Draft Engine Expert Analysis

Fantasy Football, Fantasy, NFL, Defense, Special Teams, Strength of Schedule
Strength of Schedule: Defense/Special Teams
Having the right defense/special teams in fantasy football can give you a huge weekly edge, so you'll want to see our breakdown on strength of schedules.
Zachary Cohen
04 August, 2020

At DraftEngine, we use unique and proprietary algorithms to assess how a player’s fantasy output will be affected by the quality of their opponent. On a very basic level, we do not use popular “fantasy points against” stats, but rather we factor in the caliber of previous opponents when assessing a defense. Over the course of a season, teams will face differing degrees of opponent quality at every position, making fantasy points against easy to misuse. Oversimplifying for clarity: Giving up eight sacks and four turnovers to the Steelers or Patriots is calculated far differently than giving up eight sacks and four turnovers to the Dolphins or Lions.

While we realize a lot can change once the 2020 season gets started—and rest assured our calculations are adjusted after every game—here’s a look at some fantasy strength-of-schedule considerations going into the season. We’ll tell you which opponents to target or avoid if you’re streaming or have a deep bench, and we’ll highlight some players whose schedules project to affect their fantasy value.

Opponents to target

Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins O-line is still one of the NFL’s weakest, and Ryan Fitzpatrick can be a turnover machine.

Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals made a ton of significant upgrades this offseason, but sacks and turnovers should still come in bunches.

Washington Football Team: Washington’s talent-devoid offense is one to watch. Dwayne Haskins gave up sacks and fumbles in bunches as a rookie, and challenger Kyle Allen was equally sack- and turnover-prone last season with Carolina.

Seattle Seahawks: Russell Wilson’s improvisational style and unreliable O-line leads to plenty of sacks. And Seattle’s ultra-conservative play-calling limits their ability to do damage in points and yards allowed.

Houston Texans: Everything said about Russell Wilson can be said about Deshaun Watson, and with DeAndre Hopkins traded away for a pack of gum and a crate of toilet paper, the Texans’ offense won’t be as explosive.

N.Y. Giants: In his rookie season, Daniel Jones held the ball too long far too often. That style of play lends itself to plenty of sacks and fumbles.

Opponents to avoid

New Orleans Saints: The Saints gave up the fewest fantasy points to opposing DSTs last season, with a league-low eight turnovers.

Baltimore Ravens: As long as Lamar Jackson is on the field, the Ravens are capable of dropping 40 points on any defense. And they’ll do it without risking turnovers.

Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs had arguably the worst RB group outside of Miami last season (the addition of Clyde Edwards-Helaire will help on that front), and they still dominated. In 10 games for which Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and LT Eric Fisher were all healthy last season, K.C. averaged 32 points.

Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys allowed the second fewest fantasy points to opposing DSTs last season, rarely giving up sacks or turnovers when at full strength.

Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers just doesn’t turn the ball over. It’s a low-ceiling proposition to start any DST against the Pack.

D/ST with favorable schedules

Baltimore Ravens: As mentioned in previous posts, the Ravens have a ridiculously easy schedule with very little travel to worry about. Games against the Texans (Week 2), Bengals (Week 5) and Giants (Week 16) are especially favorable for Baltimore’s defense.

Dallas Cowboys: The Seahawks, Giants and Bengals are highlights of a promising schedule for Dallas’ defense.

Cleveland Browns: After a Week 1 visit to Baltimore, Cleveland is a great streaming option in a handful of early games: (Week 2 v. Cincinnati, Week 3 v. Washington, Week 7 at Cincinnati).

D/ST with tough schedules

Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons defense came on strong late last season, but this year’s schedule has a bunch of matchups to avoid, including games at Dallas, at Green Bay, at Minnesota, at New Orleans and at Kansas City

Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs defense was fantastic last season, but you’ll want to stream someone else in Weeks 3 (at Baltimore) and 15 (at New Orleans).