Week 9: Analyzing Ease of Schedule

By Jen Ryan
(Reference Link: http://www.footballdiehards.com/eosforecast.cfm)

Our Ease of Schedule tool becomes more important as the weeks progress. There are just five weeks remaining in the fantasy football regular season. Next week, I’ll take a look at teams with softer Week 11-13 matchups to analyze players to target before your league trade deadline. Before we get there, let’s take a look at three teams, their upcoming three games, and what their matchups look like.

San Diego Chargers: vs. Chicago Bears, bye, vs. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chargers passing game took a crushing blow with the loss of Keenan Allen last week but all hope should not be lost. Stevie Johnson, Malcom Floyd, and Antonio Gates are still formidable targets for Philip Rivers to throw to. Production should not dip and all three of those pass catchers should absorb Allen’s targets.

The Chargers have two favorable passing matchups on both sides of the bye week. The opposite can be said of the running game, where both the Chicago Bears and the Kansas City Chiefs are unfavorable. The Bears rank 15th against the pass and 12th against the run. Though unfavorable they are by no means shutting down running backs. As for the Kansas City Chiefs they rank 29th against the pass and 13th against the run. They too are not necessarily shutting down running backs but they are extremely generous against the pass.

Verdict: Everyone will be all over Stevie Johnson and rightfully so but I am more interested to see Malcom Floyd’s role going forward. He will be the cheaper play in daily fantasy and may even still be sitting on your waiver wire. While everyone zigs with Johnson I recommend zagging with Floyd. Gates, especially with Ladarius Green dealing with an ankle injury, will definitely see an uptick in targets and should remain a low-end TE1 going forward. Melvin Gordon is sure to get more looks with Branden Oliver joining Keenan Allen on injured reserve but make no mistake. This is Danny Woodhead’s backfield. The unfavorable rushing matchups should not deter you in the least bit. His biggest contributions come in the passing game and in the red zone.

Dallas Cowboys: vs. Philadelphia Eagles, @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers, @Miami Dolphins
The Cowboys have not won a game since they lost Tony Romo in Week 2. Since then, there has been very little fantasy value on the team. Dez Bryant returned last week and was only able to manage 12 yards on two receptions. Hold firm, better days should be ahead.

This week the Cowboys will have a home neutral matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles who rank 12th against the pass and 9th against the run. Presumed starting running back Darren McFadden will have some tough sledding but if Matt Cassel can manage a few above average drives, Dez Bryant could have his 2015 coming out party. That should roll over the following week when the Cowboys travel to Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers are a far less intimidating defense who rank 21st against the pass and 14th against the run. This game could be the momentum the Dallas offense needs to get them ready for Tony Romo’s return against the Miami Dolphins who are a favorable matchup against the pass and a neutral matchup against the run. The return of Romo could translate to fantasy relevance for both Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley. It almost guarantees Dez Bryant firmly being in the WR1 conversation and Jason Witten as a second tier tight end.

Verdict: The nearing return of Romo and favorable upcoming matchups should mean a positive outlook for the entire Cowboys’ offense. These next two weeks will be the last chance to acquire any Cowboy at a cheap value. With Joseph Randle being released this week Darren McFadden is suddenly a legitimate fantasy option. A healthy and complete Cowboys’ offense has the potential to produce solid fantasy numbers.

Philadelphia Eagles: @ Dallas Cowboys, vs. Miami Dolphins, vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Chip Kelly’s high-octane offense has failed to meet expectations up to this point. The Eagles are one of those teams who can turn it around over the second half of the season, regardless of the matchups ahead. They run a ridiculous amount of plays and if the offense clicks they can be a dangerous offensive unit.

The Dallas Cowboys are an unfavorable matchup against both the run and the pass but revenge games can be a real thing. DeMarco Murray will be returning to AT&T Stadium for the first time since leaving the Cowboys and will be playing in a must-win game in front of his former home crowd. Ryan Mathews has not healed from a groin injury during the bye week, leaving Murray with little competition for touches. If Kelly rides him this week and he plays well the following week against the Miami Dolphins in a neutral matchup he could gain the momentum needed before facing the 14th ranked Buccaneers at home. If Mathews’ injury extends through these games, Murray’s stock will be way up.

A hand injury has been ailing Jordan Matthews this season and it has been painfully obvious. He has six drops. The bye week came at a perfect time for him and if he is close to full health we could very well see a different player going forward. His success lies in the hands of Sam Bradford who has been hot and cold. Both Dallas and Tampa Bay check in has unfavorable matchups against the pass but he should be less challenged against Miami.

Verdict: The Eagles could really go either way over the next half of the season but I would argue that they have the upside to be a consistent, potent offense. Sam Bradford, Jordan Matthews, DeMarco Murray and even Zach Ertz have all played below their projections. There is not one Eagle in the top 75 fantasy scoring leaders. Theo Riddick has more fantasy points than any Eagle. We have likely seen the floor of each fantasy relevant player on this offense and the window to acquire them or use them as cheap plays in daily fantasy is closing.
The next three weeks of the fantasy season play a major part in the playoff race. Finding the right guy off waivers who has an easier schedule going forward can be a key part of your playoff push. It is strategic to look ahead at matchups as trade deadlines approach. Before making these decisions consult our Ease of Schedule tool for defensive rankings and our matchup charts.