Wednesday, July 23, 2008

2008 Strength of Schedule, Misery-wise

In my last post, I looked at the "Misery Index," defined as the sum of turnovers and sacks -- plays that typically generate points for fantasy football defenses -- for teams from the 2007 season. Then I said the Vikings would have an average opposing Misery of 62.2 in 2008, slightly below the 63.1 average of all teams during the 2007 season. I wanted to figure out opposing Misery Indeces for all teams, using their 2008 schedules, but didn't want to have to compute it all by hand. Thankfully, one scheduling page and some nifty Excel work later, and I was able to compile all the data into one spreadsheet in about 15 minutes. Thank you, I'll take a bow now.

The results are below. Remember, this chart represents the average turnover+sack total each of these teams will face for the upcoming season, based on their opponents' 2007 stats. It's like taking every 2008's opponents' win-loss record and combining it all to say that teams opposing Team X had a .530 winning percentage in 2007. It doesn't necessarily mean that team has an extremely tough schedule the next season -- the opposing teams change from year to year, and .530 is so close to .500 as to be nearly insignificant -- but it gets people talking (and usually complaining about their team's "tough" schedule or another team's "easy" schedule).

New Orleans Saints67.4
Arizona Cardinals67.2
New England Patriots67.1
Washington Redskins65.5
Seattle Seahawks65.4
St. Louis Rams65.3
Atlanta Falcons65.1
Buffalo Bills65.0
New York Giants64.6
Green Bay Packers64.5
San Diego Chargers64.5
Miami Dolphins64.4
Dallas Cowboys64.3
San Francisco 49ers64.1
Philadelphia Eagles64.0
Carolina Panthers63.9
Cincinnati Bengals63.8
Tampa Bay Buccaneers63.8
Chicago Bears63.5
Oakland Raiders62.5
Minnesota Vikings62.3
Denver Broncos62.2
Tennessee Titans62.2
New York Jets61.8
Houston Texans61.6
Detroit Lions61.0
Cleveland Browns60.1
Jacksonville Jaguars60.1
Indianapolis Colts59.8
Kansas City Chiefs59.5
Baltimore Ravens58.8
Pittsburgh Steelers55.9

Defensively, New Orleans has the easiest schedule, misery-wise for 2008, and Pittsburgh the toughest. That's fairly easy to see, based on their division schedules. Seven of New Orleans' 2008 opponents had Misery Indeces of 70 or higher in 2007, while Pittsburgh takes on eight of 16 teams with Misery Indeces of 50 or lower, including the league's best, New England and Indianapolis.

Now, does this mean you should rank the Saints' defense ahead of the Steelers' defense in 2008? Probably not. The most pseudo-accurate determination you could make from this list would be to say that, for example, if an average defense played the Saints' 2008 schedule against teams that performed exactly as they did in 2007, you might expect that team to pick up about 67 turnovers + sacks. That average team playing against Pittsburgh's 2007 opponents would get about 56 turnovers + sacks. Obviously, '08 teams are different from their '07 versions. Again, this has about as much relevance as strength of schedule. If New England had the toughest SOS in the league for 2008, would you still bet against them to go to the Super Bowl?

That said, it's interesting to note that four of last year's better defenses -- Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Indianapolis, and Jacksonville -- rate among the league's toughest five schedules. I've always thought you never want to be the first guy to draft a defense in fantasy football, and with these squads likely among the first off the board, that might be truer than ever this year. I'll wait a little while and take New England or Seattle, both of whom gave up fewer than 300 points in '07 and seem to have pretty easy SOS for 2008. And they may have the 21st best Misery SOS, but I'll still take the Vikings -- though I might not want to start them until week 3.

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