With the official release of the 2023 NFL schedule, potential pitfalls over difficult stretches or multiple favored matchups in a row give us a better idea of who some of the fantasy football winners and losers are.
NFL Schedule Release: Fantasy Football Winners
New Orleans Saints Offense
While we already knew who all of these teams were going to play, being able to put them in order helps give us a better view of what the overall landscape is going to be. Few, if any, teams walked out of the 2023 NFL schedule release better than the New Orleans Saints.
Although the Saints have four road games in the first six weeks, not one of those teams is projected to win over eight games in 2023. With Derek Carr now at the helm, the Saints can quickly get this offense up to speed which will be crucial if they are missing Alvin Kamara, who could be suspended.
With opening games against the Titans, Panthers, Patriots, and Texans, I would expect players like Carr and Chris Olave to start the season very quickly. Keep an eye on Juwan Johnson as he competes with Foster Moreau and even A.T. Perry as an upside rookie for early waiver wire claims.
Depending on Michael Thomas’ health, something which is always a question, the matchups are certainly there for him to become a value over the early part of the season. I will be actively creating some Saints schedule-focused Best Ball lineups in 2023.
Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans
Derrick Henry is inevitable. Fear it, run from it; it doesn’t matter. He is going to do what King Henry does. Finishing as the RB4 overall and in points per game at 18.3, Henry finished second in carries and third in rushing yards while averaging 23.4 touches per game and posting career highs in targets, receptions, and yards per route run last year. Not bad for someone who was still dealing with the effects of a foot injury, which knocked him out of the 2021 season.
If you’re all-in on Henry being himself in 2023, then you are licking your lips at his schedule — specifically toward the end of the season. Between Weeks 14 and 18, Tennessee is at Miami, home against Houston and Seattle, on the road against the Texans, and end their season at home against the Jaguars.
All Henry does is run for 200+ yards against the Texans, and he’s been known to put a Jaguars defender on a poster as well. Additionally, Tyjae Spears also gained value, specifically in Best Ball leagues. Should anything happen to Henry, Spears would benefit from the cakewalk playoff schedule. Although the NFL schedule release didn’t change too much, Henry certainly walked away as one of the biggest winners for fantasy football.
Detroit Lions Offense
If you couldn’t tell by the number of prime-time games the Lions are scheduled to play, the NFL is bullish on the franchise. Fantasy managers should be as well, as I expect Amon-Ra St. Brown and Co. to feast in 2023. The Lions have a top-10 schedule for fantasy throughout the entire season, and the first six weeks can get them off to a great start as well.
While I’m not necessarily saying they’re going to win these games, the matchups against the Chiefs, Seahawks, Falcons, Packers, Panthers, and Buccaneers will force the Lions into offensive showdowns, which will lead to points.
We saw the exact same thing happen last year when the Lions weren’t able to stop anyone but had an offense that could put up points on command. It’s the perfect storm for fantasy. While Jameson Williams won’t benefit from this in the beginning, Detroit arguably has the top fantasy strength of schedule for wide receivers as well. Keep an eye on Marvin Jones early in the season as a potential sleeper.
Throw in the projected positive game scripts early on for Jahmyr Gibbs and David Montgomery, and anyone bullish on the Lions beforehand should be doubling down on them in 2023 after the NFL schedule release.
NFL Schedule Release: Fantasy Football Losers
Kyler Murray, QB, Arizona Cardinals
Barring some miracle recovery where Murray is ready to go within the first couple of weeks, I was already completely out this season. The schedule only cements that position.
By all accounts, the Cardinals should be the worst team in the NFL. So, before we even get to the schedule, there’s a realistic chance that by the time Murray is ready to go, the team has nothing to play for and just holds him out anyway.
In the event they do bring Murray back, the projected return date is around Week 8/9. Well, the Cardinals have a Week 14 bye — the final week of the fantasy regular season. As if that isn’t bad enough, the Cardinals close the fantasy season out against the 49ers, Bears, and Eagles in Weeks 15-17. Between the injury and the schedule, Murray is an easy fade this season.
Seattle Seahawks Offense
The schedule makers were not kind to the Seahawks this season. They are the team that will be traveling the farthest distance over the course of the season. They were given back-to-back Thursday night games in Weeks 12 and 13, which will result in them playing three games in 12 days. And they have the earliest bye in Week 5.
Early byes are notoriously rough because teams don’t need the week off that early in the season. When they could use the break later in the year, they won’t have it. Plus, the bye week is nowhere near the three games in 12 days stretch.
This could lead to guys like DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and Kenneth Walker III possibly fading down the stretch. While this certainly shouldn’t deter you from drafting them, it’s at least something to consider.
Dallas Cowboys Defense
The Cowboys have had an elite NFL and fantasy defense for the better part of the past two years. While they’ll likely open the season worthy of being one of the first three defenses off the board in fantasy drafts, if you draft them, you should probably plan to replace them by the latter third of the year.
From Weeks 13-17, which includes the four most important weeks of the fantasy season, the Cowboys play the Seahawks, Eagles, Bills, Dolphins, and Lions. Those are five excellent offenses. It would be a shock if all five of those teams weren’t in the top 10 in scoring in 2023. It’s great news if you have Cowboys’ offense players, but not so great if you’re relying on their defense.
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