Like you, I'm pumped about football. Even when the NFL offers non-events like the release of the schedule, I'm all geeked up. Pretty soon they'll start broadcasting offseason weight room workouts and have Q&As with the chefs at the training facilities. Ooh! The Jets are adding more protein to their Thursday meals! Start all Jets!!
The NFL schedule is an important piece to the Fantasy puzzle. It dictates the matchups that dictate Fantasy use. Only problem is that any matchup we look at now as a "cake walk" or "an impossible game" might not be the case come Week 5. Last year, I had the Falcons and Dolphins pegged as clubs that would get run over for much of the season. Goes to show you that nothing is permanent and anything can happen.
Then again, I was pretty confident that the Raiders, Lions, Rams and Bengals would stink, and they did. Just don't bring up the Browns ... eesh ... I get icy chills just thinking about THAT pick from last year ... again, I swear I'm not from Cleveland.
Here are the first things that popped out at me from the 2009 NFL schedule:
ARIZONA: Two east-coast trips, including a 1 p.m. start at Jacksonville. That helps.
ATLANTA: The Falcons get the royal treatmentr with three straight home games Weeks 12-14 (Bucs, Eagles, Saints). THey also will have one outdoor game in poor conditions in December/January (at the Jets Week 15).
BALTIMORE: Look for a fast start from LeRon McClain and Willis McGahee as the Ravens host the Chiefs, play at the Chargers and host the Browns right off the bat, then host the Bengals in Week 5 after dealing with the Patriots on the road in Week 4.
CAROLINA: Rough start for the Panthers, who have Philly at home and then road games at the Falcons and Cowboys before an early bye. I don't like this defense much, and that goes triple if they pawn off Julius Peppers before the start of the season. Weeks 13-16: vs. the Bucs, at the Pats, vs. the Vikings, at the Giants. Rough stretch for DeAngelo Williams. Rough season for Williams -- he might face only four softish run defenses all year!
CINCINNATI: The Bengals land three straight home games with a bye in-between starting in Week 6 and ending after Week 9. They'll host the Texans, Bears and Ravens, not easy. They also have a nice three-game spell where they play at Oakland in Week 11, vs. Cleveland in 12 and vs. Detroit in 13. That could be nice for Cedric Benson and Carson Palmer.
DENVER: The Broncos catch a break with easily the best opening schedule in the league: At Cincy, vs. Cleveland and at Oakland. They'll pay for it with games vs. Dallas, vs. New England, at San Diego, a bye, at Baltimore and vs. Pittsburgh in Weeks 4-9, though. I'd draft cheap Broncos late and then try to trade them after Week 3. Remember this when Correll Buckhalter and/or Kyle Orton are staring you in the face between Rounds 7 and 9 this summer!
DETROIT: First three overall, four of their first five and eight of their first 11 games are in domes. Holy Calvin Johnson! I also see a lot of high-scoring games for them as they only face three clubs with suspect offenses this season. That means their defense will be tired a lot. It's going to mean a lot of points for the Lions, especially with Scott Linehan as their offensive coordinator.
GREEN BAY: Early season schedule is GREAT for Aaron Rodgers and Ryan Grant. First seven games of the season: vs. Chicago, vs. Cincinnati, at St. Louis, at Minnesota, vs. Detroit, at Cleveland and vs. Minnesota. Remember, Grant has a knack for chewing up the Vikings. Should be a quality start for them, though they are saddled with a Week 5 bye. The Packers do have it rough late with the Ravens in Week 13, the Bears in Chicago in Week 14 and the Steelers in Pittsburgh in Week 15. Not good for the Fantasy postseason run.
HOUSTON: Very nice early-season schedule: vs. the Jets, at the Titans, vs. the Jaguars, vs. the Raiders, at the Cardinals, at the Bengals, vs. the 49ers, at the Bills. The first two games will be tough on the offense, but nothing they can't overcome. Slaton & Co. should have a fast start.
INDIANAPOLIS: Eleven dome games! Peyton Manning gets some serious love!! And, they land a three-game home-stand vs. the 49ers, Texans and Patriots Weeks 8-10. The rich get richer.
JACKSONVILLE: Three-straight home games vs. Houston, Miami, and Indy on a short week. They need all the help they can get. And how's this for tough: Their first three games are at the Colts, vs. the Cardinals and at the Texans. Three awesome passing offenses. Hope Rashean Mathis is healthy!
KANSAS CITY: Three straight homers in Weeks 13-15: vs. Denver, vs. Buffalo and vs. Cleveland. Should be good for them. In fact, they finish up nice with that trio of games and road contests at Cincinnati and at Denver. Awful Week 1 matchup at Baltimore, though. That'll hurt Cassel's early stats.
MINNESOTA: Not only do they not play a Thursday game all year, and not only do they have a Week 9 bye, but the Vikings landed a three-game home stand against the Lions, Seahawks and Bears Weeks 10-12! And that precedes a road game at Arizona and a homer against Cincy. And they play 11 dome games this season!! Someone in the NFL office wants Adrian Peterson to be the league MVP ...oh, and they open at Cleveland, at Detroit, vs. San Francisco, vs. Green Bay and at St. Louis. Peterson should be an absolute MONSTER.
NEW YORK GIANTS: The G-Men got saddled with three straight roadies in Weeks 2-4: at Dallas, at Tampa Bay and at Kansas City. Gonna be a challenge. I do like the Week 10 bye for them, though.
SAN DIEGO: Just two east-coast trips this year, and both games start at 4 p.m. Nice break for the Bolts, who start very tough after Week 1 at Oakland: vs. Baltimore, vs. Miami and at Pittsburgh, then a bye. We might not see L.T. perk up until Week 6 (vs. Denver) and beyond.
SAN FRANCISCO: ONE east-coast trip -- Week 15 at Philly (1 p.m.). NICE BREAK for the Niners, who otherwise have a tough run.
ST. LOUIS: Rams catch a break with three straight home games in Weeks 10-12, but it's all against good passing offenses (vs. Saints, vs. Cardinals, vs. Seahawks). Might negate the advantage, other than the whole not-getting-on-airplanes thing. Get this -- they won't have to get on a plane from Nov. 2 through the end of the month. That's a nice home stand for the Rams (Week 9 bye).
SEATTLE: Smacked with a three-game road trip in Weeks 10-12, all indoors: at Arizona, at Minnesota, at St. Louis. In fact, they have six dome games in 2009 if you include Dallas in Week 8. Almost as many as a dome team that has all outdoor road games. That will help them with their pass attack, as will ZERO east-coast games (six 1 p.m. starts, all in central time zone).
TAMPA BAY: All their games are at 1 p.m. or 4 p.m. ET. They're gonna be a tough team to figure out, especially with their trip to London in Week 7 vs. the Patriots.
TENNESSEE: Three straight home games late in the year vs. St. Louis, Miami and San Diego on Christmas Day (a Friday, so a short week). Should help them get a playoff push. They also play three tough 3-4 defenses in the first six weeks, all on the road (at Pittsburgh in the league opener, at the Jets in Week 3, at the Patriots in Week 6). Very tough start for Chris Johnson.
WASHINGTON: The Redskins' last two road games are Week 14 at Oakland and Week 17 at San Diego, with divisional home games against the Giants and Cowboys sandwiched in-between. That might hurt them but it gives the Redskins' Fantasy players an edge during the meat of the season. We'll see inflated stats from Clinton Portis in the early going with a Week 1 premiere at the Giants, Week 2 vs. the Rams and Week 3 at the Lions.