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Thread: How to take advantage of the early-season NFL schedule in fantasy football

  1. #1 How to take advantage of the early-season NFL schedule in fantasy football 
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    How to take advantage of the early-season NFL schedule in fantasy football


    How does one properly gauge the value of schedules in fantasy football? There is obviously value to be found, but the litany of injury and personnel changes that can happen by the latter weeks of a fantasy campaign can make it seem like a fool's errand to chase schedule strength disparities. So what can fantasy managers do to resolve this?

    That thought went through my mind after Week 4 last season when my colleague Mike Sando shared a discussion he had with an NFL scout regarding the subpar level of defensive play in the league. The scout said this was due to teams not giving players much on-field time during the preseason, and the result is that the first few weeks of the regular season end up serving as game training that used to occur prior to Week 1.

    Since so many players seemed to start the season off at a tremendous fantasy production clip last year, it led to a question: Is there value to be found in using early-season schedule strength as a tiebreaker in selecting fantasy football picks?

    Let's take a look at what the metrics and tape reviews have to say about this.

    First, let's start with some basic questions. Is the gut instinct take on this correct? Are more points being scored earlier in the season than later in the season? And if that is the case, is it due to subpar defensive play?

    The answer to the points question is available via an ESPN Stats & Information database query. According to this database, there were 47,004 fantasy points scored (ESPN default scoring) in Weeks 1-16 of the 2018 NFL season. The study excludes Week 17 because the vast majority of fantasy leagues do not play games in Week 17.

    If we divide the season-long point total by the 240 games that were played in Weeks 1-16, it equals 195.9 fantasy points per game.

    Now let's break the season down into four quarters: Weeks 1-4, Weeks 5-8, Weeks 9-12 and Weeks 13-16.

    There were 12,836 fantasy points scored in the 63 games that occurred in Weeks 1-4 last year. That is an average of 203.7 points per game, a total that is nearly eight points higher than the season-long points per game average.

    Now contrast that to the points-per-game total in the other three quarters of the season.

    First quarter (Weeks 1-4): 203.7 points per game

    Second quarter (Weeks 5-8): 200.2 points per game

    Third quarter (Weeks 9-12): 198.8 points per game

    Fourth quarter (Weeks 13-16): 181.9 points per game

    Each quarter saw a decline from the previous quarter, and the fourth-quarter points per game trails the first-quarter points-per-game mark by 21.8 points, or 10.7 percent.

    That's the one-year trend. The 2017 season netted similar results in that it indicated the first quarter of the season generated more points per game than the overall season pace in that category (183.3).

    First quarter (Weeks 1-4): 185.1 points per game

    Second quarter (Weeks 5-8): 182.8 points per game

    Third quarter (Weeks 9-12): 186.6 points per game

    Fourth quarter (Weeks 13-16): 179.5 points per game

    Now let's look at the second question, which is whether shoddy defense played a major factor in the early-season production spike.

    To find this out, I reviewed my personal, in-depth game-tape analysis of the past two NFL seasons to see how many coverage errors occurred in that time frame and to gauge how much fantasy value those errors generated.

    Coverage errors on vertical passes over the past two years generated an average of 8.1 fantasy points per error. That average per error spiked in the early-to-middle portions of the seasons, as Quarter 1 averaged 8.8 points per error and Quarter 2 averaged 9.0 points per error. Those numbers declined as the season progressed, with Quarter 3 generating only 8.0 points per error and Quarter 4 registering 6.6 points per error.

    That makes the early-to-midseason coverage errors worth pursuing, but the early portion of the season gets an even bigger boost because of the frequency of mistakes. Coverage errors in the first quarter of the season happened at a per-play frequency 6.9 percent higher versus the mistake rate over the full season.

    It is possible that NFL coaching staffs will start to figure out that whatever gains they are making in workload management by not having players participate in preseason games is being more than offset by myriad coverage errors early in the season. Unless or until that happens, however, fantasy managers can benefit from this by focusing on players who have early-season matchups against secondaries that have personnel weaknesses and/or are going through significant personnel changes.
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  2. #2  
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    Jul 2019
    Bronx, NYC
    all i know is week 1 is the hardest man ! You literally have someone on both sides offense and defense on the starting 11 that dont even know their assignments
    After that its easy peezy breezy
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