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2012 Draft Prep: Fantasizing about 32 schedules

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The point of breaking down schedules isn't to create a decisive guide on who to draft to your Fantasy team. Instead it's just a step in the pre-draft evaluation process to find the little nuances and edges within the NFL's slate to better help you make smart decisions.

And if you can't get behind that, then you might as well never consider matchups when you set your lineup.

The teams that players play against go a long way in determining how they do. We can't guarantee a schedule will make or break a team (we pinned a bad schedule on the Niners but a good one on the Bengals, for instance), but we can sure try to warn you of peaks and valleys in every team's schedule.

Ultimately, the takeaways made here are best used as "tie-breakers" when you're debating players in your draft. If Player A and Player B seem the same, why not take the player with the easier early-season schedule? Or if you're between Kicker A and Kicker B, the kicker with the later bye week should be the more appealing option since you won't have to replace him until much later in the season.

Ultimate Schedule Rankings
1. Falcons 9. Bills 17. Seahawks 25. Rams
2. Saints 10. Chiefs 18. Redskins 26. Vikings
3. Lions 11. Jaguars 19. Jets 27. Colts
4. Texans 12. Broncos 20. Titans 28. Buccaneers
5. Patriots 13. Giants 21. Steelers 29. Dolphins
6. 49ers 14. Eagles 22. Cardinals 30. Cowboys
7. Packers 15. Panthers 23. Ravens 31. Browns
8. Bears 16. Chargers 24. Bengals 32. Raiders

Early- and late-season games
Best first four Worst first four Best last four Worst last four
Falcons Cowboys Chiefs Giants
Texans 49ers Bills Bengals
Saints Broncos Texans Vikings
Lions Browns Falcons Lions
Bears Packers Eagles Chargers

2012 Bye-Week Cheat Sheet
Week 4 byes Week 5 byes Week 6 byes Week 7 byes Week 8 byes Week 9 byes Week 10 byes Week 11 byes
Colts Buccaneers Bears Broncos Bengals 49ers Browns Giants
Steelers Cowboys Jaguars Chargers Bills Jets Cardinals Seahawks
  Lions Panthers Chiefs Ravens Patriots Packers Titans
  Raiders Saints Dolphins Texans Rams Redskins Vikings
      Eagles        
      Falcons        

Going West to East

Some might say it's a myth that teams out west that play in the east at 1 p.m. ET struggle, but last year five teams totaled a 6-9 record doing that, with the 49ers going 4-0. So if you're into this angle, here's what you need to know: The Raiders play five games at 1 p.m. ET in the Eastern time zone, the most of anyone in the league, possibly ever. The Chargers, Seahawks and Cardinals make three trips each. The 49ers, who did so well in this situation last year, lucked into one 1 p.m. ET game on the East Coast.

The Dirt About Domes

Arizona and Minnesota lead the league with 11 games indoors, with the Vikings finishing the year with four-straight dome games. Their last outdoor game: at Green Bay on December 2. Six teams have 10 dome games. The Packers somehow have five dome games, the most of any team that plays its home games outdoors.

Only one team -- Cincinnati -- plays all of its games outdoors. Eight teams, all of whom are in the AFC, play one indoors game.

The Thursday Dilemma

There's a new wrinkle in the schedule this season: Thursday night games. Every team will play one (technically the Giants and Cowboys play two mid-week games, but that includes their Week 1 matchup which they have plenty of time to prepare for). It's a tough turn around for these teams to get ready for a game three days after playing a game, especially if they have to travel. We'll do the research on how Thursday games impact key Fantasy players, but for now it's worth noting who plays on which Thursdays. It's noted below in every team's schedule in bold.

NFC East

Common opponents: NFC South, AFC North

Dallas Cowboys
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
@NYG @SEA TB CHI bye @BAL @CAR NYG @ATL @PHI CLE WAS PHI @CIN PIT NO @WAS
There could be trouble for the Cowboys to begin the year; they might be 1-4 after six weeks. In fact, seven of their eight road games will be challenging for them. An interesting wrinkle: They play five home games between Weeks 11 and 16, but at least three could be losses with the Eagles, Steelers and Saints coming to town. Expect their defense to yield a lot of points (more than the 21.7 points per game they allowed last year).
New York Giants
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
DAL TB @CAR @PHI CLE @SF WAS @DAL PIT @CIN bye GB @WAS NO @ATL @BAL PHI
New York should get off to a very good start and potentially be 4-1 before a rematch at San Francisco. They also should be involved in a lot of high scoring games down the stretch. Playing at Baltimore in Week 16 is gross but a Week 11 bye week helps. It's not an easy schedule, but rematches with three non-division opponents from last season help.
Philadelphia Eagles
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
@CLE BAL @ARI NYG @PIT DET bye ATL @NO DAL @WAS CAR @DAL @TB CIN WAS @NYG
We're going to find out quickly if the Eagles defense is as good as it was toward the end of last season as their hands will be full after Week 1. That could force the offense to stay aggressive but they'll see a lot of tough defenses for much of the first half of the year. Starting around Week 10 things will get a little easier for the Eagles, even with the last Thursday game of the year at their place against the Bengals. The late slate should make the skill-position players you drafted very valuable for the Fantasy playoffs.
Washington Redskins
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
@NO @STL CIN @TB ATL MIN @NYG @PIT CAR bye PHI @DAL NYG BAL @CLE @PHI DAL
The first six weeks should give Robert Griffin III a good chance to settle in before he takes on the Giants and Steelers in hard back-to-back road games where the blitzes will be fast and furious. Washington has five divisional matchups in its last seven games, which isn't easy. Shanahan is 4-8 against the NFC East in two seasons but did beat the Super Bowl champs twice last year (and was swept by the Cowboys and Eagles).

NFC North

Common opponents: NFC West, AFC South

Chicago Bears
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
IND @GB STL @DAL @JAC bye DET CAR @TEN HOU @SF MIN SEA @MIN GB @ARI @DET
The Bears shouldn't be any worse than 3-2 going into their bye (they might even be 4-1). It's a great early first-half schedule for their offense. Things will get worse starting in Week 10 but they should still be productive. Some quirks: They play the Vikings twice in three weeks, with their second meeting the first of three road dome games they'll play over the final four weeks. Getting their Thursday game out of the way early helps.
Detroit Lions
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
STL @SF @TEN MIN bye @PHI @CHI SEA @JAC @MIN GB HOU IND @GB @ARI ATL CHI
The schedule is phenomenal for the Lions' passing game. There might be three matchups against tough secondaries with only a handful more against stiff pass rushes. And it's definitely not that much harder for their run game -- if they can develop one. Where it gets sticky is in Week 6 when they play four road games in five weeks. That could grind them down a little but it's made up for with three straight home games against the Packers, the Texans on Thanksgiving and the Colts as a post-Turkey week feast. They'll play outdoors a lot early on but finish with seven indoor games in their final eight.
Green Bay Packers
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
SF CHI @SEA NO @IND @HOU @STL JAC ARI bye @DET @NYG MIN DET @CHI TEN @MIN
How's this for a curveball: The Packers play five dome games, the most of any non-dome team. That's a nice perk for a team looking to exploit defenses with deep-speed receivers (hello, Jordy Nelson!). They open with some tough matchups followed by a three-game road trip. It stinks that one of their bi-annual matchups against the Vikings comes in Week 17. Not much to fear here, and their Week 2 Thursday game means they get their short week out of the way early on.
Minnesota Vikings
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
JAC @IND SF @DET TEN @WAS ARI TB @SEA DET bye @CHI @GB CHI @STL @HOU GB
The Vikings are one of two teams with a league-high 11 dome games, which helps them since they're built for turf -- but it's not going to make their season any better. They might start off 2-0, even if they're without Adrian Peterson, but it gets tougher from there with matchups against the Niners and Lions. It gets worse late in the year when they face the Bears and Packers twice each over their final six games. If they don't improve their offensive line, they could have some real trouble for those games along with a tough Week 16 game at Houston. The silver lining is that their last four games are in domes, so there shouldn't be any weather issues slowing them down, which is nice.

NFC South

Common opponents: NFC East, AFC West

Atlanta Falcons
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
@KC DEN @SD CAR @WAS OAK bye @PHI DAL @NO ARI @TB NO @CAR NYG @DET TB
Here's the best schedule in the league for Fantasy. The Falcons play one divisional foe and all four AFC West teams before their Week 7 bye. That should translate into an unbelievable start for their entire offense. And it's not like they'll be expected to slow down after the bye but it does get a little bit tougher with games against the Eagles, Giants and two showdowns with the Saints. Still, that's not bad. The Falcons have a dome-friendly offense and seven of their final nine games are indoors. Their Week 17 home game vs. Tampa Bay could be a wasted game for those owners who are done with their leagues by then.
Carolina Panthers
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
@TB NO NYG @ATL SEA bye DAL @CHI @WAS DEN TB @PHI @KC ATL @SD OAK @NO
We're not sure if the Panthers can compete for a playoff berth, but the schedule should be favorable for Cam Newton. No more than two road games will result in big pass pressure on the big quarterback, and several home games against dynamite offenses should force him to throw and run and not hand off. The Carolina running backs will help people win leagues: The Raiders travel across the country to play them at 1 p.m. ET in Week 16. There are some challenging matchups for the Panthers' run game over the course of the year but the bigger worry remains how they'll split reps, not who they'll play.
New Orleans Saints
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
WAS @CAR KC @GB SD bye @TB @DEN PHI ATL @OAK SF @ATL @NYG TB @DAL CAR
The Saints scored less than 30 points six times in 18 total games last year. They might drop that number to four or five games with sub-30 points in 2012. Sean Payton or not, they're M.O. isn't about to change and they don't face a lot of strong pass defenses. But they don't take on many tough run defenses either -- some might suggest they play only one (San Fran at home in Week 12). If the Saints were to make a move to start running more, it would probably benefit them given their opponents. This schedule will keep the Saints offense churning full speed ahead.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
CAR @NYG @DAL WAS bye KC NO @MIN @OAK SD @CAR ATL @DEN PHI @NO STL @ATL
The Bucs defense isn't expected to be great and they play their fair share of explosive offenses. That should mean a lot of playing from behind for the Tampa offense, which in turn could mean some good opportunities for Vincent Jackson (who plays familiar AFC West teams including the Chargers). The Bucs did land nearly a month at home with a three-game homestand with a bye week in the middle in the early going, and that could help settle their offense down. The feeling remains that they'll simply get outscored in most of their games.

NFC West

Common opponents: NFC North, AFC East

Arizona Cardinals
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
SEA @NE PHI MIA @STL BUF @MIN SF @GB bye @ATL STL @NYJ @SEA DET CHI @SF
The Cardinals are up and coming, but a tough schedule could keep them down. Playing the AFC East is already tough enough but they're the only NFC West team taking on both of them on the road at 1 p.m. ET. Their game at the Patriots comes in Week 2 and is their only outdoor matchup in the first eight weeks of the season. It wouldn't be a surprise to see some life from the entire offense early on before things get challenging at midseason. Beanie Wells especially looks like a good guy to ride early in the season and bail on before Week 8. Two nice perks: The Cards have 11 dome games overall, and their matchup at San Francisco is neatly tucked into Week 17.
San Francisco 49ers
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
@GB DET @MIN @NYJ BUF NYG SEA @ARI bye STL CHI @NO @STL MIA @NE @SEA ARI
I don't know how the Niners pulled this one off but they'll play one road game (at Arizona) between Weeks 5 and 11. Besides that perk, the schedule is a challenge. Roughly half of their matchups won't be cakewalks for their run game, which means Alex Smith will have to step up in order for the Niners to get close to 13 wins again. His new receivers might make all the difference. Starting the season at Green Bay will make Fantasy owners of all Niners players except Vernon Davis a little gun shy.
St. Louis Rams
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
@DET WAS @CHI SEA ARI @MIA GB vsNE bye @SF NYJ @ARI SF @BUF MIN @TB @SEA
No one's expecting a lot from the Rams' passing attack, so defenses will aim to slow down Steven Jackson first. And even though the Rams defense should be improved from last season, they'll still get scored upon. All told, it's not a good schedule for them as all of their division rivals have improved defenses and most of their non-conference opponents shouldn't have a problem out-scoring them. And by virtue of their game against the Pats in London, they're the only NFL team with seven true home games. There isn't even a stretch where Steven Jackson can be projected to post consecutive 100-yard games.
Seattle Seahawks
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
@ARI DAL GB @STL @CAR NE @SF @DET MIN NYJ bye @MIA @CHI ARI vsBUF SF STL
Seattle's defense is on the rise but it will have its hands full with potent offenses in six of its first eight games (five on the road). The tough start kind of puts a cap on the potential of the Seahawks DST, which was considered a sleeper before the schedule came out. The opposition might force the Seahawks to throw more than they'd like in the first half of the season too. The end of the Seahawks' schedule is interesting: Three division games at home with a trip to Toronto to play the Bills in Week 15. For the second year in a row, Marshawn Lynch gets the Niners in Week 16.

AFC East

Common opponents: AFC South, NFC West

Buffalo Bills
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
@NYJ KC @CLE NE @SF @ARI TEN bye @HOU @NE MIA @IND JAC STL vsSEA @MIA NYJ
There's chatter that the Bills are a playoff dark-horse team this season, but if they're going to make a run it'll happen in the back half of their schedule. Their season is bookended by matchups against the Jets (both of which could be wins for them), they're done with the Patriots after Week 10 and have four home games (including their matchup vs. the Seahawks in Toronto) in their final five games. It's the first time in several years that the Bills got a good schedule.
Miami Dolphins
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
@HOU OAK NYJ @ARI @CIN STL bye @NYJ @IND TEN @BUF SEA NE @SF JAC BUF @NE
It might not matter who the Dolphins face, their offense is such a mess that any defense can stuff them. Reggie Bush might not get as many touches as he did last season and he certainly won't have his receivers drawing coverage away from him. They'll also see a ton of big-play receivers in their road games, testing that boastful secondary.
New England Patriots
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
@TEN ARI @BAL @BUF DEN @SEA NYJ vsSTL bye BUF IND @NYJ @MIA HOU SF @JAC MIA
As usual, there are only a handful of opponents who could make life really tough for the Patriots. One might be the Bills now that they've added Mario Williams, but aside from them, the Jets and the Ravens, only the Texans and 49ers in Weeks 14 and 15 stand out as tough matchups. Not that you're planning to sit key Patriots players anyway. The Pats start the year with three of four on the road and end with three of four at home, and their shellackings against the lowly Dolphins come five weeks apart late in the season (too bad one is in Week 17).
New York Jets
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
BUF @PIT @MIA SF HOU IND @NE MIA bye @SEA @STL NE ARI @JAC @TEN SD @BUF
If the Jets are going to stick to their ground game, they'll have very mixed results through their first six games thanks to games at the Steelers and vs. the 49ers and Texans. The good news is that once they're past that, the Jets won't face many stingy run defenses. Whether or not that helps Shonn Greene remains to be seen -- he's disappointed through much of his short career. They also face plenty of teams with quality safeties, which might impact how consistent Dustin Keller is over the season.

AFC North

Common opponents: AFC West, NFC East

Baltimore Ravens
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
CIN @PHI NE CLE @KC DAL @HOU bye @CLE OAK @PIT @SD PIT @WAS DEN NYG @CIN
The Ravens will have their hands full in their first three games against the Bengals, Eagles and Patriots. A saving grace is that two of those games are at home, along with a matchup vs. the Browns in Week 4. They'll face a lot of potent offenses, actually, and that includes both Manning brothers in consecutive weeks starting in Week 15. Maybe the Ravens DST won't quite be as effective as we're used to. And with the passing offense in mind, the schedule is mostly good. Fact is, if the Ravens are in a bunch of high-scoring games, they'll need more than Ray Rice to compete. They also take on the Steelers twice in three weeks, which is odd.
Cincinnati Bengals
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
@BAL CLE @WAS @JAC MIA @CLE PIT bye DEN NYG @KC OAK @SD DAL @PHI @PIT BAL
Cincinnati will play on the road in three of its first four games with a date at Baltimore in Week 1. The team also landed what is probably the toughest three-game homestand anyone will have this season with the Steelers, Broncos and Giants coming in succession. Then they play the Steelers in Pittsburgh in Week 16 after playing the Eagles in Philly on the last Thursday night game of the season. Then once that's done they finish the season at home vs. the Ravens. In between all those rough patches they have some favorable matchups but unless they can rise to the level of play of their opponents they're decidedly looking at an 8-8 type of season. Aside from the games against the Ravens and Steelers, the Bengals' run game shouldn't be too challenged.
Cleveland Browns
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
PHI @CIN BUF @BAL @NYG CIN @IND SD BAL bye @DAL PIT @OAK KC WAS @DEN @PIT
Where will the Browns get points from this season? That's the question in our heads after reviewing their schedule. Nearly all of their opponents have not just good offenses, but great ones. Realistically, only matchups against the Bills, Colts, Raiders, Chiefs and Redskins (maybe) provide opponents who don't have consistent 27-point potential. The Browns' inability to fight back with their offense, especially their passing offense, makes the schedule a non-factor. Obviously, it's not a positive for the Browns.
Pittsburgh Steelers
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
@DEN NYJ @OAK bye PHI @TEN @CIN WAS @NYG KC BAL @CLE @BAL SD @DAL CIN CLE
The Steelers are going to have their hands full with quality offenses this season, but they'll also be able to move the ball at will in most games. They'll get Peyton Manning with the Broncos before anyone else and will get a good look at the Mark Sanchez/Tim Tebow dynamic in Week 2. They should be in a number of close games that should border on high scoring -- that's good for Fantasy and not necessarily good for the Steelers' win column. Some quirks: Todd Haley will get a chance to call plays against his former team in Week 10, and the Steelers play the Ravens twice in three weeks starting in Week 11. Their season ends well with three home games in four weeks including the Chargers flying in for a 1 p.m. ET kickoff in Week 14.

AFC South

Common opponents: AFC East, NFC North

Houston Texans
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
MIA @JAC @DEN TEN @NYJ GB BAL bye BUF @CHI JAC @DET @TEN @NE IND MIN @IND
The Texans offense should get off to a rocking start until a three-game stretch against the Jets, Packers and Ravens before their Week 8 bye. From there, it's hard to imagine the Texans slowing down on offense, especially with two games against the Colts in their last three games of the season. We love the prospects for their Thanksgiving Day game at Detroit -- they might total 80 points in that game. With their toughest matchups over by Week 11 (and only four tough matchups really on their schedule), the Texans should meet expectations.
Indianapolis Colts
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
@CHI MIN JAC bye GB @NYJ CLE @TEN MIA @JAC @NE BUF @DET TEN @HOU @KC HOU
Defensively, the Colts are going to go through growing pains, even with Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis still around. So much of their success in 2012 will depend on Andrew Luck attacking defenses effectively. He should do well against teams lacking a strong pass rush but that accounts for five opponents. From the Bears in Week 1 to a season-ending set of games against the Texans twice with the Chiefs in Week 16, the Colts' schedule is littered with pass rushers aiming at Luck. That should make it tough for him to thrive in his first season.
Jacksonville Jaguars
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
@MIN HOU @IND CIN CHI bye @OAK @GB DET IND @HOU TEN @BUF NYJ @MIA NE @TEN
Maurice Jones-Drew posted career highs last year with a tougher schedule than this. The only fearsome run defenses on the Jags' docket are the Texans twice, the Bears and the Jets, all of which are spread out throughout the season. Opposing pass defenses are fairly weak too, so if there's anything Mike Mularkey can do to get Blaine Gabbert going, he'll have a chance to make some noise. One more big issue for Jacksonville is keeping its opponents from putting up a lot of points -- it might be a lot to ask this defense to do as well as it did last season against these offenses.
Tennessee Titans
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
NE @SD DET @HOU @MIN PIT @BUF IND CHI @MIA bye @JAC HOU @IND NYJ @GB JAC
We're not sure if a defense will get tested as much as the Titans to start the year: They begin with the Patriots, Chargers, Lions and Texans. It should mean some high-scoring games for sure. That trend changes toward the end of the season when the Titans will take on offenses that are more their speed, though that does not include a Week 16 game at Green Bay. And here's hoping Chris Johnson truly rededicates himself to his craft this offseason: The only challenging run defenses in store for him are the Texans, Steelers, Bears and Jets. Maybe he can get to 2,000 total yards again after all.

AFC West

Common opponents: AFC North, NFC South

Denver Broncos
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
PIT @ATL HOU OAK @NE @SD bye NO @CIN @CAR SD @KC TB @OAK @BAL CLE KC
Tough start for the Broncos, going up against the Steelers, Falcons and Texans in Weeks 1 through 3. After that, the Broncos appear to be in for some shootouts with consecutive games against the Patriots, Chargers, Saints and Bengals (three of which are on the road). The good stretch for Peyton Manning & Co. comes at the end of the year with a five-game stretch that offers only a game at Baltimore as a challenge for this offense. It's a good but hectic schedule.
Kansas City Chiefs
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
ATL @BUF @NO SD BAL @TB bye OAK @SD @PIT CIN DEN CAR @CLE @OAK IND @DEN
Let's start at the end, where the Chiefs have the best late-season schedule of anyone in the NFL. Their final five games: Carolina at home, Cleveland and Oakland on the road, Indy at home and Denver on the road in Week 17. What a gorgeous finish. Even better, that Carolina game is the last of a three-game homestand to set up that finish, so there's a lot to like about Chiefs star players long-term. It's a little rough before then with matchups at New Orleans, vs. Baltimore and back-to-back road tilts at San Diego and Pittsburgh, but those are small prices to pay for what amounts to a really promising schedule.
Oakland Raiders
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
SD @MIA PIT @DEN bye @ATL JAC @KC TB @BAL NO @CIN CLE DEN KC @CAR @SD
Raider Nation can play the disrespect card legitimately this season: Of the Raiders' eight road games, five are in the Eastern time zone with 1 p.m. kickoffs. Last year the Raiders went 0-2 in those spots and they haven't won a game out east with a 1 p.m. kickoff since 2009 (at Pittsburgh). If there's a silver lining, it's that their last six games will provide them with a few chances to win, including the Carson Palmer Bowl at Cincy in Week 12 and a three-game stretch where they stay at home starting the week after. Hopefully Darren McFadden's feet keep him on the field and not in a doctor's office for that part of the schedule.
San Diego Chargers
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
@OAK TEN ATL @KC @NO DEN bye @CLE KC @TB @DEN BAL CIN @PIT CAR @NYJ OAK
Philip Rivers and Ryan Mathews have to love the first 11 weeks of their schedule: Maybe two teams with stout defenses are in front of them. Starting in Week 12 it gets a little hairy with three straight games against the best teams the AFC North can offer and a Week 16 date in New York (a game where he struggled last season).

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Dave at @daverichard and on Facebook .

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(7/11/2014) Saints tight end Benjamin Watson told ESPN that the the team's arbitration fight with Jimmy Graham over whether he's a receiver or a tight end won't have a longterm detrimental effect. Watson is hopeful the sides will reach a multiyear contract agreement by Tuesday's deadline.

"I’m very confident that it’ll be resolved the right way and guys can move forward," Watson said. "Obviously it’s always tough when you go through litigation with somebody, and it can probably get heated. And I’m sure there are emotions on both sides. But that is the business side of the game. 

"And it’s unfortunate that it came to that and that it was so public. But I really think -- I know, I don’t think -- I know that Jimmy loves New Orleans and I know that he loves our team and the organization and he loves playing here. And we love him, everybody wants him here, coaches included. So when it comes down to contract situations, that’s just a necessary evil ... not even evil, but just a necessary progression of getting a player here."


Dallas Thomas eyes starting job
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Dolphins coach Joe Philbin named Dallas Thomas one of the team's most improved players, and he has a good chance to start at left guard, according to the team's website. A third-round pick in last year's draft, Thomas played only four offensive snaps last season.

Thomas worked with the first team during spring drills and is much further along than he was in 2013. He stayed in South Florida throughout the offseason to get better prepared.

"You’ve got to know your material, you’ve got to know what you’re doing on the field because stuff happens so fast," Thomas said. "You’ve got to be able to just react to it and not even think about what’s happening on the field."


Spencer Nealy hit with four-game ban
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) The NFL suspended Vikings defensive end Spencer Nealy four games for violating the league's policy on performance enhancing substances. An undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M, the 24-year-old Nealy did not play in a game last season.

Nealy apologized and took responsibility in a statement, saying he took a supplement containing a banned stimulant.


Jarrett Boykin will be 'hard to dislodge'
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Jarrett Boykin improved dramatically last season and "will be hard to dislodge" from the Packers' No. 3 receiver job, reports the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Boykin will have to hold off second-round pick Davante Adams, fifth-rounder Jared Abbrederis and seventh-rounder Jeff Janis.

Boykin, 24, caught 49 passes for 681 yards and three touchdowns last season.


Trent Richardson might not get long leash
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Averaging 2.9 yards a carry, like he did last year, will get Trent Richardson benched quickly, reports ESPN.com. Richardson "will have to produce right away because it's unlikely the Colts will wait for him to get going" if running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard are healthy and productive, the website said.

Richardson likely will get the first shot at the starting job. He has a much better grasp of the playbook than he did in 2013 and the belief is he'll be able to run on instinct as opposed to overthinking, the report said.


Bruce Ellington trying to overcome stature
by Jeff Borzello | College Basketball Writer
(7/11/2014) At 5-foot-9, Bruce Ellington is the shortest receiver on the 49ers' roster. But the fourth-round pick out of South Carolina should not be discounted, his high school coach, Jerry Brown, told the Sacramento Bee.

Brown said Ellington is relentless at finding open space and catching everything thrown his way. "Football's played on a big field and it's hard to track someone like Bruce who's got so much agility," Brown said.

Ellington believes he has lots of room for growth because he only gave up basketball last year. Also a former track competitor, Ellington clocked a 4.45 forty at the combine.

"I'm just going to work hard, give it a hundred (percent) every time I step on the field and keep on chasing the dream," he said.


 
 
 
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