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2023 Schedule Notes and Streaming Defenses

By Matt Schauf | Updated on Wed, 10 Jan 2024 . 5:25 PM EST

Can Lions Help You Early in 2023?

WARNING: This topic should not actually affect the way you draft … much.

We do include strength of schedule in the Draft War Room. And new this year, we have preseason strength of schedule listings by position.

Those pages will be updated throughout the season with the new data from this year’s games. And that’s a big reason why you shouldn’t overrate this factor in your drafts.

Strength of Schedule Changes Constantly

All we have to go on right now in gauging matchups is data from last year and guesses at how teams will perform this season.

Many defenses added or lost players. Many changed coordinators. And some will just fare better or worse than last year without any clear reason why the change occurred.

Offenses change, too. Some will withstand tough matchups better. Some will be better coached than last season (or worse). And some matchups that look negative for a position overall will actually vary depending on the style of offensive player. For example:

  • Slot WR vs. outside WR
  • Receiving RB vs. early-down runner

Should It Affect Your Draft?

So you want to be careful not to overrate strength of schedule as you draft.

We’re not looking for schedules to totally change our opinions on players here. Don’t pass on a RB you like because his schedule looks like it might be scary. Don’t reach for a QB because he has a seemingly nice run in the fantasy playoffs.

What are we looking for here? Potential micro edges. Tiebreakers.

Can’t decide between a pair of QB2s? Perhaps you lean toward the guy with the more favorable-looking schedule finish. Need to check one more column for that RB? Same deal.

And more than at any other position, early schedule should factor heavily into how you choose your fantasy defense.

We’ll get specific on that in the final section here.

What SHOULD guide your draft picks? The Draft War Room knows.

  

Strength of Schedule by Position

Now that we know not to overrate any findings here, let’s look for some potential micro edges.

You won’t find analysis on first-round type players or the top guys at the positions. Because you shouldn’t move a player into or out of an early round in your fantasy football draft based on schedule.

But the further into your draft you go, the more you can consider tiebreaking factors such as schedule. And we’ll run through some seemingly positive and negative draws by position.

Quarterback

Good Start

Jared Goff, Detroit Lions

Week 1 at Chiefs
Week 2 vs. Seahawks
Week 3 vs. Falcons

Our strength-of-schedule calculations look at fantasy points allowed to that position vs. what those specific opponents scored vs. other teams. What you see on the SoS page is the percentage difference that week’s opponent has meant for that position.

Goff gets a Week 1 matchup with Kansas City, which added 27.1% scoring to QBs last year. That made the Chiefs the second-friendliest matchup for the position.

We’re talking potential Week 1 shootout, and that can make Goff an attractive platoon piece if you’re pairing mid-to-late-round QBs.

Week 2 finds a Seattle defense that was neutral for QBs last year, but another potential high-scoring game. And Week 3 brings a Falcons D that perennially needs to prove it doesn’t suck.

TIP

See where Jared Goff and the rest of the QBs land in our 2023 fantasy football rankings.

Favorable Start & Finish

Jordan Love, Green Bay Packers

Start:
at Bears
at Falcons
vs. Saints
vs. Lions
at Raiders

We’ll see what Love can do as an NFL starter. But the schedule seems lined up to help.

Four of Green Bay’s first five games find opponents that were green matchups for QBs last year, meaning they added 10+% to QB scoring. New Orleans was the only negative in that stretch.

Love’s not likely to land inside the top 12 of our Week 1 QB rankings. But he could become an early-season option if he starts well. (And perhaps he makes sense right away in leagues of 14+ teams.)

Finish:
vs. Buccaeers
at Panthers
at Vikings

If Love does fare well this season, his schedule close could be worth targeting later in the year.

All three opponents were positive matchups for 2022 QB scoring, and none seems likely to suddenly be a ferocious pass defense in 2023.

Additionally, games at Carolina and Minnesota (dome) to close the year look favorable for December weather conditions.

Good Finish

Anthony Richardson, Indianapolis Colts

After Week 11 bye:
vs. Buccaneers
at Titans
at Cincinnati
vs. Steelers
at Falcons
vs. Raiders

That’s four positive matchups (three green) among the final six games for the Colts rookie.

Cincinnati in Week 14 as the league’s second-worst scoring matchup for QBs last year. We’ll see about this year’s Bengals, who lost both safety starters to sizable free-agent contracts.

The Steelers in Week 15 presented a neutral 2022 matchup for QBs but now have a healthier T.J. Watt on the edge and renovated CB group. They might prove a tough 2023 matchup.

The Falcons and Raiders haven’t been tough matchups for a while.

Of course, the biggest draw to Richardson is his rushing ability, which could make him relatively matchup proof.

Tough Draw

Sam Howell, Washington Commanders

Howell looks intriguing and has performed well in the preseason. His schedule holds some challenges, though.

Start:
vs. Cardinals
at Broncos
vs. Bills
at Eagles

Home against Arizona looks like a positive start, though it’s tough to envision using Howell right away outside of 2-QB or superflex formats.

After the Cardinals sit three straight red QB matchups, meaning each of those defenses cost QBs 10+% in fantasy scoring last year.

Howell’s fantasy-playoffs schedule looks potentially dicey as well.

Week 14 bye, then:
at Rams
at Jets
vs. 49ers

The Rams have changed quite a bit over the past two years and might not be worrisome for QBs this year. But they have finished three straight seasons as a bottom-10 scoring matchup for the position.

The Jets and 49ers were the fourth- and eight-toughest QB defenses, respectively, last year. Each added talent this offseason.

This doesn’t look like a good schedule finish for Howell. Fortunately, he’s such a late draft option that it shouldn’t matter right now.

 

Running Back

We’re not really streaming RBs or WRs – or even TEs to the same degree as QBs. So we’re focused primarily on fantasy-playoffs matchups for these next few positions.

Good Finish

Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans

Week 15 vs. Texans
Week 16 vs. Seahawks
Week 17 at Texans

TWO matchups with Houston inside the fantasy playoffs seems unfair for Henry, based on how he has dominated them over the past few years.

Sure, importing former 49ers DC DeMeco Ryans as head coach might help the defense. But the Texans have a lot to prove before we treat them as anything more than a runway for Henry.

And even if the defense is better, will the offense – and team on whole – be good enough to make Tennessee play from behind and take the ball out of Henry’s hands?

This finish could also be a small mark in favor of stashing upside handcuff Tyjae Spears late – whether you drafted Henry or not.

Philadelphia Eagles RBs

Week 15 at Seahawks
Week 16 vs. Giants
Week 17 vs. Cardinals

Philly has just two green matchups for RBs on its initial schedule: Seattle and Arizona within the final three fantasy weeks.

The Giants presented a neutral RB-scoring matchup last season. But Miles Sanders in Week 14 posted the biggest score any RB had against them all year. And then the Giants allowed 268 yards and 3 TDs rushing to the Eagles in their playoff matchup. That included a 12-112-1 rushing line for Kenneth Gainwell.

We don’t yet know how this Philly backfield will sort out. But whoever’s getting carries over the final three weeks should be in a good spot.

Tough Finish

Washington RBs

Week 14 bye
Week 15 at Rams
Week 16 at Jets
Week 17 vs. 49ers

That challenging finish for QB Sam Howell above doesn’t look much better for Commanders RB Brian Robinson.

The Rams, Jets, and 49ers all presented negative scoring matchups for RBs in 2022, with San Francisco the league’s toughest RB defense.

The Jets proved weakest in that group but add the 2023 challenge of potentially sporting a much better offense. More points from Aaron Rodgers’ crew could push Washington out of running as much.

Of course, these matchups matter more for Robinson than Antonio Gibson because Gibson figures to derive more relative value from his receiving.

Miami RBs

Week 12 on: 6 straight matchups negative for RB scoring last year

If there were a Dolphins RB going anywhere in the first half of drafts, then this might be something to worry about. But there’s not.

If you’re skipping over Jeff Wilson Jr., Raheem Mostert, or even De’Von Achane (currently injured) in the second half of your draft because of a potentially scary end-of-season schedule, then you’re paying too much attention to SoS.

 

Wide Receiver

Throughout the season, we will look at specific coverage matchups for each WR as we build our weekly projections and recommend weekly starters.

That matters more for this position than any other, because an individual WR’s primary coverage matchup can often differ from the strength of a pass defense on whole.

Moreover, a WR’s viability can be more impacted by his team’s passing volume – or expected passing volume – than by that overall strength of a pass defense.

With all that in mind, we’re just going to focus here on some potentially favorable end-of-season schedules for WRs.

Seattle Seahawks

Week 12 vs. 49ers
Week 13 at Cowboys
Week 14 at 49ers
Week 15 vs. Eagles
Week 16 at Titans
Week 17 vs. Steelers

That six-game stretch features just one matchup that was (slightly) negative for WR scoring last year, plus a Steelers matchup that was completely neutral.

The other four proved significantly positive. And a Week 11 visit to the Rams finds another defense that was mildly positive for WR scoring in 2022.

Houston Texans

Week 15 at Titans
Week 16 vs. Browns
Week 17 vs. Titans

Cleveland was a negative matchup for WR scoring last year. We’ll see about this year’s impact. But even that game could prove a positive spot if the Browns are good enough to jump to a lead at Houston and force Texans passing volume.

On both sides sits a matchup with Tennessee, which presented the league’s second-friendliest matchup to WR scoring in 2022.

Dallas Cowboys

Week 15 at Bills
Week 16 at Dolphins
Week 17 vs. Lions

Buffalo and Miami presented just mildly positive scoring matchups for WRs last year. The Lions were one of just five defenses to provide scoring boosts of 10+%.

More importantly, though, that looks like three potential shootout situations. Dallas gets another such spot at home against the Eagles in Week 14.

Could be a high-scoring finish to the season.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Week 15 vs. Ravens
Week 16 at Buccaneers
Week 17 vs. Panthers

Tampa Bay and Carolina ranked fourth and first among friendliest WR-scoring matchups last year.

We’ll see what this season holds, but anything similar could make Trevor Lawrence and his pass-catchers nice players to have in the fantasy playoffs.

Green Bay Packers

Week 15 vs. Buccaneers
Week 16 at Panthers
Week 17 at Vikings

The Packers get potential upside matchups late against the Bucs and Panthers just like Jacksonville does.

That Week 17 visit to Minnesota means respite from winter weather (dome) and potential shootout conditions.

 

Tight End

We’re more likely to stream at TE than RB or WR. So we’re a little more interested in early-season schedule here.

Given how important TDs are to TE scoring, though, make sure you aren’t too interested in schedule as you draft the position.

Favorable Start

Hayden Hurst, Carolina Panthers

Five “green” matchups among first six

Hurst sits much higher in our TE PPR rankings than he does in ADP. And he won’t need to wait long to prove whether he’s been undervalued in fantasy football drafts.

Atlanta, Seattle, Minnesota, Detroit, and Miami all sit among the first six matchups, and all ranked among the top-9 scoring matchups for TEs in 2022.

Week 2 holds a Saints D that was toughest on TE scoring last year. So maybe pair Hurst up with another upside TE, such as …

Sam LaPorta, Detroit Lions

at Chiefs
vs. Seahawks
vs. Falcons

Uh oh. MORE hype on Detroit’s rookie TE??? Kinda.

Only the Lions and Chargers open with three straight green (strongly positive) matchups for TE scoring based on last year’s numbers.

LaPorta gets a potential shootout in K.C. and then home games against opponents that Detroit should be favored to beat – and also likely carry strong implied point totals.

Gerald Everett, Los Angeles Chargers

vs. Dolphins
at Titans
at Vikings

We’re not betting on Everett playing as prominent a role in his offense as LaPorta in Detroit. But we would bet on the Chargers ranking among the league’s best offenses and passing-volume leaders.

Both factors can only help Everett against three defenses that boosted TE scoring in 2022.

What About End of Season?

You are welcome to check the TE strength of schedule page for fantasy-playoffs matchups. But I’d rather not use this space to either encourage or discourage any TE draft selections based on that info.

Let’s see how the season plays out there.

 

Streaming Defenses

This is the position most likely to rely on weekly matchups. And in most formats, you should absolutely look at season-opening schedules to help guide your draft selections.

We recently bumped the Ravens up ahead of the Patriots (depending on your format) in the DST projections to account for Baltimore’s favorable early schedule. Combine that with our higher-than-market ranking for the Ravens’ D, and you just might see the unit top your recommendations earlier than you’d expect.

If that happens earlier than you’d like to take your DST, feel free to pass until a later round.

Deeper Options

A couple of these defenses we’ve already touted as early-season options. But there’s also a new one mixed in.

New Orleans Saints

The Saints open at home against Tennessee, which looked shaky even before losing WR Treylon Burks to a knee injury that might keep him out through Week 1.

After that comes a visit to Carolina (rookie QB). We’ll see whether a Week 3 trip to Green Bay is a spot we want to use the Saints. But a Week 4 home date with Baker Mayfield and the Buccaneers looks like a spot to use the New Orleans DST.

Denver Broncos

The Broncos get three green matchups for DST scoring among their first five games. And that doesn’t even include a Week 1 home date with the Raiders.

Vegas was actually a negative scoring matchup for team defenses last year. But we’ll almost definitely have Denver among the top 12 DSTs for a home opener against Jimmy Garoppolo.

If Raiders RB Josh Jacobs still isn’t back, the matchup gets even better.

Washington Commanders

This is one we didn’t previously recommend, but Washington gets a high-upside home date with the Cardinals in Week 1. That makes the Commanders worth drafting in many cases even if you only use them for a week.

A Week 2 trip to Denver could be usable. We’ll see.

But we’ll also go ahead and bet that you won’t want the Commanders in your lineup for a Week 3 visit by Buffalo or a Week 4 trip to Philadelphia.

 

Want More Help Streaming Defenses?

This 10-minute video digs into what you should target with your picks for streaming defenses and talks some ealry-season options ...

Matt Schauf Author Image
Matt Schauf, Editor
Matt has earned two Fantasy Pros accuracy awards for IDP rankings and won thousands of dollars as a player across best ball, dynasty, and high-stakes fantasy formats. He has been creating fantasy football content for more than 20 years, with work featured by Sporting News, Rotoworld, Athlon, Sirius XM, and others. He's been with Draft Sharks since 2011.
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