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Strength of schedule: NFL fantasy football wide receivers

Other positions: Quarterbacks | Running backs | Tight ends

 

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 New England Patriots allowed an average of 30.14 fantasy points per game to wide receivers in 2011. As a result, any wideout that faces them this season is rewarded 30.14 points. Since Steve Johnson faces them twice as an AFC East opponent, he receives 60.28 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.

Did FPA work for wide receivers in 2011?: More than three quarters of the 32 NFL teams saw a 2.5-point decrease or increase in FPA from 2010-2011, so the theory wasn't as effective for wide receivers. The biggest change came in Seattle, where the Seahawks allowed 8.08 fewer fantasy points per game and were one of eight teams to surrender five or fewer points to wideouts compared to 2010. On the flip side, the biggest increase in points allowed came in Green Bay, where the Packers gave up 9.68 more per game. In all, six teams surrendered 4.68 or more points compared to the previous season. Furthermore, 56.2 percent of defenses allowed more fantasy points to wideouts at some level.

Note: Favorable opponents allowed an average of 22.50 or more fantasy points in 2011. Unfavorable opponents allowed an average of fewer than 20 fantasy points.

1. Sidney Rice, Seahawks (354.14 points)
Favorable opponents - Rams (2), Dolphins, Patriots, Bears, Lions, Packers, Vikings.
Unfavorable opponents - Bills, Jets.
2012 Outlook: The schedule is good news for Rice, but he needs to avoid injuries. Terrell Owens and Doug Baldwin also benefit.

2. Michael Crabtree, 49ers (362.74 points)
Favorable opponents - Rams (2), Dolphins, Patriots, Bears, Lions, Packers, Vikings, Saints.
Unfavorable opponents - Seahawks (2), Bills, Jets.
2012 Outlook: Facing the NFC West plus the NFC North is a positive; the addition of Randy Moss and Mario Manningham isn't.

3. Vincent Jackson, Buccaneers (357.28 points)
Favorable opponents - Falcons (2), Saints (2), Broncos, Raiders, Giants, Rams, Vikings.
Unfavorable opponents - Chiefs, Redskins.
2012 Outlook: Jackson has a great schedule, but a downgrade at quarterback and moving to a run-based offense are concerns.

4. Brandon Marshall, Bears (356.74 points)
Favorable opponents - Lions (2), Packers (2), Vikings (2), Giants.
Unfavorable opponents - Jaguars, Texans, Titans, Redskins.
2012 Outlook: Not only is Marshall back with his pal Jay Cutler, but he also faces a terrific schedule this season.

5. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals (356.43 points)
Favorable opponents - Rams (2), Dolphins, Patriots, Bears, Lions, Packers, Vikings, Falcons.
Unfavorable opponents - Seahawks (2), Bills, Jets.
2012 Outlook: Fitzgerald is a lock top-five wideout, and a positive slate helps the stock of Early Doucet and Andre Roberts.

6. Greg Jennings, Packers (355.84 points)
Favorable opponents - Bears (2), Lions (2), Vikings (2), Broncos, Raiders, Saints, Giants.
Unfavorable opponents - Jaguars, Texans, Titans, Chiefs.
2012 Outlook: Jennings and Jordy Nelson are both early round selections, regardless of the favorable schedule that lays ahead.

7. Justin Blackmon, Jaguars (354.17 points):
Favorable opponents - Dolphins, Patriots, Bears, Lions, Packers, Vikings, Raiders.
Unfavorable opponents - Texans (2), Titans (2), Bills, Jets.
2012 Outlook: Blaine Gabbert needs to improve, but at least Blackmon will face one of the better schedules among wideouts.

8. Calvin Johnson, Lions (354.07 points):
Favorable opponents - Bears (2), Packers (2), Vikings (2), Rams, Falcons.
Unfavorable opponents - Jaguars, Texans, Titans, Seahawks.
2012 Outlook: Megatron is the top wideout in fantasy land, so an attractive schedule makes him that much more valuable in Round 1.

9. Marques Colston, Saints (354.06 points):
Favorable opponents - Falcons (2), Broncos, Raiders, Giants, Packers.
Unfavorable opponents - Chiefs, Redskins.
2012 Outlook: Colston is the most valuable Saints wideout, so the presence of Drew Brees plus a good schedule is a positive.

10. Roddy White, Falcons (353.59 points):
Favorable opponents - Saints (2), Broncos, Raiders, Giants, Lions.
Unfavorable opponents - Chiefs, Redskins.
2012 Outlook: White is already an elite fantasy wideout, but a nice schedule puts Julio Jones in a position to break out.

11. Steve Smith, Panthers (351.69 points):
Favorable opponents - Falcons (2), Saints (2), Broncos, Raiders, Bears.
Unfavorable opponents - Chiefs, Redskins, Seahawks.
2012 Outlook: Smith will have No. 1 fantasy wideout value while Cam Newton is under center, and a nice slate helps his appeal.

12. Danny Amendola, Rams (350.98 points)
Favorable opponents - Dolphins, Patriots, Bears, Lions, Packers, Vikings,
Unfavorable opponents - Seahawks (2), Bills, Jets, Redskins.
2012 Outlook: Facing the NFC North is an advantage for Amendola and Steve Smith, but both are worth just late-round picks.

13. Percy Harvin, Vikings (349.20 points)
Favorable opponents - Bears (2), Lions (2), Packers (2), Rams.
Unfavorable opponents - Jaguars, Texans, Titans, Seahawks, Redskins.
2012 Outlook: Harvin plays six matchups against divisional foes -- those teams allowed a ton of fantasy points to wideouts in 2011.

14. Andre Johnson, Texans (345.08 points)
Favorable opponents - Dolphins, Patriots, Bears, Lions, Packers, Vikings, Broncos.
Unfavorable opponents - Jaguars (2), Titans (2), Bills, Jets, Ravens.
2012 Outlook: Johnson's schedule is on the favorable side, but his proneness to injuries over the last two seasons is a concern.

15. Kenny Britt, Titans (344.98 points)
Favorable opponents - Dolphins, Patriots, Bears, Lions, Packers, Vikings.
Unfavorable opponents - Jaguars (2), Texans (2), Bills, Jets, Steelers.
2012 Outlook: If Britt doesn't get suspended for a lengthy period, he'll have a chance to be a very useful fantasy wideout this season.

16. Santonio Holmes, Jets (343.97 points):
Favorable opponents - Dolphins (2), Patriots (2), Rams.
Unfavorable opponents - Bills (2), Jaguars, Texans, Titans, Seahawks, Steelers.
2012 Outlook: The schedule isn't going to help or hurt Holmes, but that doesn't change the fact that his value is falling.

17. Davone Bess, Dolphins (341.05 points)
Favorable opponents - Patriots (2), Rams, Raiders.
Unfavorable opponents - Bills (2), Jets (2), Jaguars, Texans, Titans, Seahawks.
2012 Outlook: The Dolphins' No. 1 wideout remains a question mark, but Bess and Brian Hartline could see more targets in 2012.

18. Pierre Garcon, Redskins (339.95 points)
Favorable opponents - Giants (2), Falcons, Saints, Vikings, Rams.
Unfavorable opponents - Browns, Ravens, Steelers.
2012 Outlook: Facing the AFC North is a disadvantage, but Garcon still isn't going to see his value affected by the schedule.

19. Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs (338.73 points):
Favorable opponents - Broncos (2), Raiders (2), Falcons, Saints.
Unfavorable opponents - Browns, Ravens, Steelers, Bills.
2012 Outlook: Bowe's schedule has some tough matchups, especially against the AFC North, but he's still a No. 2 fantasy wideout.

20. Demaryius Thomas, Broncos (336.20 points):
Favorable opponents - Raiders (2), Falcons, Saints, Patriots.
Unfavorable opponents - Chiefs (2), Browns, Ravens, Steelers, Texans.
2012 Outlook: Thomas doesn't have what you would call a favorable schedule, but he's a tremendous fantasy breakout candidate.

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21. Steve Johnson, Bills (334.24 points)
Favorable opponents - Dolphins (2), Patriots (2), Rams.
Unfavorable opponents - Jets (2), Jaguars, Texans, Titans, Seahawks, Chiefs, Browns.
2012 Outlook: The lone Bills wideout with fantasy appeal, Johnson's schedule does nothing to make him a better No. 2 option.

T-22. Jeremy Maclin, Eagles (333.32 points)
Favorable opponents - Giants (2), Falcons, Saints, Bears.
Unfavorable opponents - Redskins (2), Browns, Ravens, Steelers, Seahawks.
2012 Outlook: Despite the tough schedule, I see Maclin having a bounce-back season. Not sure I can say the same for DeSean Jackson.

T-22. Hakeem Nicks, Giants (333.32 points)
Favorable opponents - Falcons, Saints, Packers.
Unfavorable opponents - Redskins (2), Brown, Ravens, Steelers.
2012 Outlook: The schedule might be tough for Nicks and Victor Cruz, but it's still tough not to rank them among the top wideouts.

24. Reggie Wayne, Colts (331.50 points):
Favorable opponents - Dolphins, Patriots, Bears, Lions, Packers, Vikings.
Unfavorable opponents - Jaguars (2), Texans (2), Titans (2), Bills, Jets, Browns, Chiefs.
2012 Outlook: Wayne doesn't have a great schedule, but he should see plenty of targets in Indianapolis this season.

25. Dez Bryant, Cowboys (323.84 points):
Favorable opponents - Giants (2), Falcons, Saints, Bears.
Unfavorable opponents - Redskins (2), Browns, Ravens, Steelers, Seahawks.
2012 Outlook: The schedule isn't good on paper for Bryant or Miles Austin, but it still won't keep me from taking them on draft day.

T-26. Torrey Smith, Ravens (322.79 points)
Favorable opponents - Broncos, Raiders, Giants, Patriots.
Unfavorable opponents - Browns (2), Steelers (2), Chiefs, Redskins, Texans.
2012 Outlook: Smith has serious sleeper appeal as the top fantasy wide receiver in Baltimore, but the slate won't do him any favors.

T-26. Robert Meachem, Chargers (322.79 points)
Favorable opponents - Broncos (2), Raiders (2), Falcons, Saints.
Unfavorable opponents - Chiefs (2), Browns, Ravens, Steelers, Titans, Jets.
2012 Outlook: Meachem could become a viable No. 2 fantasy wideout, but he and Malcom Floyd will have some tough matchups ahead.

28. Wes Welker, Patriots (321.52 points)
Favorable opponents - Dolphins (2), Rams, Broncos.
Unfavorable opponents - Bills (2), Jets (2), Jaguars, Texans, Titans, Seahawks, Ravens.
2012 Outlook: The Patriots wideouts have a brutal schedule, but does it really matter with Tom Brady under center?

29. Denarius Moore, Raiders (321.38 points)
Favorable opponents - Broncos (2), Falcons, Saints, Dolphins.
Unfavorable opponents - Chiefs (2), Browns, Ravens, Steelers, Jaguars.
2012 Outlook: Moore has all the look of a fantasy sleeper, but a schedule that includes games against the AFC North is difficult.

30. Greg Little, Browns (321.12 points)
Favorable opponents - Broncos, Raiders, Giants.
Unfavorable opponents - Ravens (2), Steelers (2), Chiefs, Redskins, Bills.
2012 Outlook: If you're a wideout in the AFC North, your schedule is going to be ugly. That's exactly the case for Little.

31. Mike Wallace, Steelers (313.76 points):
Favorable opponents - Broncos, Raiders, Giants.
Unfavorable opponents - Browns (2), Ravens (2), Chiefs, Redskins, Jets, Titans.
2012 Outlook: Wallace is a No. 1 fantasy wideout, but his schedule is brutal. He's also missed a lot of training camp.

32. A.J. Green, Bengals (308.99 points)
Favorable opponents - Broncos, Raiders, Giants, Dolphins.
Unfavorable opponents - Browns (2), Ravens (2), Steelers (2), Chiefs, Redskins, Jaguars.
2012 Outlook: I love Green's upside and believe he can break out, but the scheduling gods were not kind for the 2012 campaign.

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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