It’s never easy to look at strength of schedule for a whole season based on past performance, as teams change personnel and are always looking to strengthen a weakness. But, we’re in the fantasy football business and when drafting a player for a full season, we want to consider as many factors as possible.
Instead of looking directly at 2019 statistics, I’m going to assess defenses based on 2019 and my perception of how they did in the offseason. It won’t be close to an exact science, but nobody believes science nowadays anyway.
Best passing schedules
Mayfield’s SOS won’t look great due to facing the Steelers and Ravens four times, but after those teams, he should have a much easier time of things and will have a much improved offensive line to work with. The Browns also have the fifth easiest schedule based DraftKings Sportsbook win totals. They start off in Baltimore Week 1, but after that they play vs. Bengals, vs. Washington, at Cowboys, vs. Colts, at Steelers, vs. Raiders, vs. Texans, vs. Eagles, at Jaguars, at Titans, vs. Ravens, at Giants and at Jets to finish, with the Steelers in Week 17, which is irrelevant for fantasy. That schedule gives the Browns passing game the easiest matchups based on pass defense efficiency according to Sharp Football Stats.
Philip Rivers, Indianapolis Colts
Rivers gets a nice start to the season, but be wary of his second half matchups, including a matchup with the Steelers in Week 16 or as we call it, fantasy championship weekend. But, to start, Rivers and the Colts play at Jaguars, vs. Vikings, vs. Jets, at Bears, at Browns, vs. Bengals, at Lions and then a bye. If Rivers can take advantage of this easier part of the schedule, he could be a prime bye week trade candidate.
Nick Foles, Chicago Bears
I have little faith in Nick Foles or the Bears offensive line, but, their schedule against pass defenses looks good to start the season. They start out at Lions, vs. Giants, at Falcons, vs. Colts, vs. Buccaneers, and at Panthers. After that it gets dicier, but that is the start I’d want my passing fantasy pieces to have. I doubt I can get on the Foles train for fantasy, but in 2QB leagues, he makes for a decent grab late while Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller both should have a leg up to start the season.
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
Much like the Browns, the Steelers schedule against pass defenses looks good, as they take on the AFC South and NFC East and don’t have to play themselves in the division! The same can be said for Lamar Jackson, but Roethlisberger is more dependent on passing numbers than Jackson. We know Jackson will supplement his passing stats with rushing stats, making him a surefire offensive force no matter the matchup.
Poor passing schedules
Daniel Jones, New York Giants
Jones put up a few monster games last season and could take a step forward in his development this season, but he will need to get by a tough schedule. The first four matchups are just brutal, as they play vs. Steelers, at Bears, vs. 49ers and at Rams. Things do get easier after that, as they would have to, but they also face the Ravens in Week 16, giving you plenty of reason not to play him in your championship game even if he went on a tear after that tough start.
Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans
Watson is a plus starter despite his schedule, but his team will need to stay healthy for him to keep his Top-3 status intact, which might not be easy. We know that Will Fuller hasn’t been able to stay on the field for a whole season and new receiver Brandin Cooks is one concussion away from a prolonged absence while DeAndre Hopkins is in Arizona playing for the Cardinals. Add those questions to a schedule that starts at Chiefs, vs. Ravens, at Steelers, vs. Vikings, then later games against the Packers, Patriots and Bears, and there is some peril in taking Watson with an early pick.
Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
Allen ups his fantasy numbers with rushing touchdowns, but there’s a chance those decrease with A.J. Dillon in the fold. But, even if Allen’s numbers on the ground stay strong, he’s going to be a tough quarterback to roster when we near the fantasy playoffs. Starting in Week 12, the Bills play vs. Chargers, at 49ers, vs. Steelers, at Broncos and at Patriots in Week 16. If we’re going by fantasy points scored against these teams by quarterbacks, each team was in the Top-9.