Week 8: Analyzing Ease of Schedule
By Jen Ryan
(Reference Link: http://www.footballdiehards.com/eosforecast.cfm)
When the final second of the final game ticks off the clock this week we will officially be half way through the fantasy football season. Our beloved game is just too short when you compare it to baseball and basketball. Those athletes are not being brutally hit on every play of every game so it makes sense that our game is played under such a short season, but it still seems unfair to me. I cannot possibly be the only one who wants more football. Sadly, I do not always get what I want. The half-way point of the season is the right time to assess your teams, upgrade where need be, and put all the pieces together that you will need to carry you to your championship. Our Ease of Schedule tool is designed to do just that. It is there for you to use as a reference and for me to analyze for you. Let’s evaluate a few teams and their matchups in the upcoming weeks.
New York Giants - @ New Orleans Saints, @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers, vs. New England Patriots
Don’t look now, but the New York Giants currently sit atop one of the worst divisions in the NFL. They are clicking under Ben McAdoo’s offense, Odell Beckham Jr. is finally getting healthy, and in the coming weeks we will see the return of the athletically freakish Jason Pierre-Paul. Things are going right for the Giants and they can easily win two out of their next three games.
The New Orleans Saints present the Giants with a favorable match up for both their passing and running game. On average, they are allowing close to or more than 20 fantasy points to quarterbacks, running backs, and receivers each week. They travel to Tampa Bay the following week for a Week 9 contest against the Buccaneers who are top five in points allowed to both quarterbacks and wide receivers. They are a stingier defense against the run, allowing 14 points per game to running backs. The Giants will return home Week 10 for what will be a sobering game against the New England Patriots.
Verdict: These next two contests have Eli Manning on my radar as a top tier quarterback. Both games should be high scoring and Manning will be doing plenty of throwing. This bodes well for his receivers. Odell Beckham Jr. is always a good play but Rueben Randle could be a low-cost, sneaky play for these two games. As far as the running game goes, there is too much shuffling of the duties for my taste. It is impossible to tell which running back will pull away because none of them have up to this point. Shane Vereen’s lack of usage in the passing game is puzzling, Andre Williams is slow, and Rashad Jennings is average at best. Orleans Darkwa did enough last week for people to finally know his name. While I think the New York receivers will be elevated over these few games before the New England matchup, I want no part of trying to figure out that backfield.
Cincinnati Bengals - @ Pittsburgh Steelers, vs. Cleveland Browns, vs. Houston Texans
Andy Dalton has been a late round gem and currently sits as the QB4. He is having an outstanding season and has an outstanding, healthy supporting cast around him. In addition to his star receiver and emerging tight end, both running backs have stand-alone value. There are plenty of points to be scored in this entire offense.
The Bengals next three matchups are full of fantasy opportunity with the exception of the Pittsburgh Steelers being an unfavorable matchup against the run. Outside of that, all other matchups are favorable. The Steelers, Browns, and Texans are all giving up over 20 points per game to receivers. If the running backs can put up decent numbers against the Steelers, their following two games are favorable. The one-two punch backfield should still be able to produce points in Pittsburgh, but the Steelers have allowed just one rushing touchdown this season.
Verdict: The Steelers, as I’ve mentioned, are stout against the run but the Bengals backfield are not your typical backs. It is rare to have two fantasy relevant backs on the same team. Giovanni Bernard has not had less than double-digit points all season thanks to his heavy usage in the passing game. The whole offense is fantasy relevant and these upcoming weeks are a great part of their schedule. We can expect usual performances from Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert, and Giovanni Bernard. Marvin Jones and Jeremy Hill both have high ceilings, but I am keeping an eye on Mohamed Sanu to see if he will get a few more opportunities.
New York Jets - @ Oakland Raiders, vs. Jacksonville Jaguars, vs. Buffalo Bills
Similar to the Giants, this other New York team will have two easier matchups before a difficult Week 10 game. The Jets’ offense is one of the more pleasant surprises of the season. Brandon Marshall is proving that age is nothing but a number, Eric Decker is an underrated yet elite receiver, and Christopher Ivory runs with purpose similarly to Marshawn Lynch. They lack talent at tight end, but it does not seem to matter much. Not to mention, the journeyman throwing the ball is a top 15 fantasy quarterback who is trending towards the top ten.
The Oakland Raiders may be tough to run on but they are incredibly easy to throw on. Ivory catches passes out of the back field and throws his weight around at the goal line, which could make this not so tough after all. Marshall, Decker, and Fitzpatrick will see a defense that is allowing over 300 yards per game followed by the Jaguars who have given up over 30 points to receivers over their past two games.
Verdict: The ceiling for the Jets’ offense will be through the roof for two weeks before they get a Buffalo at home. The Bills are not an unfavorable matchup, but those division games, especially against their former coach, are always tricky ones. Marshall and Decker are one of the few receiving duos in the league who consistently generate quality fantasy points. Ivory is one of three running backs in the league who is averaging over 100 yards per game. Fitzpatrick is prone to turnovers but he consistently scores points in the teens.
There are plenty of teams with a mixed bag of favorable, unfavorable, and neutral matchups on the horizon but these three teams in particular have the potential for a lot of scoring over the next few weeks. When you consult our Ease of Schedule tool, look beyond the colors of the matchup and consider what these matchups really mean for your fantasy players. Remember to always look even further ahead towards the playoffs and the final weeks of the season that will get you there.