Filtered Strength of Schedule Rankings: Opposing Pass Defense

Josh GalliganCorrespondent IAugust 14, 2008

Welcome to the second part of the Filtered Strength of Schedule Rankings. If you haven’t read part one, these rankings will allow you to assign a filtered, position-specific value to a team based on the quality of the run or pass defenses they will be playing that year.

Then you can apply it to all of the applicable players and voila, you have yet another statistic to give you an edge come draft day.

I took last season's performance into account, as well as offseason pickups, departures, and rookie signings and then ranked the pass defenses into tiers. Once that was done, I assigned a point value to each tier level and then plugged in that number into every team’s schedule.

What I got, besides feeling like I was in elementary school again, were the rankings you will soon read. First off though, the tier rankings.

(No points) Tier Eight - The Tempurpedic-Secondary Tier

Detroit Lions, Buffalo Bills, Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons

(1 point) Tier Seven - The Tendency-To-Cause-Pass-Happiness Tier

New Orleans Saints, Chicago Bears, St. Louis Rams, Cincinnati Bengals

(2 points) Tier Six - The Works-In-Progress/Regress Tier

Minnesota Vikings, Houston Texans, Kansas City Chiefs, Cleveland Browns

(3 points) Tier Five - The Required-To-Be-An-Optimist Tier

Baltimore Ravens, Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers

(4 points) Tier Four - The Solid-Pass-Defense-But-With-Questions Tier

Miami Dolphins, Carolina Panthers, New England Patriots, San Diego Chargers

(6 points) Tier Three - The Assuredly-Pesky Tier

New York Giants, Green Bay Packers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys, Tennessee Titans

(8 points) Tier Two - The Hazardous-To-Your-Passing-Game Tier

Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Jets

(10 points) Tier One - The Shutdown-Pass-Defense Tier

Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Indianapolis Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers

Since we already started with tiers, I decided to take a left turn (to the run defense SOS’s right) and rank the difficulty of the schedules with tiers as well. The last article was extremely long, so I tried to shorten the analysis a bit this time around. I’m afraid I wasn’t too successful, though.

The tiers are listed below, followed by the teams within it, and then a list of players that the schedule may affect the most in the real world and, in turn, the fantasy world.

Players with question marks next to their names may prove to be controversial but remember, it is all speculation. Capping everything off is a quick blurb about each team because I just couldn’t resist.

Enough jibber-jabber. The schedule rankings (from difficult to easy):

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Tier Six - Incredibly difficult

Cincinnati Bengals, Baltimore Ravens, San Diego Chargers, Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans

Players the schedule may affect the most: Derek Anderson, everyone in the Ravens' passing attack, Chris Chambers, Antonio Gates (?)

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals' offense is just too potent to warrant downgrading any of them. Besides, they had one of the toughest passing-defense schedules last year and ended up just fine.

Baltimore Ravens

It’s highly likely that whomever starts for the Ravens between Kyle Boller and Troy Smith will not end up doing too well, considering the team's schedule. Although, many were leaning towards that conclusion before taking the schedule into account.

San Diego Chargers

Say what you want about Philip Rivers (I sure have), but he had one of the toughest schedules last year in regards to the passing defenses he faced.

Cleveland Browns

Derek Anderson shrunk in the spotlight at the end of last year and failed to impress when facing teams with quality pass defenses. Luckily for us (and maybe Brady Quinn), we’ll see his true colors in the first two games of the year, which are against the Cowboys and Steelers, respectively.

Houston Texans

The Texans were another team with one of the toughest pass-defense schedules in the NFL last year. Three of Matt Schaub’s nine starts came against top passing defenses. Taking that into account, along with the fact it was his first full year as a starting QB, helps put things into a better perspective. Trying to throw the running game into the equation? Not as much success.

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Tier Five - Above-average difficulty

Dallas Cowboys, Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, Tennessee Titans, Atlanta Falcons, Pittsburgh Steelers

Players the schedule may affect the most: Tony Romo (?), Jason Witten, Brodie Croyle, everyone in the Falcons' passing attack, whomever wins the Patriots' WR3 job

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys had one of the easiest pass-defense schedules in the league last year, yet Tony Romo still managed to throw 19 interceptions. How much of his 4,000+ yards and 36 TDs were influenced by the secondary’s he faced? Note: There isn’t an actual answer to that question.

Kansas City Chiefs

An incredibly interesting thing to note about Brodie Croyle: All of his six starts that he lost came against a top-tier passing defense. The Broncos, Colts, Raiders, Broncos, Titans, and Jets. Maybe we should cut the kid a break? Who’s with me?

New England Patriots

The Patriots had a marginally difficult schedule against passing defenses last year, although you wouldn’t have known it by watching them play. The only teams that were able to stay on close to the same level with them were the Jets and Dolphins, both late in the season.

With Jason Taylor’s departure likely to send ripples through the secondary, the Jets' pass defense stands as the only one in the division that can challenge the Patriots' passing attack.

Tennessee Titans

Fact: Vince Young didn’t have a very good year last year. Fact: Seven of his 15 starts came against top-10 passing defenses. Fiction: Young had a suitable group of receivers to throw to during the aforementioned starts. Fact: I love fact and fiction breakdowns. Hmm, interesting.

Atlanta Falcons

Reports out of Atlanta suggest that the Falcons are planning on throwing Matt Ryan to the dogs his rookie season, a la Peyton Manning. Barring a rookie season for the ages, expect a steep learning curve for Matty Ice.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers find themselves with a few more games against high-quality passing defenses this year than in the last. However, they also find themselves with a more balanced and well-rounded offense heading into the season. As long as Ben Roethlisberger can stay off his motorcycle, the Steelers' passing offense should be just fine.

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Tier Four - Not too bad/Average schedule

New York Giants, Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars, New Orleans Saints, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Seattle Seahawks

Players the schedule may affect or benefit the most: Eli Manning (affect), Trent Edwards (benefit), Lee Evans (benefit), David Garrard (benefit), Jay Cutler (benefit)

New York Giants

Believe it or not, Eli Manning actually had one of the easiest passing-defense schedules last year. You wouldn’t have known it by looking at his 23/20 TD-to-interceptions ratio from last year, however.

To be fair, brother Peyton didn’t improve in the aforementioned ratio until his sixth year in the league. I guess the Manning’s see no uniforms, just football players early on in their career. That is, until they finally come to the realization that it would behoove them not to do that. I guess we’ll see if Eli makes the leap in that department this year.

Buffalo Bills

Not only did then-rookie-QB Trent Edwards impress the Bills enough to get a firm grip on the franchise QB role, he also did so against a pretty difficult schedule. Four of his 10 starts were against a top-10 passing defense, and the remaining six weren’t what you could call a cakewalk either.

Going into his second year and now well established in his offense, we could see Trent Edwards have a very successful year against what appears to be a glass-half-full type schedule.

Jacksonville Jaguars

A strong case could be made for the Jaguars' possession of the single, toughest schedule last year, passing-wise. Nine of the team’s 16 games were against top pass-stopping units, and seven of those were started by breakout QB David Garrard.

Unless last season was a complete mirage, Garrard’s impressive performance last year has solidified his role as the Jaguars new leader and an ultra-safe fantasy selection.

New Orleans Saints

The Saints didn’t get off to a very good start last year but eventually finished strong in vintage 2006 Saints fashion. With everyone all healed and the exciting, if a bit enigmatic, with Jeremy Shockey now at tight end, the Saints are primed to strike fear in the hearts of opposing defenses yet again this year.

The glue that holds it all together could easily be stripped should the team be bitten by the pesky injury bug yet again this season.

Denver Broncos

Not only did Jay Cutler progress leaps and bounds in 2007, he did so while being challenged by one of the 10 toughest passing defense schedules of last year.

While there are still some tough games on tap for the offense this year, Cutler has proven that he has the skills and intelligence to prepare and execute his offense, despite facing such challenging opposition.

Detroit Lions

The Lions find themselves in a similar boat as they were in last year, with the yearly schedule. With everyone and their plumber agreeing that the Lions will drop-off in the wake of Mike Martz’s departure, the passing game remains largely the same.

Although the offense thrived under Martz, Kitna surely believes he can keep it going. Hey, at least the guy shoots for the moon. Fore if you miss, then you shall end up in the stars, drifting through space with minimal oxygen.

Seattle Seahawks

The fact that they have a favorable passing schedule in 2008 is probably the only good thing to happen to the Seahawks all year long. Poor things. Deion Branch and Bobby Engram, arguably the teams top two receivers, are out for significant periods of time with injuries.

Shaun Alexander is gone, with his better days eclipsed by his sudden and unexpected falloff. Luckily for the Seahawks, they have a promising young group of wide receivers ready to step up and fill the Seahawks (and perhaps your fantasy teams?) needs.

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Tier Three - Fairly easy

Chicago Bears, Oakland Raiders, Washington Redskins, Arizona Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, Philadelphia Eagles

Players that may benefit the most from the schedule: Whomever wins the Bears' starting QB job (?), JaMarcus Russell, Javon Walker, Jason Campbell, Redskins coach Jim Zorn, Matt Leinart, Marvin Harrison, Peyton Manning

Chicago Bears

An easy schedule against passing defenses is far outweighed by the fact that the Bears don’t have anyone to cash in on it. Weird, that hasn’t happened before. Oh wait..

Oakland Raiders

With the biggest knock against the Raiders' offense being JaMarcus Russell’s learning curve, the fact that the team has an easy schedule for him to learn to throw against is definitely a plus.

If Javon Walker can bounce back and Justin Fargas was indeed the real deal, then this could be a halfway decent offense. Please note the term halfway decent and apply it to your fantasy team as you wish.

Washington Redskins

It’s common sense to say that an easy schedule is a good thing when a team is learning a new offense. It’s also a good thing when the QB that runs the offense is in a make-or-break year that will help determine whether or not the team will move in a different direction.

Players have a tendency to play to the best of their ability when their career is on the line. Funny how that works...

Arizona Cardinals

While I wouldn’t recommend drafting him unless you were in a dynasty/keeper league, or a sociopathic risk-taker, Matt Leinart is in the best possible position to succeed. Never mind that his receivers are Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, but the schedule is the best it may ever be for him.

Also, Edgerrin James likely won’t be around and/or productive for much longer after this year.

Indianapolis Colts

With questions being posed of Marvin Harrison’s status everywhere but Indiana, the fact that the Colts have such a favorable schedule can only help what many are predicting will be Harrison’s imminent demise.

If he can stay healthy, there’s really no reason that he can’t play close to his former form. Don’t fall into the traps of all the doomsayers. For the obligatory Peyton Manning reference, Manning will have more time to kill with a softer schedule, which will leave him with more free time.

He can then use that to make the commercials we all know and love to curse aloud about. That’s my last Peyton/commercial joke for a while, I promise.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles will have a similar schedule to last year, which was, of course, Brian Westbrook’s season for the ages. It also saw a healthy bounce-back year from Donovan McNabb. All in all, it’s good news for all involved, as long as they can all fend off the injury bug.

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Tier Two - Incredibly easy

Carolina Panthers, Minnesota Vikings, Miami Dolphins, St. Louis Rams, Green Bay Packers

Players that may benefit the most from the schedule: Jake Delhomme, Steve Smith, Tarvaris Jackson, Chad Pennington, Marc Bulger’s ribs, Aaron Rodgers

Carolina Panthers

It always helps to have an easy schedule when your passing attack is going to be led by a QB who just had offseason surgery on his elbow. With Delhomme getting up there in years, and his elbow certain to play a major role in his ability to throw the ball, many have been iffy about him, due to the health concerns.

However, with the easy schedule, the return of Muhsin Muhammad, and the mere presence of Steve Smith, the Panthers are a successful Tommy-John surgery away from returning to 2004 status.

Minnesota Vikings

With Bernard Berrian giving the Vikings' offense a threat to take a bit of attention off of Adrian Peterson, the team is perhaps a Tarvaris-Jackson-learning curve away from the Super Bowl. The schedule isn’t likely to hinder his progression, and if he can improve upon his game like he’s shown he could, then 2008 might be the year that the Vikings become a serious contender.

Then again, the trendy offseason sleeper picks always seem to find a way to underachieve in spite of all the hype. So there’s that.

Miami Dolphins

Chad Pennington won’t be near the top of any QB ranking lists. That much is certain. But I can’t help but shake the feeling that the Brett Favre saga has severely overshadowed the fact that Chad Pennington is perfectly capable of being an effective QB when he’s healthy.

Facing such an easy bunch of pass-defense teams this year (especially when compared with what he faced last year), Pennington very well could go on and have a surprisingly good year. Never underestimate a man with something to prove.

St. Louis Rams

The Rams had a tremendously easy schedule last year, but it didn’t really matter. Marc Bulger didn’t have his starting RB or a serviceable-at-best offensive line for nearly all of 2007.

With nothing but his arm and quick judgment to rely on, Bulger could have been playing against the Little Giants and still probably had some trouble. With everyone now healthy, and Stephen Jackson sure to return, eventually (seriously, what is the Rams front office trying to accomplish exactly?), Bulger will be able to take advantage of the cupcake of a schedule the team has this year.

Green Bay Packers

With all of the hubbub of the Brett Favre soap opera and all of the parties involved, not a lot of people have noted that Aaron Rodgers finds himself with quite a first-year schedule to play through.

Even if it was brought up, it would likely be replaced with breaking news detailing what Favre had for lunch at Camp Mangini that day. Ew, tuna fish?

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Tier One - Creampuff

New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Players that may benefit the most from the schedule: Brett Favre, Jerricho Cotchery, Laveranues Coles, Mike Martz’s offense, Jeff Garcia, Joey Galloway

New York Jets

Is it a coincidence that the two teams Brett Favre was choosing between had the easiest and third-easiest schedules against passing defenses in the NFL? Maybe I’m over thinking things here, but it’s worth throwing out there.

San Francisco 49ers

Mike Martz finds himself in charge of the NFL’s worst offense of last year. On the other side of things, they have the easiest passing-defense schedule, second only to our final team. It will be interesting to see which extreme will prevail over the other. Perhaps somewhere in the middle?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Who cares if Jeff Garcia is 62-years old? With a creampuff schedule for the second year in a row, Garcia will have every opportunity to exhibit his fountain of youth yet again this coming year.

Fantasy-wise though, I’d say it’s maybe best to admire such an event from afar rather than banking on it for the sake of your team. Such a decision could result in several broken appliances.


Missed Part 1: Opposing Run Defense? Then click here.

[Originally posted at Football Crack]


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