Introduction to Hot Spots: Strength of Schedule by Position

By John Paulsen (Director of Forecasting), last update Jun 26, 2012

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John was named the Most Accurate Fantasy Football Expert by FantasyPros for the 2010 and 2014 seasons, and has finished in the Top 6 in seven of the last eight years. Cumulatively, John has been the most accurate expert from 2010-17 while also winning the 2011 Fantasy Sports Trade Association award for the most accurate draft rankings. 

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One of our offseason goals here at 4for4 is to introduce and explain our favorite tools to subscribers and non-subscribers alike. One such tool is Schedule-Adjusted Fantasy Points Allowed (a.k.a. Hot Spots). This tool is extremely useful during the season, but also has value during the NFL offseason during the draft preparation portion of the fantasy football season.

Some sites publish pure fantasy points allowed by position, but we take things one step further and remove schedule bias from those numbers to allow subscribers to compare matchups in an "apples-to-apples" manner. So if a defense had a particularly tough schedule against RBs, that has been accounted for in our numbers. This is extremely useful when trying to decide which player to start in any given week, but it can also help fantasy owners decide which player to draft.
When looking at in-season matchups, it's best to use Schedule-Adjusted Fantasy Points Allowed (aFPA). The first few rows can be seen below. For the full table, click here

Schedule-Adjusted Fantasy Points Allowed

The foundation of these numbers is actual performance from the 2011 season, but they have been adjusted as teams have made different personnel and coaching changes throughout the offseason.
Each column is sortable, so users can easily see the best and worst matchups at each position in both standard and PPR scoring formats. In this table, the opponents are listed down the left side, so the Jets were a terrible matchup for opposing QBs in 2011. For particularly tough lineup decisions, aFPA is a useful tiebraker. 
When looking at preseason strength of schedule (SOS) or rest-of-season (ROS) data, it's best to use the Hot Spots tables. Here are the first few rows of the Hot Spots table for QBs. The full table can be found here

QB Hot Spots

Teams are listed alphabetically in the first column, so in the first row (ARI) we're looking at the weekly matchups for the Cardinals' QB. 
Kevin Kolb (or John Skelton) has a rest-of-season aFPA of 14.6, which isn't great. The lowest ROS score is Minnesota's 14.4, so Christian Ponder doesn't project to have a very good schedule either.
Keep in mind that preseason SOS is not completely trustworthy, though rushing numbers tend to be more consistent year-to-year than passing numbers. However, even though the passing numbers have shown a high level of year-to-year volatility in the past, they still can be useful.
Matt Ryan is a good example. His ROS aFPA is 15.8, which is second only to Matt Cassel's 16.0 in Kansas City. Ryan is currently the 11th QB off the board, but is one of 4for4's value picks in 2012. His schedule's projected aFPA is considerably higher than those of Tony Romo (14.5), Philip Rivers (14.9), Ben Roethlisberger (14.9) and Eli Manning (14.8). A small difference in aFPA could very well be statistical noise, but a full-point difference makes it appear that Ryan has a schedule advantage heading into the 2012 season.
Let's take a look at the first few rows of the RB Hot Spots table:

RB Hot Spots

Michael Turner, another 4for4 value pick, has the most favorable ROS SOS (19.7) of any RB heading into the 2012 season. It's just another reason to like Turner in the 3rd-5th rounds.
In addition to trying to recover from knee surgery, Beanie Wells will have to battle a relatively difficult schedule (17.4) as well, and his two-week playoff numbers (15.7) are third-worst in the league. The worst ROS SOS among RBs goes to Chris Johnson (16.8), who projects to have eight tough matchups (versus only three easy matchups) in the first 16 weeks.
Remember, preseason SOS is tenuous, but rushing numbers are more dependable than passing numbers. When taken with a few grains of salt, preseason SOS can be a useful tool when finalizing draft rankings.
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