At the beginning of the year, one of the most meaningless statistics we tend to pore over for hours are strength of schedule statistics. Trying to predict which teams are good or bad at the beginning of the year, mainly using last year’s statistical information, more often than not is an exercise in futility. In the NFL, change is the norm. There is a 50% turnover each year when it comes to playoff teams. Among league offenses, the top 5 in yards per play include the Washington Redskins (1st), Denver Broncos (3rd), San Francisco 49ers (4th), and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5th). Last year, those 4 teams finished 20th, 25th, 23rd, and 16th respectively. On defense, the Vikings are currently 4th in the league in yards per play allowed, after finishing 19th last year. And even more to the point, last year’s 2nd rated defense against the run was the Ravens, a defensive powerhouse for years. However, this year, the Ravens are 30th in rushing yards allowed per game, and only the Bills have allowed more rushing TDs.
But now we are halfway through the NFL regular season, and more than halfway through our fantasy football regular season. With an entire half-season’s worth of plays and statistics to analyze, we have an ample amount of ammunition to firmly decide whom we should bench or start on a weekly basis, as well as whom we should target in a trade, and whom we should be looking to sell.
Of course, this information is all relative. It’s safe to say at this point that Adrian Peterson is back to being one of the 2 or 3 best RBs in the game. Just because the Dolphins rushing schedule is a lot easier than the Vikings the rest of the way doesn’t mean that I’d condone trading Adrian Peterson straight up for Reggie Bush. The same holds true with Larry Fitzgerald, who owns a very difficult schedule the rest of the way, and Dez Bryant, who has a very favorable schedule. I think the schedule should mainly be used as a tie-breaker between two similar players, as well as a good predictive indicator as to which players in the top tier will continue to separate themselves, and which in the 2nd and 3rd tier can provide 1st or 2nd tier production based on the upcoming matchups.
The way that you can use stength of schedule information in fantasy is two-fold. If you are currently battling for the playoffs, then your best bet is to put an emphasis on a player’s total schedule from here through the rest of the season. However, if your team is currently 6-2 or better, it may be best to simply focus on playoff schedule, and using that information to fine tune your roster in anticipation of making the playoffs.
Rest of Season Strength of Schedule
3. St. Louis
-The three teams that stand out here are Indianapolis, Carolina, and Washington. If you have any concerns about Andrew Luck moving forward, don’t. If you own Luck and Tom Brady, for example, and need to make a dramatic, Home Run-level push, it may be wise to find a team with a poor QB situation and see if you can use Brady to improve the rest of your roster. In the same vein, if you need a QB, perhaps you can make a push for Cam Newton, who has a favorable schedule the rest of the way, and just put up big numbers against Chicago. Remember, real life value doesn’t always equal fantasy production. As for Robert Griffin III, while the schedule is tough, I’m not expecting a huge drop off. That said, you probably have him paired with another good QB anyway, so in a yearly league, if you have Griffin and Matt Ryan, it may be wise to at least send out feelers around the league to see what you could get for Griffin, and if that would help your team enough to justify a move.
4. Green Bay
5. St. Louis
-Darren McFadden has been a bit of a disappointment so far, but there’s a chance for a turnaround, making him a nice relative buy low candidate. Willis McGahee, Rashard Jennings, and Reggie Bush also make for nice values the rest of the way, and taking stock in either Jonathan Dwyer or Rashard Mendenhall could also be a wise move if you’re desperate. As for Adrian Peterson and Matt Forte, both are certainly capable of out-performing their schedule. I wouldn’t look to sell either player, but if you can get full value for them, depending on your team’s needs, it may not be a bad play.
4. St. Louis
5. San Diego
-There are lots of options I love here. First of all, don’t expect Atlanta to drop off offensively any time soon. If you have Julio Jones or Roddy White, hold and enjoy the rewards. In Philly, take advantage of any owner who’s listening to all of the QB talk. Fact is, whether Michael Vick or Nick Foles are under center, it shouldn’t matter too much. There will be production available for both Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson, making both excellent options at their buy-lowest point. And buying is exactly what I’d be doing on Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, Steve Smith, and Denarius Moore. Of those, Moore has become my favorite, as he’s been remarkably consistent this year, combined with the fact that he’s one of the most explosive threats in the league. He could very well be a top 10 WR the rest of the way. Larry Fitzgerald and Brandon Marshall are the two that stand out when it comes to an unfavorable schedule, but both are matchup nightmares for teams. Fitzgerald in particular has struggled a bit more this season than we’re used to seeing, but I think both will remain very good options despite their challenging schedule.
2. Green Bay
5. New England
-Especially if Nick Foles takes over, Brent Celek remains a nice sleeper the rest of the way. While I would worry about Brandon Pettigrew and Jared Cook, I’m not too concerned, obviously, about Tony Gonzalez nor Rob Gronkowski. Perhaps their production dips a little, but neither player should be discounted at all. However, if there’s someone who still believes that Aaron Hernandez is a top 5 TE moving forward, now may be a good time to unload him.
Playoff (Week 14-16) SOS
1. St. Louis
4. New York Jets
5. Tampa Bay
1. New York Giants
2. New York Jets
5. Tampa Bay
3. Kansas City
4. Tampa Bay
5. St. Louis
3. Green Bay
3. San Diego
5. New England
2. San Francisco
1. San Diego
3. New England
1. Kansas City
Week 9 Waiver Wire Picks-
QB- Nick Foles- if you’re a Vick owner, even if he’s now your backup, grab Foles if you have the room on your roster. He will likely have some decent value based on his schedule should he ultimately end up with the job.
RB- Jonathan Dwyer- Wouldn’t be a shock if he keeps the job, even when Mendenhall is healthy. First Pittsburgh back since Willie Parker in 2008 with back-to-back 100 yard efforts.
WR- Cecil Shorts III- I mentioned him last week, and he had 8 for 116 against GB, with 22 targets over the past 2 weeks. Get him!
WR- Ryan Broyles- 3 for 37 and a TD against Seattle. 2 TDs in 2 weeks.