One of the more recent tools created to help in that quest for a fantasy league championship are fantasy points allowed (FPA) ratings. It's a statistical look at how an NFL team performed against each of the six major fantasy positions (quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end, kicker, defense/special teams) the previous season. Using a Rotisserie-style formula, we have created a fantasy-focused rating for every team in 2010.
Each defensive unit was assigned a point value per position from 1-32, based on how it performed during the 2009 season. Keep in mind, this rating has nothing to do with how a team finished in passing or rushing defense. Take into consideration the Vikings, who were in the top 10 against the pass last season but still allowed the 11th-most fantasy points to quarterbacks. The Lions gave up the most fantasy points (22.5 PPG) to the position, so each signal-caller facing them received one point. If a quarterback plays the Jets, who surrendered the fewest points (10.1 PPG), he received 32 points. The lower the point total, the better the rating.
This rating formula shows us how favorable or unfavorable a player's schedule will be in 2010. We've covered the overall FPA ratings for each of the top four positions, but now it's time to look at who faces the most attractive or unattractive matchups during the most vital part of the season -- the fantasy playoffs (Weeks 14-16).
Top 5 quarterbacks
1. Brett Favre, Vikings: While there is no guarantee that Favre will come back for his 20th NFL season, he could be a fantasy hero if he does return to action. Not only does he have a favorable schedule overall, but he also faces the Giants, Bears and Eagles in Weeks 14-16. Those teams allowed 17.8 or more fantasy PPG to quarterbacks last season.
2. Aaron Rodgers, Packers: Rodgers could be the top-scoring player in fantasy football next season. He has the second-easiest schedule at his position based on our FPA ratings, not to mention the advantage of facing the Lions, Patriots and Giants in the fantasy playoffs. The Lions and Giants were two of the four worst teams in allowing points to quarterbacks.
3. Peyton Manning, Colts: Manning ranks 12th among quarterbacks in terms of overall strength of schedule, and matchups against the Titans, Jaguars and Raiders in the fantasy playoffs are very favorable. In fact, the Titans and Jaguars were two of the six worst teams in allowing fantasy points to field generals in 2009. Let's just hope Manning isn't rested in Week 16.
4. Trent Edwards, Bills: None of Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick or Brian Brohm will be worth more than a late-round flier in larger fantasy leagues, but it is worth noting that the eventual starter will face the Browns, Dolphins and Patriots in Weeks 14-16. The Browns and Dolphins both allowed more than 19.0 fantasy PPG to opposing field generals last season.
5. Matt Cassel, Chiefs: Cassel doesn't have a favorable schedule overall (26th among quarterbacks), but he does have a very attractive slate of games during the fantasy postseason. He will face the Chargers, Rams and Titans. The latter two teams were in the top 10 in terms of allowing the most fantasy points to signal-callers in 2009.
Bottom 5 quarterbacks
1. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers: It was a very bad offseason for Roethlisberger, to say the least. To further damage his fantasy appeal, he has one of the toughest schedules of any quarterback. In the fantasy postseason, he will go up against the Bengals, Jets and Panthers. The latter two teams allowed 13.5 fantasy PPG or fewer to signal-callers.
2. Jake Delhomme, Browns: Do we really need another reason NOT to draft Delhomme? A turnover machine in recent seasons, he will lead a Browns offense with few weapons and little chance at immediate improvement. Delhomme must also go up against the Bills, Bengals and Ravens in Week 14-16. That is, if he survives as the team's No. 1 field general that long.
3. Derek Anderson, Cardinals: There are a lot of question marks about Anderson heading into the 2010 season, so the fact that he has an unfavorable schedule (20th overall among quarterbacks) makes him even less attractive. The Cardinals signal-caller must also go up against tough teams like the Broncos, Panthers and Cowboys during the fantasy postseason.
4. David Garrard, Jaguars: Garrard has virtually no upside from a fantasy perspective, and the fact that he ranks 21st among quarterbacks based on our FPA rating doesn't improve his value. What's more, the veteran isn't likely to help owners in that quest for a fantasy championship with games against the Raiders, Colts and Redskins in Weeks 14-16.
5. Matt Ryan, Falcons: Ryan has a lot of potential and could turn into a nice draft value in fantasy leagues next season, but he will have a tough slate of games to navigate. During the fantasy playoffs, he will face the Panthers, Seahawks and Saints. Based on last season's FPA totals, the Panthers and Saints were formidable against opposing quarterbacks.
Top 5 running backs
1. Michael Turner, Falcons: Turner was a disappointment last season, but he should be 100 percent for the start of 2010 and has a favorable schedule. He faces attractive matchups in the fantasy playoffs, facing the Panthers, Seahawks and Saints. Those teams were in the top 10 in terms of allowing the most fantasy points to running backs in 2009.
2. Frank Gore, 49ers: Gore has the second-most attractive schedule among backs based on our ratings, and his slate of games in the fantasy playoffs is also favorable. He will go up against the Seahawks, Chargers and Rams. None of those teams allowed fewer than 19.7 fantasy PPG to opposing runners last season, so Gore should be a fantasy hero.
3. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs: No running back has a more favorable overall schedule than Charles, and the fact that he has attractive matchups during the fantasy playoffs is only going to add to his stock on draft day. The versatile runner goes up against the Chargers, Rams and Titans in Weeks 14-16. The latter two teams allowed 20.7 fantasy PPG or more to runners.
4. Chris Johnson, Titans: It's hard to envision a scenario where Johnson would rush for 2,000-plus yards in consecutive seasons, but the consensus No. 1 pick in fantasy drafts still will lead a lot of owners to a title. While his overall schedule isn't terribly favorable, Johnson has very good matchups against the Colts, Texans and Chiefs in Weeks 14-16.
5. Ray Rice, Ravens: One of the biggest sleepers in fantasy football last season, Rice is a lock to come off the board with one of the top eight picks on draft day. During the fantasy playoffs, he will face the Texans, Saints and Browns. The latter two teams allowed an average of at least 21.3 fantasy PPG to opposing running backs in 2009.
Bottom 5 running backs
1. Matt Forte, Bears: It's bad enough that Forte was a complete disaster for owners last season, but the addition of Chester Taylor signals an imminent backfield committee. To further pile on, Forte has an extremely tough schedule that includes games against the Patriots, Vikings and Jets during the fantasy postseason. He is someone to avoid.
2. Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants: Bradshaw has more value than his teammate, Branodon Jacobs, but a committee is imminent. Based on our FPA ratings, his statistical success isn't going to increase much in 2010. Bradshaw has the 27th-most difficult schedule among running backs, including games against the Vikings, Eagles and Packers in Weeks 14-16.
3. LeSean McCoy, Eagles: The fact that McCoy is in line to see a much greater role in the Eagles offense next season makes him a viable breakout candidate in fantasy circles. It's worth noting, though, that the former Pitt standout could be less of a factor for part of the fantasy playoffs with formidable matchups against the Cowboys, Giants and Vikings.
4. DeAngelo Williams, Panthers: The emergence of Jonathan Stewart has put a dent in the value of Williams, who was the top fantasy runner in 2008. While he's still a low-end No. 1 option, it's interesting to note that Williams must face the Falcons, Cardinals and Steelers in the fantasy playoffs. The Steelers allowed the fewest fantasy points to backs last season.
5. Shonn Greene, Jets: Even with LaDainian Tomlinson in the team's backfield mix, Greene has a ton of sleeper/breakout value in fantasy football circles. If Greene has one thing going against him, however, it's the strength of schedule. Greene ranks 22nd among runners based on our FPA ratings and faces the Dolphins, Steelers and Bears in Week 14-16.
Top 5 wide receivers
1. Santonio Holmes, Jets: Holmes, Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery have favorable schedules on paper in the fantasy postseason, facing the Dolphins, Steelers and Bears. However, there's a good chance the Steelers will be improved against the pass, and the Bears have a better defense as well. I still wouldn't touch any Jets wideouts on draft day.
2. Reggie Wayne, Colts: Wayne will have more competition for targets next season, as Dallas Clark, Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie and Anthony Gonzalez are in the mix. Still, it's hard to pass on the veteran wideout in drafts based on his past success and a favorable fantasy postseason schedule that includes games against the Titans, Jaguars and Raiders.
3. Mike Williams, Buccaneers: Unfortunately, a favorable schedule is wasted on a Buccaneers team that lacks a legitimate wideout. Williams, though, as some deep sleeper appeal and could emerge into a useful option down the stretch. The Bucs face the Redskins, Lions and Seahawks during Weeks 14-16, so Williams is someone to watch.
4. Greg Jennings, Packers: Jennings finished with decreases in receptions, yards and touchdowns last season compared to his more impressive 2008 totals. However, the veteran wideout has a definite chance to re-emerge into a fantasy hero in 2010 based on a favorable schedule that includes games against the Lions, Patriots and Giants in Week 14-16.
5. Calvin Johnson, Lions: The man called Megatron is coming off a poor season, but he will be in a great position to rebound in 2010. Not only will Matthew Stafford continue to improve under center, but Johnson now has protection in the form of Nate Burleson and Tony Scheffler. He will also face the Packers, Buccaneers and Dolphins during the fantasy playoffs.
Bottom 5 wide receivers
1. Hines Ward, Steelers: The value of Ward and Mike Wallace improved when the Steelers traded Holmes, but the Roethlisberger situation and a highly unfavorable schedule take away some luster. Steelers wideouts face the toughest schedule based on our FPA rating both overall and in Weeks 14-16, where games against the Bengals, Jets and Panthers await.
2. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals: Despite the loss of Kurt Warner, Fitzgerald is still one of the elite wideouts in fantasy football. It's worth noting, though, that he faces a tough schedule in Weeks 14-16 with games against the Broncos, Panthers and Cowboys. Regardless, it's hard to pass on Fitzgerald in the second round on draft day.
3. Mohamed Massaquoi, Browns: If Massaquoi is on your list of fantasy sleepers for next season, you might want to think again. Not only has his quarterback (Delhomme) thrown more interceptions than touchdowns in the last two seasons, but Massaquoi also faces a schedule that includes games against the Bills, Bengals and Ravens during the fantasy playoffs.
4. Brandon Marshall, Dolphins: Marshall shouldn't see a major change in fantasy appeal with the Dolphins, though two meetings with Jets CB Darrelle Revis certainly won't make him more attractive. One of those games comes in the fantasy postseason, along with a matchup against the Bills. On a positive note, Marshall does face the Lions in championship week.
5. Anquan Boldin, Ravens: Boldin is one of the most talented wideouts in the league, but keep in mind that he's moved from the defenseless NFC West to the much more formidable AFC North. As a result, he's ranked just 25th at his position based on strength of schedule. During the fantasy playoffs, Boldin will face the Texans, Saints and Browns.