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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 West common opponents: NFC North, AFC West
Cardinals projected opponents defensive ranks -- Run: 29th | Pass: 27th
Sked specs: Week 9 bye, Week 7 Thursday game vs. Broncos, 10 games indoors, three games on turf, no games with opponents coming off a bye week.
Sked notes: Two of the Cardinals' first three games are favorable home matchups. Everything else is a nightmare. All three of their division rivals figure to have challenging run defenses (especially the Rams) and they'll also have to deal with the Broncos, Vikings, Chiefs, Chargers and Packers (those last four all on the road). For a team with a suspect O-line and questionable passing game, this isn't the news you want to hear if you're looking at David Johnson.
Los Angeles Rams
Rams projected opponents defensive ranks -- Run: 19th | Pass: 24th
Sked specs: Week 12 bye, Week 4 Thursday game vs. Rams, three games indoors, three games on turf, one game with opponent coming off a bye week (vs. Packers, Week 8), Week 11 home game in Mexico City vs. Chiefs.
Sked notes: The Rams open the season on a Monday night at Oakland, the first of four games they'll play in an 18-day span. That's not a typo. It helps that the remaining three games are in L.A. but they are against the Cardinals, Chargers and Vikings. Then they'll play three straight on the road at Seattle, at Denver and at San Francisco, before returning to host the Packers. Soon thereafter, four of their last six games are on the road including a jaunt to Mexico to play the Chiefs. Technically, the Rams are the only team in years to play three consecutive road games twice in the same season. I wouldn't bank on many big numbers for Jared Goff early on, which means his receivers could also struggle to perform. As for Todd Gurley, tough matchups didn't slow him down last year and his defense should keep him in position to get a lot of work.
49ers projected opponents defensive ranks -- Run: 27th | Pass: 28th
Sked specs: Week 11 bye, Week 9 Thursday game vs. Raiders, two games indoors, two games on turf, one game with opponent coming off a bye week (vs. Giants, Week 10).
Sked notes: The 49ers have a difficult road ahead. They'll begin at Minnesota, the first of four road games in six weeks before a prime-time tilt at home against the Rams in Week 7. Back-to-back home matchups versus the Raiders and G-Men before their Week 11 bye could be time to get right, but then they'll play back-to-back roadies against the Bucs and Seahawks before a three-game homestand that includes the Broncos and Seahawks. Their road game at the Rams is nicely tucked into Week 17, keeping that ugly matchup out of Fantasy leagues that go 16 weeks. Hopefully you consider all of this before you target Jerick McKinnon or reach for Jimmy Garoppolo.
Seahawks projected opponents defensive ranks -- Run: 30th | Pass: 29th
Sked specs: Week 7 bye, Week 11 Thursday game vs. Packers, two games indoors, 10 games on turf, one game with opponent coming off a bye week (vs. Chargers, Week 9), Week 6 road game in London vs. Raiders.
Sked notes: Seattle is one of three teams to open the season with back-to-back weeks on the road — but the team won't go through that scenario again for the rest of the year. Week 1 at Denver and Week 5 at home versus the Rams are really the only tough opponents this offense will face in the first eight weeks. Things change starting in Week 9 — even though the Seahawks will play six home games in the final nine weeks, most of their remaining opponents carry tough defenses, especially against the run. Perhaps that won't annoy you as it relates to Russell Wilson, but it could make for a massive second-half slump for ballyhooed rookie Rashaad Penny.