We are just about at the halfway point for many fantasy football league regular seasons. You are starting to get a sense of where you have holes and what you need to do. It’s time to start thinking ahead to some trades and pickups that could pay dividends, based on what we know of the schedules.
We’ll start with the quarterbacks. As we hit the midway point, we have some sense of who the tough defenses and porous secondaries are. The Chiefs defense is often in shootouts and gives up yards. The Buccaneers’ secondary has left gaping holes. Atlanta’s defense is full of injuries.
First, let’s adjust for past matchups. Which quarterbacks have had the easiest passing schedules, and which ones have had it tough? To find this, I looked at not only raw points scored by quarterbacks and allowed by defenses, but looked at who each faced, and adjusted (like the simple rating system) for points using a scoring system that included not only yards and touchdowns but also first downs.
Through Week 6, here are the quarterbacks who have had it the easiest (in other words, they are probably overvalued now based on the matchups they’ve had to date):
Matt Ryan, Atlanta: He had two relatively tough matchups against Philadelphia and Carolina to start the year, and averaged 261 yards and 1 touchdown per game. Over the last 4, he’s played the Bucs, Saints, Bengals and Steelers, which, besides his own team, comprise 3 of the 4 worst and 4 of the 6 worst defenses by opponent-adjusted fantasy points allowed.
It’s time to sell, because only the return matchup against the Saints looms for the rest of the year as a matchup anywhere near the last four weeks.
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh: The Steelers have also played the Bucs, Falcons, Chiefs, and Bengals, and Roethlisberger is near the top of the scoring charts while Le’Veon Bell has been out. But the only remaining strongly favorable matchup on par with those is against the Saints in Week 16.
Tampa Bay Quarterbacks (Now Jameis Winston): Ryan Fitzpatrick unexpected lit up an Eagles defense that is above average (The Eagles raw numbers are average but they have played lots of top passing offenses), but collapsed against the Bears. The other three games for the Bucs have been against the Steelers, Saints, and Falcons. You might be sensing a trend.
What about the HARDEST SCHEDULES? These quarterbacks have had it relatively rough so far.
Sam Darnold and the Titans’ QBs: Sam Darnold has faced a pretty tough passing schedule so far, so the rookie’s up-and-down performances need to be put in that context as well. Marcus Mariota has been hurt and struggling, but the schedule hasn’t helped.
Kirk Cousins, Minnesota: Cousins has faced two teams that don’t give up many raw passing points because the defenses are decent and the offenses limited (Buffalo and Arizona) and has played the Rams, Eagles, and Packers. He’s put up decent numbers anyway, but after defensive adjustments I have him as the 3rd best QB, tied with Drew Brees, in fantasy points per game.
Russell Wilson, Seattle: Wilson has been mostly without Doug Baldwin, and he’s faced some tough passing situations. He started off in Denver and then against Khalil Mack and the Bears, and has also faced an Arizona team that ranks fairly low on the fantasy points allowed spectrum (teams have little incentive to risk throwing for lots of yards playing with leads), the Rams, and a Cowboys defense that has been fairly stingy so far. Wilson drew his easiest passing opponent by far last Sunday, and threw for 3 touchdown passes against the Raiders.
DeShaun Watson, Houston: The Texans have not had an easy passing schedule, with the Jaguars, Titans, Bills, and Cowboys, and no matchups against the bottom 10 in opponent-adjusted fantasy points allowed. The bad news is this: it doesn’t get any better going forward, as the average defensive opponent is similar down the stretch.
That’s not always the case, and on the next page we’ll go to the LARGEST POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE DIFFERENCES in opponent-adjusted fantasy points of defensive opponents, for weeks 8 through 16 (I’m not including this weekend).