When I dug into WR strength of schedule last year, a couple of things became clear:
- The biggest scoring differences come at the top and bottom of the points allowed rankings.
- Yards rule as the guiding stat.
What’s not so clear, though, is how we project the tough and easy matchups for wideouts in the coming season. That’s what we all really want to know, but I have yet to find the true signal(s) for the year ahead.
Here’s what we’ve seen over the past 7 seasons:
-- 1.3 teams repeat annually as bottom-6 WR defenses
-- 2.3 of each year’s bottom 6 ranked among the previous year’s bottom 10
-- 3.3 of the bottom 6 ranked bottom-half in the league the previous year
-- 2.8 repeat as top-7 WR defenses
-- 3.5 of each year’s top 7 come from last year’s top 10
-- 4.5 of the top 7 finished the previous year in the league’s bottom half
I use “bottom 6” and “top 7” because those are the spans within the compiled rankings that have been adding or removing 10+% of WR scoring vs. the league median.
Here’s an updated version of the chart from last year, showing the difference between each spot in the points allowed rankings. The 1st column compares points allowed with the league median. The 2nd column is simply the difference between each pair of rankings spots (in percentage points).
It’d be great if we could come up with a full set of rankings for 2019 defenses and then use that chart to assign values to every schedule. But I don’t want to lie to you and pretend I have a worthwhile formula for doing so.
The truth is, we have a handful of teams that we can reasonably project into strong or weak matchup territory. Everything else will play out as the season unfolds.
So what we’ll do here is lay out those teams that we can expect to present matchups worth chasing or avoiding. Then we’ll run through every remaining defense, look at recent trends and what has changed this offseason, and then work toward a 2019 outlook.