2021 Strength of Schedule Analysis For Every Team

Justin Dunbar analyzes each team's strength of schedule for the 2021 season.

We spend a lot of time analyzing the qualities of specific players in an attempt to project their fantasy football production. However, what about the players they’ll be facing. After all, football is a competition between two parties, right? If we are going to focus on matchups so much on a week-to-week basis–and use it as a way to explain a player’s performance–shouldn’t we take it into account in the draft process?

To be fair, it is unclear how much strength of schedule truly matters. Generally, the elite players produce, especially since overall touches are the significant catalyst of fantasy points. Meanwhile, our ability to predict how well each team will perform at a specific trait, such as run defense, is probably less than we’d hope so, especially with injuries factoring in.

Yet, that doesn’t mean we cannot try. Using previous research on what correlates with overall success–as well as the stability of specific statistics–I have projected each team’s strength of schedule, using projected PFF grades for the upcoming season. While there are general margins for error regarded with each team’s projection, this will help provide us with a general outlook of what each team will be going up against. So, which teams have the most optimal schedules for fantasy success? Let’s take a look!

*NOTE: Hardest Schedule Ranked 1st, Easiest Schedule Ranked 32nd

Arizona Cardinals

  • Overall, the Cardinals’ schedule is very manageable. They start the year with the Titans, Vikings, and Jaguars, and will face the Lions and Cowboys during the fantasy playoffs.
  • However, they also play in the NFC West, which means multiple matchups against the Rams and 49ers. Furthermore, the Seahawks are my top projected run defense for the 2021 season.
  • If you were thinking about rostering Arizona’s defense, hopefully, this makes you consider otherwise. Partially due to the division they play in, they won’t benefit from the soft schedule of opposing offenses that they were gifted with last year.

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

  • We all want to see Lamar Jackson move the ball through the air more this season, but it will be difficult to do with this schedule. On the bright side, he should start off strong with the Raiders, Chiefs, and Lions, though the stretch run includes several strong defenses.
  • On the bright side, Baltimore looks well-positioned to remain a high-powered rushing offense. If that’s the case, Jackson should still be amongst the top scorers at his position, while JK Dobbins may once again have the rushing efficiency to overcome a limited overall amount of touches. That may also be needed if the weather becomes an issue with games in Chicago, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Cincinnati in the second half of the season.
  • Getting the Lions and Broncos in Week 3 and 4 gives the Ravens a chance to be the top fantasy defenses for a multi-week span. There are some difficult matchups (Chiefs, Browns x2, Packers) mixed in, though, so it may be a difficult defense to draft and hold this year.

Buffalo Bills

Carolina Panthers

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