UNMASKING FANTASY FOOTBALL 1.1- Real Strength of Schedule

When the "professionals" compose their "Strength of Schedules" they properly take into account the prior year, however they do so to a fault. For each passing year in the NFL, you can throw out the prior year's successes and failures because each year truly yields different teams. There are few examples of successful rosters which managed to stay together for a couple years in a row and even less which operated the exact same manner.  As much as teams change internally, they adapt to the ever changing teams around them. Because of the immense level of talent in the NFL, the margin between wins and losses is almost unnoticeable. This is more so the case in today's NFL where parity rules supreme; teams rise from the ashes as quickly as fall from the podium.

 And now, without further interruption... I present the "Real" Strength of Schedule

My SOS is designed to help move players up and down my war-room draft boards accordingly. The information below is my first run at the SOS and things will change a bit until the beginning of the season. A couple injuries or Free Agent signings will alter things. I did include Favre with the Vikings...(moderate improvement :)

RULE #3: You'll hear about the hot teams and trendy picks. There is some merit however you will need to convince yourself.  By looking at things through the SOS, you can make a strong case as to why a player or team should expect success, or not.

Rather than overwhelm everyone with rankings and stats, I'll note some of my initial observations:

1) Miami Dolphins:

On paper, Miami is regarded as having one of the, if not the, hardest schedules. My SOS shows Miami having the 10th hardest schedule, close to 11,12, and 13 which puts them just outside midway. For all rankings, they are in that similar range with nothing alarming. Most notable is that they have the 10th hardest schedule against the rush. This concerns me with the question marks in the center of our defense, mainly at the nose.  Overall, don't let the hype get to you because Miami is really in control. Also, because of the parity you can expect many of the "best" teams from 09 to slip some. (ATL, IND, PIT, NE, etc) The schedule is not as hard as advertised and Miami really controls its own destiny in 2010.

2) Team Rankings:  Notables include: 

A) Washington's Offense is close to top and they have the 10th easiest schedule VS defenses.  Campbell may have his breakout year after all and look for Portis to rebound strong.

B) San Francisco is actually peeking into the top ten for both Offense and Defense. Their SOS shows that they have the 9th easiest schedule and that the Offenses they face are the 9th easiest. If SF can play some defense and if Gore can return to form, there may be some truth in SF making a playoff push! It doesn't even matter who is playing QB because this is a run first team and you're gonna be hard pressed to stop em'.

C) Green Bay also popped in around #10, with surprise strength in defense. Considering their move to a 3-4, I don't see the switch as having much of a backlash as it would because of their talented personel. SOS suggests that they have the 5th easiest schedule against Offenses and are 11th overall.  Hmm, don't sleep on Green Bay. Ryan Grant needs to earn his paycheck this year.  

D) NO is worthy of note because like Washington, they have a top 10 offense playing against a weak defensive schedule. This could be Reggie Bush's real opportunity to be a full-time contributor.  They only problem with NO is that there mediocre defense is facing some tough offenses.. End result = Shoot Outs!!

E) San Diego's offense is also set for another big year against weak defenses. Look out for Vincent Jackson to have a very strong year. LT worries me, but Sproles has proven valuable.

F) CHI, BAL, PHI and MIN all have solid run defenses. They are all facing poor rushing offenses this year. That says a lot right there. BAL and MIN will cash in with their pass rush ability. CHI and PHI will battle the pass all year long.

3) Easiest Schedules:

A) Cleveland and Kansas City both have "easy" schedules. If either team can show more than improvement on paper you could see 8-8 or even 9-7 from these guys. Cassell is stepping into a perfect situation as KC faces some easy defenses against the pass.  Look out for Bowe to explode this year, and don't sleep on Larry Johnson. When he played last year, he played well- real well.  I am more concerned about Cleveland, expecting them to go with Quinn. He'll be on a learning curve and you can't expect too much more from Jamal Lewis VS 8 in the box.

B) Each year we see the mighty fall- PIT, PHI and BAL may not have to worry. They also have "easy" schedules and that is a big concern for the league.  A favorable schedule may help Flacco survive his sophomore year. A favorable schedule may also help Willie Parker stay healthy.  Philly could end up the class of the NFC East after the smoke clears. McNabb is a great 2nd or 3rd round QB as he falls for some reason every year on draft boards.

4) Hardest Schedules:

A) Some mighty teams are in trouble. ATL, DAL, and ARZ to name a few. Everyone is predicting Ryan to have a sophomore slump, but I'm not. I think he'll be fine but Atlanta's talent may not be reflected in their final record. Not only does Atlanta face the best offenses, they face the best defenses too.  Dallas is once again all talent on paper. I do feel that the early part of the season will be tell-tale for the Boys, If they lose early they might fall apart, otherwise they could get stronger vs their tough schedule. Arizona, aside from all the off-season drama, is poised to be one of those flash in the pan teams. Warner can not continue his high level of play, though having the weapons he does will buy him some time, maybe half a season. If Leinart has to come in, the season is done, as he will need to get "adjusted". I am not confident in Highsmith or Wells carrying the team and it may all come down to the defense.

B) DET, STL, TB, and CAR are all in trouble. They also have hard schedules. Unlike the mighty, they all have serious concerns.  The Buccs are facing the toughest schedule VS offenses. Considering the Tampa D is a shell of it's former self, I can't see TB getting over 500. I think Ward will make an impact, but I have little faith in their QB options or general passing threat.  DET is DET and though many expect 3-5 wins, it will be tough to get 2. I wish them well.  STL and CAR are in similar positions as they do have talented teams. Each may only go as far as their aging and injured QB go. Bulger may find some promise in a rejuvenated Stephen Jackson and a rising star in Avery. Despite the likely offensive success, they may be loosing games 35-28. Carolina still has a great running game and Steve Smith, but they like ATL face the toughest defenses and offenses. Carolina could be a surprise with a few hard earned close wins.

5) Bubble Teams:

The running game does still rule the NFL, but most rushing stats are misleading as many teams get their lead by first passing.  MIN and HOU are two of the trendy teams this year and for good reason. They both rank well vs Rushing defense and vs Rushing offenses. Peterson should have another solid year and could very well be the fantasy #1 pick overall.  Of all the rookies, I think Percy Harvin can have the biggest impact and I usually shy away from rookies. If Favre plays, he'll keep 8 out of the box and that means Peterson will dominate. (think of Elway and Terrell Davis) Steve Slaton won't creep up on anyone next year, however I think Shaub and company can improve enough to keep defenses honest.  You can expect 1200+ yds from Slaton.

* From my prior example of Ronnie Brown 3.7 VS Thomas Jones 3.4. We might have to make some adjustments. Miami is facing a tough schedule VS the rush and the JETS are facing a relative "easy" one.  Ronnie is dropping to a 3.6 and Thomas is going to a 3.5.  Naturally these too are going in the same bucket and will be viewed as equals (For some leagues, Ronnie will get the nod for his wildcat potential) 

Ok, so now we have an idea of how the SOS impacts our players and their teams. It's time to begin creating our buckets.   Stay tuned as we'll explore each position and create draft buckets. 

First Up- Running Backs!

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Phinsider's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of The Phinsider writers or editors.

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