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Does Strength of Schedule Matter in Fantasy Football?

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Does Strength of Schedule Matter in Fantasy Football?

Depending on who you ask, Strength of Schedule (SOS) is either meaningful or meaningless. There doesn’t seem to be much gray area among the experts. Yet each season articles abound on the impact of SOS on seasonal outcome, and of course, the fantasy implications…if there are any. I believe the truth lies somewhere in the middle, as it most often does.

Strength of Schedule not tough enough for the Steel Curtain

Strength of Schedule not tough enough for the Steel Curtain

–Who SOS Hurts–

Last season the Pittsburgh Steelers had the worst schedule, yet they won the division and their sixth Super Bowl title. However, the Steelers are a great team, so this is not too surprising.

The Miami Dolphins, on the other hand, surprised everyone with their division-winning turn around. The fins benefited last season from a decent schedule, and the loss of Tom Brady from their division rival, New England Patriots. In 2009, Miami has the toughest schedule (statistically) and Brady is back. Their first three games are against Atlanta, Indianapolis and San Diego. They also have to face the Steelers and Titans’ defenses this year. Miami will most likely struggle to be a .500 team this season. This means fantasy hopefuls like Ronnie Brown and Ted Ginn, Jr. are going to likely have a tougher go of producing this season. This hurts Brown most because a losing team plays from behind, meaning they have to forego the ground game for the air. So weak teams with tough schedules have to pass more, and run less.

Will Schedule hurt Matt Ryan's and Michael Turner's fantasy production in 2009?

Will schedule hurt Matt Ryan and Michael Turner's fantasy production in 2009?

The Atlanta Falcons are in much the same boat as the fins. Sophomore QB Matt Ryan faces a more daunting schedule than last season, so from a fantasy perspective Michael Turner will see fewer touches in losing games, and guys like Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez will see more looks.

The Carolina Panthers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Buffalo Bills are three other teams whose fantasy production will be affected. DeAngelo Williams will struggle for double digit TDs this season, Marshawn Lynch will struggle as well, and the Bucs three-headed RBBC already makes their ground game a fantasy mess. Players I think will do well are the Panther’s Steve Smith, the Bill’s Terrell Owens and Lee Evans, and Kellen Winslow in Tampa.

–Who SOS Helps–

On the flipside, teams that benefit from the 2009 SOS are Chicago, Minnesota and Green Bay. The Chicago Bears‘ defense which was already pretty solid moves up a couple of notches. Add in new QB, Jay Cutler, and the fantasy ramifications for all the Bears' receivers is positive. Running backs Matt Forte and Kevin Jones will also see more time eating up the clock when the team is in the lead.

The Minnesota Vikings who are the third ranked defense already, should see more fantasy production in 2009 on turnovers, sacks, and fewer points allowed. Add Brett Favre to the offense and the second best SOS and Percy Harvin, Bernard Berrian, Sidney Rice and Vinsanthe Shiancoe should all be moved up a bit in your draft rankings.

Aaron Rodgers had a statistically attractive first season helming the Green Bay Packers in 2008. Unfortunately it didn’t translate to many wins. With a full year of experience under his pads, an improved defense, and a lighter schedule, the Pack look to be divisional contenders in 2009. I see fantasy improvement for Rodgers, RB Ryan Grant, WRs Greg Jennings and Donald Driver, and sleeper potential for WRs Jordy Nelson, James Jones and TE Jeremichael Finley. I think Rodgers will have close to 40 TDs this season and over 4000 passing yards.

The Steelers go from a Super Bowl team with the toughest schedule in 2008, to one of the easiest in 2009. This should mean improved fantasy production all around, but most obvious, the already dominating defense of the modern Steel Curtain is going to smother other teams this season. Super Bowl title number seven could be on the way.

2008 Strength of Schedule

2009 Strength of Schedule

Team

Opp. 2007 Winning %

2008 Record

Outcome

Team

Opp. 2008 Winning %

1. Pittsburgh Steelers

.598

12-4

Won Super Bowl

1. Miami Dolphins

.594

2. Indianapolis Colts

.594

12-4

Wild Card

2. Carolina Panthers

.592

3. Jacksonville Jaguars

.559

5-11

  3. New England Patriots

.590

4. Baltimore Ravens

.551

11-5

Wild Card

4. Atlanta Falcons

.588

5. Minnesota Vikings

.551

10-6

Won Division

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

.580

6. Cincinnati Bengals

.547

4-11-1

  6. Buffalo Bills

.570

7. Cleveland Browns

.547

4-12

  7. New York Jets

.568

8. Houston Texans

.547

8-8

  8. New Orleans Saints

.557

9. Detroit Lions

.543

0-16

  9. Philadelphia Eagles

.535

10. Tennessee Titans

.543

13-3

Playoffs

10. New York Giants

.527

11. Chicago Bears

.531

9-7

  11. Dallas Cowboys

.516

12. Green Bay Packers

.531

6-10

  11. Jacksonville Jaguars

.516

13. Dallas Cowboys

.523

9-7

  13. Indianapolis Colts

.512

14. Washington Redskins

.523

8-8

  14. Tennessee Titans

.508

15. New York Giants

.520

12-4

Playoffs

15. Houston Texans

.506

16. Philadelphia Eagles

.520

9-6-1

Wild Card

16. Washington Redskins

.492

17. St. Louis Rams

.488

2-14

  17. Kansas City Chiefs

.484

18. San Francisco 49ers

.484

7-9

  17. San Diego Chargers

.484

19. Seattle Seahawks

.477

4-12

  19. Denver Broncos

.480

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

.469

9-7

  19. Oakland Raiders

.480

21. Arizona Cardinals

.465

9-7

Lost Super Bowl

21. Detroit Lions

.467

22. Carolina Panthers

.465

12-4

Won Division

22. Cincinnati Bengals

.465

23. Miami Dolphins

.465

11-5

Won Division

22. St. Louis Rams

.465

24. Atlanta Falcons

.461

11-5

  24. Seattle Seahawks

.457

25. New York Jets

.457

9-7

  25. Cleveland Browns

.449

26. Kansas City Chiefs

.453

2-14

  26. San Francisco 49ers

.443

27. Buffalo Bills

.449

7-9

  27. Arizona Cardinals

.441

28. New Orleans Saints

.449

8-8

  28. Baltimore Ravens

.438

29. Denver Broncos

.445

8-8

  29. Pittsburgh Steelers

.434

30. Oakland Raiders

.438

5-11

  30. Green Bay Packers

.428

31. San Diego Chargers

.422

8-8

Won Division

31. Minnesota Vikings

.420

32. New England Patriots

.387

11-5

  32. Chicago Bears

.414

In 2008, back-up QB, Matt Cassell stepped in for the injured Tom Brady and the team looked quite good, going 11-5 on the season. Fortunately for Cassell and the team, they had the easiest schedule of all 32 teams last year. Cassell’s fantasy value has been over-hyped going into 2009, and I pegged him as a bust. So far he has done nothing to prove me wrong. Cassell used the hype to get his own starring role for the Kansas City Chiefs. So far an injury has hurt his playing time, and the Chief’s are a woeful team anyway. But Cassell is an example of how SOS turned an average performer into a fantasy viable QB.

Strength of schedule is not something to focus a lot of fantasy attention on, but it can impact certain players and teams to some degree. Don’t base your draft on it, but if you’re sitting there with the third pick in the draft and you can’t decide between Forte or Turner, SOS would suggest Forte has more upside this season. If you’re drafting defense/special teams, you might bypass loftier names like the Giants and Ravens and take a shot with the Packers or Bears.

Here is all of top fantasy football rankings.

QB

RB

WR

TE

DEF

IDP

Top 100

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