The New 2018 Strength of Schedule: Quarterbacks (Fantasy Football)
How many times have you heard someone on a podcast or in an article dismiss strength of schedule? The same ones who say that will often publish something on strength of schedule, because there are so many people who are looking to get every edge possible. But it becomes a problem when everyone looks at strength of schedule the same way.
While it’s impossible to justify why certain teams have gotten better and apply any measurement as to how it will improve their team’s defense in the following year. Sure, they may have drafted a defensive player, but maybe they have him play out of position, maybe he doesn’t quite fit the scheme, or maybe he’s just a bust. Because of that, we have to throw the idea that we can adjust teams out the window.
Instead, let’s make the traditional strength of schedule better. Remember when Frank Gore finished the 2016 season as the No. 12 running back? Does that mean he should’ve been drafted as the 12th running back off the board? Absolutely not, anyone who played fantasy football can tell you that. That method is exactly what most do for strength of schedule. How many total points did a team allow, rank them among others, apply those ranks to next year’s schedule, and voila, traditional strength of schedule.
Instead of accepting this as a method, I did exactly what I do for fantasy players with “Boom, Bust, and Everything in Between,” (read the process on that here) where I went through every team and added up how many top-12 performances they allowed (based on the BBEIB method), how many top-24, etc. as to how it relates to each position. What this does is remove an outlier performance where a team may have allowed a massive game to a superstar that influenced the overall numbers more than they should’ve. Who knows, maybe they were missing a superstar like Luke Kuechly on defense that week. Whatever the case, this method allows us to see each team’s consistency as it relates to fantasy football and should better project the strength of schedule for 2018. Here’s my list of quarterbacks with their score in my strength of schedule earned.
Quarterbacks with a Great Schedule
Alex Smith (WAS) Score: +6
Moving over to the NFC East may pay off right away for Smith, as he’s got the softest schedule among quarterbacks in 2018. Truth be told, there aren’t too many quarterbacks with gleaming schedules, and Smith gets this spot for being the best of the bunch, as he’ll play just one top-six team from last year, and it’s the Jaguars in Week 15. His season will start with the Cardinals, Colts, and Packers, three teams who were in the bottom-half of the league when it came to quarterback performance. It also doesn’t hurt that he gets the Cowboys and Giants twice, two teams that were in the bottom-six in 2017.
Blake Bortles (JAX) Score: +5
He’s one of just three quarterbacks who doesn’t have a single matchup with a top-three team from last year (Kirk Cousins and Joe Flacco are the others), and he has just one matchup with a top-six team. The top-team he’ll play is the Bills, who by all accounts have lost a lot of their luster this offseason, and that matchup doesn’t even take place until Week 12. It’s very possible Bortles gets off to a hot start, as they’ll open the season with the Giants, Patriots, Titans, Jets, Chiefs, Cowboys, and Texans. Of those teams, just one (Jets) finished inside the top-20 pass defenses from last year, according to my method. Just don’t forget that he’s still Blake Bortles, so it’s hard to know which version you’re getting.
Jameis Winston (TB) Score: +5
The Bucs passing game should be clicking on all cylinders this year, as their schedule features just one matchup that I’d consider brutal, which comes all the way in Week 15 against the Ravens. Outside of that game, Winston doesn’t have a “stay away” matchup on his calendar. Of the highlights on his schedule, he’ll play the Browns in Week 7, the 49ers in Week 12, and then the Cowboys in Week 16. Outside those games, his schedule is pretty neutral, which should allow him to step-up with all of the weapons he’s got in his arsenal.
Quarterbacks with a Bad Schedule
Tom Brady (NE) Score: -7
Not too many quarterbacks recorded a hugely negative score, as the NFL seems to have a good job with a balanced schedule, but Brady scored almost twice as bad as any other quarterback in my method. He’s going to play two games against teams you really want to avoid (Jaguars, Vikings), though neither of them come in the fantasy playoffs. The area that really hurts him is that he gets just one plus-matchup all season, and it comes in Week 1 against a now-healthy Texans defense. There are just three quarterbacks who have just one matchup with a bottom-six team (Tyrod Taylor and Joe Flacco the others), but their schedule doesn’t have the lows that Brady’s does.
Josh Allen (BUF) Score: -4
Let’s be real, you aren’t drafting a Bills quarterback anyway, but this should put the nail in the coffin. Whoever starts for the Bills is going to have it extremely rough out of the gate, and honestly, it should give them an excuse to start A.J. McCarron over Allen. They will play against the Ravens, Chargers, and Vikings to open the season, three matchups you’d ideally stay away from with most quarterbacks. They have to play the Jaguars in Week 12 as well, but again, stay far away from Bills quarterbacks this year.
Ben Roethlisberger (PIT) Score: -3
You see the score of (-3) and it’s not so bad, but the part that stinks is that Roethlisberger is likely to have two games where you absolutely have to bench him. He will play the Ravens twice, but I’m only benching him on the road, as he’s been horrific over the last five years on the road. He’ll also play on the road against the Jaguars in Week 11, so he’ll be an avoid there, too. It’s never a good feeling to invest in a top-12 quarterback and know that you’re going to need to bench him twice by Week 11, so if you’re torn between him and someone else, maybe go the alternate route. It’s also a good time to let you know that two of his first three games are on the road, and that he’ll play two of three fantasy playoff games on the road (at Raiders, at Saints).