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When gauging which team defense you should select in your fantasy football draft or which to pick up from the free-agent bin or waiver wire, there are quite a few things to consider; perhaps the biggest is the matchup.
If the defense you want is playing the worst teams across the league, you’ll be sitting pretty in no time.
Thankfully, as well, there are ways to determine this.
There is a formula in place that is pretty rock solid to determine which team defenses will fare better than others and it’s called Strength of Schedule.
Every year when the new schedule drops, all the stat geeks put together hundreds of pages of advanced stats and this one is probably the most popular of them all.
Essentially, it tells you who has the easiest schedule across the league. You shouldn’t just nab the top crew though. You also need to take into account just how strong that defense is in general.
Let’s do a little example. According to EDSfootball.com, the Detroit Lions and Cincinnati Bengals are tied for sixth in strength of schedule.
The only problem is that these two teams combined for a 9-22-1 record. So you see, while you may have a strong schedule, a bad team is still a bad team – although we do expect more out of the Bengals in 2021.
Now that we’ve sorted out the strength of the schedule, let’s talk 2020 numbers based on their defensive stands against the pass and the run. To do this, we look up “NFL team defense stats 2020”.
It’s pretty easy and straightforward.
If you can then match up the best-looking defenses here with the strength of schedule, you should be a fantasy master come season’s end.
Some teams may have lost a player or two, but the top contenders in the league generally build to get better, not shed skill to get worse.
|Los Angeles Rams||3051|
|Washington Football Team||3068|
|San Francisco 49ers||3327|
|New Orleans Saints||3472|
|Green Bay Packers||3539|
|New England Patriots||3557|
|Los Angeles Chargers||3578|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||1289|
|Los Angeles Rams||1460|
|New Orleans Saints||1502|
|San Francisco 49ers||1703|
|New York Giants||1782|
Now, what are the main constants you see here? Which teams are consistent through each of these three lists?
Well, according to the Sporting News’ fantasy pre-ranks, the Baltimore Ravens (along with their new acquisitions) rank at the top of the list, followed by Tampa Bay (best 2020 run defense) and the Pittsburgh Steelers (best schedule).
There you have it, the Ravens ranked #2 in the strength of schedule and were constants in our 2020 top tens.
The defending Super Bowl champion Bucs finished first in run defense and the Steelers have the top schedule while finishing #3 in pass defense as well last year.
There’s a number of factors that go into it, but if you can keep in mind these three things, you’ll be well on your way to weekly satisfaction.
If you’re wondering why the Rams ranked so high last year, but aren’t in the top three this year, it’s because their team was decimated by free agency and they lost their defensive coordinator Brandon Staley to the Chargers. We rest our case.
Ryan has worked as a sports writer for the past decade and sports journalism for almost 15 years. He has worked in television, radio, print, digital, and podcasting since 2006. He is also the former co-host of the NFL Weekly Pick 'Em and Best Bets Podcast along with the Prop Drop on WSN.com.More info on Ryan Sullivan
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