Fantasy Football Schedule Notes: NFC North
Bryce takes a look at the implications of the recent schedule release for the fantasy profiles of NFC North standouts.
The NFC North went through some drastic changes this offseason with two brand-new head coaches, an elite wide receiver exiting and new top-notch college talent being drafted to these teams. How does all of this impact some of the staples of fantasy football the past couple years like Aaron Rodgers and Justin Jefferson? Well, it’s one thing to talk about scheme and talent but it’s another thing to talk about the schedules for each of these teams. Basing off of last year’s defensive rankings, let’s see if there are some lesser-heralded guys that might be worth drafting for a starting spot or a nice stash for later in the season.
Chicago Bears Fantasy Schedule Notes
Chicago’s strength of schedule ranks 26th for 2022. Outside of their division opponents, the Bears play some tough teams, but they rarely have to go on the road to play those tough teams. Chicago will travel to Foxborough and Arlington, but they will get the Niners, Dolphins and Bills at Soldier Field this season. With a whole new coaching staff and the departure of guys like Khalil Mack and Allen Robinson, the Bears have an uphill battle especially in terms of fantasy outlook. Yes, David Montgomery is still draftable and will be a major part of the offensive production, but how about others like Darnell Mooney, Cole Kmet and Byron Pringle?
Matchups against the Jets, the Lions (2x), the Giants, the Falcons, and the Texans bodes well for this offense. Darnell Mooney would be a great pick in later rounds for your WR3/FLEX spot. Mooney posted a 1,000 yard season in 2021 and has a great connection with Justin Fields. Speaking of Fields, he could be the Jalen Hurts of 2022. With a sub-par offensive line, Fields may have to make some plays with his legs as he did last season and with some favorable matchups, he could be a steady quarterback for your team if you miss out on the top-tier signal callers. Unfortunately, the Bears have three potential playoff teams (Eagles, Bills, and Vikings) in three out of their last four weeks making any Bears players tough plays for the fantasy playoffs.
Detroit Lions Fantasy Schedule Notes
Detroit’s schedule is one of the more favorable schedules in the NFL this upcoming season. The Lions draw road games against the Patriots and the Cowboys, but will have home field against the Bills. Outside of those games and divisional opponents, Detroit has games against the Jets, Seahawks, Giants and Jaguars. In Dan Campbell and Jared Goff’s second year in Detroit, they have welcomed DJ Chark and rookie Jameson Williams to the wide receiver room that includes last year’s breakout rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown. With returning starters T.J. Hockenson and D’Andre Swift, Campbell and Goff will have plenty to work with, but how does the schedule impact all of these weapons' fantasy value?
Swift played like a worthy RB1 on a PPR team early in the season, but injuries held him back down the stretch. You will definitely want to pick Swift if you miss out on the top running backs or if you go top wide receiver to begin your draft. Campbell loves smash mouth football so Swift will always be part of the game plan as a runner and a pass catcher out of the backfield. Tight End T.J. Hockenson is looking for a bounce back season in 2022, and he has the schedule to do it. Hockenson should no doubt be on your radar if you pass on taking the usual top suspects. Detroit may still not be playoff ready but that is good news for fantasy playoffs given their last four matchups. The Lions will travel to the Jets and Panthers, then play at home against the Bears, and then travel to Lambeau to face the Packers to finish the season. This is a cakewalk of opposing defenses. Last year St. Brown won many people their leagues with a late-season surge, and a Lions skill player could win leagues again with this schedule.
Green Bay Packers Fantasy Schedule Notes
Aaron Rodgers is back! But Davante Adams is gone. We know that Rodgers can make it work with any receivers so who is going to be the biggest beneficiary of Adams’ departure? When it comes to the Packers’ schedule, they do encounter some tough defensive teams like the Rams, Buccaneers, Bills and Patriots. At the same time, does it matter who Rodgers is playing? On the running back front, expect Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon to continue splitting carries like last season, with Jones used on passing downs and as the main check down for Rodgers.
Let’s talk about pass catchers. Do not fall into the Sammy Watkins hype. There is a chance that he does not make the roster, but if he does, Watkins has proven he cannot stay on the field because of various injuries. Allen Lazard will be the longest tenured Packer wide out and posted his best season of his career last season posting eight touchdowns. Lazard will be Rodgers’ most trusted target. He will fly under the radar in most drafts, but will make a solid WR2 on your team despite any tough matchups.
Minnesota Vikings Fantasy Schedule Notes
The Vikings draw hard defensive matchups throughout the season including the Bills, Cowboys and Patriots back-to-back-to-back, as well as matchups against the Colts and the Saints in London. However, Minnesota also plays softer defenses such as the Cardinals, Jets, Giants and Commanders. The Vikings hired new head coach Kevin O’Connell, a disciple of Sean McVay, to come in and inject more life into this offense filled with dynamic talent.
Dalvin Cook and Justin Jefferson will do what they do and that is be drafted high in drafts and put up a lot of points regardless of who they play. With Jefferson demanding attention from defenses, Adam Thielen will have another productive season primarily facing teams second best corner. Thielen would be perfect for your WR2 slot and good play week-to-week given he is not facing the other team’s top corner anymore. During fantasy playoff weeks, Minnesota faces the Colts and Giants at home, and then goes on the road for the final two weeks at Green Bay and Chicago. The Vikings may be playing for a playoff spot so it is more than likely they will still be playing starters to finish the season, although this schedule is more middle-of-the road than anything.