Figuring out which teams and players are positioned to start fast can help you plan in-season moves in fantasy football and NFL betting. That’s why we’re going to analyze several teams and players that are well set up for early success based on their opening schedules.
Teams with Easy Early Season Schedules
Dallas Cowboys: at NYG (SNF), vs. NYJ, at Arz, vs. NE
The Dallas Cowboys start the season against three opponents that we have ranked at least two tiers below Dallas. We have the New York Jets and Cowboys ranked in the same tier, making that contest more of a coin flip. The Cowboys are well-positioned to get off to a 3-1 or better start.
Denver Broncos: vs. LV, vs. Wash, at Mia, at Chi
We have the Miami Dolphins ranked two tiers above the Denver Broncos, making that road game a likely loss. We have the Chicago Bears ranked a tier below the Broncos, while the Las Vegas Raiders and Washington Commanders are two full tiers below Denver. A 2-2 start is possible for Denver, but a 3-1 record is on the table.
Jacksonville Jaguars: at Ind, vs. KC, vs. Hou, vs. Atl
The Jacksonville Jaguars aren’t drawing dead at knocking off the Kansas City Chiefs, especially with the Florida heat in September assisting the hometown Jaguars. Anything can happen in a divisional matchup, but we have the Jaguars ranked five tiers higher than the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans. We have Jacksonville ranked three tiers higher than the Atlanta Falcons. We’re expecting a 3-1 start for Jacksonville.
New Orleans Saints: vs. Ten, at Car (MNF), at GB, vs. TB
The New Orleans Saints have one of the easiest schedules in the league. We expect New Orleans’ first four opponents to finish below .500 this season. We don’t exactly view the 2023 Saints as a beacon of reliability themselves, but they are well-positioned to start 3-1 or better.
Philadelphia Eagles: at NE, vs. Min (TNF), at TB (MNF), vs. Wash
We have the Philadelphia Eagles at least four tiers higher than any of their first four opponents. Opening day against Bill Belichick’s defense is never a gimme, nor is playing the Minnesota Vikings on a short week. Ultimately, the Eagles are poised to start with a 4-0 record.
San Francisco 49ers: at Pit, at LAR, vs. NYG (TNF), vs. Arz
We have the San Francisco 49ers at least two tiers above all four of these opponents. The Pittsburgh Steelers aren’t an automatic out, and neither is the New York Giants on a short week. Neither is Matthew Stafford’s Los Angeles Rams for a 49ers team with possibly the NFL’s least-certain quarterback situation. That said, San Francisco will have to play down to its competition to finish worse than 3-1, and a 4-0 start is on the table for one of the NFC’s primary contenders.
Players with Easy Early Season Schedules
Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs Pass Catchers
Week 1 (vs. Detroit Lions): No team allowed more fantasy points (22.5 per game) to opposing passers last year than the Detroit Lions. Detroit also allowed the most fantasy points per game to the slot in 2022 (23.6 PPR fantasy points per game). While the Lions improved their defense this offseason, it still projects to be middle of the pack, if not below average, once again.
Week 2 (at Jacksonville Jaguars): The Jaguars allowed the ninth most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks last year (18.3). Despite facing six weaker passing offenses within their division, the Jaguars still allowed the fifth most passing yards per game (238) and the fourth most yards per game (62) to tight ends.
Week 3 (vs. Chicago Bears): The Bears allowed quarterbacks to average 8.0 yards per attempt against them, the highest mark in 2022. While the Bears’ pass rush should be improved in 2023, the only addition to their secondary was the athletic, but not particularly instinctual, cornerback Tyrique Stevenson in Round 2.
Week 4 (at New York Jets): The Jets have an elite secondary. This is the only hard matchup for the Chiefs’ offense early in the season.
Week 5 (at Minnesota Vikings): Only the Tennessee Titans allowed more passing yards per game last year than the Vikings (265 yards per game). While the Vikings’ pass rush should improve with the addition of edge rusher Marcus Davenport, their secondary is still among the NFL’s worst.
Last season, the Vikings allowed the fifth most fantasy points to quarterbacks (19.1) and the second most PPR fantasy points per game (39.6) to receivers. The Vikings also allowed the ninth most receiving yards to running backs, which is good news for Jerick McKinnon and Isiah Pacheco.
Justin Herbert, Chargers Pass Catchers
Week 1 (vs. Miami): Miami traded for Jalen Ramsey this offseason and should have one of the NFL’s best secondaries. Fortunately for the Los Angeles Chargers, their next three opponents provide ample opportunity for fantasy points.
Week 2 (at Tennessee): The Titans surrendered the most passing yards per game in the NFL last season and didn’t add proven reinforcements to replenish their pass defense. All six of their 2023 NFL Draft picks were offensive players.
Week 3 (at Minnesota): The Vikings allowed the second-most passing yards per game last year, behind only the Titans. The Vikings gave up the fifth most fantasy points per game to outside receivers and the second most fantasy points per game to the slot.
Week 4 (vs. Las Vegas): The Raiders allowed the eighth-highest yards per pass attempt to opposing passers in 2022 (7.3 yards). Seven quarterbacks threw for at least 275 yards against Las Vegas last season. While the Raiders improved their pass rush by taking edge Tyree Wilson at Pick 7, no cornerbacks or safeties were selected until Round 4. Herbert threw for more than 600 total yards against the Raiders last season without Keenan Allen for one game and Mike Williams for the other.
Jordan Love, Packers Pass Catchers
Week 1 (at Chicago Bears): The Bears allowed an NFL-high 8.0 yards per pass attempt, and the secondary only added Stevenson in the draft. Expect a strong performance from Jordan Love and the Green Bay Packers.
Week 2 (at Atlanta Falcons): Despite facing Jacoby Brissett, PJ Walker (twice), Justin Fields, Taylor Heinicke, Kenny Pickett, Andy Dalton, Jameis Winston, Tyler Huntley, David Blough and a trio of Buccaneers quarterbacks in Week 18, the Falcons still allowed the eighth most passing yards in the NFL last season. Offseason signings hint at a much improved secondary for 2023, but this team likely experiences growing pains in coverage early. Plus, this is a dome game.
Week 3 (vs. New Orleans Saints): Despite an easy schedule last season, the Saints still allowed the 12th most fantasy points to receivers lined up on the outside in 2022. A big game could be incoming for the Love-Christian Watson connection.
Week 4 (vs. Detroit Lions): Leading the NFL in quarterback fantasy points allowed per game (22.5), the Lions made significant changes to their defense, but early on in the season, they should have enough coverage lapses for the Packers to take advantage of.
Week 5 (at Las Vegas Raiders): The Raiders allowed the fourth most passing yards per game (242) last year and quite possibly will have the NFL’s worst cornerback room. While this is an away game, dome conditions should still be favorable for passing stats.
Geno Smith, Seahawks Pass Catchers
Week 1 (vs. Los Angeles Rams): The Rams allowed the sixth-highest yards per pass attempt last year and traded away Ramsey in the offseason. There’s a strong chance the Rams have the worst overall pass defense in 2023. The Rams were the second-worst team at defending outside receivers last year, and DK Metcalf should have a solid fantasy start to the season.
Week 2 (at Detroit Lions): The Lions allowed the most fantasy points to the slot last year, so Tyler Lockett and Jaxon Smith-Njigba should take turns exploiting this defense in Week 2. Last year, Geno Smith threw for 320 yards and two passing touchdowns against this unit while also chipping in 49 rushing yards and a score on the ground.
Week 3 (vs. Carolina Panthers): The Carolina Panthers allowed the 11th most passing yards per game to opponents, even with one of the softest quarterback schedules. While CB Jaycee Horn is rock solid, Donte Jackson ruptured his Achilles in November 2022, so his status for 2023 is in question.
Week 4 (at New York Giants): The Giants likely have a league-average secondary in 2023. New York selected CB Deonte Banks in Round 1, and this is still early enough in the season that he should still experience growing pains. Slot corner Darnay Holmes has been a liability, which portends big things for Lockett and Smith-Njigba.
49ers Quarterback, Pass Catchers
Week 1 (at Pittsburgh Steelers): San Francisco’s Week 1 starting quarterback is still unknown. The decision hinges on Brock Purdy’s health. The Steelers should have one of the NFL’s better secondaries late in the season, but the 49ers will likely target rookie CB Joey Porter Jr. a lot in Week 1.
Week 2 (at Los Angeles Rams): Our pick for NFL’s worst 2023 secondary will have its hands full. Jimmy Garoppolo carved this team up at 9.1 yards per attempt across two games last season. At least two of Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle should be fantasy relevant in this matchup.
Week 3 (vs. New York Giants): Banks likely will be the focal point of attack for the 49ers, though the Giants project to have a roughly league-average secondary.
Week 4 (vs. Arizona Cardinals): The Arizona Cardinals allowed the second most points to opposing offenses in 2022 and are the NFL’s worst overall team heading into 2023. Outside of safety Budda Baker, the rest of the pass defense is non-starting caliber players. The 49ers put up seven passing touchdowns across their two contests last year — expect more of the same in Week 4.