With just a few days before NFL Draft Weekend, here are some fantasy revelations off the 2014 schedule.
After that, look for our preliminary listing of the Top 75 fantasy assets … since we’ll need more time to see who succeeds Toby Gerhart as the Jaguars’ primary tailback.
1. The odds of Peyton Manning replicating last year’s 20 passing TDs after five games are staggeringly long. The Broncos’ 2014 slate for Weeks 1-6 (plus one bye): Colts, Chiefs, Seahawks, Cardinals and Jets.
On the flip side, Manning should be a fantasy dynamo for Weeks 8-15, as Denver draws San Diego (twice), New England, Oakland, St. Louis, Kansas City, Miami and Buffalo (home).
2. You can bet the farm on Matt Forte (1,933 total yards, 12 TDs last year) and C.J. Spiller (1,124 total yards) posting elite-level numbers in Week 1, going head to head.
The Bears and Bills were the NFL’s two worst run defenses for Weeks 13-17 last year, surrendering 197 and 151 yards per game, respectively. Ouch.
3. Cardinals wideout Larry Fitzgerald (82 catches, 954 yards, 10 TDs last year) has never opened a season against an AFC team. For Week 1, he gets the Chargers.
Speaking of which, the NFL inexplicably has Arizona and San Diego playing in back-to-back weeks — the final preseason game on Aug. 28 … and then 11 days later at University of Phoenix Stadium (season opener).
4. Consider this a tepid endorsement to consider starting Jacksonville QB Chad Henne during September: The Jaguars’ first four opponents — the Eagles, Redskins, Colts and Chargers — ranked 32nd, 20th, 13th and 29th against the pass last year.
And lest we forget that Kansas City QB Alex Smith passed for 378 yards and four TDs against Indy in the wild-card round last January.
5. How’s this for unusual: The Buccaneers — the NFL’s only team with back-to-back home tilts to open and close the 2014 season — will have just four home games between Weeks 3-15 (Raymond James Stadium).
6. It’s a scary thought: New Jets running back Chris Johnson now faces the Bills twice a year. In his previous three games against Buffalo (all with the Tennessee Titans), Johnson boasts absurd averages of 196 total yards and two touchdowns.
7. For the fantasy owners who end up with bad teams this fall, or at least below-average records, you’ll learn to regret drafting either Tony Romo, Joe Flacco, Cam Newton or Ben Roethlisberger as QB1s.
The rationale? The foursome won’t have their bye weeks until Week 11 (Flacco, Romo) or Week 12 (Newton, Roethlisberger) … meaning you’ll likely have to trade the quarterbacks around Week 7 — or risk the notion of starting Jake Locker, Matt Cassel or whoever gets the call for the Browns on a bye-wrecked, must-win Sunday.
8. Not that you need a ton of reasons to avoid quarterbacks Geno Smith and Michael Vick in the early rounds of a fantasy draft … but the Jets have a Week 11 bye and then three straight cold-weather games for Weeks 12-14 (@ Buffalo, vs. Miami, @ Minnesota).
In case you forgot, the Vikings will play their 2014/15 home games at TCF Bank Stadium at the University of Minnesota — an outdoor venue — while a new stadium gets constructed.
9. The Bengals are the only 2014 club with three straight home games (Weeks 8-10 vs. Baltimore, Jacksonville, Cleveland) AND three straight roadies (Weeks 11-13 vs. New Orleans, Houston, Tampa Bay).
10.The Ravens might not have a single bad-weather game all season. Baltimore’s last cold-weather road trip involves Pittsburgh for Week 9. After that, the Ravens’ final three road outings take place in New Orleans (Nov. 24), Miami (Dec. 7) and Houston (Dec. 21).
11. The Dolphins might incur an extreme-weather slate in the final seven weeks:
On the warm side, it’s home outings against the Bills, Ravens, Vikings and Jets. On the cold side, it’s late November/mid-December trips to Denver, New York (Jets) and New England.
12. California teams are usually at a disadvantage during ther regular season, travel-wise. But the 49ers caught a break with this year’s schedule:
San Francisco doesn’t leave the West Coast for its final six games — taking on the Redskins, Seahawks, Chargers and Cardinals at home … and making reasonable voyages to Oakland and Seattle (Weeks 14/15).
And last but not least …
13. The following 12 teams have been blessed with weather-friendly schedules during the playoff period of Weeks 13-16:
Cardinals (four dome games), Bucs (four fair-weather games) Texans (four climate-controlled games), Titans (four fair-weather outings), Rams (three dome games), Falcons (three dome outings), Lions (three indoors games), Colts (three climate-controlled outings), Jaguars (three Florida tilts), Giants (three climate-controlled games), Raiders (three climate-controlled outings), Chargers (three California games) and 49ers (three California outings).