NFL Real Talk: Strength-of-Schedule Trades

Abandon ship on the Colts passing game
Photo Credit: Mr.schultz


‘Round this time of year, you have a pretty damn good idea of whether or not your team has a shot of making the playoffs. If you have a squad that looks capable of making a run, this is a good opportunity to see what is out there to help give your crew an added push. You start, of course, by looking at the needs and excesses of your roster. You should end, however, by looking at other variables, such as strength-of-schedule (SOS).


Now prior to the start of the season, the notion of strength-of-schedule is laughable. For the most part, people have no clue what NFL teams will perform like based on some preseason games and on-paper talent assessments. On the other hand, with seven weeks of the NFL season behind us and plenty of evidence at our disposal, it is much easier to determine SOS.


For fantasy owners looking to get the most out of their players, knowing a player’s SOS can be the difference between making the playoffs and sitting on the sidelines. So for this week’s edition of “NFL Real Talk,” we will break down players to buy and sell, based on their late-season/fantasy playoff matchups.


More after the jump:


SOS: Players to Sell

From Weeks 11-16, these are the players who have some brutal matchups that could put you at a costly disadvantage in fantasy.


Justin Blackmon

Apparently, you can keep a Blackmon down. He’s a burgeoning fantasy star, but Justin Blackmon will have a hard time keeping up the pace during the tail end of the fantasy season. He plays top five defenses against WRs five times in six games (he gets the Texans twice). He’s an explosive player, but as the only real weapon in Jacksonville, you know damn well that opposing defenses will build their game plan around stopping Blackmon (and they have the personnel to get it done).


Andrew Luck

I’m not advocating trading Luck if you have a platoon-caliber QB standing behind him, but if you can fill your QB slot with a valid top-12 player, I’d be looking to sell him. Aside from the Dolphins (Week 12), every opponent the Colts face are top-12 defenses against QBs. On top of that, four of Luck’s six games are on the road. He’s been scuffling so far this season, and that shit’s not gonna stop.


Reggie Wayne/T.Y. Hilton

Like Andrew Luck, the Colts WRs are facing defenses that rank in the top 12 against the position. Yeah, you can say I’m expecting the Colts to finish the season flat.


Marques Colston

He’s got a couple of soft spots in the schedule with Atlanta (Week 12) and St. Louis (Week 15) on tap, but for the most part, Colston will be facing teams that excel in shutting down top WRs. With Drew Brees able to spread the ball around with ease, look for a blanketed Colston to stumble towards the end of the fantasy season.


Giovani Bernard

The warning to sell is not based on the presence of carry-stealing BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Bernard faces some run defenses that match-up well against smaller, speed-based backs (save for the Minnesota Vikings, who the Bengals get in Week 16). I like Bernard’s talent a lot, but I’d be looking to move him to an owner who craves his upside (and is hurting for some RB help).


Josh Gordon

There isn’t a soft spot in Gordon’s matchups towards the end of the season. While the boom-or-bust option has been lighting it up most weeks, his regression to the mean will take a nasty turn late in the NFL campaign against defenses that can play the deep ball well.


SOS: Players to Target

From Weeks 11-16, these are the players who have some choice matchups that could tip the scales in your fantasy favor. 


Brandon Marshall/Alshon Jeffery

People are worried about the absence of Jay Cutler, but by the time Week 11 hits, it won’t really matter who is under center. Marshall and Jeffery have probably the most favorable WR matchups in fantasy, with only the Browns resembling anything close to a challenge. Yes, the idea of Luke McCown handling snaps under center is scary, but the Bears cannot simply abandon the passing game even if Cutler misses the rest of the season. Fortunately, those throws at the end of the season should produce some fortuitous results against very beatable secondaries.


Tony Romo

After Dallas’ Week 11 bye, Tony Romo has some appetizing matchups. The Chicago Bears are the best defense he faces, and they have allowed an average of 283.14 passing yards and 1.57 TDs a game. The Packers and Redskins in Weeks 15 and 16 present an opportunity for Romo to be a fantasy playoff MVP for his owners. Fuck his “choke artist” reputation.


Eli Manning

Aside from the Seattle Seahawks (Week 15), the Giants cruise to a opportunistic late-season slate of games. I know, Manning and company have looked awful so far, but I can’t believe that this team is no longer capable of putting up big numbers in a hurry. Their offensive line play has killed them this year, but that should improve as the unit gets more playing time together and guys like Justin Pugh and Will Beatty grow into their roles. With Hakeem Nicks looking to cash in on a big free agent pay day this offseason and Victor Cruz/Rueben Randle remaining excellent offensive weapons, Eli should have little trouble lighting up his soft competition late in the season.


Hakeem Nicks/Rueben Randle

I didn’t throw Victor Cruz in here because I imagine none of his owners are looking to sell (although if you can talk someone into dealing him, make it happen). Like I said before, the G-Men finish the season against a litany of garbage pass defenses. Expect the struggling Nicks and the blossoming Randle to put up quality fantasy numbers when it matters most.


Robert Griffin III
Yet another NFC East QB makes the list. The Redskins have a couple of tough games against the Chiefs and 49ers, but RGIII’s dual-threat ability makes him a matchup nightmare for both squads. On the rest of Washington’s schedule you find cupcake opponents like the Giants, Eagles, and Cowboys (Week 16). The ‘Skins QB is headed in the right direction after a bounce-back Week Seven, but the good times should really roll late in the year.


James Jones

He’s hurt, but Jones also has some plus matchups on tap late in the year. Even if he’s at 85% towards the end of the fantasy season, that should be good enough for him to safely put up quality WR2 numbers. 


Heath Miller

Two of his games in the fantasy postseason (Weeks 14 and 16) come against teams that are among the three friendliest defenses against TEs. What really aids Miller’s late-season value, however, is the fact that many of the teams they face tend to play WRs very well. That should lead to plenty of targets and opportunities for the Pittsburgh TE.


About Starbonell

Starbonell is the co-founder of Sons of Roto and one of the most insightful and colorful fantasy analysts in the game. Mixing intelligent and well-researched advice with an entertaining style of writing that is easy to digest, Starbonell is the king of info-tainment.