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Strength of schedule: NFL fantasy football quarterbacks

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The NFL.com FPA ratings are based on the strength of a player's schedule using the average fantasy points their opponents allowed against the six major fantasy positions the previous season. For example, the Minnesota Vikings allowed an average of 19.55 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks in 2011. As a result, any signal-caller that faces them this season is rewarded 19.55 points. Since Matthew Stafford faces them twice as an NFC North opponent, he receives 39.10 points. The bigger the point total, the easier the schedule. While these ratings are not the be all, end all in determining a player's stock, they can still be useful when picking between players with similar value and looking for those ever-elusive sleepers.

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Did FPA work for quarterbacks in 2011?: More than half of the 32 NFL teams saw a 2.5-point decrease or increase in FPA from 2010-2011, so the theory held water in more cases than not. The biggest change came in Houston, where the Texans allowed 8.08 fewer fantasy points per game to quarterbacks and were one of two teams (Seahawks) to allow five or fewer points to the position compared to 2010. On the flip side, the biggest increase in points allowed to signal-callers came in Green Bay, where the Packers surrendered 6.17 more points than the previous season. In all, six teams surrendered 4.92 or more points compared to 2010. A total of 56.2 percent of defenses allowed more fantasy points to quarterbacks at some level.

Note: Favorable opponents allowed an average of 16 or more fantasy points in 2011. Unfavorable opponents allowed an average of fewer than 14 fantasy points.

1. Matt Ryan, Falcons (266.91 points)
Favorable opponents - Buccaneers (2), Panthers (2), Saints (2), Broncos, Chargers, Raiders, Giants, Lions.
Unfavorable opponents - Chiefs.
2012 Outlook: Ryan will be a low-end No. 1 fantasy quarterback and worth an early- to middle-round selection on draft day.

2. Josh Freeman, Buccaneers (262.93 points)
Favorable opponents - Panthers (2), Saints (2), Broncos, Chargers, Raiders, Giants, Vikings.
Unfavorable opponents - Chiefs, Rams.
2012 Outlook: Freeman clearly has an attractive schedule, but he's still no more than a No. 2 fantasy quarterback in drafts.

3. Drew Brees, Saints (262.42 points)
Favorable opponents - Buccaneers (2), Panthers (2), Broncos, Chargers, Raiders, Giants, Packers.
Unfavorable opponents - Chiefs, 49ers.
2012 Outlook: Brees has first-round value, and a nice schedule makes him that much more valuable as a top-10 overall choice.

4. Cam Newton, Panthers (259.76 points):
Favorable opponents - Buccaneers (2), Saints (2), Broncos, Chargers, Raiders, Giants.
Unfavorable opponents - Chiefs, Seahawks.
2012 Outlook: Newton will be a first-round pick in most 2012 drafts, but can he duplicate his rookie success? We shall see.

5. Matt Cassel, Chiefs (250.24 points)
Favorable opponents - Broncos (2), Chargers (2), Raiders (2), Buccaneers, Panthers, Saints, Bills.
Unfavorable opponents - Bengals, Browns, Ravens, Steelers.
2012 Outlook: The schedule is great, but Cassel is still just a No. 2 fantasy quarterback and worth only a late-round look.

6. Jay Cutler, Bears (249.85 points)
Favorable opponents - Lions (2), Packers (2), Vikings (2), Panthers.
Unfavorable opponents - 49ers, Rams, Seahawks, Jaguars, Texans.
2012 Outlook: Cutler's time as a true No. 1 fantasy quarterback is over, but he's still a viable No. 2 signal-caller for 2012.

7. Alex Smith, 49ers (249.01 points)
Favorable opponents - Lions, Packers, Vikings, Bills, Dolphins, Patriots, Giants, Saints.
Unfavorable opponents - Rams (2), Seahawks (2), Jets.
2012 Outlook: Smith has never been a reliable fantasy quarterback and remains a reserve in fantasy land despite the schedule.

8. Matt Flynn, Seahawks (248.68 points)
Favorable opponents - Lions, Packers, Vikings, Bills, Dolphins, Patriots, Panthers.
Unfavorable opponents - 49ers (2), Rams (2), Jets.
2012 Outlook: Assuming he earns a starting role, Flynn will be a No. 2 fantasy quarterback and occasional matchup-based starter.

9. Blaine Gabbert, Jaguars (247.02 points)
Favorable opponents - Bills, Dolphins, Patriots, Lions, Packers, Vikings, Raiders.
Unfavorable opponents - Texans (2), Jets, Bengals.
2012 Outlook: Despite a top-10 schedule based on fantasy points, Gabbert has much to prove before he'll have any draft appeal.

10. Sam Bradford, Rams (246.69 points):
Favorable opponents - Lions, Packers, Vikings, Bills, Dolphins, Patriots, Buccaneers.
Unfavorable opponents - 49ers (2), Seahawks (2), Jets.
2012 Outlook: A disappointment in 2011, Bradford still has plenty of potential as a late-round pick. A good schedule helps, too.

11. Aaron Rodgers, Packers (245.98 points)
Favorable opponents - Lions (2), Vikings (2), Saints, Giants.
Unfavorable opponents - 49ers, Rams, Seahawks, Chiefs, Jaguars, Texans.
2012 Outlook: Rodgers could have the worst schedule on paper among quarterbacks, and he would still be a top-five draft choice.

12. Matt Schaub, Texans (245.22 points)
Favorable opponents - Bills, Dolphins, Patriots, Lions, Packers, Vikings, Broncos.
Unfavorable opponents - Jaguars (2), Jets, Bengals, Ravens.
2012 Outlook: Once considered a top-10 fantasy quarterback, Schaub is now a high-end No. 2 option in most leagues for 2012.

13. Matthew Stafford, Lions (243.71 points)
Favorable opponents - Packers (2), Vikings (2), Saints, Giants.
Unfavorable opponents - 49ers, Rams, Seahawks, Jaguars, Texans.
2012 Outlook: Stafford plays in the easiest division for fantasy quarterbacks, so expect another solid statistical season.

14. Peyton Manning, Broncos (241.63 points)
Favorable opponents - Chargers (2), Raiders (2), Buccaneers, Panthers, Saints, Patriots.
Unfavorable opponents - Chiefs (2), Bengals, Browns, Ravens, Steelers, Texans.
2012 Outlook: Manning's schedule certainly won't hurt his return to a likely top-10 spot among all fantasy quarterbacks.


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15. Christian Ponder, Vikings (241.52 points)
Favorable opponents - Lions (2), Packers (2), Buccaneers.
Unfavorable opponents - 49ers, Rams, Seahawks, Texans.
2012 Outlook: The schedule won't help or hurt Ponder, and he won't be taken as more than a No. 2 fantasy option in drafts.

16. Robert Griffin III, Redskins (241.43 points):
Favorable opponents - Giants (2), Buccaneers, Panthers, Saints, Vikings.
Unfavorable opponents - Bengals, Browns, Ravens, Steelers, Rams.
2012 Outlook: Washington's brand-new No. 1 quarterback in 2012, the talented RG3 won't be affected by schedule.

17. Michael Vick, Eagles (241.39 points)
Favorable opponents - Giants (2), Buccaneers, Panthers, Saints, Lions.
Unfavorable opponents - Bengals, Browns, Ravens, Steelers.
2012 Outlook: Outside of the AFC North, Vick's schedule should help him remain a high-end No. 1 fantasy quarterback.

18. Matt Hasselbeck, Titans (240.86 points)
Favorable opponents - Bills, Dolphins, Patriots, Lions, Packers, Vikings, Chargers.
Unfavorable opponents - Jaguars (2), Texans (2), Jets, Steelers.
2012 Outlook: Hasselbeck is a viable No. 2 option, but Jake Locker would be a huge sleeper if he earns the top spot.

19. Kevin Kolb, Cardinals (240.56 points)
Favorable opponents - Lions, Vikings, Packers, Bills, Dolphins, Patriots.
Unfavorable opponents - 49ers (2), Rams (2), Seahawks (2), Jets.
2012 Outlook: A major bust in 2011, Kolb still has late-round value in leagues with 12-plus teams in 2012 drafts.

20. Mark Sanchez, Jets (239.33 points):
Favorable opponents - Bills (2), Dolphins (2), Patriots (2), Chargers.
Unfavorable opponents - Jaguars, Texans, 49ers, Rams, Seahawks, Steelers.
2012 Outlook: Sanchez was 10th in fantasy points at his position in 2011, but I wouldn't expect him to do it again.

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21. Carson Palmer, Raiders (239.08 points)
Favorable opponents - Broncos (2), Chargers (2), Buccaneers, Panthers, Saints, Dolphins.
Unfavorable opponents - Chiefs (2), Bengals, Browns, Ravens, Steelers, Jaguars.
2012 Outlook: Based on the schedule and his proneness to interceptions, consider Palmer no more than a No. 2 option.

22. Philip Rivers, Chargers (237.40 points)
Favorable opponents - Broncos (2), Raiders (2), Buccaneers, Panthers, Saints.
Unfavorable opponents - Chiefs (2), Bengals, Browns, Ravens, Steelers, Jets.
2012 Outlook: The schedule is difficult, but Rivers is still a top-10 quarterback heading into the 2012 campaign.

23. Joe Flacco, Ravens (236.15 points):
Favorable opponents - Broncos, Chargers, Raiders, Giants, Patriots.
Unfavorable opponents - Bengals (2), Browns (2), Steelers (2), Chiefs, Texans.
2012 Outlook: Flacco is no more than a fantasy reserve, and the schedule won't help improve his 2012 draft value.

24. Brandon Weeden, Browns (235.20 points)
Favorable opponents - Broncos, Chargers, Raiders, Giants, Bills.
Unfavorable opponents - Bengals (2), Ravens (2), Steelers (2).
2012 Outlook: Projected as the new Browns' starter, Weeden will be limited to the late rounds of deeper leagues.

25. Eli Manning, Giants (235.16 points)
Favorable opponents - Buccaneers, Panthers, Saints, Packers.
Unfavorable opponents - Bengals, Browns, Ravens, Steelers, 49ers.
2012 Outlook: Manning is a top-10 fantasy field general, but facing the AFC North and the Niners will be difficult.

26. Andrew Luck, Colts (234.82 points)
Favorable opponents - Bills, Dolphins, Patriots, Lions, Packers, Vikings.
Unfavorable opponents - Jaguars (2), Texans (2), Jets, Browns, Chiefs.
2012 Outlook: The top pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, the schedule won't do Luck any favors in his rookie season.

27. Tony Romo, Cowboys (234.48 points):
Favorable opponents - Giants (2), Buccaneers, Panthers, Saints.
Unfavorable opponents - Bengals, Browns, Ravens, Steelers, Seahawks.
2012 Outlook: Romo faces the tough AFC North, but the schedule won't affect his status as a top fantasy quarterback.

28. Matt Moore, Dolphins (233.29 points)
Favorable opponents - Bills (2), Patriots (2), Raiders.
Unfavorable opponents - Jets (2), Jaguars, Texans, 49ers, Rams, Seahawks, Bengals.
2012 Outlook: Moore was helped by a favorable schedule last season. He won't have that advantage again in 2012.

29. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers (230.16 points)
Favorable opponents - Broncos, Chargers, Raiders, Giants.
Unfavorable opponents - Bengals (2), Browns (2), Ravens (2), Chiefs, Jets.
2012 Outlook: Big Ben is a borderline No. 1 fantasy quarterback, but the schedule won't help him in the stat sheets.

30. Andy Dalton, Bengals (228.36 points)
Favorable opponents - Broncos, Chargers, Raiders, Giants, Dolphins.
Unfavorable opponents - Browns (2), Ravens (2), Steelers (2), Chiefs, Jaguars.
2012 Outlook: If Dalton is going to break out from a fantasy perspective in 2012, he'll do it against a tough slate.

31. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills (227.49 points)
Favorable opponents - Dolphins (2), Patriots (2).
Unfavorable opponents - Jets (2), Jaguars, Texans, 49ers, Rams, Seahawks, Chiefs, Browns.
2012 Outlook: Based on 2011 FPAs, Fitzpatrick doesn't have one favorable non-division opponent to exploit this season.

32. Tom Brady, Patriots (224.75 points)
Favorable opponents - Bills (2), Dolphins (2), Broncos.
Unfavorable opponents - Jets (2), Jaguars, Texans, 49ers, Rams, Seahawks, Ravens.
2012 Outlook: No one has a tougher slate of games, but Brady is still well worth a first-round pick in all 2012 drafts.

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com. Have a burning question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to @Michael_Fabiano or send a question via Facebook!

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