Strength of Schedule, and Playoff Strength of Schedule, is not something I think about very much in the summer. The league is too fluid, too random, too quirky. Now that we’re into November and we know a little bit about the strengths of teams, however, maybe it’s time to do a look-ahead. All sorts of caveats will apply, but stay with me.
Below is how I rank the 32 NFL passing offenses with respect to Strength of Schedule for the Fantasy Playoffs. All sorts of disclaimers apply (team strength is a fluid, constantly-evolving thing; I did not adjust for home or away games; the weather cannot be projected months in advance; and fantasy teams with a Week 14 bye won’t care about Week 14 matchups). Season to taste. And yes, Virginia, as always, it’s contextual.
A good schedule might not elevate Dak Prescott much, and a tricky schedule won’t get anyone away from Patrick Mahomes. Yet, anyone who owns Cam Newton or Drew Brees should be excited (ah, the pinball NFC South). And maybe it’s time to quietly see what a Matthew Stafford might fetch in trade.
To make this painfully clear, I am not considering the talent on these offensive squads. I’m not trying to say Joe Flacco is better than Tom Brady. I just like Flacco’s schedule more — whatever that means to you.
To the ranks. It could be a December to Remember in Carolina and New Orleans.
Favorable Passing Schedules
1. Panthers (at CLE, NO, ATL): Cam Newton’s efficiency stats match up with his MVP season.
2. Saints (at TB, at CAR, PIT): Bucs draw is always juicy and they get Pittsburgh indoors.
3. Cowboys (PHI, at IND, TB): Weather-benign slate and the Bucs can escort you anywhere you like.
4. Steelers (at OAK, NE, at NO): One tomato can, then a pair of “keep up” games.
5. Cardinals (DET, at ATL, LAR): Maybe Josh Rosen has a chance, now that new OC has taken the bye week.
6. Raiders (PIT, at CIN, DEN): Trust Gruden and Carr at your own risk.
7. Ravens (at KC, TB, at LAC): Tampa Bay draw pushes them in this tier, but generally not a fun offense.
8. Browns (CAR, at DEN, CIN): At least the offense has a chance with Hue Jackson and Todd Haley mercifully gone.
9. Chargers (CIN, at KC, BAL): Week 16 could be a “first to 40” game.
Middle of the Road Passing Schedules
10. Packers (ATL, at CHI, at NYJ): No guarantees on weather, but it’s a circle of trust passing game.
11. Broncos (at SF, CLE, at OAK): The Week 16 game is the final one of the week; a Christmas Eve present.
12. Texans (IND, at NYJ, at PHI): Deshaun Watson is a wonderful talent, but you wince with every hit he takes.
13. Giants (at WAS, TEN, at IND): The skill players are delightful, but can Eli Manning deliver the ball?
14. Bengals (at LAC, OAK, at CLE): Passing game takes gigantic hit with A.J. Green in limbo.
15. Bills (NYJ, DET, at NE): They could play an Ivy League schedule and you still wouldn’t trust them.
16. Buccaneers (NO, at BAL, at DAL): Seven of their games have gone over the total; most in the league.
17. Titans (JAC, at NYG, WAS): A glass of milk in a league based on dessert.
18. Seahawks (MIN, at SF, KC): Only two Seattle games have gone over.
19. Dolphins (NE, at MIN, JAC): With Adam Gase’s usage matrix at work, starting Dolphins is an exercise in frustration.
20. Jaguars (at TEN, WAS, at MIA): There isn’t one automatic start here, not even the defense.
21. Bears (LAR, GB, at SF): I’m still not sure if Mitch Trubisky is good, but I’m a fan of Matt Nagy.
22. Falcons (at GB, ARI, at CAR): Shed a tear — they draw Buccaneers giveaway in Week 17.
Difficult Passing Schedules
23. Patriots (at MIA, at PIT, BUF)
24. Redskins (NYG, at JAC, at TEN): Offensive line has fallen into a comical number of injuries.
25. Rams (at CHI, PHI, at ARI): Sean McVay can get it rolling against anybody.
26. Eagles (at DAL, at LAR, HOU): I nonetheless like what I’ve seen of Wentz lately and will play Eagles proactively.
27. Colts (at HOU, DAL, NYG): Frank Reich looking like a plus hire.
28. Vikings (at SEA, MIA, at DET): Good things come to those who advance, with Detroit in Week 16.
29. Chiefs (BAL, LAC, at SEA): Andy Reid & Company deserve the “matchup independent” tag.
30. Niners (DEN, SEA, CHI): Home cooking is nice — slate of opponents is not.
31. Jets (at BUF, HOU, GB): Slate bad as is, but there’s also the risk of weather in each game.
32. Lions (at ARI, at BUF, MIN): There’s a ton to fix here. Is Jim Bob Cooter the guy to fix it?