2018 Fantasy Football Draft Prep: Ranking the best and worst schedules

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What do you think about when you're getting ready to draft a player to your Fantasy team? You probably remember the good things he did. You might choose a guy from a perennial playoff contender or one of the league's perceived high-scoring teams. Maybe an offseason acquisition helped push you to take him. 

Those are all nice things, but have you ever considered who the player will actually play against? 

Fantasy Football is about the matchups, so outside of the must-start studs we'll never bench, we should account for the easy and tough schedules. Obviously, every player will face some tough matchups as the season rolls on, but if we can weed out the players with easier paths to robust stats from those who will face major challenges, our squads should benefit.

The schedule will never be the main reason why you will or will not draft a player, but it should be part of the process. That's why I have a process to determine the strong and weak defenses across the league, all designed to help all of us win at Fantasy. 

The Methodology 

  • First and foremost, absolutely no stats from 2017, including wins and losses, were used for this data. It's all based on current player personnel, the expectations for the player personnel, defensive schemes and coaches, and of course the makeup of each team's schedule.
  • There are three major elements to a defensive unit -- pass rush, run defense and pass coverage. Each of these elements were graded on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best possible grade. The grades were formed based on talent, depth and coaching staff. The primary means of judging these players were watching them and utilizing Pro Football Focus' grades.
  • My numeric grades were added together to give a cumulative grade for an entire defense. The higher the number, the tougher that defense is expected to be.
  • Next, I plugged these grades into the 2018 NFL schedule, independent of game location, day of game, start time, etc.
  • Slight adjustments were made for teams playing opponents coming off a bye. Over the past two seasons, teams coming off a bye were 38-26 with no discernible edge if they're at home or on the road. A one-point "penalty" was given for each instance.
  • An equally slight adjustment was made for teams playing Thursday night road games. Road teams are 11-19 over the past two seasons when they have only a couple of days to prepare. One exception for 2018: Oakland plays at San Francisco in Week 9, a game that won't require a day of travel for the Raiders, so they weren't penalized, but every other Thursday night road team with a short week had a one-point "penalty" added to their grades.
  • After adding the totals, I had an overall grade that measured the expected strength of schedule for all 32 teams. The higher the number means the tougher the schedule. 
  • Remember, this is a cumulative grade for the opposing defenses these teams are facing, not these team's actual defenses. The rankings below reflect those numbers, with the bolded rankings representing the best schedules and the italicized rankings representing the worst schedules. (In other words, bold is good, italics are bad).
  • And finally, a good schedule is only worth a darn if you have a good enough team to take advantage of it! 

TOTAL VS PASS VS RUN
ARI 28th 27th 29th
ATL t-17th 7th 25th
BAL 21st 22nd 13th
BUF 9th 17th 6th
CAR 12th 10th 17th
CHI t-13th 15th 11th
CIN t-10th 16th 10th
CLE 27th 26th 28th
DAL t-6th 2nd 16th
DEN 22nd 23rd 15th
DET 15th 11th 18th
GB t-10th 18th 7th
HOU 3rd 3rd 4th
IND 20th 20th 14th
JAC 1st 1st 2nd
KC 32nd 32nd 26th
LAC 24th 25th 20th
LAR 23rd 24th 19th
MIA 4th 5th 8th
MIN t-6th 8th 9th
NE 2nd 4th 1st
NO 25th 21st 32nd
NYG t-13th 6th 23rd
NYJ 8th 19th 3rd
OAK 26th 31st 12th
PHI t-17th 12th 22nd
PIT 31st 30th 31st
SEA 30th 29th 30th
SF 29th 28th 27th
TB 16th 14th 21st
TEN 5th 13th 5th
WAS t-17th 9th 24th
Senior Fantasy Writer

Dave Richard has spent nearly his entire career covering the National Football League. Beginning with NFL.com at the boom of the Internet, Richard was that site's first Fantasy Football writer before transitioning... Full Bio

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