Hot Start Score: Which Teams Have The Best Opening Schedules?

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Hot Start Score: Which Teams Have The Best Opening Schedules?

Everyone would love to get off to a 4-0 start in fantasy. An undefeated opening month would mean you have about a 75-80% chance of making your league’s playoffs, bringing peace of mind knowing you hopefully won’t be sweating too hard come mid-season.

Especially when it comes to quarterbacks, I want to have a green light opening stretch filled with either good matchups and/or potential high scoring affairs. Quarterback is the easiest position to predict in fantasy and, at least early in the year, it’s easy to predict which games will be high scoring. Thank you, lookahead lines!

So, using a blend of Scott Barrett’s schedule-adjusted Strength of Schedule metrics and implied teams totals based on lookahead over/unders, I came up with a metric I’m calling “Hot Start Score.” I am nothing if not extremely creative with titles.

Hot start score is a weighted blend of SoS metrics and implied totals (based on over/under) – weighted 40% towards SoS and 60% towards implied totals. I gave more emphasis to implied totals because having a good offense that can put up points against anyone is way more important than having a good matchup in fantasy.

This analysis is slanted towards quarterbacks but can be broadly used as a top-down approach to identify which offenses – and their pass catchers – are going to get rolling quick.

Note: Every game in Weeks 1-2 has a lookahead over/under already up for action at DraftKings, Caesars, FanDuel, etc. There are 5 games in Weeks 3-4 that have over/unders posted. So, for the games in Weeks 3-4 that didn’t have a lookahead over/under – I used a blend of opening Weeks 1-2 totals, lookahead spreads, and my best estimation for what the total will be.

Let’s get to it.

Hot start in September (Top-12 Scores)

TeamHot Start Score
PHI221.5
IND214.5
LAC211.0
KC198.8
JAX186.5
DET184.5
DAL184.0
NO173.4
BUF171.5
TB160.8
DEN160.1
LAR156.5
Philadelphia Eagles

(Weeks 1-4 – at DET / vs. MIN / at WAS / vs. JAX)

Jalen Hurts to the moon. You’re paying a premium with Hurts at ADP (62 overall), but the Eagles offense is set up better than any team to get out of the gates hot. Their adjusted strength of schedule (+1.83) is the easiest opening stretch while their 24.8 average implied total ranks 10th-best.

Indianapolis Colts

(at HOU / at JAX / vs. KC / vs. TEN)

I’m all over Matt Ryan as a massive upgrade for the Colts, and even though they’re on the road to start the year, this is a dream start for fantasy between getting the Texans and Jaguars in Weeks 1-2 and a high-scoring shootout in Week 3 vs. the Chiefs. Michael Pittman is set up so well this year.

Los Angeles Chargers

(vs. LV / at KC / vs. JAX / at HOU)

Justin Herbert and Jalen Hurts are my top-2 quarterback targets in managed leagues due in large part to their opening slates and the ADP pocket they go in. WR and RB starts to dry up in Rounds 4-6, making it much easier to swallow taking a QB early.

The markets are all over the Chargers. They have the highest implied scoring average (27.5) over the Chiefs and Bills (27.1) in the opening month and boast an amazing Hot Start Score due in part to an easy opening schedule (+1.15 adjusted SoS; fifth-easiest).

Kansas City Chiefs

(at ARI / vs. LAC / at IND / at TB)

The Chiefs are going to play in four-straight games with an over/under of 50+ to start the season. We’re going to find out quickly just how much Patrick Mahomes misses Tyreek Hill.

Jacksonville Jaguars

(at WAS / vs. IND / at LAC / at PHI)

At the very least, Trevor Lawrence’s bounceback season will get off to an easy start. By adjusted SoS, the Jaguars have the second-easiest opening slate (+1.70) trailing only the Eagles. The Jags’ Hot Start makes drafting Travis Etienne in Rounds 4-5 easier to swallow, but I’m not going out of my way to take Lawrence outside of best-ball and SuperFlex leagues.

Dallas Cowboys

(vs. TB / vs. CIN / at NYG / vs. WAS)

The Cowboys start the year with 3-of-4 games in Jerry’s World with arguably the two best tilts on the fantasy slate in Weeks 1-2. Buccaneers-Cowboys has a total of 52 (second-highest over/under of Week 1) while Bengals-Cowboys has a total of 50.5 (fourth-highest over/under of Week 2).

In Dak Prescott’s career, the Cowboys average a whopping 29.5 points per game at home.

This is as good of an opening start that we could ask for given the uncertainty of the Cowboys receiver room with Amari Cooper gone and James Washington injured.

Denver Broncos

(at SEA / vs. HOU / vs. SF / at LV)

Russell Wilson starts off his Bronco career with a Revenge Game (!!) in Seattle on Monday Night Football followed by a layup home matchup with the Texans and then two likely high-scoring affairs with the 49ers and Raiders. This is about as underrated of an opening schedule as it gets.

The middle tier (13-21 Scores)

TeamHot Start Score
CLE154.0
LV153.3
NE152.0
MIN146.0
WSH138.5
ARI135.5
CHI134.5
SEA132.5
Las Vegas Raiders

(at LAC / vs. ARI / at TEN / vs. DEN)

The NFL schedule-makers did the Raiders no favors with a brutal opening slate in Weeks 1-4 capped off with a date to Arrowhead against the Chiefs in Week 5. Then, they have their bye in Week 6. At the very least, all five of the Raiders opening games are going to be high-scoring affairs. That’s what we want for fantasy!

Arizona Cardinals

(vs. KC / at LV / vs. LAR / at CAR)

It’s definitely not an easy opening slate against three playoff contenders, but there will be a ton of points scored in the Cardinals first 3 games. Chiefs-Cardinals (53.5 over/under) is the largest total on the board in Week 1, Cardinals-Raiders (51 O/U) is tied for the second-largest total of Week 2, and Rams-Cardinals will have a total well into the 50’s as well.

Cold start in September (Bottom-12 Scores)

TeamHot Start Score
CIN119.3
GB117.0
NYJ113.0
HOU107.5
NYG105.0
SF100.9
TEN91.5
PIT72.5
MIA72.4
CAR70.0
BAL66.5
ATL48.5
Atlanta Falcons

(vs. NO / at LAR / at SEA / vs. CLE)

The Falcons have the second-hardest passing opening schedule in football (-1.50 adjusted SoS) and the markets couldn’t be any lower on this offense as a whole. Atlanta’s implied total (17.75 points) in Week 1 is lowest on the slate while their Week 2 total (17.25 points) is second-lowest. I wish you luck chasing Kyle Pitts’ ceiling.

Baltimore Ravens

(at NYJ / vs. MIA / at NE / vs. BUF)

The Ravens open up with the entire AFC East. Matchups don’t matter much to Lamar Jackson when he’s at his best, but this is far from a mouth-watering opening stretch.

Miami Dolphins

(vs. NE / at BAL / vs. BUF / at CIN)

The AFC is a gauntlet this year and the Dolphins arguably get the worst of it with a brutal opening month. Tua Tagovailoa is off my radar in managed leagues where you start 1 QB.

Graham Barfield blends data and film together to create some of the most unique content in the fantasy football industry. Barfield is FantasyPoints’ Director of Analytics and formerly worked for the NFL Network, Fantasy Guru, and Rotoworld.

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