The following article is a guest post by Frank DuPont, author of Game Plan: A Radical Approach to Decision Making in the NFL. You can also follow Frank on Twitter.
For this week's trip through the stat side of fantasy football, I decided to focus exclusively on upcoming schedules for a few players whose schedules will be particularly easy, or particularly difficult. I use this kind of information in managing my own team, but I'm also always careful not to read too much into upcoming strength of schedule. For instance, if a player has a particularly difficult run coming up, I might take them off my list of trade targets. If they have an easy run of schedule coming up, I might send out a trade feeler to see if their existing owner has any interest in getting rid of them. But I don't get crazy and start sending out offers where I'm giving up the best player just so I can get the guy with the easy schedule.
Stevan Ridley, Get Ready to Wish You Owned Him
The graph below is a simple strength of schedule graph where I've standardized all of the defenses in the league on two measures – yards per carry against, and yards per game against. There are other things that go into SOS, but these two measures are reasonable simplifications of looking at the issue. You can see that Ridley's schedule over the next five games (six weeks) is very good. Buffalo and Indy are two of the more porous run defenses in the league, and the Jets are also a good team to run against. So what's the actionable intelligence we can gain from this information? If you have Ridley, he should be untradeable through this run of schedule. Good schedules can make good backs into great backs. If you don't have Ridley, you can try to trade for him, but you want to be sure that you don't give away so much that you suck out any value that you're getting in him.
Stevan Ridley Upcoming Rushing SOS (Positive Numbers = Good Matchups)
Shonn Greene, Let's Hope You Sold High
Selling high after Greene's 161 yard outing last Sunday was the most obvious advice ever given in fantasy sports. I'm just going to go ahead and guess that since it was obvious, you didn't actually accomplish that trade (because your leaguemates aren't dumb).
That's tough cookies, because the below graph shows that Greene's rushing schedule over the next six weeks is tough.
Shonn Greene Upcoming Rushing SOS (Positive Numbers = Good Matchups)
Chris Johnson – Testing the Limits of Strength of Schedule
Chris Johnson's SOS to date looks difficult, but Johnson is also a test of the idea of SOS. Because all of the teams who appear on Johnson's schedule to date have actually gotten to puff their numbers by playing Johnson, we can't actually say for certain that he's faced a tough string of defenses. They might have just looked good because they were facing CJ.
In any case, over Johnson's remaining games he does get a number of easier matchups. Matchups against Buffalo, Jacksonville, and Indianapolis (twice) should save CJ's season from being a total disaster… it might just be mostly a disaster.
Chris Johnson Upcoming Rushing SOS (Positive Numbers = Good Matchups)
Matthew Stafford, Probably More of the Same Upcoming
If you've ever sat at a blackjack table and watched the dealer throw you a never ending series of 6s, 7s and 8s, then you know how Matthew Stafford must feel this week. Staff has had an almost never-ending run of good defenses to face and it's not going to end any time soon. This is probably a good place to clarify the use of SOS. You're not going to use SOS to predict that Stafford is going to get shut out of fantasy points. He always puts up a lot of attempts and that is going to help. But usually to get a really great fantasy game, it helps to be facing a defense that likes to give up a good fantasy game. I think if you look at the graph below you can see why Stafford hasn't thrown for a multiple touchdown fantasy game yet this year. That doesn't mean he couldn't buck the matchup and throw for multiple touchdowns in the future. But if he does, he will be succeeding in spite of the matchup, not because of it.
Matthew Stafford Upcoming Passing SOS (Positive Numbers = Good Matchups)
Reggie Bush, Target Him in a Trade with a Desperate Owner
Reggie Bush could be a player that you target in a trade this week if his owner is desperate for a running back to start. When Bush comes out of the bye he'll get a string of four rushing defenses (NYJ, IND, TEN, BUF) that I have rated between good matchups and great matchups. I wouldn't really start thinking about playoff matchups yet, but Bush also has a few good defenses to face in week 15 and 16, when he'll get Jacksonville and Buffalo.
Reggie Bush Upcoming Rushing SOS (Positive Numbers = Good Matchups)
Carson Palmer, a QB that Might Get You Through the Rest of the Season
Palmer has had a quietly not terrible season thus far. The best thing about that not-terrible season is that it now looks like Palmer will have his best weapon (Denarius Moore) for the easiest stretch of schedule. Palmer might be a great guy to add to your team where you get him as a throw in for a deal that you're making with an owner who has Palmer as his QB2. The Raiders won't face a tough pass defense until week 14, and that matchup against Denver is the only game that Oakland has left against an above average pass defense.
One note on the SOS ratings I have below – PIT will look like a difficult matchup because they have been good on a yards/attempt basis and a yards/game basis, although they've given up some decent fantasy games to QBs that they let throw touchdowns against them.
Carson Palmer Upcoming Passing SOS (Positive Numbers = Good Matchups)