The fantasy football season is quickly approaching, and it's time to get your fantasy football cheat sheets together. Although there is still a lot of time before the NFL season kicks off (IF it kicks off) it's never too early to do your homework. These are just the first round of fantasy football Strength of Schedule and there will undoubtedly be some developments during the offseason that will shake up the rankings.
How the SOS is calculated: Every year when we get together to make our fantasy football positional rankings, projections and cheat sheet we have to take a few variables into mind. We calculate fantasy football strength of schedules for certain players and teams, for example. In years past, we've looked at the average points allowed per position per team to determine whose schedule puts them in position for the most success. This year we will be going one step further, calculating points against averages based on home and away games.
How does this affect the SOS compared to years passed? Take, for example, the Dallas Cowboys who allowed nearly ten more points per game to opposing quarterbacks playing in Dallas. Their secondary must be getting caught checking out the big screen. On the other hand, a team like the Jets was stellar at home, but allowed almost three times as many points to opposing quarterbacks on the road.
As the season progresses, you'll be able to see the change in SOS as we continue to tweak the projections. Players will move in free agency and affect the strength of their respective defenses, and that will also be reflected in the SOS.
Fantasy Football Strength of Schedule: Defense 1.0
A generally good rule of thumb when it comes to choosing a fantasy defense is to go with a team that blitzes often. Teams like the Bears, Jets, Chargers and Giants are generally strong choices for defense because of how often they get to the quarterback.
Sometimes, though, it's just about getting that consistent six points per game from a defense. I would rather have a consistent defense that finishes tenth best than have to worry about my defense actually netting me negative points. So check the strength of schedules, and pick a consistent defense going against low scoring competition.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars looked to the draft to address their second-worst sack total, but the fact is they still have Peyton Manning, Chris Johnson and Andre Johnson in the division. The Jaguars defense has a lot of work to do if they want to become relevant.
2. Tennessee Titans: See #1, but with Maurice Jones-Drew. The Titans will be even worse off if Stephen Tulloch leaves and the Titans can’t find a viable replacement.
3. New York Jets: The Jets have a talented group on defense with a very good defensive mind at the helm, yet they're still inconsistent. The Jets were downright awful on the road last year, and will have to play in Foxboro, Philadelphia and Baltimore this season.
4. Denver Broncos: The Broncos were the worst defense in fantasy football last season and should be equally poor this year. Welcome to the NFL, Von Miller.
5. Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins defense is young and improving every year. They aren’t going to allow a ton of points or yards and their sack count is decent. However, the Dolphins fall victim to playing high scoring offenses all too often, and will have to do it again in 2011.
6. San Diego Chargers: The Chargers defense was surprisingly valuable in fantasy football despite allowing opposing offenses to light up the scoreboard fairly often. The Chargers will have to keep the turnover count up if they want to repeat last year's success, but that should be pretty tough with this schedule.
7. Kansas City Chiefs: Last year the Chiefs' defense benefited from playing low-scoring teams for the majority of their season, and it led to them winning the division. Things won’t be as easy this time around with New England, Pittsburgh, Green Bay and Indianapolis on the schedule.
8. Carolina Panthers: The Panthers have some playmakers on their very young defense, but they are just that: young. Half of the Panthers first eight games are against playoff teams with very good quarterbacks.
9. Oakland Raiders: The Raiders defense was pretty good against the pass, but will likely lose Nnamdi Asomugha via free agency this year. Still, they should stay competitive with some good rookies and Stanford Routt on the roster. The real issue is their run defense, so games against Minnesota, the New York Jets, and Houston won't be easy on the Raiders' defense.
10. Indianapolis Colts: The Colts are in the same boat as the Raiders’ defense. The unit struggles against the run and will have to face Chris Johnson, Jamaal Charles, Arian Foster, Maurice Jones-Drew, Michael Turner and Ray Rice this season. Basically it’s Indy versus the fantasy top 10.
1. Arizona Cardinals: Like with Buffalo, defenses transitioning to a 3-4 are usually taken advantage of. The Cardinals are the exception to that rule. The Cardinals made a former Steelers defensive backs coach their new defensive coordinator and brought in arguably the most athletic defensive prospect in the draft with Patrick Peterson. If they want to be exactly like the Steelers, though, they’ll have to fix the third-worst run defense in the NFL.
2. San Francisco 49ers: You may notice that the NFC West defenses are all facing easier schedules this season, and yes, it's mostly because no one in the division is exactly lighting up scoreboards. Only one team in the division has a defense anyone would call “good” though, and that’s San Francisco. Now, they're just hoping rookie Aldon Smith can save their 15th ranked sack attack.
3. St. Louis Rams: St. Louis blitzes fairly often with Steve Spagnuolo as their head coach, and they drafted maybe the best pass rusher in the draft with Robert Quinn. Quinn’s presence alone should help the rams become a top-15 defense.
4. Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens’ defense showed their age last year, ending the year uncharacteristically ranked 18th in the league. The biggest knock on Baltimore last year was their pass defense, which allowed 22 touchdowns through the air. Rookie Jimmy Smith provides an immediate upgrade.
5. Detroit Lions: The odds are stacked against the Lions offense this year, so at least the defense might get a break. The Lions may have one of the most fearsome defensive lines in football with the addition of rookie Nick Fairley, and they already had the sixth most sacks in football last season.
6. Green Bay Packers: Clay Mathews led the attack for the Packers, who were equally strong in pass rush and pass protection. The run defense is the only unit in real need of help.
7. Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks were torched through the air last season to tune of 33 touchdowns. They also finish the year against some quality quarterbacks, which means abandon ship when the playoffs roll around.
8. Washington Redskins: Without DeAngelo Hall, the Redskins defense would have been the worst in fantasy football, and they won’t get any better when Carlos Rogers departs in free agency. They are getting better at rushing the passer, so there might be some upside here in the right weeks.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Buccaneers have some issues in their secondary, and will have to make adjustments if they want to be competitive in 2010. Ronde Barber is still a very good cornerback at age 36, but the Bucs will likely have to deal with a suspension to Aqib Talib. The defensive line is young and athletic, and it will be even more interesting to see how Da’Quan Bowers performs this year.
10. Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons need to find quality defensive line help this offseason and their win now mentality tells us they will go after a big name. The Falcons could be a top-10 defense this year.