Senior analyst Michael Fabiano breaks down the fantasy implications of how wide receiver strength of schedule affects the 2021 season
The National Football League has a strength of schedule formula that’s very simple to understand. You take the opponents’ records from the previous season, add up the wins and losses and calculate a percentage for all 16 opponents. In the world of fantasy football, we use a similar method. Instead of using team records, we use the number of fantasy points allowed (FPA) by defenses the previous season against a single position (both at home and on the road) and rank the teams/players according to the average.
For example, the Minnesota Vikings allowed an average of 40.8 fantasy points a game to opposing wide receivers overall last season. However, their defense was much tougher on the road (35.5 PPG allowed) than at home (46.1 PPG allowed). Therefore, a road wideout who faces the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium in 2021 receives 46.1 points. On the flip side, a home wideout who faces them received 35.5 points. This goes one step deeper than typical FPA analysis, based on a total average of the home and road numbers. The bigger the overall point total per team, the easier the schedule.
Note: Numbered columns in spreadsheet don’t represent specific weeks.
Michael Thomas is coming off a disappointing statistical season and won’t have Drew Brees under center, but he does benefit from a very favorable schedule. He’ll face the Falcons (2), Buccaneers (2), Cowboys, Jets, and Eagles, all of which were among the most generous teams against opposing wideouts a season ago.
The Bears have the third-easiest schedule among wideouts, as opposing teams like the Lions (2), Vikings (2), Seahawks, Buccaneers, and Raiders were all vulnerable to the position last season. That’s good news for Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney.
Facing the Rams twice isn’t favorable, but the 49ers wideouts do have a good schedule overall. Games against the Seahawks (2), Lions, Titans, Vikings, and Eagles bode very well for Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel for their respective draft values.
Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen are among the top fantasy wideouts, but they’ll have a tough schedule ahead with games against the Packers (2), Bears (2), Ravens, Steelers, and Rams. Still, neither wideout will see a decline in draft appeal for 2021.
The Ravens have many mouths to feed in the passing attack after the additions of Sammy Watkins, Rashod Bateman, and Tylan Wallace. What’s more, they’ll face the fourth-toughest schedule among wideouts with games against the Steelers (2), Chiefs, Packers, Bears, and Chargers in 2021. None are worth more than a WR3/WR4 in drafts.
Odell Beckham Jr. will return from a torn ACL, but the schedule doesn’t lay out well with games against the Steelers (2), Ravens (2), Bears, Chargers, and Patriots.
- Orr: The 15 Best Games to Look Forward to in the 2021 NFL Season
- Pickman: 2021 NFL Schedule – Key Games, Dates for Every Team
- Orr: Six Teams Stiffed by the NFL Schedule
Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on Sports Illustrated and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Click here to read all his articles here on SI Fantasy. You can follow Michael on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram for your late-breaking fantasy news and the best analysis in the business!