Ready for a truly silly task?
But here’s what I figure: Why stop at taking wild stabs only at player outcomes when we could be throwing darts at so much more?
I got started late last week down the QB matchup path, looking at how each unit stacked up against fantasy passers in 2016 and over the several years prior. My ultimate goal in doing so, though, is to get a preview of the fantasy matchups for the coming season. And today’s sure-to-be-futile step is projecting those 2017 matchups.
In case you didn’t read the previous article, we can basically expect about 4 defenses to repeat as top 10 (toughest) fantasy matchups for QBs and 8 to remain among the league’s top 16 units. I’ve taken that into account, but I’m also not just going to force my picks into those holes. I’ve carried over 6 of last year’s 10 toughest fantasy matchups, those that seem to be best set up to repeat. I know that a couple more of them are likely to fall out, but I’d rather gear up for a negative matchup that turns out to be neutral than ignore an opponent that becomes one I need to avoid.
Here are the tiers (ignore the specific order of the teams):
Red = Negative
Yellow = Potentially Negative
White = Neutral
Green = Positive
Obviously, these are just educated guesses. Some of the teams will finish in different ranges this season. Some will quickly emerge as something different, while others will alter their matchup statuses during the year. But at least we have a starting point.
The Worrisome Matchups
Denver and Seattle look like perhaps the safest bets in any range to hold their spots. The Broncos have played terrific pass defense the past couple of years. Fantasy owners have needed to be wary of the Seahawks’ secondary for a while.
The Giants, Vikings, Texans and Jaguars all ranked among last year’s top 10. Houston has been up and down in recent years and doesn’t present a scary secondary, but the pass rush could be lethal. At the least, playing QBs at the Texans will probably not be ideal.
The Giants and Vikings proved consistently difficult to score passing points against last season. The Giants added quite a bit of talent before last season and then held onto most of it this offseason. Minnesota has been ascending on D since HC Mike Zimmer took over.
The Jags have been building on defense for a while but seem to have their best collection of talent to date — including an intriguing pair of starting CBs.
Expect the Chiefs to be a matchup to avoid when they play at Arrowhead, but don’t be surprised if they prove neutral in road games.
The Cardinals slipped as last season wore on. They have a shot to rank among the toughest passing matchups in the league this season, especially if Tyrann Mathieu proves to be (and stays) fully healthy.
The Chargers seem to be ascending at every level of the defense. A change at coordinator adds a challenge, however.
The Bengals have proved consistently solid in pass D for a while but also haven’t been an oppressive matchup for QBs. The Patriots profile similarly, though adding CB Stephon Gilmore gives the unit a chance to be truly tough in 2017. Expect the Pats to at least present a negative matchup in Foxboro.
The Bucs and Falcons improved dramatically in pass defense over the 2nd half of last season. We’ll see whether they can continue those upward trends, but they’ve seemed to be building toward that over the past couple of offseasons.
The Bills and Rams have enough talent and could benefit from coaching changes. Buffalo needs 1st-round CB Tre’Davious White to quickly step up, though.
How Do the Matchups Match Up?
So, I went through every team’s schedule and marked the matchups according to the key above. I’ll be posting more on how every QB’s schedule shapes up at this early stage. But the most valuable info for any of you drafting in best-ball formats right now is the top tandems.
Of course, if you’re pairing up QBs, then you’re likely not combining top-12 passers. There’s just not a ton of value in doing so unless 1 or both QBs slips well past his ADP.
These QB tandems are guys going toward the bottom of or outside of fantasy-starter territory in fantasy drafts — players you can realistically pair up in drafts without over-investing.