- | | |
- 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 South common opponents: NFC East, AFC North
Falcons projected opponents defensive ranks -- Run: 25th | Pass: 7th
Sked specs: Week 8 bye, Week 12 Thursday game at Saints, nine games indoors, nine games on turf, one game with opponent coming off a bye week (vs. Buccaneers, Week 6).
Sked notes: This is one wacky schedule. Atlanta has five home games in the first seven weeks of the season, but most of the matchups are tough. Then they finish the season with six road games in nine weeks, the majority of which come against weaker defenses. So even if the Falcons' studs get off to a tough start, there's reason to hang on to them (or trade for them).
Panthers projected opponents defensive ranks -- Run: 17th | Pass: 10th
Sked specs: Week 4 bye, Week 10 Thursday game at Steelers, three games indoors, three games on turf, no games with opponents coming off a bye week.
Sked notes: It's not saying much to expect a fast start from the Panthers — they play more games against the NFC East than the NFC South in the first seven weeks of the season. Once they get to that Eagles game in Week 7, though, the matchups get tougher. The Panthers also have a five-week stretch where they play at home once, and that's against the Seahawks. Half of their divisional matchups cap their season. Consider selling high on those Panthers who overperform to begin the season.
New Orleans Saints
Saints projected opponents defensive ranks -- Run: 32nd | Pass: 21st
Sked specs: Week 6 bye, Week 12 Thursday game vs. Falcons, 11 games indoors, 13 games on turf, two games with opponents coming off a bye week (vs. Redskins, Week 5; at Bengals, Week 10).
Sked notes: New Orleans is the home to many Fantasy studs, but their post-bye schedule is among the toughest in football. Finishing in first place earned the Saints the misfortune of being the only team in the NFC South to play at the Vikings and versus the Rams — and those games come in consecutive weeks, and are bookended by road matchups against the Ravens and Bengals. Adding insult to injury, they'll take on the Eagles and Falcons at home before embarking on a three-week road trip that ends with one of two games against the Panthers to end the season. This schedule made drafting Mark Ingram a no-go for me, though it could lead to a lot of receiving opportunities for Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Buccaneers projected opponents defensive ranks -- Run: 21st | Pass: 14th
Sked specs: Week 5 bye, no Thursday game, three games indoors, five games on turf, one game with opponent coming off a bye week (vs. 49ers, Week 12).
Sked notes: Like the rest of the NFC South, there aren't a lot of easy stretches here. Taking on four 2017 playoff teams in the first five weeks of the season isn't great, but the Bucs built their roster for a playoff run, so that should tell the tale of just how prepared they are. A three-game homestand just past Thanksgiving doesn't look bad, and they only play road matchups in consecutive weeks twice. It's not a pleasing workload for Ronald Jones and the Bucs' run game, but it's not too terrible for Mike Evans and Jameis Winston.