11 games indoors, 13 games on turf, back-to-back games with opponents coming off a bye week (vs. Titans, Week 9; at Eagles, Week 10).
Sked notes: This is among the most attractive pass-defense matchup schedules any team in football has. Unfortunately, the Cowboys boast one of the least attractive pass offenses in the league. We're going to have to keep close tabs on Dak Prescott — and who his top targets are — before Draft Day. Dallas plays back-to-back road games once and lucks out with a three-game homestand that will span 18 days in late November/early December.
Giants projected opponents defensive ranks -- Run: 23rd | Pass: 6th
Sked specs: Week 9 bye, Week 6 Thursday game vs. Eagles, four games indoors, 12 games on turf, one game with opponent coming off a bye week (at Panthers, Week 5).
Sked notes: Of the Giants' first seven games, only one (at Dallas) figures to be an easy matchup. We could see some slow starts (and buy-low opportunities) for all the prominent G-Men. Keep that in mind when looking at their slate from Week 8 on. In that time, they'll have five home games, and just one dreaded matchup (at Philly in Week 12). Take a patient approach with all Giants players in Fantasy, or trade for them a week before Halloween.
Eagles projected opponents defensive ranks -- Run: 22nd | Pass: 12th
Sked specs: Week 9 bye, Week 6 Thursday game at Giants, two games indoors, three games on turf, no game with opponent coming off a bye week, Week 8 road game in London vs. Jaguars.
Sked notes: This might be the most boring, uneventful schedule any Super Bowl-winning team has ever received. Without any quirky road trips or long home stands, the focus is on a mixed bag of incredibly tough defenses and cupcake matchups. Over the course of the season the Eagles will play the Rams, Jaguars, Vikings, Texans and Saints, all very tough opponents. Luckily they'll also play their division rivals twice each and also have dates with the Colts and Titans. If your top Eagles players start the season red hot, consider selling high on them starting in Week 7, with Jay Ajayi at the top of the sell-high list.
Redskins projected opponents defensive ranks -- Run: 24th | Pass: 9th
Sked specs: Week 4 bye, Week 12 Thursday game at Cowboys, three games indoors, three games on turf, two games with opponents coming off a bye week (vs. Falcons, Week 9; vs. Texans, Week 11).
Sked notes: By October 21, half of the Redskins' home games will have been played. That sets up a nasty stretch featuring six road games, two home tilts against rested opponents, and just two matchups at FedEx Field from before Thanksgiving through the end of the year await. Worse yet, many of the Redskins' opponents should put up some points on their defense, forcing the team to throw more than they have in the past. With Alex Smith now at the helm, there's no certainty they'll meet the challenge on the scoreboard.