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The Environment Metric: Your Fantasy Football Secret Weapon

predominantlyorange.com

2014 can be your year.

Fantasy football is often a game of inches. A few yards here or there can be the difference between a championship and mediocrity. After countless hours of tedious analysis and number crunching, I believe I have created a new tool to help you gain an edge over your opponents.  

I created a scoring system that allots points for strength of schedule (by only looking at opposing defenses), quality of offensive line, caliber of their own defense and a few other factors that can influence the productivity of an offense.  I then combined the values into a score for all 32 NFL teams. I call it the “Environment Metric (E.M.)” A higher score indicates a more favorable environment and a better chance to succeed. 

I separated each team’s offense into “Passing”, which impacts receivers/tight ends as well as quarterbacks, and “Rushing Units”. The scores are completely independent of the talent of the skill players on the offense. The fact that LeSean McCoy is the Eagles running back has no effect on the score of the Eagles’ rushing unit. Due to an easy schedule, a good offensive line, and a leaky defense, the Eagles rushing unit got a score of 9.292. Their score was good for fourth best out of 32 teams, indicating McCoy is set up well to have another huge season.  

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packersinsider.com

Predicting the quality of defenses and offensive lines from season to season, as I have attempted to do, is no easy task. For this reason, you should be primarily focusing on teams that scored exceptionally well and those that performed poorly. A margin for error must be considered when utilizing the scores. A difference in rankings of five spots may not make a huge difference, but 20 spots likely will. Enough talk, here are the scores:

Passing Units: 

  1. Houston Texans: 12.21

  2. Jacksonville Jaguars: 11.667 

  3. New York Giants: 9.625

  4. Philadelphia Eagles: 9.292

  5. Tennessee Titans: 5.75

  6. New England Patriots: 3.92

  7. Washington Redskins: 3.433

  8. Chicago Bears: 3.125

  9. Indianapolis Colts: 3.04

  10. Cleveland Browns: 2.729

  11. New Orleans Saints: 2.625

  12. New York Jets: 2.458

  13. Dallas Cowboys: 1.667

  14. Minnesota Vikings: 1

  15. Arizona Cardinals: -0.25

  16. Baltimore Ravens: -0.375

  17. Miami Dolphins: -0.479

  18. St. Louis Rams: -1.125

  19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: -1.75

  20. Buffalo Bills: -2.167

  21. Green Bay Packers: -2.458

  22. San Francisco 49ers: -2.56

  23. Denver Broncos: -3

  24. Cincinatti Bengals: -3.167

  25. Kansas City Chiefs: -3.313

  26. Pittsburgh Steelers: -3.75

  27. Detroit Lions: -4.025

  28. Seattle Seahawks: -4.667

  29. San Diego Chargers: -4.933

  30. Carolina Panthers: -8.145

  31. Atlanta Falcons: -9.25

  32. Oakland Raiders: -10.479

Rushing Units:

  1. Houston Texans: 12.5

  2. Jacksonville Jaguars: 11.667

  3. New York Giants: 9.625

  4. Philadelphia Eagles: 9.292

  5. New York Jets: 5

  6. San Francisco 49ers: 4.5

  7. St. Louis Rams: 3.42

  8. Cleveland Browns: 2.729

  9. Tennessee Titans: 2.333

  10. Washington Redskins: 2.267

  11. Dallas Cowboys: 1.667

  12. New England Patriots: 1.5

  13. Denver Broncos: 0.167

  14. Baltimore Ravens: 0.133

  15. Indianapolis Colts: 0

  16. Chicago Bears: -0.167

  17. Arizona Cardinals: -0.5

  18. Seattle Seahawks: -1.5

  19. New Orleans Saints: -1.667

  20. Minnesota Vikings: -2

  21. Detroit Lions: -2.42

  22. Miami Dolphins: -2.917

  23. Cincinatti Bengals: -3.5

  24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: -4.333

  25. Kansas City Chiefs: -4.45

  26. Green Bay Packers: -5

  27. San Diego Chargers: -5.633

  28. Pittsburgh Steelers: -7

  29. Carolina Panthers: -7.92

  30. Buffalo Bills: -8.333

  31. Atlanta Falcons: -11

  32. Oakland Raiders: -11.25


So what do all the numbers mean? The breakdown:


Buy players on NFC East teams

The Eagles’, Redskins’ and Cowboys’ defenses should all be below average in 2014; as a result, the Giants may end up having the easiest fantasy schedule in the entire NFL next season. Their inept offensive line lost them some points, but I still think their schedule will inflate their offensive numbers. The other teams’ schedules are slightly more difficult because they have to play the Giants twice but still have very easy schedules. The Eagles’ and Cowboys’ rushing offenses should be extremely efficient again, as they both have easy rushing schedules and above average offensive lines. The question is: will their defenses give them leads to allow them run the ball? I expect all four quarterbacks in this division to have solid seasons as long as they stay healthy. Tune in to games involving NFC East teams in 2014 if you like high-scoring football. 


Tom Brady will bounce back in a big way

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bostonherald.com

I think there is a good chance the Patriots finish with the best regular season record in the league, and they have as good a shot as anyone to win the Super Bowl. They have a weak schedule, and their offensive line is above average, though they just took a hit by trading Logan Mankins to Tampa Bay. After throwing the most passes to rookies of any QB in the NFL last season, I think Tom Brady will improve significantly from his relatively disappointing 2013 season. If, and this is always a huge if, Gronk can stay healthy for a full 16 games, there is no doubt he could be the number-one fantasy tight end in 2014. 

If one player emerges as the primary ball carrier (most likely Stevan Ridley or James White), Brady will have a very productive season with a much improved defense, increasing the likelihood of late-game leads. Shane Vereen should get plenty of targets in the passing game if he can stay healthy, and he could be a very valuable asset if he can earn some carries as well. Aside from a healthy Gronk, it’s tough to predict which receiver Brady is going to target most often. I wouldn’t invest too highly in any one of the Pats’ receivers, but I would definitely take them all late and hope you pick the one that breaks out. It should be a fun season in New England for Tom Brady and the Patriots’ offense.


Don’t be scared away by players on the Titans, Jaguars, and Texans 

Jake Locker had his moments before going down with a dreaded Lisfranc injury in 2013. He has never been the most accurate passer, but his rushing ability, offensive line and subpar defense have set the stage for Locker to have a good fantasy season in 2014. If he falters, I don’t think the Titans would wait long to play 6th round pick Zach Mettenberger, who looked great in the preseason. The Titans bolstered their offensive line this offseason by drafting Taylor Lewan and signing Michael Oher, and they are expecting Chance Warmack to improve in his second season in the NFL. They also have two promising young receivers in Justin Hunter and Kendall Wright, and I think both could have impressive seasons, especially Hunter. The Titans should be fairly effective running the football, but the only problem from a fantasy perspective is who will be getting the carries. If rookie Bishop Sankey is able to overtake Shonn Greene as the clear number-one back and get the goalline carries, he could have a productive season.  

I am still not overly high on the Houston’s or Jacksonville’s offenses, but their schedules are ridiculously easy. So easy that I had to check and re-check my numbers multiple times to make sure I didn’t make a mistake. I still don’t believe either of these offenses will be anything better than league average, but given how easy their schedules are, I wouldn’t dismiss players from these teams like I would have in years past. Ryan Fitzpatrick could have a decent year if he can hold off the newly acquired Ryan Mallett, who is familiar with Texans Head Coach Bill O’Brien from his days with the Patriots. If Arian Foster stays healthy, he will have a huge season, and Toby Gerhart could also put up big numbers, especially early on in the season. 


The Raiders will have the worst offense in the NFL

The Raiders’ skill position players aren’t being drafted highly to begin with, but I would advocate moving them down a few spots even further. They have a difficult schedule, and one of the worst offensive lines in the league. I don’t see much upside for any player on the Raiders offense unless Maurice Jones-Drew or Darren McFadden become the unquestioned number-one back and get carries in high volume. I don’t think Matt Schaub will be anything better than mediocre, and I don’t like any of the Raiders receivers. The Raiders offense will not be a pretty sight in 2014 to say the least.


Frank Gore and the 49ers rushing unit aren’t slowing down

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jefflewisphotography.com

Frank Gore isn’t getting any younger, but he is still in as good of a position to succeed as any RB in the league. With Arizona’s run defense looking like it will take a step back, San Fran’s schedule isn’t as difficult as you may think. The 49ers’ offensive line is still one of the best in the league and received good news Sunday that G Alex Boone will end his holdout. Keep an eye on who wins the backup job behind Gore, as it could end up being a valuable position if the 49ers try to limit his carries throughout the regular season. Carlos Hyde seems to be the early favorite, but don’t count out Marcus Lattimore or LaMichael James.   


The Steelers’ rushing schedule is tough (especially early)

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cbssports.com

The Steelers face a brutal run defense schedule in 2014 (Rushing EM Score of -7), and their first four games are particularly difficult match-ups (Browns, Ravens, Panthers, Bucs). When removing the values for the opposing run defenses for Weeks 1-4, the Steelers EM rushing score jumps to -2.045. This score still isn’t great, but it is a whole lot better than -7. If Le’Veon Bell has a rough first few games, trade for him if you can buy low. If you own him, don’t sell him cheap if he struggles. Wait it out, and hope for a rebound.


The Chiefs offense will take a step back 

The Chiefs had one of their best seasons in recent memory in 2013, but I believe it was an anomaly and that they will regress (I’m guessing to around 8-8) in 2014. Their schedule is fairly difficult, and they lost three key offensive lineman in free agency: Branden Albert (Dolphins), Jon Asamoah (Falcons) and Geoff Schwartz (Giants). To top it off, OT Donald Stephenson was just suspended for the first four games for violating the NFL’s PED policy. 

I am heavily selling the Chiefs passing game, but neither Alex Smith nor any of the Chiefs receivers are being drafted highly, so there are not many significant fantasy implications for their pass unit. This leads to Jamaal Charles. Charles had a wildly productive 2013 season and is one of the most talented running backs in the NFL. However, I think he is going to have a much tougher time running the football in 2014 than he did last season. By no means am I saying Charles won’t have a productive season. What I am saying is that I think he is in for a bit of a regression, and you should consider taking the other top running backs ahead of him (LeSean McCoy, Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte, Eddie Lacy).

Sidenote: I traded Jamaal Charles for Montee Ball, Jordy Nelson and draft picks in my keeper league. If I’m wrong about this decision, it’s going to hurt.



Atlanta won’t be able to run the ball, againImage title

kmov.com

The Falcons may have had the worst offensive line in the league last season. As a Falcons fan, it was tough to watch. The Falcons hired Mike Tice to coach the offensive line, drafted Jake Matthews (who I love) and signed Jon Asamoah from the Chiefs. These moves help, but unfortunately they just lost LT Sam Baker for the year to a knee injury. All things considered, the offensive line is average at best. Coupled with a difficult rushing schedule and a weak defense, the Falcons will be forced to throw to stay in games, so I’m selling the Falcons running game. 

The Falcons’ passing unit scored almost as poorly as the rushing unit, but I am not selling their passing game. Here is an instance in which you must use discretion when considering the EM score. The Falcons face a tough passing defense schedule, and their offensive line is bad. Their defense will require them to throw the ball, and Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White, Harry Douglas and Devin Hester are talented enough to overcome their unfavorable circumstances. I don’t believe the same about Steven Jackson, Devonta Freeman, or Jacquizz Rodgers.


Denver wants to be more physical, and Montee Ball will be the benefactor

The way the Broncos were physically dominated in the Super Bowl has forced them to reevaluate their style of play, despite the fact they were so successful up until that game. One aspect they have said they need to improve is overall toughness, and a big part of that is being able to run the ball. Knowshon Moreno was the fifth highest-scoring running back in standard leagues last year and only got a one-year $3 million dollar deal from Miami. Simply put: his numbers were a product of the system. Montee Ball is a much more talented running back than Moreno at this stage of their respective careers, and Ball was effective late last year when he got carries. It appears as though he is in line to be the workhorse back, which means he could have a huge season. Denver’s offensive line should be solid with LT Ryan Clady returning from injury, and the goal-line carries should be abundant. Despite the appendectomy, I’m buying Montee Ball.


Cam Newton will have a down year 

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bleacherreport.com

Cam Newton is an outstanding talent and I think he will go on to have a highly productive NFL career. I just don’t think 2014 is going to be one of his better years. After offseason ankle surgery, Newton watched his top three wide receivers leave in free agency (Steve Smith, Ted Ginn Jr., Brandon LaFell) and also saw four offensive lineman retire. The lack of continuity is going to be difficult for Newton, especially early on. 

The Panthers have a difficult passing schedule and a defense that will entice them to run the football. The only player on this unit I am high on is Greg Olsen, who is Newton’s only legitimate returning pass catcher. He should be targeted heavily, and I think he is being underrated across the board. Kelvin Benjamin has a chance to be a decent late round pick because of his size in the red zone; however, I would wait until very late in your draft to take a chance on the mammoth FSU product, as he is far from a finished product. All things appear as though Cam is going to have to shoulder a heavy load 2014. 


Wrap-Up

Talent is still the most important factor in fantasy success, so be careful not to rely too heavily on the the E.M. These scores are meant to help you break ties between similarly rated players and slide a player up or down only a few spots on your big board, not drive them way up or way down. I’m buying the Patriots offense and Tom Brady, but I’m not taking him over Andrew Luck. I’m selling the Falcons running game and Steven Jackson, but I’m still taking him over Knowshon Moreno.

Periodically during the season, I will update the scores to help identify players you should trade for and players you should deal. Remember to weigh the value of these scores properly, and the Environment Metric can become the competitive advantage you need to take you to the top of your league. 

Edited by Nicole Yang.

SQuiz
Tom Brady was drafted with what pick in the 2000 NFL Draft?
Created 8/22/14
  1. 123
  2. 217
  3. 54
  4. 199

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