This exercise is a chance for us to give a gut reaction to the release of the NFL schedule. And boy did some of the teams have a fun time sharing it on social media. Search them all if you have some time to kill at the office. My personal favorite… and at least they won at something.
Ready, set, go! 🏁 pic.twitter.com/bmwpdff6Pi
— New York Jets (@nyjets) April 20, 2018
For all the fun and excitement this brings, I cannot stress enough the value of NOT using last year’s records as the main indicator of what will happen in 2018. Using SOS (strength of schedule) numbers from last year as the main determinant is outdated and assumes that the NFL isn’t an ever-evolving ebb and flow of chaos. As you know crazy things can happen year-to-year. Imagine going into 2017 thinking you were playing the Eagles or the Rams on your schedule. Or how about the Jaguars from #Sacksonville? We honestly need to come to terms that we don’t know as much as we’d like to think.
Now, we already knew who was playing who this year and what divisions matched up against each other. But what Thursday night gave us a clear picture of is the order of the games played. For fantasy purposes, the opening schedules (Weeks 1-4) gives us a small but valid menu to make our choices of who could flash and who could disappoint at the beginning of the year.
Special thanks to fellow writer Matthew Betz for contributing.
1. Week 1: Way to Reel Us In NFL
Call me a sucker… but Week 1 of the NFL has some intriguing matchups right from the get-go:
MIN vs. SF: Kirk Cousins vs. Jimmy G.
OAK vs. LAR: Old School vs. New School Coaching aka Gruden vs. McVay
DEN vs. SEA: Rematch of Super Bowl XLVII
ATL vs. PHI: Rematch of last’s year’s sloppy NFC Divisional game
NYG vs. JAX: The Revenge of Tom Coughlin
2. The Fans Might Stage a Coup by Week 4
BUF– @BAL, MIN, @LAC, @GB
CIN-@IND, BAL, @CAR, @ATL
NYJ– @DET, MIA, @CLE, @DEN
Some of the teams looking to draft a franchise QB in the upcoming draft also happen to open the season on the road frequently. The Bills and Jets could easily start out the year 0-4 with fans clamoring for their knight in shining armor to come. The Bengals, in their Year 80 with Marvin Lewis at the helm, could scream for some change if Andy Dalton decides to display annoying mediocrity once again with this early road schedule. In other words, a quarter of the way through your season can tell you a lot.
3. Patrick Mahomes‘ Opening Schedule is Rough
Here is how the first 6 weeks of the season play out for the Chiefs: @LAC, @PIT, vs. SF, @DEN, JAX, @ NE. Those teams boast some fearsome secondaries (aside from SF) and with 4 of those first 6 games on the road. I fear the young gunslinger is going to be floating around on the waiver wire by mid-season with owners left in the doldrums.
4. Alex Smith: Sneaky Early Season Appeal
This is the newly acquired Redskin QB’s first 3 weeks before their Week 4 bye: @ARI, vs. IND, vs. GB. Those defenses aren’t exactly Murderer’s Row as Indianapolis and Green Bay both ranked in the bottom 10 of passing yards allowed per game. The Cardinals defense also has some turnover with Tyrann Mathieu out the door. Don’t be surprised if Smith once again starts the year out with a bang like he did in 2017.
5. The Lions Run Game… Might Get Worse
We all know that Offensive Coordinator Jim Bob Cooter & the Lions aren’t pretending to know how to run the football effectively. They’ve been 30th or worst in rushing attempts and yards for the last 3 years. If they draft a young RB and the hype train begins to roll into town (sorry Ameer Abdullah you’re done), just know there is a brick wall in the middle of their schedule. From Weeks 8 to 14, it is downright unfair.
Even that Week 13 matchup against the Rams is scary considering those two monster DTs (Donald & Suh) that will be in the middle. Don’t count on this being the year the Lions figure this thing out.
6. David Johnson Could Own Weeks 1 & 2
David Johnson missed all of 2017 with a left wrist injury he suffered in Week 1. All signs point to a strong return for Johnson as he gets a JUICY couple of matchups to kick off 2018. In Week 1, the Cardinals face the Redskins at home, and in Week 2, they travel to L.A. to face the Rams. 2016’s overall RB1 should have no trouble returning to form as he faces two of the worst rushing defenses from 2017. The Rams gave up 122.4 yards/game while the Redskins gave up a league-worst 134.1 yards/game on the ground to opposing running backs. DJ should explode back onto the scene in 2018.
7. The Saints Are Marching In
According to many media, Drew Brees & Co. have one of the toughest strength of schedules based on Win-Loss records from 2017. But do not let that sway you, my friends. Their opening schedule is a thing of beauty: vs. TB, vs. CLE, @ATL @NYG. The Bucs and Giants were the worst two teams against the pass in 2017. Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara, and the rest of the Saints should start this parade out in style.
8. Aaron Rodgers: Home Cookin’
In other words, he gonna eat. 3 of his first 4 games are at Lambeau. Other notable QBs with 3 home starts in the first 4 weeks: Sam Bradford (if he survives), Matt Ryan, Jared Goff, Case Keenum, and Blake Bortles.
9. Miami Fantasy Playoffs is a Wasteland
The volume might definitely be there for Kenyan Drake. However, the schedule isn’t too kind during the fantasy playoffs: Week 14 vs. NE, Week 15 @ MIN, Week 16 vs. JAX. That won’t instill too much confidence in fantasy owners coming down the homestretch starting players on one of the most talent-depleted rosters in the league.
10. Jared Cook Could Flash… and Burnout Again
Did I just copy and paste that headline from every preseason of the past 7 years? Cook’s first 4 weeks pan out nicely facing teams that were atrocious against the TE position last year. The Rams (21st), Broncos (30th), Dolphins (31st) and Browns (29th) all gave up significant fantasy points to TEs. Now we have no idea what the offense will look like or if Gruden might line everyone up in the Wing-T. But Cook still has some legit streamer value at a position that is basically a roulette week-to-week.