The 2005 NFL Schedule:Hot Spots, Your Roadmap to Success by Greg
The 2006 NFL Schedule:
Your Roadmap to Success by Greg Alan
season a number of NFL scheduling oddities appear. The 2006 season is no
exception. If you're a serious Fantasy Football owner, you'll want to
consider every edge possible -- including scheduling anomalies.
Learn how to use "Hot Spots" to target waiver wire pickups,
craftily time trades and optimize your roster for the playoffs.
In this article, 4for4.com’s Greg Alan breaks down the 2006 NFL schedule.
You’ll find vital tactics that can positively change your outlook and lead
to big results.
Folks, to win your league championship, you must get hot at the end of the
All your research during the summer will fail to net a championship if you
run out of gas during your Fantasy playoffs.
LESS EFFORT + MORE RESULTS = A MUST DO
Many Fantasy strategies and tactics often require tons of preparation and
often result in rather minimal gain. However, leveraging “Hot Spots” requires
little time and often yields a big upshot. Sound good? Buckle up and let’s
dig in. ...
truth, having just one or two favorable add-on scheduling matchups during
your playoffs is often all it takes to gain an edge -- and walk off with a
In this article, I make a case for the phrase "Timing is
Everything." Keep that theme in mind this season. If you wisely leverage
the NFL schedule, you'll be able to cleverly time trades, artfully target
waiver wire pickups and most importantly, optimize your roster for the
Even if your draft doesn't go well, by leveraging "Hot Spots"
you'll be turning negatives into positives and strengthening your team.
We’ll start out with some traditional Strength of Schedule (SOS) research. In
addition, I'll offer up a few observations.
I'll also share the initial 4for4.com 2006 Defense Team rankings. We'll
integrate these rankings into the 2006 NFL schedule. Then, we'll build a
roadmap and flag some "Hot Spots." We'll pay particular attention
to the final few weeks of the NFL regular season -- Fantasy Football playoff
addition, we’ll review the 4for4.com Team Defense “Hot Spots” -- a great time
saver in helping plan out your Team Defensive starts.
But, before we dig in, I need to get everyone on board and talk about how
important the NFL schedule is when it comes to winning your Fantasy Football
Case Study No. 1 -- ChrisSchussman wins big in WCOFF
In WCOFF’s first season, despite drafting Vinny Testaverde and Shane
Matthews as his starting QBs and fielding a draft day roster that claimed
Rod Gardner as a No. 1 receiver, the WCOFF league champion, Mr. ChrisSchussman, walked away with a cool $200,000
grand prize. How did he do it? Plain and simple, he got red hot in the
playoffs starting in Week 13. As it turns out, each of his first three draft
picks had green (good) "Hot Spots" in the WCOFF playoffs. All three
of his top picks delivered when it counted the most and Chris walked away a
huge WCOFF winner!
Case Study No. 2 -– Greg Alan goes 53-0!
That same year, I competed in an 11-team private Fantasy league. In this
auction/draft league I faced long time rivals, several of whom I consider to
be among the strongest Fantasy Football players in the world. Because I built
my roster around the 4for4.com "Hot Spots" I was literally
unstoppable after midseason. In fact, I was the highest scoring team six
weeks in a row! As a result, coming down the stretch I posted a head-to-head
record of 53-0, dominated the playoffs and walked off with another
Case Study No. 3 -– Jim McVicar plans and wins FFTOC
The first FFTOC Champion, Jim McVicar, summed it up this way, “I
started working on (and planning out) my lineups for last year in May just as
I have this year. ... I really can’t wait for this season to begin.” Turns
out, Jim saved and planned to use a number of studs in the final week of the
FFTOC playoffs. All those players had easy matchups, giving McVicar the
points he needed to win the FFTOC Online Championship title.
After all the draft-day strategy, all the player evaluations and
preseason analysis, the fact remains -- if you want to win a big-time
national contest like WCOFF or the FFTOC you need to get hot at the end of
the season. If you don't get hot at the end, your chances of winning it all
are slim. The same is true in most local leagues -- you must finish strong.
Next, I'll address specifics about the 2006 NFL season. I'll focus on
actionable tips and things you can use.
Strength of Schedule (SOS)
To kick things off, we'll start by examining opponents' win-loss records from
the prior season. As is the case with much SOS data, you'll want to use
caution and good reasoning, especially if your SOS analysis completely hinges
on performance from last year.
I'd strongly suggest you steer clear of fragmented stats derived solely from
last year's data. As much as I love analysis, Fantasy managers that drill
down into measures like "Yardage Allowed to a TE" and
"Opponent's Red-zone FG accuracy" often miss the big picture. These
studies often lack predictive rigor. Measures like "Yardage Allowed to
an Opposing No. 3 WR" rarely hold up from year-to-year.
Rather than generate a stack of metrics based on last year's data, the trick
is to look for significant outliers and shifts from the prior season. That’s
exactly what Table I does for us.
I - 2006 Strength of Schedule (ranking
on change from 2005 to 2006)
Rank (schedule going
easier to harder)
%Change from 2005
Prior to Season
Prior to Season
Prior to Season
Prior to Season
few things to keep in mind as you examine Table I. ...
* If you liked the Dolphins’ offense last year, you'll enjoy the 2006
season. Miami looks to benefit from their 2006 schedule as long as they keep
their offensive momentum going and they stay healthy. Ronnie Brown will
face plenty of teams that can’t stop the run. Compared to their opponents in
2005, Miami has a much easier schedule this year. Also keep in mind the
Dolphins ended the 2005 season winning their last six games in a row. It’s
hard not to be impressed with what the Dolphins’ new coach Nick Saban has
done in just one year.
* The Packers’ offense might do better than some might think. The
schedule makers certainly did their part. Green Bay’s schedule looks much
easier in 2006 than it was last year (44 percent vs. 50 percent). In fact,
outside of Weeks 1 and 17 (against the Bears), the Packers have plenty of
good matchups. Coming down the stretch in your Fantasy season Green Bay faces
the Lions, Jets and 49ers!
* In part, as a result of winning the Super Bowl last year, the Steelers
will face their toughest schedule in four years. Prior to 2005, the Steelers
always seemed to enjoy a major scheduling advantage. Not this year. Week 15
is always a critical week for Fantasy managers, and that week the Steelers
face Carolina. And in Week 16 they play the Ravens. Both the
Ravens and Panthers look to have above average defenses in 2006. If you have
Steeler players and they are doing well, the time to trade them is after Week
11. From that point on, their defensive schedule gets harder.
* Due to a very disappointing performance in 2005, the Bills have an
easier schedule in 2006. Willis McGahee and Company will battle foes
with a 47 percent win rate. Last year, entering the season, Buffalo faced
teams with a 53 percent win rate. In Week 16, with many FF Super Bowls
hanging in the balance, McGahee and Lee Evans face the Titans.
* In a case of the rich getting richer, things look very promising for Colts
offense.Peyton Manning, Reggie
Wayne and Marvin Harrison will work their magic against theeasiest
schedule they have seen in four years!In Week 16 the Coltsface
their easiest defensive foe all year -- the Texans. It doesn’t get much
easier than that, and it hardly seems fair. I’ll have more on Peyton Manning
later in the article. You won’t want to miss it.
* The Patriots have no excuses. They have a much easier schedule in
2006. In fact, they have the third most favorable shift in schedule
difficulty in the entire league. Outside of Weeks 9 and 12, good matchups
will be had as New England faces the Bills, Jets, Packers, Lions, Titans
and Texans in 2006. That should spell big Fantasy points for Tom
Brady and the New England ground game. * Despite a losing season in 2005, the Eagles’ schedule actually
gets much harder in 2006. Thanks to the competitive NFC-East, Philly has the
most unfavorable shift in schedule difficulty in the entire league. At the
start of last season the guys from South Philly faced teams with a combined
winning record for 45 percent. This year it’s up to 52 percent. The Giants
are in the same boat -– the Blue team from New Jersey plays their hardest
schedule in four years.
* The Chargers should be able to pile on Fantasy points the first two
weeks facing the Titans and Raiders. In addition, a few weeks
later they get the porous 49ers and then the Rams! If you own Phillip
Rivers and he’s really kicking it after Week 9, consider trading him and
demand plenty in return. You might be able to pull a classic sell-high move.
* On the flip side, look at those Titans. They just can’t catch a
break. Their schedule actually gets harder in 2006. Over a three-week period
they face Indy, Washington and Dallas. 4for4.com has all
three of those team defenses ranked in the top 8 this season.Adding insult to injury, the Titans also
face the always-rugged Ravens a few weeks later.
* The Cleveland Browns have plenty of reason to gripe about their
luck! If losing Kellen Winslow to injury in 2004 and 2005 wasn’t bad
enough, the 2006 Browns’ schedule gets brutal towards season’s end. Fantasy
owners should take note -- starting in Week 14 the Browns face Pittsburgh,
Baltimore and Tampa Bay! If any Cleveland players come out of
the gate strong, be sure to trade them away for quality talent before Week
Against the Run / Against the Pass
Examining the 2006 Schedule using an opponent's record from the prior year
gives you a reasonable idea of schedule difficulty. Sure, it’s far from
perfect, still it offers you a "vaguely right" approach.
Ideally, for Fantasy Football purposes, we'd like to objectively segment
defensive team pass and rush performance. Then, everything else being equal,
forecast passing and rushing using last year's data. The problem is, in going
from last year to this year, everything else isn't equal.
If you segment last year’s defensive pass and defensive rush performance and
follow it blindly, you face the very real risk of being "precisely
wrong." All that being said, year-to-year pass/rush data does offer a
modest level of predictive accuracy. Given that, next up I offer up a few
* In this space in 2004, I identified the Colts as the team having the
easiest pass defense schedule. I said, “Peyton Manning owners could
really be loving life if this data holds up.” Well, Peyton Manning
took full advantage and broke many of Dan Marino’s single-season
records. Guess what? This season, the Colts again have the distinction
of facing the easiest pass defense schedule in the entire NFL. Peyton
Manning owners are you listening? On paper it looks like another
ultra-elite Fantasy season for Manning. Wow!
* Presumably it’s DeShaun Foster or perhaps rookie DeAngelo
Williams, but regardless of who it is, the RB that gets the bulk of
carries in Carolina this year could turn out to be very special. The
Panthers have one of the easiest schedules when it comes to opposing run
defense. On the flip side, they face decent pass defenses. Again more good
news for Foster and Williams as that plays right into Coach John Fox’s
offensive scheme –- run the ball.
* Seattle arguably had the best rushing attack in the NFL last year.
In 2006, the rich could get richer. According to last year's data, Shaun
Alexander and the Seahawks face the softest run defense schedule in the
* If Arizona head Coach Denny Green can keep his offense on track and
build from last year’s success, Kurt Warner, Anquan Boldin and Larry
Fitzgerald could put up huge numbers in 2006. The Cardinals face the
second easiest pass defense in the entire NFL. Add Edge James into the
backfield and things look very promising. If Warner gets hurt and rookie QB Matt
Leinart is forced to step in late, he could be a huge factor -- the
Cardinals face the 49ers inWeek 16!
* We all know the Browns want to run the ball. But on paper they face
the most difficult NFL run defense schedule in 2006. Making matters worse for
Fantasy managers holding Cleveland RBs, Weeks 13 to 16 look particularly hard
for the Browns. All this could make veteran WR Joe Jurevicius a decent
late round gamble as the Browns may be forced to pass more than they would
* Using last year's data and this year's schedule, the Bengals, Browns,
Raiders, Jets and Texans may have the biggest challenge running
the ball. While prior year rush defense offers some forecasting validity,
obviously don't count out Rudi Johnson. He’s done reasonably well
against rugged defensive schedules before. * Last year's data suggests the Seahawks, Chiefs and Rams have an
easy 2006 schedule when it comes to passing. Not far behind, the Cowboys.
In turn, Drew Bledsoe could once again make for an excellent late
round value pick, especially now that he has Terrell Owens as a go-to
* Brad Johnson isn't going to be catching any breaks early this season
due to an easy schedule. Using 2005 stats, the Vikings, will be facing the
second-best cumulative pass defense this year. Likewise, based on schedule, Brett
Favre and the Packers will also have their work cut out for them moving
the ball in the air.
* Mike Martz, the Lions’ new offensive coordinator, better be as good
as he thinks he is. On paper, Lion newcomers (Martz, QBs Jon Kitna and
Josh McCown) will be facing the best cumulative pass defense this year in
* Aaron Brooks has a long history of breaking Fantasy manager’s
hearts, but he could finally live up to expectations this year. First, he’s
flying under the radar as most have soured on him. Second, he’s surrounded by
four talented wide receivers including Randy Moss. Third, the Raiders
face one of the easiest pass defense schedules in the league this year. In
fact, on paper, only the Colts and Cardinals have an easier
schedule against the pass.
* Larry Johnson managers should be happy about KC’s schedule. The
Chiefs’ opposing rush defense is among the easiest 20 percent in the NFL. The
fact KC plays against the Raiders in critical Week 16 doesn’t hurt
those managers trying to nail down a championship that weekend. Last year
Johnson gained 148-yards rushing and scored three TDs on only 31 rushing
attempts against Oakland.
Table II– Using 2005 Data to Estimate 2006 Pass/Run Schedule Difficulty
Against the Pass (Ranked
Easiest to Hardest)
Avg. Ranked Pass Def.
Against the Run (Ranked Easiest to Hardest)
Run Def. Opponent
Table III –
4for4.com’s Exclusive Early Season
2006 Team Defense Rankings
we substitute opponent name with their defensive rank in the 2006 schedule.
To complete the "Hot Spots" chart, we color-code the areas of
opportunity in green and flag the
more difficult areas in red.
As you examine the "Hot Spot" chart in Table IV, keep in mind the
larger the number, the easier the opponent's defense. I like to think of the
"Hot Spots" as a roadmap -- I use it to steer away from the
"red" and into the "green."
2006 NFL Schedule Exclusive 4for4.com “Hot Spots”
* In what can only be described as a Fantasy gift from the NFL, the Bears’
schedule looks like Fantasy gold. In Week 4 they face a reasonably
challenging Seahawks defense. But, before or after that, the Bears never
play a 4for4.com Top-8 ranked defensive team the entire regular season!
No other NFL team is this fortunate. The trick is loading up on Bears running
backs and not over paying. As a Fantasy manager make sure your team takes
full advantage here. This truly is a scheduling oddity.
* The Rams have had a good offense for years. Even without Dick Vermeil, an MVP-like Warner and
a youthful Marshall Faulk, they
should be able to move the ball this year. However, be careful late in the season.
In Week 14 they play the Bears. In Week 16, they battle the Redskins.
If your team is loaded up with Rams you could be in big trouble come Fantasy
* The Jaguars’ offense faces a very difficult schedule of the first
month of the season. Without Jimmy Smith (retired) at wide receiver
the road gets even more difficult. On the plus side, Jacksonville players may
be highly undervalued come Week 5. And, that’s exactly the time you might
won’t to buy low! In the next five games they’ll get to play the Texans
twice, the Jets once and the Titans once. And, in critical Week
15 they’ll face the Titans yet again. The wise owners will leverage this
* In a similar fashion, the Vikings’ offense could really struggled
early in the year. The team opens the season against Washington, Carolina
and the Bears. That might be the hardest three-game window any offense
will face this year. After three games with little Fantasy production, owners
with key Viking players may panic. If they do, it’s your chance to clean up
and make some great value moves in the process.
* A healthy Donovan McNabb should come out of the gate strong in 2006.
The Eagles face the Texans, Packers and 49ers in the
first month of the season. On paper, it doesn’t get an easier. However,
beware -- Weeks 12, 13 and 14 -- the Eagles’ offense is likely going to hit a
brick wall when they face the Colts, Panthers and Redskins -- all three of
those defensive teams are ranked in the top 5 according to 4for4.com’s early 2006
* If Cadillac Williams is ripping up the league by midseason and you
can get tons of value for him, trade him. Come your Fantasy Playoffs, the
Bucs’ offense won't be doing you any favors. Tampa faces the Steelers
in Week 13 and the Bears potentially dominating defense in Week 15.
* Overall, the Redskins’ offense might not set the world on fire this
year. But, check out Washington’s schedule when it really counts. ... In
Weeks 15 and 16. The Skins face the Saints and Rams. It doesn't
take much imagination to see how a healthy Clinton Portis could be
ramping up late in the season and helping you win your playoffs.
* The Steelers’ offense will face a difficult schedule during Fantasy
playoff time. In Week 15 they get Carolina and the following week the Ravens.
* If Week 16 is your Super Bowl, be sure you have a piece of the Cardinals,
Colts and Chiefs. Aside from having awesome looking offenses
this year, they all face three of the worst defensive teams in the NFL -- the
49ers, Texans and Raiders – comeWeek 16. For
FFTOC-style Fantasy Football managers, it doesn’t get any better than this.
* Over the last four weeks of the season the Broncos do not face a
single team ranked among 4for4.com's Top-15 defensive units. Once again,
you’ll want to have Denver running backs available for your final push.
* Also, the same can be said for the Vikings. In the last month of the
regular season the best defense they’ll face is the Lions – a team
4for4.com ranks 24th best (out of 32). Nice!
As you can see, there's almost no end to how you can leverage "Hot
Spots" to increase your odds of winning. Some of my favorite ways are
listed in Table V.
V -- Ways to Leverage 4for4.com "Hot Spots" to Your Advantage
1) Prudent long-term roster planning
2) Craftily time trades
3) Target waiver wire pickups
4) Optimize your roster for the playoffs
5) Develop a week-to-week game plan in advance
Don’t Ignore Your Team Defense
I’d like to offer some material to help you with your team defense starts.
With a little planning you can gain a huge edge, even if you don’t draft an
elite NFL defense.
I can’t say this enough: if you want an edge, start
planning out what team defenses you should start each week. This will help
you during your draft and during the long NFL season.
So why don’t more FF managers plan out which team defenses to use?
Answer: It can often be a very time consuming task when done from scratch.
That’s why 4for4.com created Tables VI and VII. By consulting these charts,
you can quickly gain insights.
For example, most agree the Bears look to have an excellent defense.
But you might not want to start them in Week 4 against the high-powered
Seahawks’ offense. So, if you draft the Bears as your No. 1 defense, you’d
like your No. 2 defense to have a decent matchup in Week 4. In this case you
might take the Chiefs as a companion defense to the Bears -- in Week 4
KC gets to tee off against the lowly 49ers offense.
combinations are my favorite way to use the 4for4.com Team Defense Hot Spots.
Example: I want two team defenses that will help get me off to a great start.
However, I don’t want to pay dearly for my defensive teams (e.g. Bears).
With that goal in mind, after a few minutes consulting Table VI, I quickly
see how combining the Patriots and Vikings will give me four
exceptionally attractive starts over the first four weeks of the NFL season!
In fact, by combining those middle-tier defensive teams, I actually have a
stronger early season defensive roster than the manager that paid a heavy
price for the Bears. Plus, by owning the Pats’ and Vikings’ defense, I
now look to have a slam dunk matchup in 10 of the 17 weeks -- not bad at all.
Here’s another tip -- to fully optimize your team defense, always examine
teams on your roster and on the waiver wire as well when developing your
week-to-week look ahead plan.
was first introduced to Fantasy Football, I had the good fortune of often
generating the best regular season record. However, inevitably I'd almost
always end up losing in the championship (to a lesser team). Why? My
opponent’s team was more optimized for the playoffs.
Nowadays, I'm still able to win a few in the regular season, but by
leveraging the "Hot Spots," I'm the one now taking home a
disproportionately large share of the championship trophies.
I'm convinced having just one or two extra favorable matchups during the
playoffs is often all it takes to gain an edge -- and walk off with a
championship. The take is clear -- never underestimate the role of good
matchups in the playoffs!
As perceptions change during the 2006 Regular Season, so do the "Hot
Spots." Injuries will cast their negative net on some squads, and like
clockwork one NFL team will rise up this year and surprise us all -- the
Super Bowl winner Patriots-02, Ravens-01 and Rams-00 were all long shots
prior to the start of their championship season.
The punch line? As the year progresses, it's wise to examine updated
"Hot Spots" and look for new opportunity. For your convenience, all
the "Hot Spots" presented here will be updated weekly at 4for4.com
during the 2006 NFL Regular Season.
Greg Alan is a key contributor at 4for4.com Fantasy Football. 4for4.com is a
web site 100% dedicated to helping you win at Fantasy Football. For more work
and ideas from Greg visit http://www.4for4.com