How to Pair Fantasy Defenses to Get An Easy Strength of Schedule
If you play in a best-ball league, or a deep league with large rosters, it can be extremely beneficial to know which fantasy D/STs you can pair together to ensure you have a favorable matchup every week.
The matrix below shows how well the schedule of each D/ST pairs with every other D/ST's schedule to provide at least one strong fantasy matchup every week. A grade of A is excellent, B is good, C is average, and you might as well avoid the D and F graded combos, which are below average and poor, respectively.
For instance, pairing Arizona and Carolina forms an A-minus schedule, which means one or the other should have a relatively exploitable matchup nearly every week, while a committee of Baltimore and Chicago will form a D combo, which means both D/STs will have difficult matchups simultaneously in many weeks.
Using this information, you can find the best D/ST pairings, like a great beer and burger, and ensure you'll always have the potential for a high-upside week.
- Fantasy Strength-of-Schedule Rankings: QB | RB | WR | TE | K | DEF
- Fantasy Strength-of-Schedule Hot Spots: By Player | By Position
(Click for DTBCMatrix)
Below are six D/STs that you can get in the later rounds that have schedules which are easy to pair up with many other D/STs. Some of the best matchups are listed in parenthesis.
Buffalo Bills (NYJ, @CAR, DEN)
The Bills are a good D/ST1 target -- only one other D/ST grades below a B when paired with them. Buffalo ranked eighth in sacks last season and will now move from a base 3-4 to 4-3, which should help their pass rush continue to post good numbers. On the defensive line, they still have Jerry Hughes, and Shaq Lawson will join him on the other side. The Bills defense faded down the stretch in 2016, but from Week 1-10, they were averaging 10 PPG. They get a favorable matchup right off the bat with the Jets at home in Week 1.
The D/ST position can be volatile on a weekly basis, so I usually don't pull the trigger on one until late in the draft, where in most instances, the top three or four are already off the board. I recommend targeting D/STs with a favorable schedule and an ADP low enough that you can draft them in the final two rounds.
Jacksonville Jaguars (@HOU, TEN, BAL, @NYJ)
Any defense that has the Jets in early-season schedule gets my attention. The Jaguars have two young pass rushers in Dante Fowler and Yannick Ngakoue. In terms of their secondary, not only do they have last year's fourth overall pick in corner Jalen Ramsey, they added standout corner A.J. Bouye from the Texans in free agency -- opposing QBs are going to have to make tough choices on who to target. The Jaguars' first four opponents yielded an average of 9.1 aFPA in 2016.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@MIA, CHI, @MIN, NYG, NE, @ARI, @BUF, CAR, @NO, NYJ)
Tampa's defense was a top-five unit last season and is still being taken near the latter part of most drafts, which is good news for you. Gerald McCoy, Noah Spence, Robert Ayers, and Chris Baker round out a formidable defensive line. Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander are playmaking linebackers. Vernon Hargeaves should continue to develop in his second year, while Brent Grimes played well and was responsible for four interceptions. The Bucs ranked among the top 10 in sacks, and were tied for second in total interceptions. From Week 10-17, they averaged 12.2 FP per game.
Miami Dolphins (TB, @LAC, @NYJ, NO, TEN, @ATL, NYJ)
The Dolphins get the Jets twice in the first six weeks of the season, as well as favorable matchups with the Titans and Chargers. The Dolphins are getting back safety Reshad Jones, who is one of the league's best playmakers in the secondary, while Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake will lead the defensive line.
Los Angeles Chargers (@JAX, BUF, @DAL, CLE)
The Chargers were a top-10 defense last season in large part to the fact they were tops in the NFL in interceptions and defensive touchdowns. They have a soft post bye-week schedule, highlighted by a matchup with the Jets in Week 16. With the addition of defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, the Chargers will switch up their scheme to a 4-3, which should help defensive end Joey Bosa build upon a huge rookie season. Melvin Ingram will also convert to from linebacker to defensive end. But the key for this defense is that top corner Jason Verrett will return from injury.
Los Angeles Rams (IND, @SF, @JAX, ARI, HOU, @TEN)
Wade Phillips will get his hands on a defense that's already established itself as a solid unit. As someone who is focuses on the IDP side of fantasy, trust me -- this is going to be a very good defense this season. Aaron Donald is as talented of a defensive linemen as there is, and Phillips knows how to put him in position to succeed. The Rams had injuries to key defensive players last season, so getting guys like defensive end Robert Quinn back fully healthy will be a boost. The Rams have a nice slate of favorable matchups, including the 49ers (twice), Jaguars, and Titans.
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