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Fantasy QB strength of schedule guide for 2016

NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 15: Jonathan Stewart #28 blocks for Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers against Derrick Morgan #91 of the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium on November 15, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

Projecting fantasy strength of schedule is an inexact science. Of course, forecasting football results, on both sides of the ball, is more about anticipating outcome ranges than pinpointing perfect predictions. If you can somehow nail the head constantly, you should instead be reading flight schedules to Vegas.

Used properly, as one more tool on our fantasy belt, strength of schedule has its place in both preparing for the season and after Week 1. We comfortably base lineup decisions on matchups, both in season-long and DFS formats — so why ignore information we already have until after our rosters are drafted?

Introducing additional variables to a projection makes it more fragile, but again, we are not expecting to pinpoint precisely and are aiming for a general snapshot of schedule strength. Nobody can definitively say whether the Falcons or the Redskins will be tougher on quarterbacks. Yet we are almost certain the Saints will be easier to throw on than the Broncos.

As in years past, we will work off the schedule grid below. Red indicates the toughest matchups, followed by orange. Dark greens are the easiest opponents, followed by light green. Yellow and white are neutral matchups, with yellow shading on the more difficult side than white. These designations will shift as outlooks crystalize throughout training camp and, especially, once the season kicks off.

Colors were assigned only partly based on fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks in 2015. Manual adjustments were made for offseason player and coach movement, expected Vegas win totals, offensive game plans (for example, the Cowboys’ ball-control approach), and PFF grading. Re-designations will occur, but we have enough to dig into as fantasy draft season rapidly approaches.

Check back all week for ways to put this information to use in the fantasy season. Today, we'll check in with some quick first thoughts as to how the season schedule breaks down.

Initial thoughts

The AFC East features some of the league’s hardest schedules. On top of mostly tough intra-divisional matchups, they face the NFC West and AFC North. In addition to matchups with those three divisions, the Bills get a game with the Raiders’ revamped defense, the Jets have to travel to Kansas City, and the Patriots face Houston and go to Denver.

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