2021 Schedule Observations

Using Pro Football Network’s 2021 Defensive Rankings

Easiest Schedules for the Fantasy Playoffs: (Weeks 15,16,17)

Washington Football Team: (@PHI, @DAL, vs PHI)

The schedule for Washington is extremely favorable starting in Week 11 @ CAR. They also get SEA, @LV, DAL in weeks 12-14, providing a nice ramp leading into the playoffs. For the fantasy playoffs, they go @PHI, @DAL and finish Week 17 against PHI again. This is a team that can give you a 2nd half of the year boost and lead you right into the fantasy playoffs. We should be targeting Antonio Gibson in the 2nd Round of all drafts, as well as Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, Logan Thomas and Ryan Fitzpatrick at their respective ADPs. Wouldn’t hurt to take a flier on JD McKissic at the end of your PPR drafts either.

San Francisco 49ers: (vs ATL, @TEN, vs HOU)

Like Washington, the SF schedule looks great from Week 11 on, starting with @JAX, MIN, @SEA, @CIN, ATL, @TEN and HOU. We don’t know who the Quarterback will be for this stretch, but either way, this makes us very interested in the rest of the 49ers playmakers. Continue drafting George Kittle in the 3rd round and snag Deebo Samuel or Brandon Aiyuk in the middle rounds. We also have questions on which RB to draft, but because we are only looking at the back half of the schedule here, this makes me want Trey Sermon even more than I did before. Raheem Mostert can help you early (see below), but Sermon could be a monster come November. You can monitor the QB battle this summer for more clarity, but for now, I’ll say that Jimmy Garoppolo is a Superflex QB2 any week he starts and Trey Lance has QB1 upside every week he would start.

Denver Broncos: (CIN, @LV, @LAC)

Denver gets the Lions at home in Week 14 before getting a nice run of CIN, @LV and @LAC in Weeks 15-17. Similar to SF, we have QB/RB questions and should be interested in the WR/TE positions. We should feel good about drafting Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy and Noah Fant at ADP. When it comes to Drew Lock vs Teddy Bridgewater, I prefer to stay away but I also realize that whoever starts could be serviceable in Superflex leagues. I’m already higher on Javonte Williams than most and seeing this fantasy playoff schedule makes me even more eager to draft him. The Broncos do have a nice 3 game stretch of @NYG, @JAX, and NYJ to start the year, so perhaps Melvin Gordon has some value in these games if he can hold off the rookie.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: (NO, @CAR, @NYJ)

A potential Week 14 matchup vs Jameis Winston at home could be a lot of fun, followed by road games at the Panthers and Jets. We love the Bucs passing offense yet have questions again at how the running back workload will be divided. Continue taking Tom Brady, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown at ADP. As for the Ronald Jones vs Leonard Fournette debate, you could snag either one since their ADP is fairly cheap. By this point of the season, perhaps injuries or some other form of clarity will have developed and allow one of them to be an RB2+ for our championship runs. I’ll always lean RoJo, but it’s hard to ignore what Fournette did in the NFL Playoffs.

Indianapolis Colts: (NE, @ARI, LV)

A revamped Patriots Defense in Week 15 could be tough, but the opportunity for big offensive outbursts @ARI and against LV are very exciting for Weeks 16/17. Jonathan Taylor should be viewed as a late 1st Round pick that could pay dividends during this stretch. We still have no idea which WR will emerge for Carson Wentz, but I’m cool with taking a flier on all 3 WRs at their current ADP in TY Hilton, Michael Pittman Jr. and Parris Campbell. Wentz remains a solid QB2 for Superflex Leagues. As for the TEs, I’m expecting a duo or trio of Jack Doyle, Mo Alie-Cox and the rookie Kylen Granson. I’m not sure I see any TE here worth a starting spot, but Alie-Cox could emerge as the go-to guy. Last but not least, Nyheim Hines is worth a bench spot as your RB3/Flex.

Honorable Mentions for Easy Schedules:

Chicago Bears, New York Giants, Jacksonville Jaguars, Detroit Lions, Houston Texans

Toughest Schedules for the Fantasy Playoffs: (Weeks 15,16,17)

Carolina Panthers: (@BUF, TB, @NO)

All 3 opponents are playoff contenders and 2 of them are on the road. CMC should be just fine, but we’ll worry about Sam Darnold, DJ Moore and Robby Anderson during this run.

Green Bay Packers: (@BAL, CLE, MIN)

This shouldn’t scare us away from drafting Packers this year, but it’s important to note the three games vs playoff worthy squads. At least 2 of the games are at home. Continue snagging Aaron Jones, Davante Adams and Aaron Rodgers at their depressed ADPs.

Tennessee Titans: (@PIT, SF, MIA)

Similar thoughts as the GB schedule. We are still drafting Derrick Henry, Ryan Tannehill, AJ Brown and Julio Jones, but we’ll be a little nervous going into these games. I still think this might be the most exciting offense to watch this year.

Las Vegas Raiders: (@CLE, DEN, @IND)

This looks really rough for the Raiders, especially when you continue reading and see how brutal their first 6 games are. I think the only Raider we can trust this year is Darren Waller. Perhaps Kenyan Drake, Henry Ruggs or John Brown can be useful pieces if the Raiders are losing games and have to throw more than we project.

Minnesota Vikings: (@CHI, LAR, @ GB)

Not scary enough for me to avoid Dalvin Cook or Justin Jefferson early in drafts, just note we may need to limit our expectations during these weeks. I still love Kirk Cousins as my QB2 and Adam Touchdown Thielen as my WR3.

Philadelphia Eagles: (WAS, NYG, @WAS)

A nice Washington sandwich with a slice of the Giants in between should make us nervous for the Eagles’ playmakers in this span. I have not been super excited to spend a 3rd/4th round pick on Miles Sanders, so I will likely continue to avoid him in this range. We can leave the lights on for Jalen Hurts, DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert. Smith is really growing on me lately…

Honorable Mentions for Tough Schedules:

Kansas City Chiefs, Cleveland Browns, New York Jets, Atlanta Falcons

Easiest Schedules to Start the Season:

Minnesota Vikings: (@CIN, @ARI, SEA, CLE, DET, @CAR, BYE, DAL)

If you needed a push to draft Dalvin Cook or Justin Jefferson, here you go. I love Kirk Cousins as my QB2 and with this opening schedule, he may perform as a QB1. Adam Thielen and Irv Smith could also get off to some hot starts.

Carolina Panthers: (NYJ, NO, @HOU, @DAL, PHI, MIN, @NYG, @ATL)

We noted the Panthers rough finish for the fantasy playoffs, but this easy first half of the year is a good reason as to why we should not hesitate on drafting CMC, DJ Moore, Robby Anderson and even Sam Darnold in Superflex leagues. I’d bet that only 2 or 3 of their first 8 opponents would make the playoffs this season.

San Francisco 49ers: (@DET, @PHI, GB, SEA, @ ARI)

As we discussed the SF schedule above, we are all aboard the George Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel trains at ADP. This ultra soft schedule to start the year could allow them to establish the run with Raheem Mostert and Trey Sermon, or get into some shootouts with the passing game weapons listed above. We will want to start the SF QB in Superflex leagues no matter who it is Week 1.

Denver Broncos: (@NYG, @JAX, vs NYJ)

Teddy Bridgewater or Drew Lock. Does it matter? Probably not. The Broncos make our list of teams with easy opening schedules and favorable fantasy playoff runs. Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy can both be Top 30 WRs this season, especially if Teddy 2 Gloves is the starter. Noah Fant is also a nice consolation TE1 if you miss on the Big 3. We mustn’t forget that Teddy delivered 3 Top 25 WRs last year as well as supported Mike Davis and CMC when healthy.

Arizona Cardinals: (@TEN, vs MIN, @JAX)

It gets a little rough after these first three weeks, but @TEN, vs MIN and @JAX should get the Cardinals on the fast track for offensive stats. Minnesota will be much improved defensively, but I could see that game going back and forth with all of those playmakers on turf. Continue drafting Kyler Murray, DeAndre Hopkins, James Conner and Chase Edmonds in PPR leagues. Christian Kirk is an interesting late round dart now that he will be moving back into his natural slot role.

New York Jets: (@CAR, NE, @DEN, TEN, @ATL)

I know it’s the Jets, but we have to be open to the idea that some of their players can help us this year. It’s all about Zach Wilson, who could be useful as a QB2 in Superflex leagues. I’ll be nervous about the NE/DEN games, but the other 3 could be fun. Fellow rookies Michael Carter and Elijah Moore could be sneaky Flex options in PPR leagues right away. I’m hesitant to get excited about Corey Davis, Jamison Crowder, Denzel Mims, Keelan Cole and the other RBs here.

Toughest Schedules to Start the Season:

Las Vegas Raiders: (BAL, @PIT, MIA, @LAR, CHI, @DEN)

Oof. I don’t want any part of this besides Darren Waller. We’re looking at potentially 6 of the Top 10 defenses to start the year. We also saw their fantasy playoff schedule above, so I’m OK with scratching off all Raiders from my draft board except for Waller. I wonder if Josh Jacobs will get enough consistency in his workload during these tough games as the Raiders maybe trend more pass heavy. Kenyan Drake could benefit in PPR leagues and may be a useful RB3/Flex.

Seattle Seahawks: (@IND, TEN, @MIN, @SF, LAR, @PIT, NO)

Seattle faces 5 of the Top 8 Defenses in Total Yards Allowed last season within their first 7 games. The Titans will be the easiest defense they face in this span, but the Vikings defense will be much improved from last season. Perhaps this will force Seattle to let Russ whip it a little more, but either way, this will be a difficult start to the season. I still want to draft Russell Wilson, Chris Carson, DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett at ADP.

Kansas City Chiefs: (CLE, @BAL, LAC, @PHI, BUF, @WAS)

A tough 6 game stretch to start the year shouldn’t scare us away from Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Patrick Mahomes. It’s just important to note the stiff competition from 6 potential playoff teams. The schedule opens up nicely in Weeks 7-11.

Detroit Lions: (SF, @GB, BAL, @CHI, @MIN)

The Lions don’t have too many pieces for us in fantasy this year, and this schedule does not get me too excited about targeting anyone outside of TJ Hockenson. We expect the Lions to lose often this year, leading to pass happy game scripts, so perhaps D’Andre Swift gets consistent work in the passing game to justify his PPR ADP. I’ve been drafting other RBs in his range or looking at the WRs like Michael Thomas and Allen Robinson instead. There’s also been a lot of OTA hype in Jamaal Williams as their “A Back”, which could really put a damper on the Swift breakout. I suppose Jared Goff has QB2 value in Superflex leagues, and one of their WRs in Tyrell Williams, Breshad Perriman or Amon-Ra St. Brown will be useful, but I’m just not that interested.

Miami Dolphins: (@NE, BUF, @LV, IND, @TB)

Two tough divisional games against NE and BUF to start the year with a nice break against the Raiders, then followed by Top 5 Defenses in IND and TB. I’m still not sure how to evaluate the Dolphins for fantasy this season. Tua Tagovailoa might be the easiest call as your QB2 in Superflex leagues. The offense should be better having added more weapons in Will Fuller and Jaylen Waddle. DeVante Parker still lurks as a WR3 option with some upside to be the best WR on this team. Myles Gaskin can be a solid RB2 in PPR leagues, but beware of Malcolm Brown, who kept Cam Akers off the field a lot last season. Brown is one of my favorite last pick targets as he should serve as their goal-line back and cut into some of Gaskin’s passing down work. And then we have Mike Gesicki as a mid to low TE1 option. I’m nervous about his increased competition for targets, so make sure you have a good TE2 paired with him.

Green Bay Packers: (@NO, DET, @SF, PIT)

The Packers face 3 of the Top 5 Defenses in Total Yards Allowed within their first 4 games. The layup against Detroit in Week 2 will be juicy, so I’m not too concerned about drafting guys like Aaron Jones, Davante Adams and Aaron Rodgers. This was the #1 offense in the NFL last year, so we’ll be interested to see how they perform against playoff caliber squads right off the bat.

Buffalo Bills: (MIA, @NYJ, NO, TB)

Similar to GB and SEA, the tough start for Buffalo does not make me hesitate to draft any of these players from this fantastic offense. Continue drafting Stefon Diggs and Josh Allen for sure. Monitor the training camp reports for the RB situation with Zack Moss and Devin Singletary, as well as the WR depth chart with Cole Beasley, Emmanuel Sanders and Gabriel Davis.

Los Angeles Rams: (CHI, @IND, TB)

Matthew Stafford will have his hands full during this 3 game opening stretch with his new team. I still love Stafford as a low end QB1, but during this span, we might want to secure a quality QB2 to play matchups with. Continue drafting Cam Akers, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp and Tyler Higbee. We just will have to get through this potential rough start. Be patient though, the schedule really opens up after this.