FF Tips

2020 QB Strength of Schedule

By Matt Schauf 12:07pm EDT 7/29/20

If you’re already tired of hearing about the Tompa Bay Buccaneers … well, I’ve got bad news for ya. I’m going to have some more positive stuff to say about their new-old QB at the end of this article.

On the other side, Ryan Tannehill just might be tested by the Titans’ early-season schedule. That’ll be worth considering as you sort through a crowd of volatile fantasy passers in QB2 range.

But before we get to glorifying Tom Brady or doubting Tannehill yet again, let’s put in some work to get there.

First, let me repeat the warning from both the WR and RB strength-of-schedule articles: This ain’t science.

The only thing we know for sure is that the scoring matchups will not play out exactly as we expect them to. Some defenses will move way to the other end of the rankings vs. their 2019 performance. Some tougher defenses will go easier on QB scoring because of luck more than play. And some weaker defenses will wind up allowing fewer QB fantasy points than you’d expect -- for the same reason.

There’s not much year-to-year correlation to be found here. But within each season, we can find some connection to Football Outsiders’ DVOA. Over the past 5 years, overall team-defense DVOA has correlated fairly strongly to passing fantasy points allowed. The higher the DVOA rating, the more likely that defense has limited QB fantasy scoring (and vice versa).

Over the past 3 years, that has also been the case for Football Outsiders’ pass-defense DVOA. I can’t say for sure why that window has been shorter, but I do know that FO has continually tweaked its DVOA formulas over the years to sharpen the results.

You might have noticed that I mentioned “passing fantasy points allowed” 2 paragraphs back. That’s a worthwhile distinction for this position. Penalizing a defense for the rushing points it allowed Lamar Jackson isn’t going to help us assess that matchup’s effect on Matt Ryan. And we don’t want to ding the Falcons’ QB defense too much for yielding rushing scores to Kirk Cousins, Jared Goff, Taysom Hill and Kyle Allen.

Separating out passing points from the rushing didn’t lead to wide variations in the rankings, but it did produce some significant moves. Four defenses moved 5+ spots up or down the points allowed rankings last season, while another 5 saw 4-spot moves with rushing points removed.

So I looked at passing points allowed over the past 5 seasons and compared each ranking slot to that season’s median total. Here’s the full range of average impact for each ranking slot over that span ...

We find the 8 weakest defenses adding about 10+ percentage points to QB passing scores. The average impact of that group: +15.2 percentage points.

On the other end, the 8 weakest defenses have sapped more than 10 percentage points from QB scoring. That group has averaged 17.4 percentage points in negative impact.

We’ll get back to those numbers later, when we’re assessing the full slate of matchups. For now, let’s get to the defenses most likely to help or hinder QB scoring.

Positive Matchups

These defenses look like potential bright spots for your fantasy passer ...

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