Random thoughts to ponder before your fantasy draft

Here are 16 schedule-related thoughts to ponder before partaking in your weekend fantasy draft.

These random, but insightful bites are a nod to the timeless creed of, It’s not who you play … but when you play ’em.

1. From an aesthetic standpoint, Cam Newton and the Panthers couldn’t have asked for a better road slate than San Francisco (Week 10), Miami (Week 12), New Orleans (Week 14) and Atlanta (Week 17) — with the final two roadies indoors.

And when it comes to quality of opponent for Weeks 13-16, the universal playoff period for fantasy leagues, the Panthers draw the two worst pass defenses from last year (Bucs, Saints twice) three times in a four-week span. BOOM!

2. Speaking of playing conditions, the Buccaneers are due for 16 ideal-weather games this season — the only NFL team likely to avoid bad weather for the entire year.

3. Of the elite fantasy quarterbacks, Peyton Manning has the most attractive slate in the first four weeks — three home tilts against the Ravens, Raiders and Eagles and one prime-time, brother-vs.-brother roadie against the Giants in Week 2.

In 2012, Philly and Oakland finished in the NFL’s bottom five for points allowed. Plus, Peyton has averaged 266 yards passing and two TDs in two previous encounters against Eli Manning.

There is one sketchy note: Of his 14 season openers, Peyton has only tallied 300 yards passing and three touchdowns once for Week 1 (2010).

4. Second-year back Doug Martin could be leading the NFL in rushing after Week 6 — even with the Buccaneers’ Week 5 bye. Of Tampa Bay’s first five matchups (Jets, Saints, Patriots, Cardinals, Eagles), every club but New England finished in the bottom 10 for rushing yards allowed last year.


5.
Here’s some fuel for bypassing on quarterbacks until Round 6 or 7: Arizona’s Carson Palmer, my 19th-ranked passer, has an easy-cheesy slate against the Lions, Saints, Buccaneers and Panthers for Weeks 2-5.

How doable is that schedule? Palmer should incur a top-10 ranking for four straight Sundays.

6. Since 2007, Falcons receiver Roddy White has enjoyed a block of three straight home games four times (regular season), averaging 19.5 catches/390 yards/two TDs per homestand.

Why are we mentioning this? Atlanta has yet another has another stretch of three consecutive home tilts this year — against the Patriots, Jets and Buccaneers.

7. Matthew Stafford will lead many teams to fantasy titles this season. For Weeks 12-16, against the Buccaneers, Packers, Eagles, Ravens and Giants, the Lions QB will be a reasonable bet for 300 yards passing and/or three touchdowns each time.

On a dour note, Detroit’s opening slate is full of potential potholes. In other words, a high-quality backup might be required for all Stafford drafters.

8. Unlike years past, every NFL team has at least one 4 p.m. Sunday game this season. And thanks to the NFL Network, every club has one prime-time appearance on Thursday Night Football. (The wife still hasn’t embraced the concept of watching pro football on Thursdays.)

9. No need to fret about Brandon Marshall in standard-scoring or PPR leagues. From 2010-12, the elite wideout averaged 11 targets over his first six games.

And of Chicago’s initial nine games this year (Bengals, Vikings, Steelers, Saints, Giants, Redskins, Packers, Lions twice), only Cincinnati and Pittsburgh are worthy challengers for keeping Marshall under the PPR-elite threshold of six catches, 90 yards and/or one touchdown.

10. I’ll bet a year’s salary the Buccaneers don’t lead the NFL in fewest rushing yards allowed.

Last season’s per-game average of 82.9 yards was an aberration, the misleading result of Tampa Bay surrendering nearly 300 yards passing every Sunday — including five outings of 335 yards or more.

Plus, the Bucs have planned encounters with Stevan Ridley, LeSean McCoy, Steven Jackson, Marshawn Lynch, Lamar Miller, Reggie Bush, C.J. Spiller and Frank Gore.

11. Speaking of safe bets … I’ll wager plenty that Panthers QB Cam Newton (last season’s No. 1 fantasy QB for Weeks 9-17) tallies more than one combined touchdown against the Seahawks (Week 1) and Giants (Week 3).

In 2012, he accounted for zero passing TDs in home losses to Seattle and New York.

12. Quarterback Jake Locker has reduced value in 12-team drafts, given the Titans’ brutal schedule from Weeks 1-9. Of the Steelers, Texans, Chargers, Jets, Chiefs, 49ers, Seahawks and Rams … five clubs finished in the NFL’s top 12 for fewest passing yards allowed last season.

Additionally, St. Louis (51) and Houston (47) posted top-five rankings with sacks.

13. For what it’s worth … neither the Bills, Browns, Jets nor Dolphins will fly further west than Kansas City or Minneapolis for a regular-season game. In fact, Miami’s longest trip involves a reasonable flight to Indianapolis (Week 2).

14. From 2008-11, Chargers QB Philip Rivers had a four-year average of 4,399 yards passing and 30 touchdowns. And even with last season’s middling numbers, he still accounted for 290 total yards and/or multiple touchdowns 11 times.

Plus, of San Diego’s six intra-divisional games last year, Rivers threw for multiple touchdowns five times.

15. Perhaps the NFL could show some leniency toward Justin Blackmon’s four-game drug suspension — in terms of moving it back to Weeks 5-8?

For that four-week period, Blaine Gabbert, Maurice Jones-Drew, Cecil Shorts and Blackmon encounter a pair of top-five passing defenses (Broncos, 49ers), a top-three sack defense (Rams) and the surprisingly stout Chargers, who surrendered just 327 total yards per game last year.

And finally …

16. For the fantasy-playoff period of Weeks 13-16, 10 teams have three home games during that four-week stretch — the Ravens, Panthers, Lions, Jets, Eagles, Chargers, 49ers, Rams, Redskins and Jaguars (three straight home dates for Weeks 14-16).

On the flip side … seven clubs have three roadies during the fantasy playoffs: Cardinals, Falcons, Bears, Dolphins, Saints, Giants and Titans.

Jay Clemons can be reached, day or night, via Twitter at @FOX_JayClemons.