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Faceoff: Examining Strength Of Schedule

August 4th

Clayton Gray: How much does strength of schedule influence your drafting decision when deciding between players with similar projections? And if so, what specific players will you be targeting due to their easier SOS?

Matt Waldman: None.

I'm sure some people do it well, but I'm about as interested in it as trying to predict the weather, the Oscars, or fashion trends for college-aged young women who, last year, thought it was cool to wear caveman boots with shorts around my campus.

I believe that we don't truly get a feel for SOS until the NFL plays out the first month of the season. Factors that aren't predictable in a scheduling matrix without hiring the services of Doug Drinen full-time or my Drinen-wannabee little brother:

  • Injuries
  • Personnel changes
  • Player development (expected and otherwise)
  • New coaching schemes that begin in the offseason and only come to fruition when the games begin are not predictable within an SOS matrix.

I'd rather focus on player health, player development, and offensive schemes. I'll worry about scheduling in October and work any deals from there.

Jeff Haseley: There are certain things I look for when it comes to strength of schedule, for example exploiting players, especially RBs on teams that have a fairly weak trio of opponents in weeks 14, 15 and 16? It may be difficult to project defenses from year to year, but if I consider drafting a RB that is playing the Steelers, Vikings and Ravens in those critical three weeks, I may rethink my pick. I will also shy away from choosing big name WRs that might be playing against any known shut down corners like Darrelle Revis or Nnamdi Asomugha in that same stretch. Footballguy matttyl did a great job of breaking down 2011 schedules vs. average defensive ranks in this thread - SOS 2011 This year, it looks like teams from the AFC North will have an easier schedule than any other division. They will face their division-mates, but they will also play the AFC South and the NFC West, who recently have been at the bottom of the list in terms of average defensive rank. Last year the AFC West played those two divisions and several key players had impressive seasons. Jamaal Charles, Darren McFadden, Brandon Lloyd, Dwayne Bowe, Philip Rivers and Kyle Orton each enjoyed career years. This could be the year to take Ray Rice, Rashard Mendenhall, Joe Flacco, even Cedric Benson among others. Is strength of schedule fool proof? No, but it can provide a glimpse into what the future may hold.

Jason Wood: I can't emphasize this enough...Strength of Schedule analysis for preseason projections is a complete waste of time. Honestly. And this is from personal experience. As someone who does projections for the site, I try to factor in every angle I can, and for a number of years that included SOS. But it simply never worked out. Trying to take a look at last year's defenses and project their impact on fantasy rosters in Year N+1 has just never been highly predictive, try as we might. SOS starts becoming very helpful about four to six weeks into the it's got great value as predictive mechanism when deciding on lineups and trade offers, but that's only after we have 2011 in-game data in hand. Before your draft? Use SOS analysis to steer your other owners on wild goose chases. It's not worth much more than that.

Will Grant: I have to agree with Jason on this one - SOS isn't worth much to me in the pre-season, simply because too many things change once the season starts. As Matt points out, it takes about a month or so before you really see who the true contenders are and who is not living up to pre-season expectations. I will look at SOS and more importantly playoff schedule when I'm looking at Free Agency - especially in leagues that limit the number of free agent moves each week. At that point, I'll balance team need against playoff potential. If I'm trying to decide between two different WRS, I might look at who they play when I'm in my fantasy playoffs to ultimately decide which of the two to put the priority on. However, I won't choose a WR with a favorable schedule over a RB with a bad one if I really have a need at RB. Team need always over rides SOS in my book.

Jeff Pasquino: I use it as a tiebreaker if it is close, especially if I am looking for either a complimentary player (say a QB2 who looks good the week my QB1 is on a bye) or I am hunting for players with good playoff schedules. It is 100% correct to say that defenses can vary widely, but you know quickly who is good and who isn't.

SOS is also helpful in Best Ball type leagues where you can find one QB and then find a QB2 with a good, complimentary schedule that many might overlook.