Millions of football fans were excited for last night’s NFL schedule release, and many of those people instantly looked at what the 2019 slate might mean in fantasy football. A lot can change from now to actual games being played, as teams will be stronger than anticipated while others will be weaker than anticipated; but looking at schedules is still something fantasy owners like to do when plotting moves in drafts this summer. As things stand, here are the teams with the easiest and most difficult 2019 fantasy football schedules for the playoffs.
[NOTE: Many fantasy leagues include Week 17 as part of the championship round, so we’re doing that here.]
Jaguars (v. LAC, @ OAK, @ ATL, v. IND)
Nick Foles should bring more consistency to the skill position players in Jacksonville, which could lead to a couple of viable weekly startable fantasy options aside from Leonard Fournette. At the end of the season, it helps that the fantasy playoff schedule might be the easiest overall on paper. The Jags will likely have to score points in a home matchup with Philip Rivers and the Chargers, then they go to Oakland and Atlanta to face two more high-powered offenses before returning home to face the Colts in Week 17. The Colts and Chargers play strong defense, the Raiders might take a huge step forward if they add a few difference-makers early in the draft, and the Falcons could become an elite unit under Dan Quinn if they can stay healthy in 2019, but Jacksonville’s end-of-season schedule looks promising.
Patriots (v. KC, @ CIN, v. BUF, v. MIA)
Right off the bat, you can see that the Patriots play three of their last four games at Foxboro, and it’s extremely difficult to stop Tom Brady and company at the comfortable confines in Gillette Stadium, especially in December. Kansas City is undoubtedly a great bet to be a shootout, and then Week 15 Cincinnati shouldn’t be a huge challenge. Sean McDermott’s defense could present some issues, so that’s the team to keep an eye on potentially giving Brady trouble statistically (he’s 29-3 against them in his career) with fantasy titles on the line, but as a whole New England should put up points to conclude the regular season.
Browns (v. CIN, @ ARI, v. BAL, @ CIN)
If the Browns had three home games like the Patriots, they’d probably be at least No. 2 in terms of the easiest schedules for the fantasy playoffs in 2019. But still, three of the four matchups from Weeks 14-17 are appetizing for a stacked offense led by Baker Mayfield, who last year threw a combined seven touchdowns and no interceptions in his two games against the Bengals while Nick Chubb racked up nearly 250 total yards and two touchdowns. Mayfield gets to face Cincinnati twice in the fantasy playoffs, including in Week 17 for those in leagues that go that far. Week 15 against the Cardinals feels like it’ll be an shootout against Kliff Kingsbury’s new team, and Mayfield in particular will have an extra chip on his shoulder facing a former college coach he feels didn’t treat him fairly. At Baltimore in Week 16 won’t be a cakewalk, but we’ll see how good the Ravens defense is after losing starters in the offseason.
Eagles (v. NYG, @ WAS, v. DAL, @ NYG)
The Eagles end their 2019 regular season with four divisional matchups, and Doug Pederson’s offense has had success against his NFC East counterparts the last three seasons. Philadelphia averages 26.3 points per game against the Redskins and 27.8 points per game against the Giants under Pederson; and excluding a Week 17 shutout in 2017 when the starters barely played, the Eagles average 32.6 points per game against Dallas under Pederson, and those games have typically turned into shootouts. Skill position players for the Eagles should be responsible for at least a few touchdowns per game from Weeks 14-17.
Broncos (@ HOU, @ KC, v. DET, v. OAK)
Week 14’s matchup at Houston isn’t great, but the final three games of the season might be the best of any team in the league from a fantasy perspective aside the Jaguars. Denver was forced to score 23 points in both matchups with Kansas City last year to keep it close, and the Broncos should be better with Joe Flacco under-center with a young supporting cast that’ll have a year of experience under their belts. Matt Patricia might get his Lions to play better this season, but the Broncos benefit from the game being at Mile High. And home against the Raiders might be one of the most favorable matchups of Week 17.
Packers (v. WAS, v. CHI, @ MIN, @ DET)
Washington and Detroit could be tough in Weeks 14 and 17, but the back-to-back Week 15 and 16 games versus Chicago and at Minnesota is about as tough as it gets. Aaron Rodgers can lead his offense to big performances no matter what team he’s up against, but Green Bay still has an imposing task on paper. Many fantasy owners have their championship games in Week 15 and 16, so the Packers’ matchups for those weeks is just something to keep in mind leading up to your draft.
Chiefs (@ NE, v. DEN, @ CHI, v. LAC)
The Chiefs have shown they can do some damage against Bill Belichick’s defense, but they haven’t played them in Foxboro in December since 2000 (they did play them in January with a different group on offense in 2016); it’s probably not going to easy to put up huge numbers. Then Kansas City has to face Vic Fangio’s Broncos defense, which has the talent to give the Chiefs trouble. Next, they face the Bears at Soldier Field in Week 16 in primetime, and we saw what Chicago did to the Rams late last season on a Sunday night. Finally, the Chiefs end the regular season against a Chargers team that might be more comfortable stopping KC’s electric offense after their comeback win in the second matchup last year. Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs might just be too difficult to stop, but perhaps expectations should be tempered in the fantasy playoffs.
Raiders (v. TEN, v. JAX, @ LAC, @ DEN)
Based on win percentage from last season, the Raiders have the toughest strength of schedule for 2019—and the matchups during the fantasy playoffs don’t’ give them much of a break. All four games are against defenses that should be challenging this season, including consecutive road matchups in Weeks 16 and 17. The cornerbacks groups of the Titans and Jaguars might be able to contain Antonio Brown as well as any team in the league, so keep that in mind for AB in particular. The Chargers held the Raiders to 16 combined points last season, so Week 16 might be a big challenge on the road for Oakland.
Chargers (@ JAX, v. MIN, v. OAK, @ KC)
The final two weeks of the regular season are quite favorable for the Chargers, but at Jacksonville then versus Minnesota might be the toughest Week 14-15 stretch in the league. Also, for Week 13 (the final week of the fantasy regular season for many leagues), the Chargers must go to Denver to face a stingy Broncos defense, but at least they get a bye week in Week 12 to prepare for a difficult three-game span. Melvin Gordon will be facing two of the league’s better run defenses in the Jags and Vikings, while Keenan Allen faces two All-Pro cornerbacks in Jalen Ramsey and Xavier Rhodes.
Cowboys (@ CHI, v. LAR, @ PHI, v. WAS)
Cowboys vs. Bears in Week 14 could be a ball-control type of game where opportunities are limited for each offense to do damage, which could lead to low point totals for both sides. Expectations will likely be relatively low for Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper in that matchup, especially with the game at Soldier Field. The final three games feel like they could be potential shootouts, as Dallas will be facing teams they are familiar with and have had success against offensively, but the Rams, Eagles, and Redskins could have three of the NFL’s better defenses on paper in 2019.