The NFL already knows which teams are meeting each year, but the order is not published until early May because everything is a big deal when the NFL can make some sponsorship coin from rolling it out on the NFL channel. The Huddle will have all the same schedule strength analysis once that is available in May, but for now, there are some diehard fantasy leaguers and dynasty team owners that want a preliminary view of the NFL schedule.
Once the order is published, there’s plenty to study regarding who has a soft opening stretch, who has a tough slate during the fantasy playoffs, and the like. And of course, which team has that Week 14 bye that impacts large contests.
Let’s start with the schedule of opponents with the divisional matchups removed since they are a part of every season.
Schedule of Opponents (non-divisional)
Just for an added consideration, I applied what defenses allowed for passing and rushing last year against the 2023 schedule of opponents (including the divisional matchups, of course). The actual schedule strength for positions will come out in May when the schedule order is released, but for now, this is just an overall look at the passing and rushing totals allowed by each defense last year applied to the 17-game non-ordered schedule for each team.
Total Fantasy Points – Pass
Only the extremes hold any real interest and this is just one of many tools you should use. The Saints, Bears, Raiders, Jaguars, and Chargers hold the top numbers. There should be new quarterbacks at the Saints and Bears, so at least they’ll face a lighter schedule. Trevor Lawrence and Justin Herbert look to at least hold their value from last year but both should see at least minor changes in their receivers that will also have an impact.
The Rams faced a bad schedule even beyond their injury woes last year, and the schedule doesn’t improve for 2023. Deshaun Watson opens his career with the Browns but his opponents won’t help him find the same success from a couple of years ago. Kyler Murray returns, probably, from his ACL tear and also bounces against a tougher slate. There are a number of receivers that may be changing teams, along with the influx of rookies that will impact team rosters, so again – the schedule is interesting but by no means the biggest impact to player success.
Total Fantasy Points – Rush
The rushing schedule strength is always the most accurate and the NFC North backfields catch a break this season thanks in part to matching up to the NFC South. The Lions and Vikings backfields may undergo transition but it’s a favorable season for them. The NFC South not only plays their own division, but also the AFC South for a softer set of matchups. This will be much more explored in May once the schedule order is released, but the NFC North and NFC South should remain among the lightest schedules for running backs.
The NFC East and AFC East backfields face tougher opponents than most. The Dolphins and Bills rely on committee backfields and are speculated to add more help in the offseason. Combined with the worst schedules won’t help new additions to generate fantasy points. There’s a chance that Saquon Barkley could be leaving the Giants but his replacement will be hard pressed to repeat the success of the Giants’ backfield of last season.
The most extreme values are the only ones with any real interest at this early date and before the all-important order of games is released. And while schedule analysis is only one of many measurements for a player, it is a worthwhile consideration even in this high-level look.