7 Quarterback Strength of Schedule Beneficiaries
One of my favorite resources here at 4for4 is aFPA, adjusted fantasy points allowed, which removes schedule bias from analysis of a player’s strength of schedule. If a defense had a particularly easy or difficult schedule against a specific position last year, aFPA removes that bias and levels the playing field.
Because I value aFPA highly, it forms a key part of my offseason ranking process, and I turn to it as I evaluate how much I like various quarterbacks in 2016. In this article, I will take you behind the scenes of that step in my process, and we will look at a few quarterbacks who benefit from favorable schedules this season. You can find the underlying data on our Strength of Schedule page.
This article remains agnostic about quarterback talent, treating them all as equals, and it focuses only on the other side of the ball – the matchups each player will face. That context is important. Do not take the inclusion of players to mean you should draft them as a QB1 – my goal is only to show strength of schedule beneficiaries. These QBs should get a slight bump in your rankings, but don’t go crazy with it. I’ll still draft Philip Rivers ahead of Teddy Bridgewater, even though Bridgewater makes this list and Rivers doesn’t.
The NFC East
Something must be in the water out east! Three of the four best QB schedules in the league belong to NFC East teams: New York, Dallas, and Washington. Those teams play a generous Eagles team twice, along with favorable matchups against Cleveland, Detroit, and Chicago. The Giants also get a cakewalk against the Saints in Week 2.
Eli Manning has the best matchups of any quarterback in the league this year, and he also faces the best Weeks 15 and 16 matchups, those crucial fantasy playoff weeks.
Eli, Tony Romo, and Kirk Cousins all lead the league with a total of eight weeks of good or great matchups (defined as playing any of the ten best defenses for opposing QBs). Only one quarterback outside the NFC East can say the same...
Dalton is the only other QB to have eight favorable matchups in 2016, and he has the seventh-best overall schedule for fantasy quarterbacks. He may have lost a few weapons this offseason, but Dalton now has two top-10 fantasy seasons under his belt and heads into the season with a great series of matchups. Although Cincinnati may struggle with a few early games, Dalton should feast on a slew of soft defenses after his team's Week 9 bye.
Matthew Stafford only has six good-to-great matchups in 2016, but he has the second-best overall strength of schedule. Like Dalton, Stafford has swirling concerns about a lost wide receiver, but Detroit has the schedule to cure all that ails you. Stafford will face a few tough matchups in the middle of the season, but that stretch is bookended by a fantastic slate of games. There are some reasons to worry about Stafford in 2016, but his schedule is not one of them.
This season, Flacco and the Ravens will face the fifth-best schedule for fantasy quarterbacks. Seven of Flacco’s games will count as good-to-great matchups, and many of those fall during the fantasy playoffs. Baltimore hosts the Eagles in Week 15 and travels to Pittsburgh in Week 16, both fantastic opportunities for Flacco to stack up fantasy points. You could do worse than targeting Flacco's strength of schedule and hoping for some Marc Trestman-induced upside to his game.
Finally, someone you didn’t expect to find in any offseason puff piece: Teddy Bridgewater. As I said in the introduction, this article is completely agnostic about quarterback talent, and Bridgewater’s lack of fantasy upside is not factored in here. But here are two interesting facts in his favor: The Vikings face the sixth-best schedule for fantasy quarterbacks but the 22nd-best for fantasy running backs. We can all agree Adrian Peterson is better at his position than Bridgewater is at his, but it interests me to see that several weeks might call for a pass-heavy gameplan if matchup matters to the coaching staff.
I am not ready to call Teddy Bridgewater a 2016 sleeper, but there is just enough matchup upside that I won’t rule out the possibility of adding him to my streaming list for a few weeks in the middle of the season.
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