Fantasy Football: Ten Insights from the 2020 NFL Schedule Release

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The 2020 NFL Schedule was released Thursday evening and it’s now become an annual tradition where individual teams showcase their schedule on social media while getting more and more creative. Here are the best of the best:

Now, we already knew who was playing who this year and what divisions matched up against each other. But the schedule release gave us a clear picture of when the games are played and their order. For fantasy purposes, the opening schedule (Weeks 1-4) gives us a small but tangible start to make our choices of streaming options, hot start candidates, and who could disappoint at the beginning of the year.

Important Note: 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 2020. Using SOS (strength of schedule) numbers from last year as the main determinant is outdated and assumes that the NFL isn’t an ever-evolving ebb and flow of chaos.

1. What An Opener!

The Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs take on the Houston Texans in the kickoff game Thursday September 10th. Call it a rematch of the AFC Divisional Game or Bill O’Brien‘s chance to redeem himself after trading arguably the best wide receiver in football. Other exciting Week 1 matchups include:

  • Green Bay @ Minnesota– Rodgers versus Cousins. Cook versus Jones. Adams versus Thielen. First-round pick Justin Jefferson versus the Packers first-round rookie WR.
  • Cleveland @ Baltimore. Remember these Browns won here in Week 4 last year.
  • New Orleans @ Tampa Bay. Brees. Brady. Hall of Famers. Wow.
  • Dallas @ Los Angeles Rams. It’s the battle of the Mcs: McCarthy vs McVay.
2. R-E-V-E-N-G-E

Everyone loves a good revenge narrative including TV producers. The buildup in the pre-game reporting is all about “what happened in that locker room” and “what a great group of guys they are”. Blah, blah, blah. We want some football and we want. Here are a couple of revenge narratives worth noting:

  • Week 1- Seattle @ Atlanta. Could Dan Quinn finally learn how to defense outside his old team?
  • Week 8- Jimmy Graham, or at least the corpse of Jimmy Graham, faces his old New Orleans Saints team. But man that feels so long ago…
  • Weeks 9 & 11- Emmanuel Sanders gets to face off against the 49ers AND the Broncos.
  • Week 11 & 16- Chargers and Broncos. Melvin Gordon still be looking for the cash.
  • Week 16- Chicago @ Jacksonville. Dear God, please give Allen Robinson an actual QB one day.
  • Week 16- Carolina @ Washington. Riverboat Ron welcomes the Cats to our nation’s capital.

Speaking of revenge, can we talk about how Frank Gore starts the season off… with THREE IN A ROW! He faces the Bills, 49ers, and Colts and then adds on another three throughout the season. Geez, Ryan Fitzpatrick only has five revenge games on his docket this year.

3. Primetime Breakdown

One of the biggest conversation pieces annually centers around who receives the coveted primetime games on Sunday and Monday nights. It’s essentially a badge of approval for the NFL saying: “Hey, we think people will watch you”. But this is also a chance to blow up in people’s faces as the Browns (forgettably) had FIVE(!) primetime matchups last year. For 2020, here is the Monday Night Football schedule

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4. Catch Up on Some Sleep

Here are a couple of primetime games where we honestly might be going to bed early that night:

  • Week 3- Miami @ Jacksonville on Thursday Night. Woof.
  • Week 8- Miami @ Cincinnati. Yes, we have a chance to see Burrow versus Tua. Or maybe its Burrow versus Fitzmagic. Regardless, it could get rough.
  • Week 9- New England @ New York Jets. It’s just not the same without Tom.
5. What Happens in Vegas…

The Las Vegas Raiders have one of the more intriguing schedules with a couple of games I want to highlight

  • Gruden and the boys open the season against newly minted Panthers head coach Matt Rhule in Week 1. Christian McCaffrey against that Raiders defense (if you can call it that).
  • The Raiders play their first game at Allegiant Stadium on September 21st on Monday night against the New Orleans Saints. Good luck.
  • Call it a Gruden fest. The former Tampa Bay coach takes on Tom Brady and the Buccaneers (man is that still weird to say) in Week 9 on Monday night.
6. Brady Has His Work Cut Out

The Buccaneers were an obvious major offseason winner and the networks were ready to jump on it. The Buccaneers play three(!) primetime games in a row… all on the road. In Week 5, they play the Bears on Thursday Night Football. In Week 7, it’s the Raiders in Las Vegas and Week 8 is the Giants at the MetLife Stadium. Even if those teams aren’t Murderer’s Row, playing on the road in the NFL with that much adrenaline flowing during a night game is intense.

Oh, and I didn’t even mention the division he finds himself in. The NFC South is notoriously ruthless, a far cry from the AFC East days Tom.

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7. Jump in the Stream Early for QBs

Streaming the QB position is all about finding the right matchups and this is never more important than how you start your season.

  • Jimmy G… Still Handsome. The 49ers QB starts with Arizona, the Jets, and the Giants. All of those teams were atrocious against the pass in 2019. If you want to be contrarian as a DFSer early, why not lap the field with a 49ers passing game stack?

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  • Remember Tyrod– His legs are still are a plus in fantasy and if he starts early, I don’t mind looking his way. The Chargers face Joe Burrow and the Bengals in Week 1 and then the Chiefs at home in Week 2 where he’ll have to play ketchup with Patrick Mahomes. (See what I did there)
  • Pick Up Daniel Jones… later. Any early sleeper pick by many, the first couple of weeks for the Giants is rough: Pittsburgh, Chicago, and San Francisco. Wow. He will likely be on your waiver wire so wait and pounce later because the matchups get better.
8. The Ravens Can Chill at the End

The Ravens’ final three opponents: the Jaguars, Giants, and Bengals. Wow. This team was the No. 1 seed for a reason last year in the AFC and perhaps those starters could be rested at the expense of fantasy owners everywhere. We need more Lamar Jackson in our lives!

9. Beware of the Dark Horses

Last year, San Francisco was one of the teams I mentioned in this article that could get out to a great early season start. Now I didn’t see them being Super Bowl contenders (who did?) but identifying early season dark horses is a fun exercise for anyone schedule-watching. Here are a couple worth mentioning:

  • The Jets. Yes, they look like a .500 team at best but with the Patriots looking like a different squad, the Bills might be the only team that stand in their way in the AFC East.
  • The Cardinals.  DeAndre Hopkins. Kyler Murray. Enough said. But still, that division is hard. I’m saying they don’t finish in 4th.
  • The Giants. The offense will be fun to watch and weird things happen every year in the NFC East.
10. Pour One Out for Week 17

With the approved collective bargaining agreement taking effect in 2021, Week 17 won’t have the same ring to it next year. For fantasy owners, Week 17 has almost been an afterthought as the majority of leagues are over and many NFL teams rest their starters. (If your league hasn’t changed this yet make it now!) Every single NFL team will be playing a divisional game on the last week of the season as theoretically every division could come down to this.

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