2022 RB Strength of Schedule
This is the 5th year I’ve done this RB strength of schedule projection … and it’s time to blow up the process.
We’re always looking for improvement and refinement, of course, here and in anything else we do. That often means adding data. In this case, though, I think we can actually do more with less.
It’s tough to find sticky year-to-year stats for what defenses are allowing to RBs. What does “sticky” mean? That the results carry over year to year, so that a defense’s performance 1 year might help us predict what it will do the following season.
I previously found that rushing attempts, rushing yards and PPR points were most correlated year to year. But even those links weren’t all that strong. And looking at a defense’s performance against the run (primarily via Football Outsiders’ DVOA) has offered negligible value for projecting.
What I finally learned this time around is that I was probably trying too hard. Rather than tracking all these categories, it’s probably better to just look at game script.
The year-to-year correlations on the 3 aforementioned categories have fallen in the 0.34 to 0.37 range, on average, dating back to 2009. With 0 signaling no correlation and 1 (or minus-1) signaling a direct correlation, that’s obviously an area of limited strength.
This time around, though, I also compared RB rushing yards allowed to team wins. Why yards? Because they’re closely tied to carry volume and the most predictable driver of fantasy-point scoring at the position. (TDs are obviously big in season but less predictable year to year.)
From last year back through 2010, the median correlation of yards allowed to team wins (by the defensive team) is -0.5. That inverse correlation means the worse a team is, the more rushing yards it’s likely to allow.
And that makes perfect sense. We already knew that positive game script helps a RB. A leading team tends to run the ball more. And touch volume is the 1st thing we seek in RBs.
So we could just go down the Vegas win projections for each team and label them positive/negative rushing matchups. Or we could go a little further.
We can now find game-by-game lines for every week of the NFL season. So I took the opening Vegas Insider lines for every team in every game and rated the situation for rushing upside. The darker the green in the graphic below, the heavier the team is favored and the friendlier the rushing situation. Darker red, of course, means a bigger underdog and better chance for negative rushing game script.
The Bills enter 2022 as the top Super Bowl favorite, so it makes sense that their slate looks like a golf course. Keep in mind, of course, that schedule is just 1 component. This doesn’t mean that Devin Singletary will rank among the league carry leaders for the pass-happy Bills. It does, however, mean that he and his RB3-level ADP should find plenty of favorable situations.
On the other end, we all expect the Texans to be crappy. So it’s no surprise that their schedule looks blood-stained. Note the darker dates at the end … but also don’t overlook that more neutral Week 17 meeting with Jacksonville. Jaguars-Texans has been an interesting Week 17 game stack in the best-ball tournaments that play their final round that week.
Many of these lines, teams and expectations will change as the season pushes on, but we can still look for upside/downside stretches. Kansas City’s Week 15-17 run looks enticing (Houston, Seattle, Denver).
Tennessee, meanwhile, gets attractive matchups in Week 14 (Jacksonville) and Week 16 (Houston), sandwiching a tougher Week 15 (at Chargers). Week 17 finds a more neutral situation at home vs. Dallas.