Frank Gore may benefit from the 49ers' rushing strength of schedule.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Look in almost any fantasy guide these days, and one of the charts you will find is "Strength of Schedule." It supposedly tells you which teams/players have a tougher schedule and which teams play an easier schedule.
Here's the problem with the theory. They are all based on the won/loss percentage of the opposing teams. The theory might work if the 8-8 Denver Broncos defense was identical to the 8-8 Tennessee Titans. The Denver defense gave up 128.7 yards-per-game on the ground last year while the Titans' defense yielded just 106.9 ypg. But the stingy Broncos pass defense gave up only 186.3 ypg through the air while the Tennessee "D" gave up an AFC-worst 258.7 ypg.
Which team do you want your quarterback playing against, Denver or Tennessee?
Just because their records are the same, their defenses may or may not be similar. Therefore, the "Strength of Schedule" based on won/loss record must be ignored.
Instead, I have based my "Strength of Schedule" for running backs on the rushing defenses (and in a later article for quarterbacks and receivers on the passing defenses) of the teams on their respective 2010 schedules (I have used only the first 16 weeks because most fantasy leagues end in Week 16).
Based on the chart below, the teams with the weakest opponents rush defense are the San Francisco 49ers and the San Diego Chargers. Their opponents yielded 125 yards-per-game on the ground last season. Which means that if you are in a quandary as to whether to draft Frank Gore or rookie Ryan Mathews, you should know that they are theoretically playing the best schedules for any running backs in the league.
The remainder of the top-five includes: Seattle (124) and a three-way tie between Kansas City (123), St. Louis (123) and Arizona (123). You should consider moving each of these team's primary running back up a few slots.
At the other end of the spectrum are the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants. The two NFC East rivals have the toughest schedules to run against with defenses who yielded just 108 yards-per-game last year. You should consider lowering your expectations on LeSean McCoy, Mike Bell, Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw.
Last year's toughest schedule belonged to the 49ers. Gore ran for 1,120 yards and 10 touchdowns which indicates he played very well against the high caliber competition. It's also interesting to note that Michael Turner and DeAngelo Williams faced the second and third-toughest running back schedules in 2009, respectively and both disappointed their fantasy owners.
Next Week we will go over the "Passing Defense Strength of Schedule."
Strength of Defense in Average Yards-per-game (16 weeks)