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Fantasy musings from the NFL schedule release

Using last year’s FPA to see which players have a favorable fantasy schedule in 2017.

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Nothing tells you it’s almost football quite like the NFL worming its way into the collective sports consciousness by hyping up a meaningless release of a piece of paper. Because God forbid the NFL gives the average viewer a couple months off to watch the NHL or NBA playoffs or the start of baseball. Nope. Gotta get hyped for the schedule release.

Welp, clearly I can’t complain too much as I am currently writing a piece about the schedule release. Hi, I’m Pot.

Using last year’s Fantasy Points Against data, I’ve looked through this year’s schedules to see what kind of fantasy season players have in store for them. I know 2016’s FPA will by no means be an accurate predictor for how well a team will play in 2017. For instance, the Green Bay Packers allowed an average of 28.94 fantasy points to wide receivers last year. I highly doubt that’ll happen again. But using last year’s data will at the very least paint an early picture as to some players who could benefit from a light fantasy schedule and some riskier players who could be in for a grueling fantasy season. Also because I was confusing myself writing this sometimes, it’s bad to be #1 in FPA.

Here are my random thoughts whilst perusing the data:

  • Let’s start with my boy Jameis Winston. I’ve been real hyped on Jameis as a potential sleeper given just his development and the additions the Buccaneers have made to their offense (looking right at you DeSean Jackson). Welp, things look even better when you peek at the Bucs’ schedule. Their opponent’s 2017-FPA-score (taking the 2016 FPA of each team on their schedule and then averaging it) is 16.76, good for 6th best this year. That means Winston will mostly be facing favorable matchups when it comes to fantasy points. And you can thank the NFC South for that. Winston plays the Lions, Falcons and Panthers to finish out the season, each of which gave up at least 16 points to opposing quarterbacks, with the Falcons and Lions finishing 2nd and 3rd in FPA last year (19.08 FPPG and 18.98 FPPG respectively). This makes Winston a very good option come fantasy playoffs.
  • On the flip side, Kirk Cousins is facing a gauntlet of tough fantasy defenses in 2017. The NFC East was a lot tougher on QBs with the Giants and Eagles finishing in the bottom 10 in terms of FPA last year. Cousins also will face the Broncos and the Seahawks who’re both notorious for handing out poor fantasy performances. To make matters worse, Cousins faces the Broncos in Week 17, meaning for most leagues, he’s going to have to play the Broncos in Part 2 of your championship. Not great.
  • God bless the NFC South for being horrible on defense and let’s thank our lucky stars Drew Brees is in it. Brees will be facing a 2017-FPA-score of 17.07 (2nd best in NFL) which is like giving armor to The Hulk: helping a beast become beastlier. Brees finished number 3 in overall fantasy points last year with 332.3 and that was facing a FPA score of 16.37. Just imagine the kind of fantasy dominance he could put on this year. Oh, and he faces the Falcons in Week 15 and 17. GG.
  • While the start to Todd Gurley’s season looks like a ripe pear for the picking, don’t let that fool you into thinking he’ll suddenly rebound to fantasy dominance. In the first three weeks of the season, the Rams will face the Colts (5th in FPA to RBs last year), Washington (6th) and the 49ers (1st). However, Gurley still has to face the Seahawks and Cardinals defense twice (25th and 31st in FPA respectively), as well as the Titans (30th), Cowboys (29th) and Giants (28th). I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to be burnt again by Todd Gurley.
  • I trust Le’Veon Bell to be the fantasy producing megamachine we all know and love but on paper and through this sophisticated, complex algorithm I’ve compiled, he’ll be facing a tough batch of run defenses this season. Bell will be facing a 2017-FPA-score of 17.59, 30th in the league. If he wasn’t Bell, I’d be mildly worried, but I trust Bell to still get his points.
  • For all those on the Melvin Gordon train, the playoffs are looking good for you as Gordon faces five straight defenses that ranked in the top 15 in FPA last year.
  • Michael Thomas should be ascending up your draft boards. He’s likely to receive all of Drew Brees’ targets now that Brandin Cooks is out of the picture and he’ll be facing a 2017-FPA-score of 23.36, 5th best in the league. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he finishes a top 10 fantasy receiver if he stays healthy.
  • I was hoping that the schedule would be favorable to Terrelle Pryor so that I could continue to relentlessly conduct his Hypetrain, however, things did not go as planned. That’s not to say that Pryor is facing an unbeatable lineup this year. He’s facing a slightly below average 2017-FPA-score (22.16) and will be facing the Broncos and Seahawks. There is a shiny light as for some weird crazy way, while the Eagles didn’t allow many fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks last year, they gave up the 2nd most FPA to wide receivers. Hopefully Pryor will be able to feast on that matchup twice next year and build off of those big performances.
  • Of course the 2nd best 2017-FPA-score is wasted on Chicago. Who do the Bears have catching the football? Huh? Riddle me that Batman. But maybe...if a certain rookie receiver gets drafted there...

What are your fantasy thoughts now that the schedule’s released? Let me know in the comments.