The NFL released the 2020 schedule last week, giving sports fans worldwide something to look forward to and fantasy gamers the opportunity to find an edge in best ball leagues. With some help from the RotoViz Strength of Schedule Streaming App, let’s make sense of the gauntlet that each team will face.
How Does the App Calculate Opponent Difficulty?
As a reminder, our SoS App employs a different approach than you might be used to.
Rankings are calculated on a positional basis and rather than use total points allowed to determine the difficulty of a team’s opponents, the tool works through the following process:
- The average points per game scored by each fantasy-relevant player are compared to their point totals when facing particular defenses. This results in a differential for each matchup.
- Players are grouped by position and the differentials are totaled and then divided by the number of contributing matchups.
- The more points that opposing offensive players score above their averages when facing a defense, the less difficult the defense is considered to be by the tool.
- Alternatively, the fewer points that opposing offensive players score above their averages when facing a DST, the more difficult the DST is considered.
- This process is performed at each position, and the differentials are ranked and used to calculate SOS.
- In the case of DSTs, the included matchups review the scores of DSTs when facing particular offenses.
In short, the tool determines how much better or worse, compared to personal averages, fantasy players fare when facing a defense. If players perform better than average when facing a defense, the defense is considered an easy matchup. Conversely, if players score fewer points than average against a defense, this defense is considered a difficult matchup.
To evaluate 2020 running back strength of schedule, I mapped each team’s upcoming schedule to 2019 defense vs. RB rankings. This is displayed in the chart below, which shows the 2019 ranking of the defenses that each team will face. For example, the Dolphins oppose New England, 2019’s fourth most difficult matchup for RBs, in Week 1 and Buffalo, 2019’s ninth hardest RB opponent, in Week 2. The team faces a grueling schedule and as a result, in addition to splitting work, Jordan Howard and Matt Breida are in line for a challenging 2020. Currently, FFPC drafters are selecting Howard as the RB38 and Breida the RB40. While their prices are modest, foregoing RB talent in the earlier rounds with plans of cashing in on the Miami discount later might be a dangerous proposition.
The average opponent difficulty for each team is included in the right-most column of the chart. The lower the average, the harder the schedule. Conversely, the higher the average, the easier the schedule.
Of course, each defense drafted rookies that could make an impact and acquired/released veterans. As a result, this isn’t a perfect science, but it is one of the best approximations that we have.