Fantasy Football Strength of Schedule: Quarterbacks
Fantasy football is a lot different than it was even five years ago. Information is more accessible than it’s ever been, so every little detail matters. The slightest edge over the competition can be the difference between winning that fantasy championship and losing it.
So when talking about strength of schedule, it strikes a chord with me because it’s something that’s often overvalued. With that being said, every single detail matters. Yes, even strength of schedule. It’s not the end-all-be-all, but it’s a piece of a very large puzzle. You see, every defense will change year-over-year, which can severely impact results from the previous year, but one thing remains true. There won’t be a defense that went from one of the worst in the league to one of the best in the league overnight. These things take time.
While I loved what the Jaguars did last off-season, I knew that there were a lot of young players and that it requires time to develop chemistry together. Over the first seven games of the season they allowed 28.0 points per game, while allowing 33 or more points three times. They continued to build chemistry between them, and allowed just 22.5 points per game over the next eight games, not allowing a single team to score more than 28 points.
So with that being said, let’s see which players have the best and worst opportunity based on last year’s stats. We’ll be talking about every position in this series, and today we’ll start with the quarterback position. I’ll only focus on the quarterbacks who are worth drafting in standard leagues. It’s also worth noting that we’ll only be focusing on Weeks 1-16. Use this as a determining factor if you’re having a hard time deciding between two players.
Drew Brees (QB – NO)
Not that he needs it, but Brees has the second-best schedule of all the quarterbacks in 2017. There are a lot of questions surrounding whether or not the Saints will focus more on the run with the additions of Adrian Peterson and Alvin Kamara, but the running backs don’t have nearly as friendly of schedule as Brees. One of the biggest caveats of his schedule is that he’ll play the Falcons twice in the fantasy playoffs, a team that allowed 272.9 passing yards per game in 2016. You’d have to go all the way back to 2013 to find the last time the Falcons held Brees below 312 passing yards.
Cam Newton (QB – CAR)
It was a season to forget for Newton in 2016, but was it really much different than usual? After starting his career as a top-five fantasy quarterback in his first three years, he’s now finished as the QB17 in two of the last three years. If Newton struggles in 2017, it won’t be because of his schedule. He will play just two teams (Patriots, Vikings) all season that allowed fewer than 17 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. His season will start with games against the 49ers, Bills, and Saints.
Jameis Winston (QB – TB)
As you can see, it’s a trend with the NFC South quarterbacks having the best strength of schedule among quarterbacks. I’ve been banging the drum for Winston all off-season and the draft only further solidified my love for him as a top-12 quarterback this year. Similar to Newton, he will only see two defenses (Patriots, Vikings) that held opposing quarterbacks to fewer than 17 fantasy points per game. While Newton has an easy start to his schedule, Winston’s playoff schedule is better when he plays the Lions, Falcons, and then Panthers.
Derek Carr (QB – OAK)
This one hurts a bit, but Carr may take a step back in 2017 as he has the worst schedule among all quarterbacks. The second-best game on his schedule is in Week 1 when he plays the Titans who did try to address their secondary with the addition of Adoree’ Jackson in the first round. He’ll play against the Broncos twice, and though he misses them in the fantasy playoffs, he does have to go against the Chiefs in Week 14. Carr is someone who has been a bit inconsistent throughout his first few years, so this may be the excuse you need to avoid him in 2017.
Philip Rivers (QB – SD)
Maybe the Chargers drafted Mike Williams in the first round because they know they’re in a division that shuts down opposing passing games. The Broncos, Chiefs, and Raiders are not teams that you want to play against twice, but Rivers has no choice. The only silver lining is that one of the Raiders games is in Week 17 and he’ll play the Redskins and Jets as two of his playoff games. The question is whether or not you can get to the fantasy playoffs when Rivers plays the Broncos (twice), Chiefs, Giants, Raiders, and Patriots in the first eight weeks of the season. You’re better off not drafting him and then trading for him during his bye in Week 9 if you want him, but it’s important to remember that Rivers has struggled over the back-half of the season for the past few years.
Andrew Luck (QB – IND)
This isn’t one that’d make me stay away from Luck in drafts, but if you do draft him, you’ll likely want to trade him before the playoffs start. He’s got to play against the Broncos in Week 15 and then he’ll travel to Baltimore to play the Ravens in Week 16. At that point in the season, it’ll likely be sub-30 degrees and Luck is an indoor quarterback. Six of his games are against teams that allowed 16 or less fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. This is likely the slight edge needed to take someone like Tom Brady over him, but I still like Luck.