2018 Fantasy Football Draft Prep: Breaking down the NFC North schedules
The Packers should get off to a good start, but the Vikings are the ones with the chance to really run some numbers thanks to their dance card.
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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 North common opponents: NFC West, AFC East
Bears projected opponents defensive ranks -- Run: 11th | Pass: 15th
Sked specs: Week 5 bye, Week 12 Thursday game at Lions, three games indoors, four games on turf, one game with opponent coming off a bye week (vs. Vikings, Week 11).
Sked notes: The Bears have a difficult start, serving as the Week 1 sacrificial lamb for Aaron Rodgers before facing Russell Wilson at home in Week 2, then going to Arizona in Week 3. Once that's over with, the Bears' toughest matchups are spread out so there's no stretch where you'd worry about the team falling into a rut. Their toughest matchup — at Minnesota — is baked into Week 17, saving those owners whose seasons end in Week 16.
Lions projected opponents defensive ranks -- Run: 18th | Pass: 11th
Sked specs: Week 6 bye, Week 12 Thursday game vs. Bears, 11 games indoors, 11 games on turf, two games with opponents coming off a bye week (vs. Seahawks, Week 8; vs. Rams, Week 13).
Sked notes: Detroit's early-season schedule is good, particularly for the passing game. That's good, since the Lions still figure to be a pass-leaning offense. They have a three-game homestand starting in mid-November, but it includes a tough matchup against the Rams. They'll finish the season with three of four games on the road with a home tilt against Minnesota wedged in there. Not easy. It's okay to draft any Lions players, but there should be a sell-high window opening just before Halloween that Fantasy owners could take advantage of.
Packers projected opponents defensive ranks -- Run: 7th | Pass: 18th
Sked specs: Week 7 bye, Week 11 Thursday game at Seahawks, two games indoors, five games on turf, no games with opponent coming off a bye week.
Sked notes: Rodgers' return to the field starts with one of the easiest early-season skeds you'll see — four home games within the first six weeks with only the Vikings in Week 2 shaping up as a challenging matchup. But after the Week 7 bye, things get tough. The Packers have four road games in five weeks, including matchups at the Rams, Patriots, Seahawks (on a short week), and Vikings. Only a cupcake home game versus Miami breaks up those four jaunts. Those games won't scare you off of taking Packers players, nor will Week 15 and 16 visits to the Bears and Jets, matchups that should allow for some big-time stats. Now if we could only figure out the Packers' run game.
Vikings projected opponents defensive ranks -- Run: 9th | Pass: 8th
Sked specs: Week 10 bye, Week 4 Thursday game at Rams, nine games indoors, 12 games on turf, no games with opponent coming off a bye week.
Sked notes: Minnesota has some brutal back-to-back road trips — at the Rams and the Eagles in Weeks 4 and 5 and at the Patriots and the Seahawks in Weeks 13 and 14. But outside of those matchups, the schedule looks great. There aren't too many "runaway" games where the Vikings win on the strength of their defense and run game alone, meaning Kirk Cousins will have to succeed with his receivers. There really is a good chance of Minnesota's offense providing some excellent Fantasy numbers consistently.
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