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2012 SOS Analysis

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by John Hansen, Publisher

Published, 5/16/12 

As I got started on this year’s SOS article, I was thinking I would address how strength of schedule isn’t nearly as prevalent as it was even 5-6 years ago. That’s definitely true, but I was actually a little surprised with the accuracy of last year’s feature.
 
The main thing that jumps out is that SOS analysis is a lot more accurate for the run than the pass, and it’s especially true for RBs who don’t do much catching the ball. Back in 2010, I wrote in this article about the concerns with Falcon RB Michael Turner’s schedule, and I felt he had a fairly disappointing year. In 2011, I pointed that fact out, but discussed how Turner’s schedule was definitely better in 2011, and he did have a better year overall. His numbers were actually close between both seasons, but Turner padded his stats a bit with three huge games in 2010 and was a little more up-and-down. So SOS analysis worked for Turner.  
 
On the other hand, Tom Brady had the league’s worst schedule against the pass last year – and it didn’t mean a damn thing.
 
So handling SOS needs to done on a case-by-case basis. I still think it’s a viable factor to look at, and I still think it’s important to note a fantasy playoff schedule that could be prohibitive. But with heavy turnover in the NFL from year-to-year in terms of personnel, coaching, and schemes, one does have to be careful and not be overly concerned about a seemingly tough schedule for an established player still performing at a high level. Even worse, there are fewer “get well” defenses in the league right now, so there’s a lot of sameness when it comes to the defenses, which can make SOS negligible at times.
 
One way we try to account for the high turnover in the league is to not put a ton of stock into the previous year’s numbers. We instead project the strength of schedule for the upcoming season by giving each team a number grade versus the run and the pass, taking into consideration things like player additions and losses, the draft, a change of system, etc. We then average out the grades we give each team’s 16 opponents to project the average grade against the run and the pass for all 32 teams. The teams with the lowest average grades have the more favorable schedules.
 
Our system isn’t perfect, but it’s better than going off (in some cases meaningless) 2011 stats. Last year’s analysis was very solid, but it was yet again evident that SOS is only one of the many factors to consider and not the be-all and end-all.
 
Note: You can also view specific 2012 SOS information by position from our database. What that tool does is take all of 2011’s numbers (including H/A numbers) and applies them to 2012’s schedule to come up with SOS by position.
 
2012 Projected Grades vs. Run & Pass
Here’s a look at the current grades we have given each defense against the run and pass as of 5/16/12. We compare each team’s schedule, using these grades to determine SOS.
 
Here’s how the grades are given out
 
Yellow – Below average/poor
Orange – Average/slightly above average
Red – Well above average/excellent. 
 

Team
RG
Team
PG
Ari
86
Ari
84
Atl
87
Atl
87
Bal
89
Bal
88
Buf
86
Buf
86
Car
85
Car
85
Chi
87
Chi
87
Cin
87
Cin
86
Cle
84
Cle
87
Dal
87
Dal
87
Den
85
Den
87
Det
85
Det
84
GB
87
GB
87
Hou
88
Hou
88
Ind
82
Ind
83
Jac
87
Jac
85
KC
85
KC
86
Mia
87
Mia
85
Min
85
Min
84
NE
87
NE
84
NO
86
NO
85
NYG
87
NYG
88
NYJ
86
NYJ
89
Oak
84
Oak
83
Phi
86
Phi
88
Pit
90
Pit
87
SD
86
SD
85
Sea
87
Sea
88
SF
92
SF
89
Stl
84
Stl
84
TB
84
TB
84
Ten
85
Ten
84
Was
86
Was
87

2012 SOS Chart
Before we get into the analysis, let’s take a look at how all 32 teams stack up in terms of SOS for the run and the pass for 2012, as of 5/16/12. The higher the ranking and lower the average grade against the run or pass, the better the schedule.

Rank
Team
Avg. Grade vs. Run
 
Rank
Team
Avg. Grade vs. Pass
1
Atlanta
85.44
 
1
Houston
85.31
2
Kansas City
85.63
 
2
Jacksonville
85.31
3
Jacksonville
85.69
 
3
Atlanta
85.44
4
San Diego
85.69
 
4
Chicago
85.44
5
Tampa Bay
85.69
 
5
NY Jets
85.44
6
Houston
85.75
 
6
Green Bay
85.50
7
Carolina
85.88
 
7
Kansas City
85.50
8
Chicago
86.06
 
8
Denver
85.63
9
Denver
86.06
 
9
Tennessee
85.63
10
New Orleans
86.06
 
10
San Fran
85.69
11
Pittsburgh
86.06
 
11
Miami
85.75
12
San Fran
86.06
 
12
Minnesota
85.75
13
Green Bay
86.13
 
13
Indianapolis
85.81
14
Oakland
86.13
 
14
Tampa Bay
85.81
15
Indianapolis
86.19
 
15
Buffalo
85.88
16
Minnesota
86.19
 
16
San Diego
85.88
17
Buffalo
86.25
 
17
Oakland
85.94
18
Miami
86.25
 
18
Detroit
86.00
19
Tennessee
86.25
 
19
Seattle
86.12
20
Washington
86.31
 
20
Carolina
86.13
21
Detroit
86.38
 
21
New Orleans
86.19
22
Baltimore
86.44
 
22
St. Louis
86.19
23
New England
86.44
 
23
New England
86.25
24
Philadelphia
86.44
 
24
Philadelphia
86.31
25
Dallas
86.50
 
25
Cleveland
86.38
26
Cincinnati
86.63
 
26
Arizona
86.44
27
Cleveland
86.63
 
27
Baltimore
86.44
28
Seattle
86.63
 
28
Washington
86.44
29
NY Jets
86.69
 
29
Cincinnati
86.56
30
Arizona
86.81
 
30
Pittsburgh
86.63
31
NY Giants
86.81
 
31
NY Giants
86.81
32
St. Louis
86.88
 
32
Dallas
86.88

2012 Rushing SOS Analysis
 
Looking Good:
 
  • It’s certainly a good sign for Atlanta’s Michael Turner that the Falcons check in with not only a seemingly favorable schedule, but the best in the league. As stated in the intro, volume backs like Turner who don’t do much catching the ball can be affected by SOS. I’m not high on Turner this year, since he’s another year older and could fall off quickly at any point. But this schedule may make me consider him now.
  • Back in 2010 the Chiefs were a very good team, and it all started with their running game. Matt Cassel is still the QB, so if they’re to have any success, it should start once again with their running game. That’s good news for KC’s Peyton Hillis and Jamaal Charles, since their schedule appears very favorable.
  • Last year, Jacksonville’s Maurice Jones-Drew’s schedule looked pretty tough on paper, yet he led the league in rushing. This year he’s another year older and might be holding out, so there is a tiny question as to whether or not he can do it again. I’m encouraged by the upgrades this team has made on offense and also by MJD’s softer schedule, so I’m inclined to say he can, in fact, do it again. Assuming a potential holdout doesn’t happen and get ugly.
  • It looks like everyone’s on board with San Diego’s Ryan Mathews this year, and while he still scares the crap out of me due to his lingering injury issues and fumbling, I’m also in. Mike Tolbert is gone, which obviously helps, but he doesn’t have a huge margin for error and it would be nice to see him with any advantage possible, and he might have one with a favorable schedule, so that’s good. He does have Baltimore and Pittsburgh in the second half of the season, but otherwise there are many favorable matchups.
  • Last year I mentioned Houston starter Arian Foster’s easy schedule here about 10 times, and it’s looking good again in 2012. He’s a beast, and a lock to get it done if he can avoid injury.
  • The Bucs want to be all about physicality and their running game, so it’s good that they drafted Doug Martin and have a solid schedule. That will help Martin, since the Bucs don’t face off against a single run defense considered elite.
  • Not that anyone can predict which back will take advantage, but it’s worth pointing out that the Panthers also do not face a single shutdown run defense this year, so their schedule does not look prohibitive at all. That’s worth noting for Jonathan Stewart, who’s in a contract year, and DeAngelo Williams, who is still playing at a very high level and has the ability to post massive digits if he’s (somehow) getting a lot of touches.
  • It doesn’t rank extremely high, but the 49ers schedule overall looks pretty darn good, which could help Frank Gore hold on for one more year. If not Gore, it could help a breakout for Kendall Hunter, the presumed lead back if Gore is hurt.
  • Otherwise, the schedules for Chicago, Denver, New Orleans, and Pittsburgh appear to be factors that could help their RBs.
Looking Not-So-Good:
 
  • We’ve learned the last two years that, if a back in the AFC North is going to have success, he needs to have things go well around him and he needs a lot of volume. If things go well and the player can bring it, success is attainable. Cleveland’s Peyton Hillis, for example, was the #2 RB in total RB points in 2010. Four games against Pittsburgh and Baltimore is scary for Trent Richardson, but both defenses might be mortal in 2012, and Richardson’s schedule otherwise looks pretty good.
  • The Rams schedule ranks dead last, which is certainly a concern for an aged RB in Steven Jackson who has some serious mileage on his tires, but it’s worth pointing out that it is heavily-influence by their two games against the 49ers. Otherwise, it doesn’t look all that bad.
  • Now here’s a red flag: The defenses in the NFC East have either been improved this year (Dal and Phi) or are already pretty good (Was), so it’s a concern that Ahmad Bradshaw and the Giants also play the best three run defenses in the league, all out of their division (SF, Pit, and Bal). Between Bradshaw’s injury issues and the presence of #1 pick David Wilson, this might be a deal-breaker for me with Bradshaw.
  • Arizona’s schedule comes out low on the favorability list, but that’s another one that is influenced heavily by the 49ers. And it’s worth pointing out that it’s not that bad otherwise. And if your league is over in Week Sixteen, one of the SF matchups is Week Seventeen. So I would not be overly concerned about the schedule for Bean Wells and Ryan Williams.
  • Last year, I pointed out there that New York’s Shonn Green could get off to a slow start but could heat up later in the season based on the schedule, and that’s essentially what happened. It’s looking tough again early this year – really tough.
  • Once again, the 49ers have influenced a SOS ranking for Seattle, but it’s not bad otherwise for Marshawn Lynch. Considering Lynch ran for 100+ against the Niners late last year, I would not include schedule as one of the red flags with Lynch. We all know about Beast Mode, but my bigger concern would simply be that he’s not an incredibly skilled runner.
  • You’re taking on some risk if you draft Cincy’s BenJarvus Green-Ellis based on his division and four games against Pit/Bal, but otherwise, the Bengal schedule isn’t that bad. And as stated above, anyone can be run on if there’s a commitment to running the ball, which there may be for BJGE in Cincy. But no question those four matchups are worrisome. The second Baltimore matchup is in Week Seventeen at least, which may be a meaningless week for you.
  • Like the Giants, Dallas also plays the AFC North this year, which is a concern for DeMarco Murray because the defenses in his division are rock solid. Luckily, Murray can offset some potential struggles running it with his receiving ability, which is excellent.
2012 Passing SOS Analysis
 
Looking Good:
 
  • You could argue that no team this year improved its supporting cast for their QB more than the Jaguars, and Blaine Gabbert obviously needed a lot of a help. The cavalry is on the way with WRs Laurent Robinson and Justin Blackmon. But those guys are hardly sure things, so it does help that the Jag schedule against the pass appears very favorable. Gabbert (and maybe Chad Henne) have half of their games this year against defenses that I view as below-average against the pass.
  • The Texans have added 2-3 young receivers this off-season in the draft (and one was an UDFA), so Matt Schaub should have a few more viable options in the passing game. If one or more of their rookies step up and contribute, Schaub should have success throwing against an easier schedule.
  • Atlanta’s Matt Ryan isn’t a special player by any stretch, but he can get it done, and the team seems to be transitioning more toward the pass, even though they do want to remain physical and active with their running game. Since Ryan isn’t elite, it’s nice to see him getting some help from the schedule, which definintely appears favorable on paper this year. That’s obviously a factor that could help WRs Roddy White and Julio Jones.
  • If the Bear OL can somehow pull itself together and give Jay Cutler just decent protection, and if his two new WRs come through, then look out because the Bears have a whopping eight games against pass defenses that I view as below-average. Handicapping a defense against the pass is tough to do, but that schedule sure looks great on paper (other than a couple of rough spots).
  • It’s going to be tough for rookie QB Andrew Luck, but we know he’ll probably have to throw it a lot, and he does have a good number of matchups (5) against defenses that appear to be below-average against the pass, which helps Luck’s chances.
  • The Chiefs simply have a favorable schedule this year, as they rank very high against the run. It’s not as good against the pass, but it looks pretty darn solid, which helps Matt Cassel’s chances for sure because he needs help. If he can play with an edge this year a la Alex Smith in 2011, he has a chance to post noteworthy numbers. The KC offense is pretty darn loaded this year on paper.
  • The Jet passing game needs all the help it can get and they do get some support from the schedule with six games against teams I currently view as being vulnerable against the pass. I’m still not touching Mark Sanchez, but this could convince me to take a flyer on Santonio Holmes.
Looking Not-So-Good:
 
  • It’s hard to say definitively that the Cardinal schedule is tough against the pass, but there are six matchups that I currently view as below-average (or even very tough) against the pass, so that is a red flag for Kevin Kolb and John Skelton (as is the potential flip-flopping of these guys this coming season).
  • Dallas’ schedule against the pass looks pretty tough. Every defense they play is conceivably strong against the pass. That’s a concern for Tony Romo and their receivers, but the bulk of their tougher matchups come right in their division against the Eagles and Giants, and you can sometimes throw everything out the window when it comes to divisional matchups. In addition, both offenses are capable of forcing the Cowboys into pass-happy shootouts.
  • One player I’m really struggling with this year is Steeler QB Ben Roethlisberger. I’m concerned because it’s a new offense with a lot of changes, his body could potentially start breaking down given all the hits he’s taken (upgraded OL helps), and WR Mike Wallace looks like he’ll miss most of the OTAs while looking for a new long-term contract. The other issue is the schedule, which includes five tough matchups and only two matchups that looks easy (Ind, Ten). This is a little unusual for Big Ben, whose schedule is typically very favorable.
  • The Bengal schedule overall doesn’t look brutal, but it does average out to being one of the toughest in the league this year, which is a red flag for QB Andy Dalton because we’ve seen sophomore QBs take a step back too often in the past. That could happen with Dalton, whose receiving corps is very young and who has a new lead back behind him. I would not, however, allow this to sway me too much on A.J. Green, who is special and will get the ball a ton no matter what.
SOS Chart: 1st half of the season
As of 5/16/12

Rank
Team
Avg. Grade vs. Run
 
Rank
Team
Avg. Grade vs. Pass
1
San Diego
85.1
 
1
Chicago
85.0
2
Atlanta
85.3
 
2
Minnesota
85.0
3
Chicago
85.3
 
3
Tennessee
85.1
4
New Orleans
85.4
 
4
Jacksonville
85.4
5
Pittsburgh
85.6
 
5
Kansas City
85.4
6
Jacksonville
85.7
 
6
Denver
85.6
7
Indianapolis
85.9
 
7
San Diego
85.6
8
Miami
85.9
 
8
Washington
85.6
9
Tampa Bay
85.9
 
9
St. Louis
85.8
10
Minnesota
85.9
 
10
Atlanta
85.9
11
Kansas City
86.0
 
11
New Orleans
85.9
12
New England
86.0
 
12
NY Jets
85.9
13
San Fran
86.1
 
13
Arizona
86.0
14
Tennessee
86.1
 
14
Oakland
86.0
15
Cleveland
86.3
 
15
Tampa Bay
86.0
16
Washington
86.3
 
16
Green Bay
86.1
17
Baltimore
86.3
 
17
Buffalo
86.1
18
NY Giants
86.4
 
18
Indianapolis
86.1
19
Buffalo
86.4
 
19
Miami
86.1
20
Carolina
86.4
 
20
Cleveland
86.3
21
St. Louis
86.5
 
21
New England
86.3
22
Dallas
86.6
 
22
San Fran
86.3
23
Detroit
86.6
 
23
Detroit
86.3
24
Houston
86.6
 
24
Pittsburgh
86.3
25
Green Bay
86.6
 
25
Houston
86.4
26
Seattle
86.6
 
26
Philadelphia
86.4
27
Cincinnati
86.7
 
27
Seattle
86.5
28
Oakland
86.7
 
28
Baltimore
86.6
29
Arizona
86.8
 
29
Carolina
86.6
30
Denver
86.9
 
30
Cincinnati
86.6
31
Philadelphia
86.9
 
31
NY Giants
86.8
32
NY Jets
87.4
 
32
Dallas
86.9

1st-Half Nuggets
 
  • If you want to start out 0-5 or 1-4 in fantasy this year, draft New York’s Shonn Green. His first five games are really tough: Buf, Pit, Mia, SF, and Hou. That’s pretty scary, so I probably won’t be drafting Greene this year.
  • There’s little reason to believe a healthy Ryan Mathews in San Diego won’t excel early in the season, since he doesn’t face an intimidating matchup until Week Twelve (Bal).
  • St. Louis’ Steven Jackson doesn’t get a tough matchup until Week Ten, so he has a chance to get off to a solid start for fantasy owners.
  • Chicago and Atlanta get help all season from the schedule, but their schedules look particularly good in the first half, so Michael Turner and Matt Forte/Michael Bush should help fantasy people right out of the gate.
  • Two of LeSean McCoy’s first five games of the season are against Pit and Baltimore, which isn’t a deal-breaker by any stretch, but could cause some friction early in the season for McCoy owners.
  • We have no idea who the lead RB will be, but the Redskins do have what looks like a pretty good first-half schedule, other than Pit in Week Eight. Tim Hightower might be the favorite if he’s ready and healthy, but I’d still look to Roy Helu first.
  • The Cardinals have three games against top pass defenses and three games against weak pass defenses in the first half of the season, so Kevin Kolb/John Skelton could be a little up-and-down to start the year.
  • The Bears get four matchups that appear average on paper against the pass and three that appear favorable, so if all goes well in Chicago then QB Jay Cutler should have success, which is also obviously good news for Brandon Marshall.
  • If rookie QB Brandon Weeden is the guy from Day One, things could get a little rough, as there are several tougher matchups for the Browns in the first half of the season.
  • Four of the Cowboys’ first eight games are against teams I view as being above average/great against the pass, which is a slight concern for Tony Romo, but probably not a deal-breaker.
  • If Bronco QB Peyton Manning can hang in there against Pit, Atl, and Hou (Atlanta’s secondary should improve this year, but this isn’t a great defense overall), then he should be good to go after that with Oak, NE, SD, and NO coming up next on the schedule.
  • Lion QB Matthew Stafford has several tougher matchups this year, but he could come out on fire, since three of his first four games are against weak pass defenses.
  • Miami gets Hou and NYJ twice in the first half of the season, so I would not be expecting good things out of the gate here, obviously.
  • Good news for the Vikings: Young QB Christian Ponder gets five favorable matchups out of eight in the first half of the season. That is good to know and it could help – and they surely need help.
  • The Saints catch a little bit of a break with the schedule, as they attempt to live without their head coach and offensive architect Sean Payton; they do not have a single unfavorable matchup against the pass in the first half of the season.
  • The Rams also need help, and the first half schedule looks pretty solid for QB Sam Bradford.
  • I’ve got a man-crush on the entire Titan offense this year, and it’s good to see them get four favorable matchups in their first game. The question is, will this be all Matt Hasselbeck or will Jake Locker get in there and take the starting job by midseason?
  • With a rookie QB, if he’s going to have half the season being favorable and the other half unfavorable, you’d prefer it to be favorable the first half of the season, and that is exactly the case in Washington for Robert Griffin III.
SOS Chart: 2nd half of the season
As of 5/16/11

Rank
Team
Avg. Grade vs. Run
 
Rank
Team
Avg. Grade vs. Pass
1
Houston
85.11
 
1
Houston
84.44
2
Kansas City
85.33
 
2
Green Bay
84.88
3
Carolina
85.44
 
3
NY Jets
85.00
4
Denver
85.44
 
4
Atlanta
85.11
5
Atlanta
85.56
 
5
San Fran
85.13
6
Tampa Bay
85.56
 
6
Jacksonville
85.22
7
Green Bay
85.63
 
7
Miami
85.44
8
Jacksonville
85.67
 
8
Indianapolis
85.56
9
Oakland
85.67
 
9
Kansas City
85.56
10
NY Jets
86.00
 
10
Buffalo
85.67
11
San Fran
86.00
 
11
Denver
85.67
12
Buffalo
86.11
 
12
Tampa Bay
85.67
13
Philadelphia
86.11
 
13
Carolina
85.78
14
San Diego
86.11
 
14
Chicago
85.78
15
Detroit
86.22
 
15
Detroit
85.78
16
Tennessee
86.38
 
16
Seattle
85.78
17
Washington
86.38
 
17
Oakland
85.89
18
Dallas
86.44
 
18
San Diego
86.11
19
Indianapolis
86.44
 
19
Tennessee
86.13
20
Pittsburgh
86.44
 
20
Philadelphia
86.22
21
Minnesota
86.50
 
21
New England
86.25
22
Baltimore
86.56
 
22
Baltimore
86.33
23
Cincinnati
86.56
 
23
New Orleans
86.44
24
Miami
86.56
 
24
Cleveland
86.50
25
New Orleans
86.56
 
25
Minnesota
86.50
26
Seattle
86.63
 
26
Cincinnati
86.56
27
Chicago
86.67
 
27
St. Louis
86.63
28
Arizona
86.88
 
28
Arizona
86.88
29
New England
86.88
 
29
NY Giants
86.88
30
Cleveland
87.00
 
30
Dallas
86.89
31
NY Giants
87.25
 
31
Pittsburgh
86.89
32
St. Louis
87.25
 
32
Washington
87.25

2nd-Half Nuggets
 
  • The Chiefs rank high in all SOS rankings this year, but it’s especially encouraging for RBs Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis that they rank near the top in the second half of the season, especially since their matchups in the key Weeks 14-16 are fantastic on paper (Cle, Oak, Ind).
  • There’s absolutely nothing scary about Arian Foster’s second half schedule, and in fact it ranks as the best in the league again this year. That’s something that should wrap up the debate about who the #1 overall pick is this year in fantasy.
  • They just don’t run the ball, but maybe if Alex Green is healthy in the second half of the season, they will give him more carries than we’re used to seeing. I do think it’s dangerous to rely so much on the pass with potential weather issues in December and January. We know James Starks is solid but isn’t very explosive, yet Green can be explosive. He was the lead runner on a pass-happy team in college, so he can be the same in Green Bay if he gets the chance, especially since he can be productive in the passing game. If he does get a chance, his schedule in the second half of the season looks very good.
  • New York’s Shonn Greene’s schedule is brutal in the first half of the season, but if he’s still the guy midseason, he’s someone you might want to consider trading for on the cheap because the schedule gets A LOT easier. In fact, it checks in as the third easiest second-half schedule, according to our projections.
  • Whomever is carrying the load for the 49ers in the second half of the season – obviously Frank Gore if he’s healthy and effective – should get a nice boost from what looks like a cake schedule against the run.
  • They do have the Ravens in Week Fifteen, but otherwise the Bronco schedule against the run looks very good, which is noteworthy because Willis McGahee (or someone else) could probably use some help later in the season. Other than Baltimore in Week Fifteen, they get TB, Oak, and Cle for the key fantasy playoff weeks.
  • In addition to the usual concerns with drafting a Patriot RB, their schedule doesn’t look that good in the second half of the season. In fact, matchups against Mia, Hou, SF, Jac, and Mia to close out the season do look pretty tough on paper.
  • Atlanta’s Matt Ryan has a good first half schedule, but his second half schedule also looks strong, with four of his final eight games against below-average pass defenses.
  • Chicago QB Jay Cutler’s first-half schedule is great, but there is a rough spot after that, starting in Week Ten with Hou, SF, and Sea in a four-week span.
  • Other than Houston in Week Twelve, there’s nothing scary about Detroit QB Matthew Stafford’s schedule in the second half, and keep in mind it’s really easy to start the season.
  • As if he needs any help already, but Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers gets six favorable matchups in his last eight games, so he could in theory exceed 2011’s sick production.
  • The Texans close out the season with six consecutive games against defenses that I currently project to be below-average against the pass. That’s a big positive for QB Matt Schaub and WR Andre Johnson, if they can stay on the field.
  • If you can take away Houston in Week Seventeen, Indy’s Andrew Luck gets only one tough matchup (Hou) the entire second half of the season.
  • Once again, there’s nothing prohibitive about the Chief schedule and Matt Cassel’s in the second half of the season looks good.
  • If he can hang on to his starting job, New York’s Mark Sanchez does get four favorable matchups in his final seven games, and the other three aren’t terrible.
  • Other than Seattle in Week Sixteen, the 49ers schedule against the pass is looking strong, which is more good news for QB Alex Smith.
  • Very similarly, the Seahawks only have a real worry Week Sixteen against the Niners, as the rest of their second-half schedule looks good, which could be a factor for QB Matt Flynn if he can win and hold off all comers for the starting job.
  • The Ram schedule is good in the first half, but it gets pretty tough in the second half of the season, with four challenging matchups from Week Nine on.
  • Luckily for Robert Griffin III his schedule is favorable in the first half of the season, but it gets a lot tougher in the second half, with four tougher matchups in their final seven games.
Team-by-Team Overviews
 
Arizona – You have to be little careful with any team in the NFC West these days because the 49ers skew the numbers, especially against the run. In addition, Seattle’s defense is ascending, so the NFC West isn’t a cakewalk anymore. Their schedule is on the tougher end vs. the run and the pass. The good news is they get SF in Week Seventeen, and you might not be playing for anything that final week.
Weeks 13-16: Not terrible, against NYJ, Sea, Det, and Chi
 
Atlanta – According to my early SOS projections, the Falcons have the easiest schedule vs. the run and the third-easiest against the pass, so the schedule sure does seem favorable for the Falcons this year. There are certainly plenty of rock solid defenses, but I don’t see a top defense on the schedule other than maybe the Giants. So you have to be a little more encouraged for the Falcons this year based on the schedule.
Weeks 13-16: Nothing seriously concerning, against NO, Car, NYG, and Det
 
Baltimore – My projected SOS has the Ravens about middle-of-the-pack for the run and a little worse than that against the pass. The schedule doesn’t look brutal at all (they don’t have to play themselves, which always helps), but it’s littered with defenses that could be rock solid, like Cin, Phi, KC, Dal, Hou, Was, and NYG. But overall, I can’t be convinced that the schedule is going to be particularly prohibitive for the Ravens.
Weeks 13-16: Pretty challenging, against Pit, Was, Den, and NYG
 
Buffalo – The numbers don’t look great (below average vs. the run and the pass), but a detailed look at their 16 matchups doesn’t exactly strike fear. Playing SF and Sea doesn’t help, but there are a good number of nice matchups for the Bills, so I’d be inclined to lean more toward the favorable side, despite what the numbers say. Or at least it’s a push.
Weeks 13-16: Pretty solid overall, against Jac, Stl, Sea, and Mia
 
Carolina – Looking at their 16 games, every matchup appears to be about average or above average, so the schedule appears to be pretty good for the Panthers. They check in as the 7th easiest vs. the run according to my early projected SOS. And while it’s a little below average vs. the pass, it doesn’t look particularly tough. So basically, the schedule shouldn’t be a factor when considering the Panthers, unless you’re giving their running game a bit of a bump up.
Weeks 13-16: Looks favorable, against KC, Atl, SD, and Oak
 
Chicago – The Bears check in at well above-average for the run and the 4th easiest against the pass, so the schedule looks okay. Figuring the SOS for the pass can be futile, but Jay Cutler’s schedule certainly does look good on paper, which is noteworthy because he now has Brandon Marshall.
Weeks 13-16: Nothing scary, against Sea, Min, GB, and Ari
 
Cincinnati – As usual, playing four games total against the Steelers and Ravens will make a schedule look tough, and the Bengals’ settles in as near the bottom of my projected SOS vs. the run and the pass. It doesn’t look brutal, at least, and there are a lot of matchups against some mediocre teams like Jac, Mia, Oak, plus the Browns twice.
Weeks 13-16: Not great, against SD, Dal, Phi, and Pit
 
Cleveland – The Browns get a little bit of an easier schedule than the Bengals, but it’s still below average against the run and the pass. But other than the Steelers and Ravens twice, it doesn’t stand out as a major red flag.
Weeks 13-16: Pretty decent, against Oak, KC, Was, and Den
 
Dallas – Dallas’ schedule against the run and the pass checks in as below-average, so that’s not great. Their division is obviously pretty solid, and they’re playing the AFC North this year, with games against Pit/Bal, so that hurts.
Weeks 13-16: Not great, but not too bad against Phi, Cin, Pit, and No
 
Denver – While a lot has already been made of their tougher schedule in NFL terms, I actually have Denver with the 9th best schedule against the run and the 8th best schedule against the pass, so that’s not bad. There are definitely a lot of good teams on the schedule, but nothing scary. Of course, I have a hard time being scared about all but a few defenses in the league right now. They do get Oak twice, TB, and Cle, and Car isn’t a bad matchup.
Weeks 13-16: One rough spot, but otherwise great, against TB, Oak, Bal, and Cle
 
Detroit – The Lions are a little below average against the run and the pass, but that’s probably due to matchups with a couple of high-end defenses on the schedule (SF, Hou, and Sea). Otherwise, it looks pretty good, so I don’t think the schedule presents much of a problem for Detroit.
Weeks 13-16: Looks pretty damn good, against Ind, GB, Ari, and Atl
 
Green Bay – The Packers are a little below average against the run, but that probably doesn’t mean much because, you know, they don’t run it. They are above average against the pass, so that’s good. Their division isn’t exactly tough, and they have some good matchups against teams like Ind, Stl, Ari, and Ten. The run schedule is also much better in the second half of the season.
Weeks 13-16: Pretty, pretty good, against Min, Det, Chi, and Ten
 
Houston – The Texans check in as top-6 against the run and the pass on the favorable end, so that is good to know. The Jag defense was decent last year, but playing in the AFC South really helps. Otherwise, the schedule looks fine to me.
Weeks 13-16: Very good, against Ten, NE, Ind, and Min
 
Indianapolis – The Colts are essentially middle-of-the-pack against the run and the pass, so the schedule looks negligible. It could be a lot worse, though, so I’ll lean to the positive side. Probably their toughest matchup is Houston, and they get them for the second time in Week Seventeen, when your league may be over.
Weeks 13-16: Could be a lot worse, against Det, Ten, Hou, and KC
 
Jacksonville – The Jags need all the help they can get, and the schedule does offer some relief. You don’t want to go overboard, but their schedule does check in as #3 against the run and #2 against the pass (in terms of ease), so that helps. They may get smoked by GB, Det, and NE, plus Hou twice, but this is a schedule full of weaker teams like Min, Ind, Oak, Buf, Mia, in addition to their other weaker divisional foes.
Weeks 13-16: Good enough, against Buf, NYJ, Mia, and NE
 
Kansas City – Coming off a horrible season, the Chief schedule looks understandably good on paper. It’s top-3 against the run and 7th against the pass, so that’s a positive for them. They’ve made some great offseason acquisitions, so KC could be a force in 2012. Other than matchups against the Ravens and Steelers, this is a nice schedule.
Weeks 13-16: Perhaps the best in the league, against Car, Cle, Oak, and Ind
 
Miami – Miami’s schedule checks in as slightly below-average against both the run and slightly above-average against the pass, so it’s not scary. There are a couple of trouble areas, like SF in Week Fourteen, but overall the schedule should not be a big concern. Now everything else related to this team, those are concerns.
Weeks 13-16: Not bad overall, against NE, SF, Jac, and Buf
 
Minnesota – The Vikings are just about in the middle-of-the-pack against both the run and the pass, and there are a lot of seemingly favorable matchups. There’s also SF, Hou, and Sea, but the schedule isn’t terrible for the Vikings. It’s a lot better in the first half of the season, which is probably when they need it most.
Weeks 13-16: Kind of tough but not brutal, against GB, Chi, Stl, and Hou
 
New England – While the numbers actually come out as below average against the run and the pass, that’s likely because of matchups against Bal Sea, Hou, and SF. Those are four tough ones for sure, but otherwise their schedule is favorable from an NFL standpoint, and probably also a fantasy standpoint.
Weeks 13-16: Mixed bag against Mia, Hou, SF, and Jac
 
New Orleans – The Saints are in the top 12 for the run, so that’s something positive for a team that has handled enough adversity for a decade. Playing the weaker NFC West certainly helps, and their own division isn’t exactly full of top defenses. It’s a little tougher for the pass, overall.
Weeks 13-16: Not bad, against Atl, NYG, TB, and Dal
 
NY Giants – This is a pretty tough schedule, especially for the run (SF, Pit, and Bal are in there), which is what you’d expect from a division winner in a tougher division. It may not matter much for their highly-evolved offense, but things could be a little tricky for the G-Men, especially against the run.
Weeks 13-16: Could be worse, against Was, NO, Atl, and Bal
 
NY Jets – Somehow, the Jets come out as being near the bottom against the run (in a bad way) and near the top against the pass. Their first five games as a whole look pretty brutal against the run (Buf, Pit, Mia, SF, and Hou), so this is a case where I might lower someone like Shonn Greene’s rating based on the schedule. As for the ease against the pass, it helps, but it’s not going to sway anyone to invest heavily.
Weeks 13-16: Pretty good, against Ari, Jac, Ten, and SD
 
Oakland – The Raiders are just above average against the run and just below average against the pass, so the schedule seems to be negligible. Looking at their 16 games, this looks like an 8-8 team at best, but it’s not scary for fantasy.
Weeks 13-16: Looks solid, against Cle, Den, KC, and Car
 
Philadelphia – The schedule doesn’t look great on paper, and it checks in as below average against the run and the pass. The good news is their out-of-division schedule doesn’t look too bad, and they know their divisional opponents well, so ultimately the SOS shouldn’t be a huge issue for Philly.
Weeks 13-16: Decent enough, against Dal, TB, Cin, and Was
 
Pittsburgh – The Steelers are in the top-12 for the run, but near the bottom for the pass, but that’s likely on the strength of their divisional games, which can mean very little. They also play the tougher NFC East, which doesn’t help, but the schedule doesn’t look as good as it usually does for the Steelers.
Weeks 13-16: Could be worse, against Bal, SD, Dal, and Cin
 
San Diego – The schedule looks pretty good for the Chargers, especially for the run, so that’s good news for Ryan Mathews. He does get the Ravens and Steelers in the second half of the season, but overall the schedule looks okay for San Diego.
Weeks 13-16: Not too scary against Cin, Pit, Car, and NYJ
 
San Francisco – It’s good for them they don’t have to play themselves, and while the NFC West is improving, their schedule looks slightly above average (slightly below average against the run). But overall, the schedule appears to be a positive for the Niners.
Weeks 13-16: Favorable, against Stl, Mia, NE, and Sea
 
Seattle – Their schedule doesn’t look brutal, and they get some help with four beatable matchups against the Rams and Cardinals, but they also play SF twice and many other solid defenses. By the projected SOS, their schedule ranks in the bottom half against the run and the pass, so it’s certainly not a big positive for them.
Weeks 13-16: Hard to say, against Chi, Ari, Buf, and SF
 
St. Louis – Even though they were one of the worst teams in the league last year, the Rams have the toughest schedule against the run, thanks in large part to two games against the Niners and two against the solid Seahawks. The schedule doesn’t look too, too bad otherwise, yet they also rank as the 11th hardest against the pass. Those ranking are hardly etched in stone, but it does reflect what looks like a schedule that will be challenging. That’s not great news.
Weeks 13-16:  Good after first one, against SF, Buf, Min, and TB
 
Tampa Bay – Coming off a bad year, the Bucs get some relief from the schedule makers. Against the run, they check in with the 5th best schedule, and they’re in the top half against the pass. They need some help, and it’s fair to say they get some with the schedule, one that does not include a single matchup against perennial powers (Pit, Bal, SF, etc.).
Weeks 13-16: Good enough, against Den, Phi, NO, and Stl
 
Tennessee – They made the top 10 against the pass in terms of ease of schedule, but they’re in the bottom third against the run, which isn’t the best news for Chris Johnson, who feasted at times on some bad defenses in 2011. Still, other than Pittsburgh (a team that is clearly slipping defensively), the schedule doesn’t look awful on paper.
Weeks 13-16: Not too shabby, against Hou, Ind, NYJ, and GB
 
Washington – The Redskins are about middle-of-the-pack for both the run and the pass, but their schedule at least looks easier to start the season. Playing in a tougher division doesn’t help, plus they’re playing the AFC North, so overall the schedule should be prohibitive. This is a good team, but unless RGIII lights it up, they may have a tough time reaching .500. This looks like an 8-8 or 7-9 team based on their matchups.
Weeks 13-16: Could be tough, against NYG, Bal, Cle, and Phi
 
SOS Notes Using 2010’s data
If you’re looking for SOS data using 2011’s stats, simply check out our SOS TOOL.
 
This tool takes last year’s actual numbers and applies them to this year’s schedule. In addition, it’s broken down by position, and if you have entered some custom scoring system, is customized to your scoring system. Finally, you can filter the tool to show only a certain range of weeks, location, etc. 

As the 2012 season progresses, this tool is populated with 2012’s data as the games are played.

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