Thursday, September 9th, 2021: That’s the date you need to mark in your calendar if you’re an NFL fan. It’s when the season officially gets underway, and it could be the team’s toughest season yet. Let’s see a look ahead to the 2021 season and how it could affect fantasy football teams.
How so? Well, each team will play three pre-season games first. Then when the regular season action kicks off, they’ll have an extra game to play, making the number of regular-season games 17, not 16.
Part of the NFL’s excitement is in the speed of the action and of the league. People like to engage with the action in some way, which is why they join NFL fantasy football leagues and put their knowledge of NFL teams and strategy to the test.
Below is a look ahead to the 2021 season, discussing how the new schedule will affect fantasy football and the players you might pick.
What will be the impact?
Basically, the extra game creates an extra week in the schedule, and this will impact how you manage your league and team in different aspects.
Week 17 isn’t a week you’d consider, normally. Often, the risk of players not playing is too great, as teams want to rest their players for the playoffs.
If you’re managing the league, you’ll have to think about how you schedule your league, and you might just wish to ignore the 17th game. You may even just keep the regular season and extend the championship game by a week, creating a two-week final showdown. It’s your league and you can do what you want with it!
A higher risk of injury
When drafting your team, you want the best running backs possible, but you might also wish to research how prone certain players are to injury. The extra week creates extra possibilities of injury, and running backs are the most injury-prone players. Despite more games being placed on the schedule, players don’t have an extra bye week. They may end up sitting out more games and give your competitors the edge.
More opportunities for young players
Of course, teams have been drafting in promising young rookies such as Elijah Moore (New York Jets), Kyle Pitt (Atlanta Falcons) and Najee Harris (Pittsburgh Steelers). We may see less of veteran players during the league and more of these fresh young players on the grid. Teams will be looking to develop them, which creates opportunities to earn points for your team.
How the schedule will affect teams and your own choice of players
The schedule is going to feature some grueling matches, and some teams will also have what some experts might call an easier potential road to the Super Bowl. The quality of defenses in the NFL could also have an impact on who you might choose.
Ultimately, in the eyes of analysts, some teams are going to have work harder for their wins or draws, and even just to keep the final score respectable, whereas others will have a lighter time of it. This will have different levels of impact on players.
Easiest overall schedule
So when it comes to choosing the best players for your team, you’ll want to consider players from teams who are deemed to have the easiest schedule, which seems to be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They’ll play six divisional games against the Falcons, the New Orleans Saints and the Carolina Panthers, the rosters of which some analysts have described on ESPN online as “underwhelming.” Since they didn’t win the NFC South last season, they’ll dodge grid battles with defending division champions and play against second-place finishers instead.
Toughest overall schedule
Fantasy football players will want to bear in mind the toll the Chicago Bears’ and the Steelers’ schedule will take on the teams. The Bears may face the rebuilding Detroit Lions and have no back-to-back road games, but half of their schedule consists of matchups against tough AFC North and NFC South teams. They’ll be doing battle with the Buccaneers and, twice, with the Green Bay Packers and the improved Minnesota Vikings.
Out of the two teams it’s the Steelers who have the toughest schedule in the AFC. They’ll be locking horns twice with the Cleveland Browns and the Baltimore Ravens, two of the league’s best teams. Some might say this is karma for the easy schedule they had last season in which they chalked up 11 consecutive wins.
Toughest opposing defense
The Lions have some real work on their hands this season. They open their NFL campaign against the San Francisco 49ers, who are no slouches in defense. Then the team have six divisional games to worry about against the mean defenses of the Bears, the Packers and the Vikings. The defenses of the Denver Broncos, the Browns, the Steelers and the Ravens also won’t be feeling generous when they face the boys from Detroit.
Easiest opposing defense
At the opposite extreme, analysts don’t believe the Broncos will be shuddering too much at the defenses they’ve got to break through. The Vegas Raiders, the Rams and the Kansas City Chiefs are expected to pose less of a challenge than the Steelers, Ravens, Browns and Washington Redskins. None of these latter teams will be letting the Broncos have it all their way.
When you’re drafting your players, the season schedule could have a big impact on who makes it into your team. Teams are facing extra games, and some games are going to be more challenging than others. Freshness, avoidance of injury and exertion levels could all count in their performance in a fantasy league.