2020 Fantasy Football: Strength of schedule projections for all 32 NFL teams

Whenever the NFL schedule comes out, I move into the next phase of my preparation for the season. A small part of my pre-draft analysis every year involves studying each team's defenses and grading them, then plugging in those grades into the NFL schedule. It gives me an educated guess on how favorable or unfavorable every offense's schedule is against the run and the pass.?

This year was very different. For the first time ever, a team received the best schedule projection against both the run and the pass, and a team receive the worst schedule projection against both the run and the pass.?

It's good news for the Chargers, bad news for the Giants.?

I went through their slates four times just to make sure. The Bolts' AFC West rivals all have question marks on the defensive side of the ball, as do a few of the teams they'll face in the NFC South and AFC East. The toughest matchups for their offense are against the Bills, Saints and Patriots. That schedule helps make Tyrod Taylor one of the best early-season streaming options.

Meanwhile, the Giants will see improved defenses in Washington and Philadelphia and also run into tough AFC North foes (Baltimore and Pittsburgh) and NFC West toughies (49ers and Rams). Their cross-division matchups are against the Bears and Buccaneers. They might have six games, max, you could view as favorable.?

This study isn't perfect. Too many variables can impact a defense to make them worse or better than expected when the games actually start. What this should do, though, is set some expectations for the non-obvious Fantasy players you're considering. For instance, this study could help you determine that Darius Slayton might be at risk to fizzle out as a breakout candidate, but Anthony Miller might come through. Stuff like that.

Also remember that obvious Fantasy studs are typically unaffected by their challenging matchups, and if they were, you probably would still start them anyway. So no, despite the results, you'll still race to draft Saquon Barkley with a top-3 choice.

Here's what you need to know about every team's schedule, with breakdowns for the full season as well as the first four weeks. The lower the rank, the better the schedule.?

*For a further explanation of the team-by-team results, go to the bottom of this story

2020 season

TM

PASS

RUN

TM

PASS

RUN

ARI

5

24

ATL

15

20

BAL

19

14

BUF

22

15

CAR

21

13

CHI

2

4

CIN

31

30

CLE

11

31

DAL

18

27

DEN

17

3

DET

14

23

GB

13

22

HOU

29

19

IND

7

6

JAC

27

29

KC

20

12

LAC

1

1

LAR

10

26

LV

25

7

MIA

26

5

MIN

3

10

NE

12

18

NO

6

9

NYG

32

32

NYJ

30

8

PHI

24

28

PIT

16

17

SEA

23

21

SF

9

11

TB

4

2

TEN

28

25

WAS

8

16

First four weeks

TM

PASS

RUN

TM

PASS

RUN

ARI

11

19

ATL

19

22

BAL

14

13

BUF

5

8

CAR

21

12

CHI

1

2

CIN

28

7

CLE

17

26

DAL

9

6

DEN

16

27

DET

29

21

GB

10

10

HOU

30

31

IND

12

16

JAC

6

15

KC

31

29

LAC

3

11

LAR

15

14

LV

22

17

MIA

20

9

MIN

18

25

NE

2

1

NO

13

5

NYG

32

32

NYJ

27

30

PHI

23

28

PIT

8

18

SEA

7

3

SF

4

4

TB

25

23

TEN

24

24

WAS

26

20

Arizona Cardinals

Projected strength of schedule - Run: 24th, Pass: 5th
First four projected strength of schedule - Run: 19th, Pass: 11th

For a team with O-line questions, the slate is really helpful. The divisional matchups will be a challenge, as will the game at Foxboro, but the rest of the schedule really isn't that difficult, including Weeks 2 through 9. Kyler Murray?has a good shot at a breakout year.?

Atlanta Falcons

Projected strength of schedule - Run: 20th, Pass: 15th
First four projected strength of schedule - Run: 22nd, Pass: 19th

Bank on the Falcons playing in a lot of high-scoring games again. Their defense isn't that great, but they won't face a lot of dangerous pass rushes either. It's another reason to like Calvin Ridley to finally hit 1,000 yards. A dozen dome games help. ?

Baltimore Ravens

Projected strength of schedule - Run: 13th, Pass: 19th
First four projected strength of schedule - Run: 13th, Pass: 14th

The Ravens run schedule is weighted heavily by two games with the Steelers. The next highest-graded run defense they'll see is Indianapolis. Look for another fiery start from Lamar Jackson.?

Buffalo Bills

Projected strength of schedule - Run: 15th, Pass: 22nd
First four projected strength of schedule - Run: 8th, Pass: 5th

Look for a hot start from the Bills with games against the Jets, Dolphins, Rams and Raiders. Games against the NFC West, the Chargers, the Steelers and the Titans?later on might tell the tale of whether Josh Allen is a legit franchise quarterback.

Carolina Panthers

Projected strength of schedule - Run: 14th, Pass: 21st
First four projected strength of schedule - Run: 12th, Pass: 21st

There are six non-divisional matchups where the pass rush will be a problem for Teddy Bridgewater & Co. It'll mean getting rid of the ball quickly, but most of those teams have solid cornerback groups too. Not too many come in the early weeks of the season -- Bridgewater and tight end Ian Thomas have streaming appeal. ? ?

Chicago Bears

Projected strength of schedule - Run: 4th, Pass: 2nd
First four projected strength of schedule - Run: 2nd, Pass: 1st

While they have their fair share of easy matchups, Chicago's schedule is loaded with high-scoring teams. It will be crucial for the Bears offensive line to rebound from 2019 and give the team a chance to control the pace of play with David Montgomery and protect their quarterbacks, otherwise they're gonna get blown out a bunch.

Cincinnati Bengals

Projected strength of schedule - Run: 30th, Pass: 31st
First four projected strength of schedule - Run: 7th, Pass: 28th

Half of their road games come in the first six weeks of the season. That combined with some tough opponents definitely makes Joe Burrow a dicey early-season starter. Not until November do the Bengals have a stretch where they have consecutive favorable matchups, and they're sandwiched between Steelers games. The good news? One Ravens game is tucked into Week 17.?

Cleveland Browns

Projected strength of schedule - Run: 31st, Pass: 11th
First four projected strength of schedule - Run: 26th, Pass: 17th

The slate is weighted heavily by their matchups against the Ravens and Steelers, but therre's a good chance the Browns get off to a good start after Week 1. They really don't face a three-game stretch of impossible matchups. It genuinely helps that their dreaded rematches with the Ravens and Steelers aren't until late in the year.?

Dallas Cowboys

Projected strength of schedule - Run: 27th, Pass: 18th
First four projected strength of schedule - Run: 6th, Pass: 9th

The Cowboys have a great schedule early before turning nasty in November. Only two easy matchups from Week 8 on. You may want to keep the idea of selling high on Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper?in the back of your mind.?

Denver Broncos

Projected strength of schedule - Run: 3rd, Pass: 17th
First four projected strength of schedule - Run: 27th, Pass: 16th

A lot of tough defenses greet Melvin Gordon through mid-October. The bigger issue is that the Broncos will play plenty of high-scoring teams, so Drew Lock better be up to the task. Too bad their home game vs. Las Vegas is jammed into Week 17.?

Detroit Lions

Projected strength of schedule - Run: 23rd, Pass: 14th
First four projected strength of schedule - Run: 21th, Pass: 29th

It's a challenging start for the Lions O-line and run game, and it really doesn't quite let up for them. Different story for the passing game — a lot of exploitable secondaries line up against Detroit after their Week 5 bye.?

Green Bay Packers

Projected strength of schedule - Run: 22nd, Pass: 13th
First four projected strength of schedule - Run: 10th, Pass: 10th

It wouldn't be surprising in the least if Aaron Rodgers and Aaron Jones got off to good starts. Jones will see tougher matchups as the season wears on, including a stiff four-pack starting in mid-October. That Week 17 game at Chicago is a lifesaver ... unless your league plays into Week 17. Then it stinks.?

Houston Texans

Projected strength of schedule - Run: 19th, Pass: 29th
First four projected strength of schedule - Run: 31st, Pass: 30th

This is the toughest early schedule of any team outside of New York. It's rough for Deshaun Watson?but seems impossibly brutal on David Johnson, particularly if the Texans fall behind against the Chiefs, Ravens, Steelers and Vikings.?

Indianapolis Colts

Projected strength of schedule - Run: 6th, Pass: 7th
First four projected strength of schedule - Run: 16th, Pass: 12th

Be ready to sell high on the Colts' stars by their Week 7 bye. After their Week 8 game against the Lions they take on their tougher division rivals plus deal with the Ravens, Packers and Steelers (in Week 16!). Their rematch with the Jaguars might not count for you since it's in Week 17. ??

Jacksonville Jaguars

Projected strength of schedule - Run: 29th, Pass: 27th
First four projected strength of schedule - Run: 15th, Pass: 6th

There's a nice chance for the Jaguars passing game to post decent numbers through their Week 7 bye. Their only favorable matchup after that is against the Browns. The front-loaded schedule means all Jaguars players could be sell-high candidates by mid-October.?

Kansas City Chiefs

Projected strength of schedule - Run: 12th, Pass: 20th
First four projected strength of schedule - Run: 29th, Pass: 31st

The Texans, Chargers, Ravens and Patriots make for a very tough start for the Chiefs — remember this if you splurge for Clyde Edwards-Helaire on Draft Day. Also remember that he and his new teammates have a glorious schedule down the stretch. If he struggles early, trade for him.?

Las Vegas Raiders

Projected strength of schedule?- Run: 7th, Pass: 25th
First four projected strength of schedule?- Run: 17th, Pass: 22nd

Josh Jacobs has a number of favorable matchups, but they're not consecutive. And if he's not going to be a factor when they're trailing then he could end up being a disappointment due to inconsistent Fantasy totals. Jacobs was scoreless in the Raiders' losses in 2019.?

Los Angeles Chargers

Projected strength of schedule - Run: 1st, Pass: 1st
First four projected strength of schedule - Run: 11th, Pass: 3rd

The Chargers offense has it easy between Weeks 1 and 3, then again between Weeks 6 through 9 and Weeks 14 through 16 . The question is whether Tyrod Taylor or Justin Herbert will be prepared to take advantage of it.?

Los Angeles Rams

Projected strength of schedule - Run: 26th, Pass: 10th
First four projected strength of schedule - Run: 14th, Pass: 15th

Things looks pretty good for the passing game, which is good, because that's where the strength of this team lies. However, it could make things difficult for the breakout hopes of Darrell Henderson and Cam Akers.

Miami Dolphins

Projected strength of schedule - Run: 5th, Pass: 26th
First four projected strength of schedule - Run: 9th, Pass: 20th

Keep an eye on this offense through October — if they show signs of life, they could really explode with a strong finish beginning in Week 9. They seriously play consecutive games against the Jets.

Minnesota Vikings

Projected strength of schedule - Run: 10th, Pass: 3rd
First four projected strength of schedule - Run: 25th, Pass: 18th

The beauty of this schedule is from October through early December. It should put the Vikings in position to contend for a playoff spot and put up a lot of points, though the late-season slate (Bucs, Bears, Saints) could make Dalvin Cook's numbers shrivel.?

New England Patriots

Projected strength of schedule - Run: 18th, Pass: 10th
First four projected strength of schedule - Run: 1st, Pass: 2nd

Zero-RB fans, don't be surprised to see Sony Michel get off to a hot start. Ditto for Julian Edelman and N'Keal Harry. Things start to get rough starting in Week 4 and don't really let up for a while. Two games in about 100 hours in L.A. will be a major test in December.?

New Orleans Saints

Projected strength of schedule - Run: 9th, Pass: 6th
First four projected strength of schedule - Run: 5th, Pass: 13th

Honestly, the Saints lucked out. They don't have tough back-to-back games until December at the earliest. Just another reason to wait for Drew Brees on Draft Day.?

New York Giants

Projected strength of schedule - Run: 32nd, Pass: 32nd
First four projected strength of schedule - Run: 32nd, Pass: 32nd

It might be easier to tell you when the Giants have good matchups. There just aren't that many — maybe those four games after their late November bye will be decent. You have to know what you're getting into early on when you draft Saquon Barkley (vs. Pittsburgh, at Chicago, vs. San Fran, at the Rams).?

New York Jets

Projected strength of schedule - Run: 8th, Pass: 30th
First four projected strength of schedule - Run: 30th, Pass: 27th

Does anyone want any Jets on their Fantasy team? If so, consider their offseason moves and their first three matchups. You might reconsider. Le'Veon Bell might be a big bust until Week 10.?

Philadelphia Eagles

Projected strength of schedule - Run: 28th, Pass: 24th
First four projected strength of schedule - Run: 28th, Pass: 23rd

A bunch of their tough matchups are front loaded including back-to-back-to-back games against the 49ers, Steelers and Ravens. There may be some buy-low opportunities for Miles Sanders and Carson Wentz about 10 days before Halloween.?

Pittsburgh Steelers

Projected strength of schedule - Run: 17th, Pass: 16th
First four projected strength of schedule - Run: 18th, Pass: 8th

The schedule's pretty good, including early on against the Giants, Broncos and Texans. Streaming Steelers should satisfy. Their tough matchups are pretty spread out — if Ben Roethlisberger is right, he could be a steal on Draft Day.?

San Francisco 49ers

Projected strength of schedule - Run: 11th, Pass: 9th
First four projected strength of schedule - Run: 4th, Pass: 4th

Look for a tremendous start from the NFC Champs. Their only tough matchup through mid-October is home against the Eagles. The itinerary gets rough from there but the playoff schedule will reward you. Maybe Raheem Mostert will be more than just a bench running back.?

Seattle Seahawks

Projected strength of schedule - Run: 21st, Pass: 23rd
First four projected strength of schedule - Run: 3rd, Pass: 7th

The Seahawks schedule is better than the numbers suggest, partially because their second battle with the 49ers is tucked into Week 17. Also, lots of their tough matchups are at home. Four of their first six games should be a cakewalk and mid-November through Week 15 should be a breeze.?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Projected strength of schedule - Run: 2nd, Pass: 4th
First four projected strength of schedule - Run: 23rd, Pass: 25th

Weeks 4 through 6 and 11 through 13 will be real tests for Tom Brady's squad, but they're otherwise home free. They play at the Lions in Week 16, sandwiched by divisional matchups against Atlanta. What a gift!?

Tennessee Titans

Projected strength of schedule - Run: 25th, Pass: 28th
First four projected strength of schedule - Run: 24th, Pass: 24th

It wouldn't be surprising if the Titans' Fantasy stars were streaky. They have bunches of difficult matchups (Bears-Colts-Ravens-Colts seems daunting), but they should be outweighed by their easy games.?

Washington Redskins

Projected strength of schedule - Run: 16th, Pass: 8th
First four projected strength of schedule - Run: 20th, Pass: 26th

Sound the buy-low alarm for Terry McLaurin and whichever Redskins running back is showing signs of life by Week 6. That's when they open up a six-game stretch that should yield good numbers. Things get rough from there. ?? ? ?? ? ? ? ??

Dominate your draft with our free Draft Strategy Guide, which gives you must-have sleepers, rookies, and quarterbacks. Plus see the top players at each position, complete with winning projections. Get your guide now!

Here are the full grades for each defensive unit:

NFL

PASS COV

PASS RUSH

RUN DEF

ARI

4

7

4

ATL

2

3

3

BAL

9

8

10

BUF

7

7

6

CAR

1

4

4

CHI

6

9

8

CIN

3

5

5

CLE

6

7

3

DAL

5

5

6

DEN

5

9

7

DET

5

2

3

GB

7

8

6

HOU

3

6

7

IND

4

7

8

JAC

5

6

3

KC

4

7

5

LV

4

5

3

LAC

10

9

7

LAR

8

8

8

MIA

6

1

4

MIN

5

7

7

NE

10

6

6

NO

9

8

8

NYG

3

2

4

NYJ

3

1

5

PHI

6

9

7

PIT

8

10

10

SEA

4

3

6

SF

9

10

10

TB

3

8

8

TEN

8

3

6

WAS

2

8

7

Once graded, the pass rush and pass coverage grades are averaged to create a pass defense total, though ties are weighted toward the team with the better pass rushes. The rush defense grade stays as-is.

The numbers are plugged into all 32 teams' schedules to create a cumulative number that measures how good or bad their schedule is against the run or the pass. Teams with a lower number have a better schedule than those with a higher number. This creates a ranking where the lower the rank, the better the schedule is.

Not only do we consider the entire season, but also each team's first four games. While we can't predict how healthy a defense will be come December, we can assume the defense will be in good shape for the first few weeks. Smart Fantasy owners may choose to make tiebreaker decisions based on September games alone.

Senior Fantasy Writer

Dave Richard has spent nearly his entire career covering the National Football League. Beginning with NFL.com at the boom of the Internet, Richard was that site's first Fantasy Football writer before transitioning... Full Bio

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