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Best, worst 2017 fantasy schedules: Running backs

The National Football League has a strength of schedule formula that's simple to understand ... take the opponents' records from the previous season, add up wins and losses and calculate a percentage. In fantasy football, there's a different method that evaluates a player's value.

Instead of team records, we use the number of fantasy points surrendered by opponents the previous year against a single position. For example, the San Francisco 49ers allowed an average of 27.24 fantasy points per game to running backs in 2016. As a result, any running back who faces them in 2017 receives 27.24 points. The bigger the overall point total, the easier the schedule.

While these ratings are not the be-all, end-all in determining a player's stock, owners can use them when picking between players with similar value and projecting potential sleepers or busts.

Notes (1-16): The difference between the best schedule (19.4) and the worst (17.04) is not excessive this season. Furthermore, there's barely a one-point separation from No. 1 to No. 16. ... The Patriots backfield is a crowded one, but their runners have a favorable slate that includes two games against the Buffalo Bills. Their defense allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to running backs last season. New England also faces the AFC West, which had two teams (Los Angeles Chargers, Oakland Raiders) among the top 10 in points allowed to the position. ... Overall, the AFC East has three teams (Patriots, New York Jets, Buffalo Bills) in the top eight and a fourth (Miami) in the top 12. That's due to the aforementioned favorable matchups against the AFC West, as well as other good matchups against NFC South teams like the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons. ... Three NFC East squads, including the Dallas Cowboys and superstar back Ezekiel Elliott (No 10), are rated in the top half of the NFL. ... DeMarco Murray is a first-rounder, and his favorable schedule helps.

Notes (17-32):Carlos Hyde has the toughest schedule based on our fantasy points allowed research, but all four NFC West running backs (Hyde, David Johnson, Eddie Lacy, Todd Gurley) are ranked 24th or lower based on our FPA research. That's based on the fact that the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks were both ranked in the top eight in allowing the fewest fantasy points to opposing backs last season. The division also goes up against the NFC East, which fielded two teams (Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants) that ranked as two of the five toughest defenses against the run. While this data might hurt someone like Lacy or Gurley, no one is going to pass on Johnson based on the schedule. ... All four AFC West backs (C.J. Anderson, Melvin Gordon, Spencer Ware, DeAndre Washington) rank in the bottom half of the league, but the difference in the first three is around one-tenth of a point compared to Ty Montgomery, who ranks at No. 16 overall. ... Le'Veon Bell will remain a top-three overall selection despite his 30th-ranked FPA schedule.

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on and NFL Network and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Have a burning question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to _**@MichaelFabiano**_ or send a question via **Facebook**!

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