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2021 NFL Schedule Winners & Losers (Fantasy Football)

May 13, 2021

Each year, NFL fans from all over the world look forward to the schedule release. It’s always fun to look up and down the schedule and predict your team’s wins and losses or be excited for a stretch of “easy” games your squad will face. Fantasy football players take this a step further and think about which teams have the best or worst schedule for their skill guys. It’s not a perfect exercise considering how much defenses can change every year. However, the goal isn’t to be 100% accurate, but rather to mention which schedules have a solid chance of being either great or awful for fantasy production. Read on below to see what our featured pundits think about the 2021 schedule from a fantasy perspective.

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Q1. Which notable player has favorable matchups in 2021 and should see a boost in value?

Najee Harris (RB – PIT) 
“We only want to look at the first five weeks of the schedule because the strength of schedule won’t look as predictable after that. Harris is someone who stands out as a clear winner, as he’ll play against the Bills (a team that’s had some issues stopping the run under Sean McDermott), Raiders, Bengals, and Packers over the first four weeks of the season. He should be a locked-and-loaded RB1 right out of the gate.”
– Mike Tagliere (FantasyPros)

Najee Harris will be getting the workload from snap one and he doesn’t have a whole lot standing in his way in terms of top run defenses over the first 10 weeks of the season. Fresh legs and a hot start could make him a tremendous value in drafts and get you set up with a winning record as you head into that playoff push. He’s looking like a clear candidate to be drafted as an RB2, but finish as an RB1.”
– Joe Pisapia (FantasyPros)

Jalen Hurts (QB – PHI) 
“Hurts’ polarizing fantasy value received an enormous boost after the NFL gifted Philadelphia with the easiest schedule based on opponents’ records last year. In the three games he started and finished last season (Weeks 14-16), the 22-year-old was the QB3 thanks in large part due to his 79.3 rushing yards on 12.7 attempts per game. The second-year quarterback out of Alabama starts the season strong against an Atlanta defense that allowed a fifth-worst 398.4 yards per game in 2020 followed by San Francisco, Dallas, Kansas City, and Carolina. Hurts’ rushing potential combined with an easy schedule could lead your team to fantasy glory in 2021.”
– Jacob W. Dunne (New Life Fantasy)

D.J. Moore (WR – CAR) 
“Moore has some fantastic matchups right out of the gate. With Terrace Marshall and Robby Anderson both in town, there’s a strong possibility that the Panthers move Moore into a full-time slot role in this offense. With Sam Darnold’s propensity for targeting slot receivers, Moore could be in for a big season. Add in the fact that he plays the Jets in Week 1 and then the Texans and Cowboys in Weeks 3 & 4, Moore could go nuclear right out of the gate.”
– Kyle Yates (FantasyPros)

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

Joe Mixon (RB – CIN) 
“The Mixon hype train came to a screeching halt following the release of the Bengals’ schedule. The 24-year-old kicks off the season against a Vikings defense getting back DE Danielle Hunter followed by away games at Chicago and Pittsburgh, both of whom allowed the second and third LEAST rushing yards at home in 2020, respectively. Looking ahead to the fantasy playoffs (Week 15-17), Mixon has to travel to Denver in Week 15 before welcoming a Baltimore team that allowed just 101.3 total rushing yards a game in 2020 (sixth in NFL). The fifth-year back out of Oklahoma has a decent matchup in Week 17 against Kansas City, but fantasy managers will have a tough time getting to that point with Mixon’s tough in-season and playoff schedule.”
– Jacob W. Dunne (New Life Fantasy)

Devin Singletary (RB – BUF) | Zack Moss (RB – BUF) 
“Not that you should’ve been attacking Bills running backs in fantasy, but if you’re thinking that maybe they’re a good value, you might want to re-think that. Over the first three weeks of the season, they’ll play against the Steelers, Dolphins, and Football Team. Those are three of the top teams against the run from 2020. We already had enough concerns with their lack of touches/consistency, so feel free to let someone else draft them.”
– Mike Tagliere (FantasyPros)

Josh Jacobs (RB – LV) 
“Jacobs’ schedule to begin the season is absolutely brutal. With the downgrade of the offensive line, plus the addition of Kenyan Drake to this backfield for big money, Jacobs was already someone I was hesitant to draft. With Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Miami, Indianapolis, Tampa Bay, Denver, and Philadelphia on the schedule to start the year, I just might be completely out on Jacobs for fantasy purposes in 2021.”
– Kyle Yates (FantasyPros)

Michael Thomas (WR – NO) 
“Thomas has some really tough CB matchups the first few weeks including Jaire Alexander and Stephon Gilmore. Drew Brees is gone. The Saints’ QB situation is a mystery. This does not scream ‘hot start’ for Thomas, but he could be an interesting buy low a month or so into the season.”
– Joe Pisapia (FantasyPros)

Q3. For the fantasy playoffs (Weeks 15-17), which notable player jumps out as having a particularly easy schedule?

49ers Skill Players
“The clear answer here is all 49ers offensive skill players, right? For Weeks 15-17, they’ll get the Falcons, the Titans, and the Texans, all of which are secondaries that do not have a ton of pure talent on their roster and very little reliable depth. George Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, Trey Sermon, etc. could help carry your fantasy roster to a championship.”
– Kyle Yates (FantasyPros)

“The 49ers get the Falcons, Titans, and Texans the final few weeks of the season. Obviously, a lot can change between Week 1 and Week 15, so I typically put very little stock looking this far ahead. However, The Texans and Falcons specifically have very little chance of looking like a strong defensive opponent at any time in 2021.”
– Joe Pisapia (FantasyPros)

Jonathan Taylor (RB – IND) 
“Taylor has a tremendous fantasy playoff schedule, facing New England, Arizona, and Las Vegas, respectively, all of which ranked inside the top 10 in rushing yards allowed in 2020. The 22-year-old finished as the RB4 as a rookie last season, totaling 1,169 yards and 11 touchdowns through 15 games. He put an exclamation mark on his phenomenal season, rushing for 253 yards on 30 carries in Week 17 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The second-year back out of Wisconsin comes into 2021 as the unquestioned starter on a Colts team with the ninth-easiest schedule in the league. Draft Taylor in the first round with confidence knowing he has an easy path to the fantasy championship.”
– Jacob W. Dunne (New Life Fantasy)

Trevor Lawrence (QB – JAC) 
“The most important thing is getting to the championship, and to get there in Week 17, you need to win in Weeks 15 and 16. In those two games, Lawrence will be playing against the Texans and Jets, two of the weakest defenses in the NFL. The rookie has a relatively easy schedule overall, so you might want to select him with one of your late-round picks.”
– Mike Tagliere (FantasyPros)

Thank you to the experts for giving us their thoughts on their NFL schedule winners and losers. Be sure to give them a follow on Twitter and subscribe to our podcast below for advice all year round.

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