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Strength of Schedule Analysis – NFC North: Fantasy Football Draft Strategy

NFC North Strength of Schedules

Fantasy Football Matchup Analysis and Draft Prep

Welcome back to the RotoBaller Strength of Schedule series! We recently examined the AFC North, NFC East and AFC East. This week, we take a look at the NFC North.

Over the course of eight beefy, diesel articles, we will examine every team’s schedule with an eye towards how it will impact your fantasy football aspirations and how it should impact your 2014 fantasy football draft strategy and preparation.  After reading this series, you will have a solid outlook on which teams have favorable schedules, which players could potentially be great 2014 fantasy football sleepers, and which players can be buy-low or sell-high options based on the timing of their NFL matchups.

At this point, all we can do is look at how teams performed last year  and consider offseason adjustments to make some predictions for this upcoming season.  I’m sure there will be teams that were terrible defensively last year who will be much improved this season, just as the 2012 Saints were consistently one of the best matchups for fantasy offenses as their defense was terrible, while the 2013 Saints had one of the best defenses in the league, but huge changes like that are extremely difficult to predict.

In the subsequent charts, you will see rankings for each position in relation to a team’s schedule. These rankings are based on how many average fantasy points per game a particular team gave up last season to a specific position. You can use these charts as a reference when reading the analysis for each team.  If you see that a team is ranked first under a position, this means that they gave up the most fantasy points of any team to that position, and thus they present a great matchup. Similarly, if you see a team is ranked 32nd under a position, this means that they gave up the fewest fantasy points of any team to that position, and consequently they present a difficult matchup. All rankings are based on fantasy points in standard Yahoo! leagues from 2013.

You can also use the color codes as a guide. In sum, green represents a “plus” matchup, orange an “average” matchup and red a “minus” matchup.


Chicago Bears

1.  BUF 25th 19th 7th 27th 11th
2. @SF 28th 24th 24th 19th 30th
3. @NYJ 15th 28th 5th 14th 5th
4. GB 10th 7th 4th 10th 19th
5. @CAR 31st 29th 30th 15th 25th
6. ATL 5th 10th 16th 7th 12th
7. MIA 27th 12th 29th 5th 10th
8. @NE 11th 15th 20th 16th 24th
10. @GB 10th 7th 4th 10th 19th
11. MIN 1st 9th 2nd 2nd 9th
12. TB 4th 26th 12th 11th 13th
13. @DET 18th 27th 3rd 31st 15th
14. DAL 2nd 1st 9th 4th 31st
15. NO 29th 23rd 27th 22nd 28th
16. DET 18th 27th 3rd 31st 15th
17. @MIN 1st 9th 2nd 2nd 9th


Key Takeaway: You should aim for Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery in drafts.

Deeper Analysis: The wide receiving duo in Chicago are both going very high in drafts, and for good reason. Last year, both put up outstanding numbers, even with the shuffling of quarterbacks that went on due to Jay Cutler's injury. This year, I don't see Chicago's defense being all that much improved from what it was last season (FYI, it was terrible), meaning the offense will need to put up points to stay in ballgames.

As far as the schedule goes, it's incredibly favorable for Marshall and Jeffery after the week 9 bye.  The only "minus" matchup is when New Orleans comes to Solider Field in week 15, and we all know that the Saints' defense is not the same on the road as it is inside of the dome. It also includes a week 14 home date with Dallas (first round of the fantasy playoffs for most leagues), as they have one of the worst defenses in the entire league, as well as two games against Detroit and one against Green Bay, all of which should be high-scoring affairs. And for what it's worth, pretty much all of those teams are average at best against the QB position, if not poor, which bodes well for Cutler and his ability to actually get Marshall and Jeffery the ball. Both of these pass-catchers should have huge years.


Detroit Lions

1.  NYG 21st 18th 28th 17th 1st
2. @CAR 31st 29th 30th 15th 25th
3. GB 10th 7th 4th 10th 19th
4. @NYJ 15th 28th 5th 14th 5th
5. BUF 25th 19th 7th 27th 11th
6. @MIN 1st 9th 2nd 2nd 9th
7. NO 29th 23rd 27th 22nd 28th
8. @ATL 5th 10th 16th 7th 12th
10. MIA 27th 12th 29th 5th 10th
11. @AZ 14th 32nd 25th 1st 18th
12. @NE 11th 15th 20th 16th 24th
13. CHI 22nd 2nd 11th 9th 17th
14. TB 4th 26th 12th 11th 13th
15. MIN 1st 9th 2nd 2nd 9th
16. @CHI 22nd 2nd 11th 9th 17th
17. @GB 10th 7th 4th 10th 19th


Key Takeaway: I want Matthew Stafford on my team after the Lions’ bye week, heading into the fantasy playoffs.

Deeper Analysis: Personally, I think Stafford is a little questionable when it comes to real football. I think he's been given an unbelievable amount of offensive talent to work with in Detroit, but he has failed to make a significant run in the playoffs.

Luckily for us, we don't really care about "real" football, as we just want to know how he'll do in fantasy. And Stafford has been one of the more consistent, and quite frankly, underrated fantasy quarterbacks the past couple of seasons. And I don't really see that changing in 2014, especially considering his post-week 9 bye schedule. There are several games, including weeks 14 and 15, where he should be able to put up some gaudy numbers come fantasy football crunch time. Sure, the week 11  contest at Arizona could be a little dicey, given Arizona's stout defense, but other than that, the back end of his schedule is great. Stafford is the type of fantasy asset that nearly matches the production of the top-level quarterbacks but costs much less as a draft-day investment.


Green Bay Packers

1. @SEA 32nd 30th 32nd 24th 23rd
2. NYJ 15th 28th 5th 14th 5th
3. @DET 18th 27th 3rd 31st 15th
4. @CHI 22nd 2nd 11th 9th 17th
5. MIN 1st 9th 2nd 2nd 9th
6. @MIA 27th 12th 29th 5th 10th
7. CAR 31st 29th 30th 15th 25th
8. @NO 29th 23rd 27th 22nd 28th
10. CHI 22nd 2nd 11th 9th 17th
11. PHI 7th 22nd 1st 26th 20th
12. @MIN 1st 9th 2nd 2nd 9th
13. NE 11th 15th 20th 16th 24th
14. ATL 5th 10th 16th 7th 12th
15. @BUF 25th 19th 7th 27th 11th
16. @TB 4th 26th 12th 11th 13th
17. DET 18th 27th 3rd 31st 15th


Key Takeaway: The schedule for Eddie Lacy is very tough early on, but could provide a great buy low opportunity after the bye week.

Deeper Analysis: Look, I am a huge Eddie Lacy fan. I think he will excel this season, especially with a full season of Aaron Rodgers at the helm. Green Bay's offense should be one of the best in the league, and Lacy will likely be a big part of that.

However, it would be unfair to not alert fantasy owners of his schedule, especially early on. He has some brutal matchups against some of the best defenses in the league against the run. But for the savvy fantasy owners out there, you can use it as a chance to perhaps get him for 75-80 cents on the dollar from a frustrated owner. The schedule eases up tremendously after the week 9 bye with a string of several games against average to poor run-defending teams. In addition, a week 15 game in Buffalo could easily have bad weather affecting the passing game, which means a lot of work for Lacy.  With the volatility of top running backs that have hampered fantasy owners the past couple of seasons, be ready to pounce on Lacy if he struggles a bit to start the season, because you will reap the rewards later.


Minnesota Vikings

1. @STL 24th 6th 19th 32nd 14th
2. NE 11th 15th 20th 16th 24th
3. @NO 29th 23rd 27th 22nd 28th
4. ATL 5th 10th 16th 7th 12th
5. @GB 10th 7th 4th 10th 19th
6. DET 18th 27th 3rd 31st 15th
7. @BUF 25th 19th 7th 27th 11th
8. @TB 4th 26th 12th 11th 13th
9. WAS 12th 4th 8th 12th 3rd
11. @CHI 22nd 2nd 11th 9th 17th
12. GB 10th 7th 4th 10th 19th
13. CAR 31st 29th 30th 15th 25th
14. NYJ 15th 28th 5th 14th 5th
15. @DET 18th 27th 3rd 31st 15th
16. @MIA 27th 12th 29th 5th 10th
17. CHI 22nd 2nd 11th 9th 17th


Key Takeaway: I am buying the Cordarrelle Patterson hype.

Deeper Analysis: I am usually not one to jump on board the bandwagon of a player that I haven't really seen a full season of yet. But a superfreak of an athlete + a Norv Turner-led offense + a very favorable schedule = I'm in. I still think the ADP of around 65 is a tad high for my comfort zone, but it's certainly not egregious, especially given his upside.

The Vikings' schedule is riddled with good matchups for wide receivers, including two of the worst-defending defenses against the position during the fantasy playoffs in the Jets and Lions. I think the biggest question is will Patterson have a viable QB to consistently get him the ball?  But considering that I expect Norv to use him in a Percy Harvin-type of role, I think that there will be plenty of opportunities for Patterson to get out in open space and make plays.

Check back soon for the next edition of RotoBaller's Strength of Schedule analysis!


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