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Fantasy Football Strength of Schedule Swings
David Dorey
July 31, 2013
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Schedule Swings considers what defenses actually allowed last year and then applies it both to last year (to see how truly easy or tough a schedule was) and this year. And then it compares the two to show how much tougher a schedule is or isn't. Bottom line - if a schedule is roughly the same strength as last year and no other dynamics are at play, then a player should end up about the same. If a player had a big 2012 but his schedule was far easier than this year, then he's most likely due for a downgrade. And if a player excelled against a bad schedule in 2012 and now has a great one, man - grab that guy.

Without making this all excessively complicated, you can view here what each defense/venue allowed per game in 2012 and how each one was a relative advantage or disadvantage.

Applying those values against the 2012 schedule for each team yielded this view of last year.

Actual Schedule Advantage of 2012

QB's RB's RB + Rec. Pts WR & TE WR & TE + Rec Pts
ATL 16.2 PIT 18.9 TB 33.2 ATL 35.1 NYG 53.8
CAR 14.2 HOU 18.6 KC 31.2 DEN 32.3 DAL 50.6
TB 12.6 NE 18.0 PIT 29.0 DAL 31.6 DEN 49.3
DEN 11.6 TB 16.1 DEN 18.5 NYG 31.4 ATL 44.3
NO 7.1 KC 13.9 SD 17.7 CAR 27.7 CAR 40.1
IND 5.3 CLE 8.9 OAK 17.3 TB 26.2 IND 35.2
OAK 2.6 NYG 8.9 NO 16.9 NO 23.6 NO 30.3
DAL 1.5 IND 8.4 WAS 16.2 IND 20.2 TB 29.7
NYG -2.5 OAK 8.0 CLE 15.6 OAK 18.1 CIN 29.1
BAL -3.0 WAS 6.0 HOU 15.0 BAL 15.4 OAK 29.0
GB -4.9 CHI 5.2 NYG 13.0 CIN 10.9 JAC 24.1
WAS -5.4 SD 5.0 DAL 10.2 JAC 10.0 NYJ 23.5
CIN -6.0 MIA 4.8 ATL 9.3 GB 7.3 BAL 23.0
HOU -7.1 DEN 4.4 NE 8.7 HOU 5.5 TEN 22.5
KC -10.5 NO 1.1 PHI 5.5 CLE 3.5 GB 20.2
NYJ -11.1 DET 0.6 IND 3.6 TEN 2.0 HOU 19.9
MIN -12.1 DAL 0.1 CHI 2.4 PIT 2.0 MIN 15.4
JAC -12.1 ATL -1.0 MIA 1.0 NYJ 1.2 STL 9.7
PHI -13.1 NYJ -1.9 CAR 0.9 MIN 0.3 CLE 6.7
STL -14.2 PHI -2.4 DET -1.8 PHI 0.2 PHI 6.2
TEN -14.4 BUF -3.4 BUF -5.4 STL -2.2 NE 2.9
PIT -14.5 TEN -4.6 NYJ -5.6 WAS -6.7 PIT 2.4
CLE -16.0 CAR -8.1 CIN -9.1 KC -10.4 DET -1.8
SF -16.7 CIN -8.1 JAC -9.2 BUF -11.2 ARI -2.1
ARI -16.9 SEA -8.3 SF -9.9 SD -12.1 SF -3.6
DET -18.5 JAC -10.3 GB -10.7 CHI -13.1 CHI -3.9
SD -19.2 SF -12.7 SEA -10.8 NE -13.4 KC -8.1
CHI -19.7 GB -15.0 TEN -10.8 DET -13.4 WAS -8.8
BUF -20.3 STL -15.1 ARI -12.6 SF -14.2 SEA -11.7
SEA -22.1 ARI -15.7 STL -16.9 ARI -15.5 BUF -13.1
NE -22.4 MIN -24.3 MIN -18.7 SEA -20.4 MIA -23.7
MIA -23.2 BAL -27.0 BAL -23.4 MIA -22.4 SD -24.9

While a prolific offense will roll up points on a defense and be a part of making them be a good defense to face, they can only affect the opposing defense for two of 16 games (12.5%). So this really is an accurate measure of what each offense faced last year whether or not they took advantage of it. If a team persevered despite a tough schedule, that is impressive. If a team faltered and yet had an easier schedule, that's as disappointing as it gets.

2012 - The Actual Advantages and Disadvantages

Remember - the numbers above show how many points away from average the schedule was for each position.

Quarterbacks -As it worked out, the top six quarterbacks schedules saw big years from each of the players. Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Andrew Luck all show up as elite quarterbacks anyway and had an easier time in 2013. As happens nearly every year, Tom Brady gets a terrible schedule but still succeeds but the rookie Ryan Tannehill played like he had the worst schedule. Most of the lowest rank teams had sub-par play from their quarterbacks.

Running Backs - Arian Foster ended up with big stats but while he had a favorable schedule, he still did not really shine so much as he just was given a tremendous workload. Doug Martin made the most out of a schedule that already was favorable but the Steelers never found a back that could do much despite having the best schedule of anyone.What is beyond remarkable is that Adrian Peterson passed 2000 rushing yards and yet the defenses he faced ended up being one of the toughest collections of anyone. Ray Rice fell back from a brilliant 2012 but was still better than his schedule.

Receivers - A mirror of sort of the quarterback schedules saw the same teams represented for their schedule against receivers. The ATL, DEN, DAL and NYG receivers all had good to great seasons. Miami and San Diego had the worst schedule and their receivers played like they were not better than their opposition. Receiver strength of schedule is hard to rely on anyway given the variety of how teams employ their receivers.

Forecasted Schedule Advantage for 2013

QB's RB's RB + Rec. Pts WR's WR + Rec Pts
DAL 16.2 NYJ 21.1 NYJ 28.8 NYJ 37.0 NYJ 68.6
NYJ 12.2 SF 19.9 SF 26.0 KC 25.3 GB 40.0
DEN 10.4 BUF 19.5 BUF 24.8 PHI 25.2 KC 39.1
KC 6.6 ARI 14.3 ARI 20.4 DAL 24.7 DAL 37.6
CAR 5.9 NE 11.2 MIA 17.7 DEN 23.2 NE 33.4
ATL 2.8 MIA 8.5 JAC 14.3 GB 17.8 PHI 33.4
NYG 1.5 JAC 8.3 NE 12.4 OAK 14.6 ATL 27.7
PHI -1.0 TB 6.4 ATL 11.5 NE 14.0 CAR 25.7
SD -1.5 DEN 4.4 TB 11.4 ATL 12.6 CIN 23.9
OAK -1.9 ATL 4.2 PIT 10.6 SD 12.5 DEN 21.5
CHI -2.2 KC 4.0 KC 8.5 CAR 12.4 MIN 20.8
SEA -4.3 HOU 3.2 CAR 7.3 NYG 11.3 CHI 20.3
WAS -6.7 CIN 3.0 DEN 7.1 STL 7.7 SD 18.7
NE -6.9 PIT 2.2 NO 5.5 CHI 7.2 NYG 18.0
GB -7.6 CAR 1.6 SEA 4.4 WAS 7.1 STL 14.1
TB -7.6 TEN 0.9 TEN 1.0 MIN 6.1 SEA 12.0
MIA -12.8 SEA 0.3 HOU 0.5 SEA 5.8 TB 11.4
SF -13.2 OAK -0.2 CIN 0.3 TB 3.6 PIT 10.7
HOU -14.0 NO -1.9 MIN -1.2 JAC 3.0 WAS 10.3
IND -14.2 SD -3.6 SD -1.2 CIN 1.6 HOU 7.1
STL -14.4 IND -5.3 DAL -1.7 PIT -3.4 OAK 6.7
JAC -14.8 CLE -6.7 OAK -1.9 HOU -5.0 JAC 4.4
CIN -15.5 MIN -7.2 GB -5.0 SF -5.3 SF 3.8
ARI -16.5 STL -7.4 WAS -5.3 BAL -5.3 BAL 3.6
BAL -17.8 GB -8.7 STL -5.7 CLE -9.0 CLE 3.4
CLE -19.2 DAL -9.4 IND -5.8 MIA -9.2 IND -3.8
MIN -19.8 WAS -12.6 CLE -6.3 IND -9.3 NO -4.3
PIT -20.2 NYG -14.0 PHI -6.7 DET -13.8 MIA -5.9
NO -20.5 CHI -14.7 CHI -9.4 NO -15.8 ARI -9.1
BUF -22.2 PHI -17.5 NYG -11.5 ARI -16.9 DET -10.6
DET -22.4 DET -19.6 DET -14.2 BUF -19.1 BUF -18.6
TEN -27.7 BAL -19.6 BAL -18.7 TEN -24.4 TEN -23.7

2013 - The Projected Advantages and Disadvantages

Quarterbacks - This season has an unusual amount of "negative" quarterback schedules which is just the way it works out with week 17 cut off and so many near the middle. Only the extremes matter anyway and that gives Tony Romo, Peyton Manning and even Alex Smith at least a minor advantage over most quarterbacks. Not so for Jake Locker and

Running Backs - Interesting to see that Chris Ivory has a great rushing schedule even if the rest of the Jets offense may not be a lot of help. The AFC East gets the easier running back schedules that will help out Ivory, Stevan Ridley, C.J. Spiller and Lamar Miller. Frank Gore may not carry quite as heavy a load but at least he should have a decent YPC when he does. Doesn't look as good for Ray Rice but he had a bad one last year as well. The NFC East draws the worst running back slate that should hamper DeMarco Murray, Alfred Morris, LeSean McCoy and Reggie Bush.

Receivers - The best overall schedule goes to receivers of the Packers, Cowboys and Chiefs. The Jets have a light one as well but may not be able to take advantage. As with quarterbacks, the receivers are going to face a more daunting schedule for the Titans, Bills and Cardinals.

Schedule Swings

What we want to do is take what we already know about a player and apply how his schedule strength is changing from the previous season. The bottom line to evaluating a player is less about the strength of his schedule and more about how much harder or easier his schedule will be this year. That is more reflective of how his performance may change. You know what he did in 2012 - how does that schedule compare to 2013?

Fantasy Points
Team Swing 2013 2012 Team Swing 2013 2012
NYJ 23.3 12.2 -11.1 GB -2.6 -7.6 -4.9
SEA 17.8 -4.3 -22.1 JAC -2.7 -14.8 -12.1
SD 17.8 -1.5 -19.2 CLE -3.2 -19.2 -16.0
CHI 17.5 -2.2 -19.7 DET -3.8 -22.4 -18.5
KC 17.1 6.6 -10.5 OAK -4.6 -1.9 2.6
NE 15.6 -6.9 -22.4 PIT -5.6 -20.2 -14.5
DAL 14.7 16.2 1.5 HOU -6.9 -14.0 -7.1
PHI 12.2 -1.0 -13.1 MIN -7.8 -19.8 -12.1
MIA 10.4 -12.8 -23.2 CAR -8.3 5.9 14.2
NYG 4.0 1.5 -2.5 CIN -9.6 -15.5 -6.0
SF 3.5 -13.2 -16.7 TEN -13.3 -27.7 -14.4
ARI 0.4 -16.5 -16.9 ATL -13.5 2.8 16.2
STL -0.2 -14.4 -14.2 BAL -14.8 -17.8 -3.0
DEN -1.2 10.4 11.6 IND -19.5 -14.2 5.3
WAS -1.3 -6.7 -5.4 TB -20.2 -7.6 12.6
BUF -1.8 -22.2 -20.3 NO -27.5 -20.5 7.1

Quarterbacks

Biggest Positive Swings

Mark Sanchez
Russell Wilson
Philip Rivers
Jay Cutler

Each year it seems that the biggest swings merely go to players who had a very bad schedule last year and now get an average one. Russell Wilson may avoid the sophomore slump. Both Rivers and Cutler are learning all new schemes and an easier slate of opponents can only help. The best swings are probably for Tony Romo (average to very good) and the Jets quarterback who probably won't take any advantage regardless which player ends up under center.

Biggest Negative Swings

Drew Brees
Josh Freeman
Andrew Luck
Joe Flacco

Brees has long been better than any schedule though he normally has no worse than average playing in the NFC South. Freeman goes from a pretty soft slate to one of the toughest. The likely most telling is Luck with a worse schedule and a new offense and Joe Flacco losing Anquan Boldin and much of his defense with one of the most negative schedules this year.

No Reception Points With Reception Points
Team Swing 2013 2012 Team Swing 2013 2012
SF 32.6 19.9 -12.7 SF 36.0 26.0 -9.9
ARI 30.0 14.3 -15.7 NYJ 34.4 28.8 -5.6
NYJ 23.0 21.1 -1.9 ARI 33.0 20.4 -12.6
BUF 22.9 19.5 -3.4 BUF 30.2 24.8 -5.4
JAC 18.6 8.3 -10.3 JAC 23.6 14.3 -9.2
MIN 17.1 -7.2 -24.3 MIN 17.5 -1.2 -18.7
CIN 11.1 3.0 -8.1 MIA 16.8 17.7 1.0
CAR 9.6 1.6 -8.1 SEA 15.2 4.4 -10.8
SEA 8.6 0.3 -8.3 TEN 11.8 1.0 -10.8
STL 7.6 -7.4 -15.1 STL 11.3 -5.7 -16.9
BAL 7.3 -19.6 -27.0 CIN 9.4 0.3 -9.1
GB 6.4 -8.7 -15.0 CAR 6.4 7.3 0.9
TEN 5.5 0.9 -4.6 GB 5.7 -5.0 -10.7
ATL 5.3 4.2 -1.0 BAL 4.7 -18.7 -23.4
MIA 3.6 8.5 4.8 NE 3.7 12.4 8.7
DEN 0.0 4.4 4.4 ATL 2.2 11.5 9.3
NO -3.0 -1.9 1.1 IND -9.4 -5.8 3.6
NE -6.8 11.2 18.0 NO -11.3 5.5 16.9
OAK -8.2 -0.2 8.0 DEN -11.4 7.1 18.5
SD -8.6 -3.6 5.0 CHI -11.8 -9.4 2.4
DAL -9.5 -9.4 0.1 DAL -11.9 -1.7 10.2
TB -9.8 6.4 16.1 PHI -12.2 -6.7 5.5
KC -9.9 4.0 13.9 DET -12.4 -14.2 -1.8
IND -13.7 -5.3 8.4 HOU -14.5 0.5 15.0
PHI -15.1 -17.5 -2.4 PIT -18.3 10.6 29.0
HOU -15.4 3.2 18.6 SD -18.9 -1.2 17.7
CLE -15.6 -6.7 8.9 OAK -19.3 -1.9 17.3
PIT -16.6 2.2 18.9 WAS -21.5 -5.3 16.2
WAS -18.7 -12.6 6.0 TB -21.8 11.4 33.2
CHI -19.9 -14.7 5.2 CLE -21.8 -6.3 15.6
DET -20.2 -19.6 0.6 KC -22.7 8.5 31.2
NYG -22.9 -14.0 8.9 NYG -24.5 -11.5 13.0

Running Backs

Biggest Positive Swings

Frank Gore
Rashard Mendenhall
Chris Ivory
C.J. Spiller
Maurice Jones-Drew

Frank Gore gets the best swing and it is from pretty negative to a very positive schedule. But he's older and more likely to share as well as be used less in the early season to save him for what should be a playoff run. Rashard Mendenhall seems to show up at the right time in Arizona but remember the state law there that outlaws having an effective offensive line or a healthy tailback.

Chris Ivory and C.J. Spiller both have the most intriguing positive swing. Ivory gets to be a primary back for the first time but will be limited by the offense around him. Spiller shined last year, gets a new coach that wants to run him more and goes from an average schedule to one of the best ones. That should help so long as he remains healthy. Adrian Peterson gets an average schedule instead of a bad one but he has already proven to be immortal and outside the realm of physics as we know it.

Biggest Negative Swings

David Wilson
Jamaal Charles
Trent Richardson
Doug Martin
Alfred Morris
Darren McFadden

David Wilson takes over in New York though he will share with Andre Brown and goes from a mostly positive slate of games to below average. Jamaal Charles has a big negative swing but he is still well in the positive and comes off one of the best schedules for anyone last year to just a decent one in 2013. Same goes for Doug Martin, Trent Richardson and Alfred Morris who enjoyed easier schedules than most and not have about average opponents overall. Maybe the most troubling is that Darren McFadden and Ryan Matthews both had very nice rushing schedules in 2012, took no advantage and now get a tougher slate of matchups.

No Reception Points With Reception Points
Team Swing 2013 2012 Team Swing 2013 2012
NYJ 35.8 37.0 1.2 KC 47.2 39.1 -8.1
KC 35.6 25.3 -10.4 NYJ 45.1 68.6 23.5
NE 27.4 14.0 -13.4 SD 43.6 18.7 -24.9
SEA 26.3 5.8 -20.4 NE 30.5 33.4 2.9
PHI 25.0 25.2 0.2 PHI 27.2 33.4 6.2
SD 24.6 12.5 -12.1 CHI 24.2 20.3 -3.9
CHI 20.3 7.2 -13.1 SEA 23.6 12.0 -11.7
WAS 13.8 7.1 -6.7 GB 19.8 40.0 20.2
MIA 13.2 -9.2 -22.4 WAS 19.1 10.3 -8.8
GB 10.5 17.8 7.3 MIA 17.7 -5.9 -23.7
STL 9.9 7.7 -2.2 PIT 8.4 10.7 2.4
SF 8.9 -5.3 -14.2 SF 7.3 3.8 -3.6
MIN 5.9 6.1 0.3 MIN 5.4 20.8 15.4
DET -0.4 -13.8 -13.4 STL 4.4 14.1 9.7
ARI -1.4 -16.9 -15.5 CLE -3.3 3.4 6.7
OAK -3.5 14.6 18.1 CIN -5.2 23.9 29.1
PIT -5.4 -3.4 2.0 BUF -5.5 -18.6 -13.1
DAL -6.9 24.7 31.6 ARI -7.0 -9.1 -2.1
JAC -7.0 3.0 10.0 DET -8.8 -10.6 -1.8
BUF -7.9 -19.1 -11.2 HOU -12.9 7.1 19.9
DEN -9.2 23.2 32.3 DAL -13.1 37.6 50.6
CIN -9.3 1.6 10.9 CAR -14.5 25.7 40.1
HOU -10.5 -5.0 5.5 ATL -16.7 27.7 44.3
CLE -12.5 -9.0 3.5 TB -18.3 11.4 29.7
CAR -15.3 12.4 27.7 BAL -19.4 3.6 23.0
NYG -20.1 11.3 31.4 JAC -19.6 4.4 24.1
BAL -20.7 -5.3 15.4 OAK -22.3 6.7 29.0
ATL -22.4 12.6 35.1 DEN -27.8 21.5 49.3
TB -22.6 3.6 26.2 NO -34.6 -4.3 30.3
TEN -26.4 -24.4 2.0 NYG -35.8 18.0 53.8
IND -29.5 -9.3 20.2 IND -38.9 -3.8 35.2
NO -39.4 -15.8 23.6 TEN -46.2 -23.7 22.5

Wide Receivers

Biggest Positive Swings

Jeremy Kerley/Braylon Edwards
Dwayne Bowe
Danny Amendola
Sidney Rice/Percy Harvin
DeSean Jackson/Riley Cooper
Danario Alexander/Vincent Brown
Brandon Marshall/Alshon Jeffrey

Strength of schedule applies the least to receivers so other than a true extreme may not really mean that much in either direction. The Jets have the look of a bad offense again this year despite getting a great schedule for literally all positions. What is nice to see is that the receivers from Kansas City, New England, Seattle, San Diego and Chicago all swung from a below average schedule to a reasonably above average slate of matchups.

Schedules are always a lesser concern for receivers than the variables of changes in scheme and coaches, depth chart positions, etc. Dwayne Bowe and Brandon Marshall seem the most likely to enjoy an easier schedule and yet both are part of the new installation of an offense by all new coaches.


Biggest Negative Swings

Kenny Britt
Reggie Wayne
Victor Cruz/ Hakeem Nicks
Marques Colston
Wes Welker/Demaryius Thomas

While it is really hard to rely on the receivers with the positive swings making a notable difference, it is more likely a factor for those who are getting notably worse schedules - particularly for the primary receiver. The way it works out this year is very unusual.

Other than the Titan receivers, all of those with the biggest swings are just coming off great schedules last year and now going more to having just an average schedule strength. Add in that the Colts, Giants, Saints and Broncos all have some of the best quarterbacks in the league who will play better than their schedule anyway. Mostly this makes the Titans passing effort look rather unattractive as if it needed any help with that.


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