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Fantasy: Which teams have easiest, hardest early-season schedules?


We can begin to adjust our 2024 fantasy projections following Thursday's release of the NFL's regular-season schedule.

While injuries can majorly impact a campaign's latter stages, you can gain an advantage by focusing on the first few weeks to draft players set for hot starts or avoiding those destined to struggle through a tough streak of opponents.

Players with difficult schedules in the early going are prime trade targets after the first few weeks when managers begin to question their value.

We'll also soon publish a detailed fantasy strength-of-schedule matrix for the entire year. For now, let's take a quick look at the teams with the easiest and hardest early-season slates.


Detroit Lions

Week Opponent
1 vs. Rams
2 vs. Buccaneers
3 at Cardinals
4 vs. Seahawks

Despite Jared Goff's sizeable new contract extension, he's nowhere near being considered one of the NFL's elite quarterbacks. However, with the strong supporting cast the Lions have surrounded him with and the protection of a dome in Detroit, Goff can be a high-end fantasy QB2 who flirts with low-end QB1 numbers.

Fortunately for Goff and Co., the Lions play four dome games in the opening month, including three at home. That trend continues throughout the season with just three outdoor games, the first not occurring until Week 9 in Green Bay.

Goff averaged 19.5 fantasy points per game indoors over the last two years while posting just 13.0 fantasy points outside, according to

A favorable first four weeks will also help the Lions, as they face three defenses that finished last season inside the top seven for fantasy points allowed to opposing QBs.

Early upgrades: Jared Goff, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Sam LaPorta, Jahmyr Gibbs, David Montgomery, Jameson Williams

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Week Opponent
1 vs. Commanders
2 at Lions
3 vs. Broncos
4 vs. Eagles

Baker Mayfield emerged as a competent veteran quarterback in the Buccaneers' system to help them become a surprise division winner in 2023. Now, Tampa Bay will have a chance to build off that campaign with one of the easier starting slates in 2024.

All four of the Buccaneers' opponents in September ranked in the top 10 in passing yards and passing touchdowns allowed last year. While each defense has made attempts to address those issues in the offseason, it's an area that remains a projected weakness for those clubs.

Mayfield is also lucky to get his top weapons back (Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Rachaad White, Cade Otton) and have rookies Jalen McMillan and Bucky Irving added to the mix.

Tampa's schedule toughens in the middle of the season before easing up down the stretch, including two matchups with the Panthers (one of which takes place in the fantasy championship week).

Early upgrades: Baker Mayfield, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Rachaad White

Honorable mentions

  • Washington Commanders
  • Chicago Bears
  • Cincinnati Bengals


New England Patriots

Week Opponent
1 at Bengals
2 vs. Seahawks
3 at Jets
4 at 49ers

If the degree of difficulty for rookie quarterback Drake Maye wasn't high enough when he landed in New England, it's about to be cranked up another notch due to the Patriots' schedule.

Maye will play three of his first four games on the road, including matchups with the elite defenses of the Jets and 49ers.

We don't normally see top-three picks sit early in their careers, but head coach Jerod Mayo could lean on veteran Jacoby Brissett to start in the opening weeks to take some pressure off his rookie passer.

The entire first half of the season will be a gauntlet for the Pats. And they'll follow up that first month with the Dolphins, Texans, Jaguars, and Jets again in October.

The uncertainty around New England's new coaching staff and unproven quarterback/receivers was holding their ADPs down. This schedule only drops them further.

Early downgrades: Drake Maye, Rhamondre Stevenson, Ja'Lynn Polk, Javon Baker

Baltimore Ravens

Week Opponent
1 at Chiefs
2 vs. Raiders
3 at Cowboys
4 vs. Bills

Lamar Jackson and Baltimore's offense have the talent to overcome any matchup. However, they'll be tested in the early part of the season as they square off with the defending champion Chiefs, a gritty Raiders squad that overachieved last year, the imposing Cowboys defense, and a retooling Bills unit.

All four defenses finished top-12 in FTN Fantasy's Defensive DVOA a year ago.

Derrick Henry, who thrives in a positive game script, might feel the biggest impact and could see his volume reduced if the Ravens fall behind in any of those contests.

If Baltimore struggles early, fantasy managers should keep their skill position players in mind as buy-low candidates in October.

Early downgrades: Derrick Henry

Honorable mentions

  • Jacksonville Jaguars
  • Dallas Cowboys
  • Denver Broncos

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