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2017 NFL Schedule: Winners & Losers (Fantasy Football)

Apr 21, 2017

The Falcons had a prolific offense and their schedule sets up nicely for another productive season

The NFL schedule is available and we couldn’t wait to start breaking it down. By Thursday afternoon, calendars around the country were being marked up with NFL matchups we couldn’t wait for. Equally important is the fantasy impact that some of these matchups may have. While it may be early, and yes, analyzing the schedule before the NFL Draft even takes place can be questionable, it doesn’t mean there’s nothing to learn from it from the start.

You can’t tell me that the NFL Draft is going to fix every hole in the 49ers run defense, now is it? The point is, we can look to certain matchups or weeks, and analyze timeframes to get an idea of how you may be able to help your fantasy season. Consider the importance of weeks 14-16 when fantasy playoffs occur. You’re not going to draft your team solely on that factor, but you shouldn’t ignore it either. Whether you’re a strength of schedule doubter or believer, we’ve reached out to the pundits below to get an early look into how things could shake out come September.

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Q1. Which notable player has favorable matchups in 2017 and should see a boost in value?

Russell Wilson (QB – SEA)/Cam Newton (QB – CAR)
“When incorporating strength of schedule into player selection, I don’t want to get focused too far down the line. The NFL is filled with variance, so I generally focus on the opening month and where I project teams to be. To start the season, I love the openings for bounce back candidates inRussell Wilson and Cam Newton. Wilson opens with many secondaries I project to struggle in GB, SF, IND, TEN and LAR. Carolina really doesn’t have many roadblocks at all the entire way and open with the 49ers, Bills, and Saints. I’d also say that the Arizona (DET, IND, DAL, SF) and Atlanta (CHI, GB, DET, BUF) offenses have very favorable opening months. A guy like Carson Palmer could be a great late round QB target to get your season started and a guy like John Brown is set up to return value on his current cost now that he’s contained his sickle cell issue and is over an overall injury filled 2016.”
Rich Hribar (The Fake Football)

“We have already crunched the numbers and figured out the strength of schedules for all the fantasy positions. And the numbers are positive for Cam Newton to have a rebound season. He has the second easiest schedule for fantasy quarterbacks. Newton was a bust last year but has the potential to turn things around in 2017 with a favorable schedule for scoring.”
Jeff Paur (RTSports)

John Brown (WR – ARI)
“The one that struck me as fantastic was John Brown, who not only appears to be over his sickle cell issue, but has a phenomenal schedule. The only team that he’ll play with notable cornerbacks include the Seahawks (just once in Week 10), Jaguars (Week 12), and Giants (Week 16). Playing the Giants in championship week isn’t ideal, but Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson also attract plenty of attention, leaving Smokey one-on-one. ”
Mike Tagliere (FantasyPros)

A.J. Green (WR – CIN)
“Understand that we know far less about the schedule than we think we do at this point. If it were this easy to predict which teams would be good and which would be bad, there wouldn’t be a city in the middle of the desert with a skyline of multi-billion dollar casinos set against the mountains. The Bengals, however, seem to have a favorable schedule, and that will have me looking at A.J. Green as a first-round pick again this season.”
Michael Beller (Sports Illustrated)

Andrew Luck (QB – IND)
“If you agree with most observers, the whole AFC South has it pretty easy season. Largely because they get to beat up on one another, and while I’d like to feature some bounceback Jaguars in this space, it’s hard to miss that the Colts get the #1 and #2 overall draft pick owners at home while the Jaguars will face them on the road. This bodes well for Andrew Luck, whose offensive line picked up over the 2nd half of 2016 and who is reportedly healthy… as they all are at this stage of the season.”
Jon Collins (Fantasy Sports LR)

Michael Thomas (WR – NO)
“With 4/40 in all 15 games played (tied for most such games with OBJ and Mike Evans), Thomas finished as a top-10 fantasy WR with Brandin Cooks on the roster. With Cooks no longer in NOLA, Thomas has a top-five schedule this year with ATL/NYJ/ATL in the fantasy playoffs, all plus matchups. Thomas should be poised for a huge step forward in his sophomore campaign.”
Kevin Hanson (EDSFootball)

Q2. Who is a player facing a difficult schedule that fantasy owners should be aware of?

Ezekiel Elliott (RB – DAL)
“It’s a bit of a challenge to assess the strength of schedule at this stage, but while defenses change, one variable won’t – travel. The Dallas Cowboys have two road apiece games against both the NFC and AFC West and will draw generally assumed to be tough run matchups in all of those contests. Add to that the fact that Dallas’ line has more question marks than we’re used to at this stage of the season and that Ezekiel Elliot carries an ADP of #3 overall, and he may be hard pressed to deliver value. I’d still take him in the first round, but owners leaping to take him with the earliest of picks might find higher upside options.”
Jon Collins (Fantasy Sports LR)

Dak Prescott/Dez Bryant (DAL)
“Again, just looking at the front portion of the schedule, I am very curious to see how Dallas comes out of the gates this season. They were a hyper-efficient offense and Dak Prescott will draw the Giants followed by two road games at Denver and Arizona, three teams that limited fantasy production a season ago and project to be just as solid in 2017. A guy like Dez Bryant is going to see some really great cornerback play out of the box and Dallas struggled to do much in the pass game versus the Giants in 2016. The Lions also have a rough outlook before their Week 7 bye, with Arizona, the Giants, the Vikings and the Panthers occupying four of their opening six games. Detroit has been a very opponent driven offense over the past two seasons for fantasy, so that opening is far from inviting for what is currently a one note offense.”
Rich Hribar (The Fake Football)

Carlos Hyde (RB – SF)
“I think many were down on Carlos Hyde even before the schedule was released, but I’m moving him down in my rankings even more. The 49ers have the toughest schedule overall for fantasy running backs. Hyde already had some questions marks heading into the season and this clouds things even more. Not good.”
Jeff Paur (RTSports)

“Disregarding rumors that Leonard Fournette may be in play for the 49ers at No. 2, Carlos Hyde has fantasy’s most difficult schedule among running backs in 2017 even if there is some optimism for offensive improvement under Kyle Shanahan. The fantasy playoffs will be tough with matchups against the Texans, who will have J.J. Watt back healthy, the Titans and the Jaguars, who signed Calais Campbell in free agency.”
Kevin Hanson (EDSFootball)

Amari Cooper/Michael Crabtree (WR – OAK)
“The Raiders duo of Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree are going to have a tough road in fantasy this year, as they will match up in the division with the Broncos twice, Chiefs twice, and Chargers once (one of their matchups is in Week 17, off the fantasy schedule). On top of that, they’ll play against the Patriots and the Giants later in the season. If you draft them, plan to sell after the first three weeks where they play the Titans, Jets, and Redskins.”
Mike Tagliere (FantasyPros)

New York Jets
“Again, think of the glittering casinos when you think you know what the schedule means in April. There isn’t much to like about the Jets this season, and a seemingly tough schedule makes it even harder to get excited about them. Forget one player. I’m fading the entire Jets team this year.”
Michael Beller (Sports Illustrated)

Q3. For the fantasy playoffs (weeks 14-16), is there a notable player that jumps out as having a particularly easy schedule?

Matt Ryan/Devonta Freeman/Tevin Coleman/Julio Jones (ATL)
“Most are probably high on the Falcons this year and for good reason. They boast one of the top offenses in all of football and play in a favorable conference for fantasy scoring. And their fantasy playoff schedule is really favorable, facing the Saints, Bucs, and Saints once again. You have to feel pretty good about Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman and Julio Jones for posting big numbers in the fantasy playoffs this year.”
Jeff Paur (RTSports)

Matt Ryan, the league’s MVP, faces division rivals (NO, TB and NO again) in the fantasy playoffs and should shred them once again. In four games against the Saints and Bucs last season, Ryan threw for a total of 1,249 yards (312.25/G), 12 touchdowns and no interceptions.”
Kevin Hanson (EDSFootball)

“You didn’t get to play Julio Jones in the fantasy playoffs last year due to injury, but this year, you’re going to get plenty of production. Whenever the Saints and Falcons play, there are bound to be fireworks, and they’ll play each other twice during the fantasy playoffs (Week 14 and Week 16). He also plays the Bucs in Week 15, a team that he crushed for 177 yards and two touchdowns in their two meetings last year.”
Mike Tagliere (FantasyPros)

Marcus Mariota (QB – TEN)
“Remember, we don’t actually know anything about which teams have easy and hard schedules. But I’ll say that knowing nothing, the Titans’ schedule from Week 14-16 doesn’t bother me. I can live with Marcus Mariota and company going up against the Cardinals, 49ers, and Rams in the fantasy playoffs.”
Michael Beller (Sports Illustrated)

Derrick Henry (RB – TEN)
“The Tennessee Titans draw the 49ers, Rams, and Jaguars to close the season, and should be expected to be at least in the playoff conversation this year as they were in 2016. That seems unlikely for any of their opponents. DeMarco Murray should maintain control of this backfield in the year ahead, but if we’re really thinking deep about fantasy playoff value I’d keep an eye on Derrick Henry who could either be forced into action by injury, late season slow down, or simply help in a clock killing role as the season winds down.”
Jon Collins (Fantasy Sports LR)

Drew Brees (QB – NO)
“It’s tough to project what NFL defenses will look like by the time December rolls around, but Drew Brees has been a fairly bankable fantasy option and gets two home games weeks 15 and 16 against the Jets and Falcons that look tasty for him and his passing options. The Falcons appear to be a team with a good bookend schedule as well as their opening month is strong and they draw the Saints twice during the fantasy playoffs. ”
Rich Hribar (The Fake Football)

Thank you to the experts for taking the time and answering some questions, for more great info from the experts, you can follow them on Twitter. Be sure to also check out our updated Strength of Schedule calendar which will be updated shortly.

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