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NFC West: Strength of Schedule Analysis & Players to Target or Avoid

We’ve previously published an article series analyzing and grading all the NFL defenses, division by division. Now we’re going to look at the strength of schedules of each NFL team, division by division, to help you identify players with the best matchups vs. the league’s weakest defenses.

Today we provide NFC West strength of schedule analysis. For each team, we will identify players that we like and don’t like. You will see four categories: players to target, players to avoid, players to buy and players to sell. Let’s get to it.

Editor’s Note: Be sure to read more about fantasy football strength of schedule (SOS) analysis, broken down by division and team, to prepare for your drafts and dominate your leagues. 


NFC West – Strength of Schedule Breakdown

NFC West Opponents in 2015: NFC WestNFC North, AFC North


Arizona Cardinals - Players to Target and Avoid

Carson Palmer returns from a season cut short to lead a promising Cardinals squad, filled with veteran and young talent from Larry Fitzgerald and Chris Johnson to Michael Floyd, John Brown, and Andre Ellington.

The Cardinals open the season with a relatively easy slate. One of the worst defenses in the NFL, the Saints, will face the Cardinals in Arizona to kick off the season. Arizona then travels to Chicago and returns home in weeks three and four to play division foes, the 49ers and Rams.

Arizona’s fantasy football playoff schedule is easier than most. They play the Vikings and Packers at home in weeks 14 and 16 with a trip to Philadelphia in between. None of those defenses stand out too much, especially on the road, making Cardinals players safe for those weeks.

Players to Reach For

With injuries to Michael Floyd, John Brown now becomes a must have receiver in this offense. Amongst one of the best rookie WRs from last year, he was able to put up good numbers for an offense that was led by the likes of Drew Stanton for a majority of the season.

Players to Avoid

Larry Fitzgerald is coming off his worst statistical season since his rookie year in 2004, catching only 2 receiving touchdowns all year, the lowest of his career. The Cardinals seem to be tuning Fitzgerald out of the offense and you should too. Andre Ellington is another name to avoid. He’s had so many injuries in his career: from a torn ligament in college, a concussion and a pulled hamstring in 2013, and this past year a hip pointer and a foot injury. His injury risk is at 90% for the upcoming season and with the Cardinals recently signing Chris Johnson, that's just going to eat into his carries.

Players to Look to Buy Low

Ellington will likely see his value hit an all season low just around week 4. With both Chris Johnson and David Johnson: Fantasy Football Player News & Analysis" target="blank" href="">David Johnson in the backfield, a potential committee can form for the early season and some of the rougher front 7s of the Rams and 49ers (even if they did lose a lot of pieces) could bring him to a cheap buy.

Players to Look to Sell High

Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, and Michael Floyd all face a very easy starting schedule for the first four weeks. Although Floyd might miss that time, he still belongs in here just in case. Brown's going to have so much hype buzzing around him that if he starts strong, there's a chance he'll sell for much more than he's worth.


San Francisco 49ers - Players to Target and Avoid

The 49ers had the worst offseason of any team in the NFL and possibly one of the worst of all time.

The 49ers play in the second half of the Monday Night Football doubleheader against the Vikings followed by trips to Pittsburgh and Arizona. That's two tough games right at the start of the year and it doesn’t get easier after that with games against the Packers, Giants, Ravens, and Rams.

Their fantasy football postseason schedule is way worse, with trips to Cleveland and Detroit in weeks 14 and 16 and a home bout with the Bengals in between. The Lions are already amongst the top potential defenses this year while the Browns and Bengals were already top pass defenses last year. They both worked to boost their run defense this season so there's a chance for them to be even better.

Players to Reach For

Torrey Smith is the one player I like on this roster. If Kaepernick can be somewhat competent and can hit Smith with the deep ball, then he could be a steal late in the draft. Smith has yet to have worse than a 700 yard season and his lowest touchdowns were 4 while having 1100 yards.

Players to Avoid

All of the 49ers minus Carlos Hyde come at a very cheap price. Hyde is the only true option for avoiding since the 49ers offense is barely looking passable and plays in one of the hardest defensive divisions in the league.

Players to Look to Buy Low

If you're really interested in buying on this team, Hyde has the chance to come for low after facing Arizona. The Vikings and Pittsburgh should be able to score often enough on the 49ers that they'll potentially abandon the run early on and Arizona's defense could hold Hyde to less than 6 points that week.

Players to Look to Sell High

It's unlikely that any players is going to be sold high on a team like this, but if the 49ers do fall behind often that might lead to more of Reggie Bush on the field. Running backs always find value when they're doing well, so he's got the chance to be sold for better than what you paid to get him.


Seattle Seahawks - Players to Target and Avoid

The team known for its defense got a lot sexier on offense by bringing in Jimmy Graham this offseason. Russell Wilson finally has a big target to throw to.

The Seahawks begin the season with two difficult road games in St. Louis and Green Bay. The Rams defense is great, and the Packers are mediocre, but a Sunday night game at Lambeau Field could prove treacherous on the road. In weeks 3 and 4 they play the Bears and Lions at home.

The fantasy football playoff schedule boasts two AFC North teams, at the Ravens in week 14 and home to the Browns in week 15. In week 16 the Rams come to Seattle. The Baltimore defense should be able to recover from last season where they suffered many injuries to their secondary and were forced to start their backups-backups at CB. The Browns are a good, improving defense and the Rams are looking to get better with almost all of their starters returning from last year.

Players to Reach For

The only player worth reaching for is Jimmy Graham, but few would expect him to be worth it.

Players to Avoid

I would be wary when drafting wide receivers on this team. Last season Doug Baldwin had 825 receiving yards, Jermaine Kearse had 537 receiving yards and Marshawn Lynch was third with 367 receiving yards. Wilson prefers to scramble over throwing balls to receivers that can't get open and with the addition of Graham, I can’t see any Seahawks wide receiver having 1000 or more receiving yards this season. There are plenty of better wide receiver options out there.

Players to Look to Buy Low

As I said above I do not like Seattle receivers and Graham, Wilson, and Lynch will not be traded away for cheap, unless you’re dealing with an unintelligent fantasy owner.

Players to Look to Sell High

Other than St. Louis, the rest of the offenses this team faces has the potential to make games into a real competition. That could mean big numbers for Lynch and Wilson, who you might be able to trade for a RB/QB that's starting their season with a tough schedule that eases up while adding even more to your team.


St. Louis Rams - Players to Target and Avoid

Sam Bradford’s tenure came to an end in St. Louis this offseason and in comes Nick Foles. The Rams used their first round pick on Todd Gurley who will likely miss the start of the season.

St. Louis begins the season by hosting Seattle, followed by a trip to D.C. to play the Redskins In week 3, they play the Steelers at home, but then travel to Arizona and Green Bay. Washington and Pittsburgh will not have good defenses, but the trips to Arizona and Green Bay will be difficult for a team with this many weaknesses.

The Rams start the fantasy playoffs with two home games against the Lions and Bucs, but then in week 16 have to play in Seattle. Playing in Seattle during championship week in fantasy football is the worst possible outcome for Rams players. The rest isn't any good either. This is a terrible playoff schedule.

Players to Reach For

Tre Mason showed flashes last year of starter quality performance and with Gurley out to start the season (and potentially longer), why not take a late round flier on Mason? He is currently being undervalued, as his average draft position is 110.

Players to Avoid

It's hard to find a Rams player going high enough to actually consider avoiding them.

Players to Look to Buy Low

There really isn't a player who's value can get lower on this team than they were when they get drafted. Todd Gurley's the only potential value to be found and that is entirely because he's missing games, the schedule remains brutal nearly all season save a 4 game stretch from weeks 6 to 10.

Players to Look to Sell High

Brian Quick (or any other WR that turns up) could be a huge sell high after the first three weeks. Although Seattle's going to snuff out the Rams with ease both the Redskins and Steelers have some of the worst secondaries in the league. Two big back to back weeks could be on the horizon right there, while the Cardinals are still going to be recovering from the loss of Todd Bowles and Antonio Cromartie early in the year- which could give another big game to the WRs. We already know Green Bay is going to score a lot too, so that's even more potential big WR games for the Rams as they try to keep up. After that point, the schedule just goes through a lot of rough patches however as far as secondaries faced goes and it's best to let go of what you have before it's too late.


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