There’s one high-grade drafted QB – with even more high-grade drafted WRs – who may face a brutal completion of his schedule.
There is one positive QB who is late in the drafts that could be useless in the fantasy playoff period.
And there’s one almost-forgotten QB whose schedule looks excellent.
We’ll get to all 3…and a whole lot more. But first the way.
strength of the schedule
The most important thing I’ve found in several years of trying to project schedule QB strength is that no single stat (at least the ones I’ve uncovered) does a good job of carrying over year to year and uncover good/bad matchups. We see big swings every year. Sometimes injuries take hold. Sometimes it’s sheer luck when TD courses and/or INT courses swing otherwise modest point totals. Some defenses prove efficient against high pass attempt totals. Others turn out to be generous with fewer attempts. And even the experimental volume was not sticky.
What I’ve established over the last few years is passing fantasy points allowed per pass attempt (PFP/PA) as a decent measure. And it makes intuitive sense.
We’re removing the rushing production that can be heavily dependent on QB and TD luck. Not every defense faces Lamar Jackson … while others get him twice. The Chiefs allowed the second-most QB fantasy points last season, but only ranked 14th in fantasy points allowed per attempt. Jackson’s 107 yards and 2 points on the ground in Week 2 played a big part in that difference.
Additionally, a tentative breakdown allows us to better compare teams like Seattle and Chicago. The Seahawks allowed 28.1 more passing points for the season but also faced 181 more attempts.
The quality of these two defenses will carry over into 2022 rather than the specific attempt totals.
Last year’s selection
The goal here is to project positive and negative QB scoring matches for the upcoming season. Let’s see how I fared last year as a driver making this selection, points per try…
Atlanta (8th most allowable pass points per attempt)
Pretty good overall, and even the 2 bad results here still don’t look like terrible tips in hindsight. The Bengals finished last season in only 24th place in passing defense in the Football Outsiders DVOA, and the Raiders checked in in 21st place. So neither of those were really good pass defenses, and neither of those motivated us to bench QBs last season. Cincinnati managed to finish below the league average in passing TD rate, while the Raiders were generous in bottom scoring (6th most RB rushing TDs on 14th most carries).
Baltimore (4th place most points allowed per attempt)
LA Rams (10th)
New England (24th)
The biggest failures here were obviously Washington and Baltimore. The Ravens struggled with injuries throughout their high school. These included the loss of CB Marcus Peters to a preseason cruciate ligament tear and CB Marlon Humphrey to a chest tear in early December. The leading corner of the season was Anthony Averett, who has been free-handed since then.
Washington is also struggling with a few injuries, but their defense just stunk.
The Rams didn’t prove as stingy on fantasy points as expected, but they did provide the league’s #6 defense by passing DVOA. So it was a good unit.
I have planned all of this for planning 2022…
In the past I’ve limited this to 6 picks for each group. I will expand this this year and split the league into 3 almost equal parts. I know I’ll never get all the tips right, but I follow off-season trends and moves to try to capture more positive and negative matchups.
Here are my best guesses on the 10 most positive and negative matchups for QB scoring…
Despite sporting one of the league’s best young CBs in AJ Terrell, the Falcons finished only 29th last season when they overtook DVOA. This was the 3rd time in the last 4 years at 25 or worse. You, Detroit and Houston are easy choices.
The Bears were still tough in Pass D in 2019. But they went from fourth-toughest in PFP/PA this season to 20th in 2020 and then last in 2021. Then they traded EDGE Khalil Mack. And it looks like Chicago is trusting 2 of his top 5 secondary spots to beginners. That looks like a defense that won’t spook any QBs.
Washington has the talent to recover. But DE Chase Young comes from a cruciate ligament tear. And the secondary doesn’t feature a game-changing player. So I start betting against it.
The Bengals seemed to prove me wrong last year. But as I mentioned, they finished 24th in Passport DVOA. So it wasn’t really a good pass defense. With no major personnel changes and an offense that seems poised for some shooting, I’ll continue to bank on Cincinnati games as positives for our fantasy QBs.
Minnesota and Kansas City were a bit tougher. However, the Chiefs have only finished better than 12th in the DVOA pass once in the past 5 years. Last season saw the team’s worst placing in this category since the arrival of Andy Reid. And then KC DB ran Tyrann Mathieu, CB Charvarius Ward and CB Mike Hughes.
The Vikings have come a long way from their days as top-notch pass defense. The last 2 versions allowed the 6th and 12th most PFP/PA. The Vikings start 2022 with a new scheme under a new coaching staff for the first time since 2014. The pass frenzy has a lot to prove and the runner-up could have it Starting a pair of rookies.
Dallas might seem like the oddest shot, but last year’s defense was a mirage. The team allowed the seventh lowest pass TD rate and produced the second highest INT rate. Despite having the third-best allowable completion rate, the Cowboys clinched the 14th most yards per attempt. Even the game-changing CB Trevon Diggs only finished 80th in coverage, according to Pro Football Focus. Throw in an offense with shootout potential, and this matchup has a lot of advantages.
New York Giants
The Jets began this process in the “positive” leg. But they allowed the fifth least PFP/PA last year. They then gave out 2 first round picks to CB Sauce Gardner and EDGE Jermaine Johnson. You’ll also get EDGE Carl Lawson back from an Achilles tear. Free agent S Jordan Whitehead isn’t a scary coverage defender, but the sheer stability on the position will be an upgrade on a defense that was struggling for safety after Marcus Maye went down in Game 6.
The Ravens ranked in the top three defenses in PFP/PA for four consecutive seasons prior to last year’s fall. I will go back to procrastinate with them.
Denver, Miami, New England, Tampa Bay and Buffalo all ranked 25th or lower in most PFP/PA sanctioned in 2021. Green Bay has ranked 21st or lower for 3 straight years and is getting a healthy Jaire Alexander after missing him for most of last season. Pittsburgh has ranked 24th, 29th, and 20th for the past 3 years.
New Orleans went friendly as a PFP/PA defender last year (allowed 5th place), but that was a significant difference from the previous 7 seasons. But the Saints remained a good defense, finishing 3rd in DVOA and 4th against pass. They added Mathieu in free agency and should have a healthier passing rush.
The Chargers have been a mediocre pass defense for the past 4 years, but they’ve gone for it this offseason. LA signed the best CB available, JC Jackson, trading for EDGE Khalil Mack. I will buy a significant improvement.
Before we get to the grid, keep in mind that I’m not telling anyone to avoid the red weeks altogether. I’ll get some picks wrong. Players will outperform hard matchups. Guys will come up with fantasy numbers even if they survive a bad game. And stars will disappoint.
Think of the red dots as “use caution” rather than “stop.”
And the green spots aren’t magical. A crappy QB doesn’t make a mandatory start even in the best matchup.
16 game factor
I totaled the positive matchups for each team and multiplied by 1.136, the average impact of the 10 most generous QB matchups compared to the annual average over the past 9 years. Then I counted the negative matchups and multiplied them by .8845, the average influence of the bottom 10 defenses over the same period.
The “factor” calculation is obtained by combining these 2 results and adding 1 for each “neutral” matchup.
Now back to the passers-by from the beginning of the article…
Bengals QB Joe Burrow gets a tough finish. There are plenty of best ball stacks from him, his WRs and Bills centered on the Week 17 Cincinnati-Buffalo match. There is nothing wrong with this approach. But relying heavily on Burrow and one of his top-2 wideouts could hurt your team, which sets the lineup all season, as he travels to Tampa Bay in Week 15 and then New England in Week 17.
I’m not saying that Burrow shouldn’t be called up for this. But be aware of upcoming matchups, especially as fantasy playoff time approaches.
Dolphin’s QB Tua Tagovailoa is less important than Burrow as his ADP can’t climb out of low QB2 range. He certainly doesn’t look like a league-winning pick, with away games against the Chargers, Bills and Patriots in the last 4 weeks in most leagues.
On the plus side – and even lower than Tagovailoa in ADP – Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill gets home dates with Jacksonville, Houston and Dallas among the last 4 fantasy weeks. If he (and Derrick Henry) comes through this stretch in good health, there’s room for some titans to be involved in title decisions.
17 game factor
Same deal as above but I included week 18… in case your league plays that far.