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2014 Draft Prep: Breaking down the schedules

Senior Fantasy Writer
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We say Fantasy Football is all about the matchups. If two players at the same position have similar expectations, we'd take the one with the easier matchup every single time. The easier the matchup, the more likely a player will have success.

But what if you knew going into your drafts that some players had easier matchups than others, or that some DSTs were set for a smooth start to the year? You'd definitely jump at the chance to know this -- anything for an edge in Fantasy. We're not here to socialize and make friends, we're here to win leagues any way we can!

What lies ahead is a take on every team's schedule, complete with all the info you could ask for regarding their slate along with a prediction for their final record. Granted, this is all an inexact science. A defense touted to be great could suffer an injury or a key player could be off his game and every prediction becomes undone. For now, the schedules are based not on how a team's opponents fared last year but how they're expected to fare this year.

Who's better, who's worse?

Before going through the schedules, it's important to note which defenses are expected to be better this season. Every squad has had six months to restock their depth charts with better players with the intention of being stronger than they were in 2013. Nobody aims to get worse, of course. Finding defenses on the rise will help owners avoid underrating a team when checking out a schedule.

Most improved against the run
1. Chicago (added Lamarr Houston, kept Jay Ratliff, drafted two rookie DTs, D.J. Williams is back)
2. New England (drafted Dominique Easley, Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly are back)
3. Indianapolis (added D'Qwell Jackson, Mike Adams)
4. Cleveland (added Karlos Dansby, Donte Whitner, drafted Christian Kirksey)
5. Pittsburgh (drafted Ryan Shazier, D-line is retooled)
6. St. Louis (drafted Aaron Donald to add to an already strong unit)
7. Oakland (drafted Khalil Mack, added Justin Tuck)
Teams that might be worse vs. the run: Bills, Cardinals, Cowboys, Dolphins, Giants, Packers, Saints

Most improved against the pass
1. Denver (added Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward, drafted Bradley Roby, pass rush should be much improved)
2. New England (added Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner)
3. Minnesota (added Captain Munnerlyn, Harrison Smith is back for a full season, new coach should help)
4. Chicago (brought back Charles Tillman, drafted Kyle Fuller, pass rush should be much improved)
5. Green Bay (drafted Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Casey Hayward is healthy, pass rush is a little better)
6. Cleveland (added Donte Whitner, drafted Justin Gilbert)
7. Arizona (added Antonio Cromartie, drafted Deone Bucannon)
Teams that might be worse vs. the pass: Buccaneers, Chiefs, Eagles, Jets, Panthers, Steelers, Texans

AFC East

Common opponents: AFC West, NFC North

Buffalo Bills
Sked specifics: Week 9 bye, Week 11 Thursday game at Dolphins, two games indoors, one opponent coming off a bye week
There are some tough-looking run defenses right off the bat for the Bills, starting with Week 1 at Chicago all the way through to Week 6 vs. the Patriots. It could mean some challenging times for an offense that wants to run the ball a lot, and it doesn't include either matchup they'll have with the Jets or at Denver. The second half of the schedule is a little bit better aside from those games -- their road trip to Foxboro is in Week 17 and comes after a pretty enticing Week 16 game at Oakland. The bigger issue for the Bills is if their defense can hold up against some of the league's top offenses (Patriots, Bears, Packers, Lions, Broncos, Chargers).
Predicted record: 5-11

Miami Dolphins
Sked specifics: Week 5 bye, Week 11 Thursday game vs. Bills, one game indoors, one opponent coming off a bye week
After a tough home opener against what should be a solid Patriots defense, the Dolphins could be in line for a nice stretch. The Bills, Chiefs and Raiders (in London) immediately follow the Pats and games against the Packers, Jaguars, Chargers, Lions and Bills again shouldn't hurt things. But then they play three tough intra-division games over their final five with matchups at home against the Ravens and Vikings mixed in.
Predicted record: 7-9

New England Patriots
Sked specifics: Week 10 bye, Week 7 Thursday game vs. Jets, one game indoors, two opponents coming off a bye week
It'll take a balanced defense complete with a solid pass rush to keep the Patriots offense off its game. Such an opponent doesn't show up until the Bengals in Week 5 and even after that there are only a handful of teams they'll face who will challenge them. This team will continue to take advantage of their division rivals, all of whom will struggle to either contain the Pats offense or put up points against their defense. Expect a bounce-back from Tom Brady, and if Stevan Ridley can just hold on to the darn ball he's going to be great. Big "if."
Predicted record: 14-2, AFC representative in Super Bowl XLIX

New York Jets
Sked specifics: Week 11 bye, Week 7 Thursday game at Patriots, no games indoors, no opponents coming off a bye week
Starting off against Oakland at home should work out well for the Jets before they take on the three toughest NFC North teams in consecutive weeks, followed by a road trip to San Diego. It's difficult to envision the Jets being any better than 2-3 after that, but they could be 2-5 as they'll take on the Broncos and Patriots in consecutive weeks thereafter. The schedule eases up considerably after that, and while it might not mean wins, it should mean some traction for the offense. Chris Johnson has started slowly each of the last three seasons before turning it up in his final 10 games. Expect something like that to happen this year as well, making him someone to trade for between Weeks 5 and 7.
Predicted record: 7-9

AFC North

Common opponents: AFC South, NFC South

Baltimore Ravens
Sked specifics: Week 11 bye, Week 2 Thursday game vs. Steelers, three games indoors, one opponent coming off a bye week
The bad news is that the Ravens begin the year with two games over five days against their toughest division rivals. The good news is that they're both at home (a cookie from the NFL after they started their title defense last year at Denver?). More bad news: They also play the Panthers in Week 4 and are the only team in the league to play consecutive road games at Cincy and Pittsburgh this season in Weeks 8 and 9. But aside from those toughies they're in pretty good shape facing the Dolphins, Jaguars and Gary Kubiak's old team, the Texans, in Weeks 14 through 16. Might be a good idea to trade for Ravens at midseason rather than draft them.
Predicted record: 8-8

Cincinnati Bengals
Sked specifics: Week 4 bye, Week 10 Thursday game vs. Browns, three games indoors, no opponents coming off a bye week
Easy start for the Bengals against the Ravens, Falcons and Titans before two challenges against the Pats in New England and the Panthers at home. It's a pretty good schedule after that, even with a three-game road trip (at Saints, Texans and Bucs) starting in Week 11. Taking on the Broncos at home in Week 16 could be tough, but their annual game at Pittsburgh is in Week 17, something Fantasy owners who play until Week 16 should be happy about.
Predicted record: 9-7

Cleveland Browns
Sked specifics: Week 4 bye, Week 10 Thursday game at Bengals, one game indoors, one opponent coming off a bye week
If the Browns intend on being a run-first team then they must be fairly happy with their schedule. They might struggle against the Steelers twice in the first six weeks and again in their final four games (including the D'Qwell Jackson Bowl in Week 14), but otherwise their outlook isn't so bad. They might not win a lot of games but they should be able to lean on Ben Tate and Terrance West.
Predicted record: 6-10

Pittsburgh Steelers
Sked specifics: Week 12 bye, Week 2 Thursday game at Ravens, one game indoors, no opponents coming off a bye week
If you think the Browns defense is going to be improved then the Steelers' first six games are going to be tough. If not, then you'll warm up to their early schedule. The Steelers play the Browns twice in the first six weeks with matchups against the Panthers and Bucs mixed in. But their next six games feature only one tough matchup -- at the Jets, a team they struggled to score on last year. Both of their matchups against the Bengals come in the final four weeks of the season and they host the Chiefs in Week 16. All in all it looks good for the Steelers offense to keep up their form from 2013. One note: The Steelers defense doesn't play a top-shelf offense until Week 8 -- look for their DST to get off to a very good start.
Predicted record: 11-5

AFC South

Common opponents: AFC North, NFC East

Houston Texans
Sked specifics: Week 10 bye, Week 6 Thursday game vs. Colts, 10 games indoors, no opponents coming off a bye week
Many expect Arian Foster to have a strong season because he's rested and healthy and new Texans coach Bill O'Brien has a solid track record of leaning on his primary running back. But he also has a dandy of a schedule. His AFC South opponents don't seem to have supreme run defenses and the toughest matchups he has otherwise come Week 7 at Pittsburgh, maybe Week 11 at Cleveland, Week 12 vs. Cincinnati and perhaps Week 16 vs. Baltimore. That's it. And make fun of Ryan Fitzpatrick all you want but he's come up big in the past in easy matchups. That's good news for Andre Johnson. Don't be too quick to write off the Texans' top Fantasy options.
Predicted record: 6-10

Indianapolis Colts
Sked specifics: Week 10 bye, Week 6 Thursday game at Texans, 10 games indoors, three consecutive opponents coming off a bye week
Yep, three straight games against opponents coming off a bye week. That's rough for the Colts on the surface, but two of them are the Giants and Jaguars and the third is the Patriots, and they'll get them coming off a bye as well. That all starts in Week 9 and overlaps with a three-game home stand that starts in Week 10. Being the sacrificial lamb at the Broncos in Week 1 isn't fun but they should still have a shot at putting up some numbers. The Colts don't have as easy of a schedule as the Texans, but they do have it pretty good, and it includes a darling Week 16 game at Dallas. The schedule is good for Andrew Luck & Co.
Predicted record: 11-5

Jacksonville Jaguars
Sked specifics: Week 11 bye, Week 16 Thursday game vs. Titans, two games indoors, no opponents coming off a bye week
The most notable Jaguar for Fantasy purposes is Toby Gerhart, who is climbing up rank lists. The schedule is a positive for him even though the Jags technically don't have a last-place schedule (they weren't a last place team last year, Houston was worse). But like the other primary running backs in the division, you have to like Gerhart's outlook. In fact it might be tougher to see Gerhart get a lot of work in a number of these games because the Jaguars' opponents will put up some points and the offense might struggle to keep pace. That takes the ball out of his hands a little bit. Even with only seven true home games (the one against the Cowboys is in London) and only one home game in September, Gerhart should still inflict some pain on his opponents. If he's still grinding by Week 16 he could end up helping Fantasy owners win a championship vs. Tennessee on a short week (when running backs thrive).
Predicted record: 5-11

Tennessee Titans
Sked specifics: Week 9 bye, Week 16 Thursday game at Jaguars, two games indoors, one opponent coming off a bye week
The Titans' record won't be pretty this year but they should get many strong games from Bishop Sankey, provided the rookie gets a good workload. Many of their matchups are against defenses that are expected to struggle versus the run, though we'll see if the Browns, Texans and Colts are stingy or pretenders. They also play the Ravens and Steelers in consecutive weeks, which isn't easy. One fun note: Ken Whisenhunt is undefeated in each of the last three years against the Eagles, including beating them last season while calling plays for the Chargers. He'll try to make it four in a row in Week 12.
Predicted record: 5-11

AFC West

Common opponents: AFC East, NFC West

Denver Broncos
Sked specifics: Week 4 bye, Week 8 Thursday game vs. Chargers, one game indoors, one opponent coming off a bye week
Last year the Broncos set a bunch of records thanks to a very favorable schedule. No such luck this year as they have four games with the NFC West including three in the first seven weeks. It's not enough to pass on the Broncos' top guys for Fantasy but it could mean fewer points on the board. Their division remains beatable, especially as the Chiefs secondary has some question marks, the Chargers have concerns about being as effective as last year and the Raiders pass defense is still a work in progress. The Broncos' toughest stretch comes after their early bye when they play the Cardinals, at the Jets, vs. the 49ers, vs. the Chargers and at the Patriots. We'd tell you to consider dealing off your Broncos' studs before that five-game bender but after those games it's pretty. They might not lose after Week 9 ... too bad their home game against the Raiders is stuffed into Week 17!
Predicted record: 13-3

Kansas City Chiefs
Sked specifics: Week 6 bye, Week 12 Thursday game at Raiders, one game indoors, one opponent coming off a bye week
The Chiefs made the playoffs last season on the strength of Jamaal Charles' athleticism, smart play by Alex Smith and a really nice schedule that broke just right for them until late in the year. Expect only one of those things to keep on rolling in 2014. Three of their first five games before the bye are nightmares, as are two of their following three. And their last eight games include tilts against the Seahawks, Cardinals, Broncos and at the Steelers in Week 16. Charles will be a factor for the Chiefs but he can't do much when the defense is getting ripped apart.
Predicted record: 5-11

Oakland Raiders
Sked specifics: Week 5 bye, Week 12 Thursday game vs. Chiefs, one game indoors, no opponents coming off a bye week
The Raiders will be overpowered in their games against the NFC West and will struggle in their contests against teams like the Patriots and Jets along with their division rivals. Even their game at Cleveland will be tough on them. Starting off at the Jets in Week 1 won't help Maurice Jones-Drew begin strong. They play the Dolphins in London this season, meaning they have only seven home games. It's going to be tough for Dennis Allen to keep his job after this slate.
Predicted record: 2-14

San Diego Chargers
Sked specifics: Week 10 bye, Week 8 Thursday game at Broncos, one game indoors, two consecutive opponents coming off a bye week
Just like everyone else in the AFC West, the schedule is tougher than last year's. Much tougher. They're going to hate playing the Cardinals and Seahawks to begin the year but get a break (by comparison) with the Bills and the Jaguars after that. They play the Raiders and Chiefs, both coming off of byes, in consecutive weeks soon after, but it's the late-season schedule that'll really put chills down your spine. The Bolts play vs. the Rams, at the Ravens, then host the Patriots and Broncos in consecutive games before jetting off to San Francisco in Week 16. It's enough to think about riding Ryan Mathews until Week 10, then trading him. Or avoiding him altogether. It also should mean a ton of passing for Philip Rivers since he won't be in as many games where the Chargers will run wild.
Predicted record: 8-8

NFC East

Common opponents: NFC West, AFC South

Dallas Cowboys
Sked specifics: Week 11 bye, Week 13 & 14 Thursday games vs. Eagles, at Bears, seven games indoors, no opponents coming off a bye week
Expect a cold start as the Cowboys duel with the NFC West in three of their first six games (including at Seattle). They don't even have a divisional game until Week 7 against the Giants! That game actually is the first of three straight games at JerryWorld before they head to London to face the Jags. They also play consecutive Thursday games, first the annual Thanksgiving game vs. the Eagles and then a full seven days until they take on the Bears in Chicago. We expect the Cowboys to put up a ton of points -- it's probably going to be their only shot at winning games -- but the best plan might be to trade for their key players right before they start facing their weaker NFC East rivals.
Predicted record: 6-10

New York Giants
Sked specifics: Week 8 bye, Week 4 Thursday game at Redskins, three games indoors, one opponent coming off a bye week
Starting with the Lions in Detroit and the Cardinals at home over a six-day span isn't fun, but things look smooth from there until Week 10. That's when they play the Seahawks and 49ers in back-to-back games, one of only three teams to deal with that brutality this season (and the only one outside of the NFC West). Playing at St. Louis in Week 16 is no cup of tea either, but the rest of their games aren't too overwhelming. The Giants' Fantasy options stand to contribute much more than they did last season.
Predicted record: 6-10

Philadelphia Eagles
Sked specifics: Week 7 bye, Week 13 Thursday game at Cowboys, four games indoors, one opponent coming off a bye week
No doubt, it's going to be tougher for the Eagles' offense to be as explosive as it was last year. They put up an average of 44.3 points on bad defenses in Oakland, Minnesota and Chicago last season and while they didn't really struggle much at all (three games with under 24 points scored, two without Foles), their weakest non-division rivals in 2014 are the Jaguars and Titans. That's it. Luckily, the defenses in the NFC East aren't going to be dominant and many of their other matchups could still yield good numbers even if they're tough. Philly not only takes on the tough NFC West defenses but also has a date with the Panthers -- they're the only team in football that takes on all five of those teams. Despite this, Chip Kelly tends to find ways to exploit anyone and this year's re-shaped receiving corps will present new challenges to opponents. Philly should come close to the 27.6 points per game they scored last year.
Predicted record: 9-7

Washington Redskins
Sked specifics: Week 10 bye, Week 4 vs. Giants, four games indoors, one opponent coming off a bye week
Washington begins the year in the AFC South with games against the Texans and Jaguars, then two divisional games, then two games against NFC West powerhouses in the Seahawks and at the Cardinals. It's not the easiest start. Washington does have it easier from then on including three divisional games to end the season but the Bucs, Niners and Rams all face off against Alfred Morris & Co. in Weeks 11 through 14. On the plus side, there might three tough secondaries in Robert Griffin III's future. The schedule seems kind to the Washington pass game.
Predicted record: 8-8

NFC North

Common opponents: NFC South, AFC East

Chicago Bears
Sked specifics: Week 9 bye, Week 13 & 14 Thursday games at Lions, vs. Cowboys, two games indoors, two consecutive opponents coming off a bye week
It's a tough start for the Bears and Matt Forte, specifically as they'll play the Niners, Jets and Panthers all on the road within the first five weeks. Things open up thereafter as from Week 6 until the end of the year their toughest matchup is at New England in Week 8. They even have a three-game home stand in Weeks 14 through 16. The matchups are even better for the passing game -- only the Patriots really stand out as a tough matchup. Now you know why Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery are both No. 1 Fantasy receivers. Jay Cutler would be ranked higher if he promised us he'd play 16 games. One last note: The defense was re-stocked this offseason but the Bears will play more than their fair share of dynamite offenses (expect high-scoring games). They might be good to start the season but not necessarily for 16 weeks.
Predicted record: 11-5

Detroit Lions
Sked specifics: Week 9 bye, Week 13 Thursday game vs. Bears, nine games indoors, one opponent coming off a bye week
Two of their first four games are on the road at the Jets and Panthers. Not easy. They also have a trip to London to play the Falcons and a three-game stretch where they play at Arizona, at New England and home against the Bears. The schedule doesn't seem to be favorable for their run game, but that's OK because this team is destined to throw the ball a ton anyway. When they do they'll be fine -- only the Cardinals and Patriots stack up with dangerous secondaries. Playing at Chicago in Week 16 could be brutal. Ultimately the schedule re-affirms my belief that Matthew Stafford will have an outstanding year.
Predicted record: 9-7

Green Bay Packers
Sked specifics: Week 9 bye, Week 5 Thursday game vs. Vikings, two games indoors, two opponents coming off a bye week
The Packers' game at Seattle is on a Thursday but doesn't count as a "Thursday" game because it doesn't come on a short week. That happens in Week 5. Beginning the year with three games on the road including the Seahawks tilt and one in Chicago definitely doesn't help things. But it's pretty nice from there -- they play the Bears, Eagles and Patriots as part of their schedule post-bye but they're all at Lambeau. If the Packers defense can get some amazing play from its vets they'll have a shot at a deep run. But because that defense still seems a little iffy, expect the offense to fire off a bunch of points every week.
Predicted record: 10-6

Minnesota Vikings
Sked specifics: Week 10 bye, Week 5 Thursday game at Packers, three games indoors, two opponents coming off a bye week
Big reminder: The Vikings play their home games at outdoor TCF Bank Stadium for the next two seasons. No more Metrodome. The Vikes might have the easiest schedule of any NFC North team, particularly since they get a very difficult chunk out of the way early (at St. Louis, vs. New England, at New Orleans in Weeks 1 through 3). They'll still have to deal with the Panthers, Jets and two games against the Bears (one in Week 17) but they're in pretty darn good shape otherwise. This is reason for celebration if you're an Adrian Peterson owner. And if you're not, if he somehow gets off to a slow start because of the matchups, make a move for him before Week 4.
Predicted record: 3-13

NFC South

Common opponents: NFC North, AFC North

Atlanta Falcons
Sked specifics: Week 9 bye, Week 3 Thursday game vs. Buccaneers, eight games indoors, no opponents coming off a bye week
For a team looking to bounce back after a disastrous season, the Falcons picked up a clean slate. They have tough matchups at Cincy, vs. the Bears, at the Panthers, vs. the Cardinals and vs. the Steelers but they're manageable and not bunched up in the schedule. The concern is just how resolved their O-line is because they do face a lot of tough front sevens. That could lead to some lean times for the ground game, just as it did for much of 2013. But there are very few still secondaries in Atlanta's future and as such it should put up some points through the air. Expect good things from Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Roddy White.
Predicted record: 8-8

Carolina Panthers
Sked specifics: Week 12 bye, Week 9 Thursday game vs. Saints, two games indoors, no opponents coming off a bye week
What keeps the Panthers' playoff hopes alive is an easier schedule this year along with a still-nasty front seven on defense. Oh, and that Cam Newton dude. The difficulty is gauging how Newton will fare with a slightly new receiving corps that's barely improved from what he had while playing behind a suspect O-line. Teams like the Bucs, Steelers, Ravens, Bears and Bengals will all scheme to attack Newton and test his linemen, and those games are in the first six weeks before Seattle comes calling in Week 8. It also remains to be seen if Newton's offense can keep up with some of these other offenses that should put points up against the Panthers secondary. The first chunk of the Panthers' docket looks dangerous but it gets better from there.
Predicted record: 8-8

New Orleans Saints
Sked specifics: Week 6 bye, Week 9 Thursday game at Panthers, 11 games indoors (tied for most), two consecutive opponents coming off a bye week
Believe it or not, the Saints' toughest game in the first five weeks before their bye might be at Cleveland. They do play three of those five on the road including at the Falcons in Week 1 but they should put up points regardless. They have a nightmarish stretch from Week 9 through Week 15 when they play at the Panthers on a short week, vs. the 49ers, vs. the Bengals and then vs. the Ravens and at the Steelers in back to back weeks with both teams coming in off of their byes. Brutal! That's followed up with a home game against the Panthers and a road trip to Chicago. Don't expect the Saints' run game to look good over that span -- Pierre Thomas is a sell-high candidate as soon as he puts up some numbers. But with 11 games indoors that passing game is going to explode.
Predicted record: 10-6

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sked specifics: Week 7 bye, Week 3 Thursday game at Falcons, three games indoors, two consecutive opponents coming off a bye week
The Bucs say they want to be a running team but they play the Panthers, Rams and Steelers in three of their first four games. Naturally their matchups get considerably easier after that though they still have dates with the Bengals and Panthers late in the season. There's a case to be made that Tampa Bay will have to throw a lot this season given the offenses they'll play against, even with a rejuvenated defense. It helps that there are not a lot of big defensive back corps in front of the Bucs this season, providing optimism on what should be effective years for Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans (and Josh McCown too).
Predicted record: 5-11

NFC West

Common opponents: NFC East, AFC West

Arizona Cardinals
Sked specifics: Week 4 bye, Week 15 Thursday game at Rams, 11 games indoors (tied for most), two opponents coming off a bye week
You don't have to be a genius to realize the Cardinals are going to pass a lot this year ... whether they want to or have to. Their intra-division games will require it but so should matchups against the Broncos, Eagles and Lions, among others. They're also the team that has the unfortunate task of playing the Broncos coming off of their bye week, which means Peyton gets to study the Cards for a couple extra days. They also end the season with three straight divisional games, though that includes the Niners in San Francisco in Week 17 ... and vs. the Seahawks in Week 16. Playing against the 49ers and Seahawks could be dangerous for their passing game but otherwise they should be able to let Carson Palmer dial it back and let 'em rip. Expect a big year from him and his top receivers.
Predicted record: 10-6

St. Louis Rams
Sked specifics: Week 4 bye, Week 15 Thursday game vs. Cardinals, nine games indoors, one opponent coming off a bye week
The absolute nastiest part of the Rams schedule comes in Week 6 when they play the Niners twice and Seahawks and Cardinals once each over a five-game stretch. They'll take on the Broncos after that but then sort of cruise into the end of the year when they play the Giants at home in Week 16 and stuff their game at Seattle into Week 17. But that middle part of the season will be a bear for Zac Stacy, who had just one game over 10 Fantasy points in four legitimate tries against the NFC West last season. Trading for him after Week 9 or 10 could pan out well.
Predicted record: 8-8

San Francisco 49ers
Sked specifics: Week 8 bye, Week 13 Thursday game vs. Seahawks, four games indoors, no opponents coming off a bye week
Would you believe the 49ers' schedule fares better for Colin Kaepernick's arm than it does for Frank Gore's feet? Tough run defenses in Chicago and Arizona face San Francisco over the first two weeks of the year and obviously division rivals will provide challenges. That might be it. We already suspect the 49ers will throw more than we've seen from them under Jim Harbaugh, but with only the Seahawks, Cardinals and Broncos providing tough secondaries we could see some big numbers from Kap and his receivers.
Predicted record: 12-4, NFC representative in Super Bowl XLIX

Seattle Seahawks
Sked specifics: Week 4 bye, Week 13 Thursday game at 49ers, one game indoors, no opponents coming off a bye week
You can pretty much pencil in good games for the key Seahawks players in Fantasy when they're at home, even if it's against the 49ers or Broncos or Cardinals. On the road they're a different offense. When they take on their divisional foes along with the Panthers and Eagles, expect some tough battles. And like the Cardinals, the Seahawks end the year with three games against the NFC West, with two at home (Week 16 at Arizona, where they did well last year).
Predicted record: 11-5

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Player News
Texans waive DT Brandon Ivory
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7/2/2015) The Texans waived rookie defensive tackle Brandon Ivory on Thursday, according to ESPN.com

Ivory was arrested on first degree burglary charges in Tuscaloosa, Ala. just one day ago. Ivory's agent Jeff Guerriero said Ivory is not guilty of the charge. 

"I spoke to Brandon he is not guilty and his name will be cleared of all charges," Guerriero said. 


Chargers TE Antonio Gates suspended 4 games for PED use
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7/2/2015) Chargers tight end Antonio Gates has been suspended four games for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drugs policy, the team announced. 

It's unknown at this time what drug Gates tested positive for. Gates, in a statement, said he was unaware that he took a banned substance

"In my 12 years in the NFL, I have taken tremendous pride in upholding the integrity of the NFL shield and all that it entails," Gates said. "I have taken extreme care of my body with a holistic approach and I have never knowingly ingested a substance that was banned by the NFL. In an effort to recover from this past season, I used supplements and holistic medicines, and unfortunately, I have now learned that those substances always present a risk because they may contain banned substances even if the ingredient list doesn’t reflect them.

"As an NFL veteran and team leader, I should have done my due diligence to ensure that what I was taking for recovery was within the NFL guidelines. I understand that I am responsible for what is in my body and I have always believed that ignorance is no excuse when it comes to these issues. I take full responsibility for my actions. I’d like to express my sincere apologies to the Chargers, my teammates, coaches, fans and the league who have always supported me and expected and gotten nothing but the highest level of integrity from me."

With Gates out for four games, the Chargers will turn to Ladarius Green as the team's top tight end, though it was expected for Green to continue getting more looks in the passing game. Green is entering the final season of his rookie contract. 

The Chargers expressed disappointment in Gates for his suspension but plans to stick with the longtime veteran through the suspension. 

"We are tremendously disappointed for our team and our fans as well as Antonio, but no more disappointed than Antonio is with himself," the Chargers stated. "Antonio is a member of the Chargers' family and we will continue to support him 100-percent. We have the utmost confidence he will stay in excellent shape for the season and be ready to go when he returns in Week 5. While it's unfortunate to not have him to start the season, we have complete confidence our tight end group will continue to play at a high level."  


Packers' Datone Jones out 1 game for substance-abuse violation
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7/2/2015) Packers defensive lineman Datone Jones will be suspended for one game for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy, according to NFL.com. 

Jones will miss Green Bay's season-opener against the Bears. In 2014, Jones totaled 22 tackles and 1 1/2 sacks in 13 games played. 


Cowboys LB Rolando McClain suspended four games for 2015
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7/2/2015) The Cowboys announced that linebacker Rolando McClain has been suspended for the first four games of the 2015 season due to violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. 

McClain hasn't been able to participate much in offseason workouts due to going under offseason knee surgery. McClain will be eligible to practice in training camp and is expected to be healthy by then. 

"I apologize to my family, the Cowboys organization, my teammates and Cowboys fans for my mistake. I will not break the rules of my profession in the future, and I regret my error," McClain said in a statement, via CSN Bay Area. "I look forward to returning to the field on week 5, when I hope to help my team beat the Patriots.

In 2014, McClain, who had previously retired twice before being traded from the Ravens to the Cowboys, totaled 81 tackles and a sack in 13 games played.


Jets DL Sheldon Richardson suspended four games
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(7/2/2015) Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson was suspended four games for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, the NFL announced Thursday.

“I apologize for letting down my family, teammates, this organization and the fans," Richardson said in a statement via the Jets, per Fox Sports. "However, words aren't enough. This is something that can only be addressed by how I handle myself from this point on. I don't want this to take away from what the team is trying to accomplish. While I won't be there at the start of the regular season, I will do whatever I can to support my teammates until I'm able to return to the field.”

Richardson, who was a 2013 first-round pick, is entering his third season in the NFL. He was the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2013 and was named to the Pro Bowl in 2014.

He has totaled 84 tackles and 11 1/2 sacks in 32 career games. He also has one safety.


Texans DT Brandon Ivory arrested on burglary charge
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(7/1/2015) Texans defensive tackle Brandon Ivory was arrested Wednesday morning in Alabama and charged with first-degree burglary, according to a Tuscaloosa Police Department report obtained by SportingNews.com.

Ivory and another man were allegedly involved in a home burglary when the two entered the residence by kicking open the back door and then demanding money from the residents. The two stole money and two Ipads from the residence. Ivory and the other suspect were arrested at their apartment shortly after the incident with the stolen money and property.


Embattled Brandon Spikes pleads guilty to leaving scene of crash
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(7/1/2015) Former Patriots and Bills linebacker Brandon Spikes has pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of a recent car crash and has received a fine and year of probation, per WBZ, which is further reporting that he has lost his license and will be forced to attend a driver's safety class.

Spikes has lost far more than his license. He has lost his livelihood, having been cut by New England for hitting another car and abandoning his vehicle on the highway. He later told the police that he had hit a deer.

No other teams have been rumored to be targeting Spikes for the coming season.


Terrelle Pryor ready to embrace new role with Browns
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(6/30/2015) Terrelle Pryor once declared that he could not play football if he could not play quarterback.

Reality has since set in.

Pryor has been cut twice and is now playing on a Cleveland Browns team desperate for a quarterback, but apparently not desperate enough to give him a shot. He is instead embracing what he is calling a "slash-player" role.

"I'm going to give (it) a chance," he told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "I just want to play football. I'm a playmaker, and I believe if I can touch the ball, I can go to the house, especially if I have space. This should definitely open up some opportunities."

Pryor has already taken the first step by contacting Steelers receiving stud Antonio Brown and making plans to work out with him and Randy Moss so they can teach him the nuances of the position.

He also figures there's another reason he's ahead of the game.

"The thing that helps me is that I played quarterback, and I know what the quarterback wants," Pryor said.


Lions new DT Haloti Ngata too busy to think about new contract
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(6/30/2015) Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata had his contract in mind in his last days with the Ravens, but he's too busy to think about it now that he's been traded to the Lions.

Ngata admitted that he suspected a deal could take place.

"The closer we got to free agency, I thought it could be a possibility," he told Monday Morning Quarterback. "It didn't surprise me ... since we weren't getting closer to any kind of contract stuff, I just figured there were a lot of things that could happen. I definitely started to have a trade in my mind as a possibility."

Ngata added that he's not thinking about a contract extension with Detroit.

"I'm just trying to get to know my teammates, get my playbook down, and my technique and terminology," he said.


Vikings RB Jerick McKinnon claims he'd pick himself in Fantasy
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(6/30/2015) Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon doesn't have a Fantasy football team, but if he did...

"If ... I could take myself, I would," he told the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Never mind that Adrian Peterson has returned to the backfield. Never mind that Peterson has traditionally not yielded many carries to teammates. In 2012, for instance, he totaled 348 of his team's 401 rushing attempts.

The Vikings, however, are expected to use a more balanced approach in 2015. And McKinnon, who flashed as a starter with Peterson sidelined last season, is feeling dandy after undergoing lower back surgery in December.

"Two hundred percent," he declared in regard to his health. "If there is a 300, I feel 300. It's all good."

McKinnon averaged 4.8 yards per carry a year ago, which buoyed his confidence.


 
 
 
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