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Panthers, Packers should see softer defenses early

Panthers and Packers. Those are two teams I believe will produce above expectations, and I notice that both have favorable schedules early. Both look well positioned to start quickly.

If we take the points allowed by defenses last year and plug those numbers in the 2023 schedule, only three teams project to open against six opponents allowing an average of over 23 points per week. The Bucs are in this group, but no amount of scheduling is going to save their offense. Green Bay and Carolina, however, have offenses with some potential to ignite.

Bryce Young won’t be a big factor as a runner. At his size, he has to make staying away from contact a priority, and it’s not part of his game. That may prevent him from ever putting up elite numbers. But he looks like he might be another Cousins-Carr type quarterback in short order – a smarter quarterback who can run an offense, effectively distributing the ball. And he’s got an acceptable cast of talent around him. So give him an easy schedule, and good things might happen. I’m expecting that at the end of the year, we’ll look back and agree Young was worthy of being a second quarterback in a 12-team league – perhaps we set the over-under at about 20th at his position.

With Jordan Love (pictured), he’s probably not as talented but has spent the last three years watching Aaron Rodgers and practicing. He should be very comfortable in Green Bay’s offense, and now it’s time to see if he can do it. He looked good in that brief appearance at Philadelphia late last year, and he’s also got a decent-enough cast around him. Helped along by an easy schedule, I think that gives him a good chance of launching successfully (I have picked only one team so far, and I chose Love to be my backup behind Justin Herbert in a best-ball league).

The Packers open on the road against the Bears and Falcons, before returning home for a pair against the Saints and Lions. They’re next two are at Las Vegas and Denver. If we want to push further into the season, Games 7 and 8 are at Lambeau against the Vikings and Rams, making for a very manageable first half of the season.

The Panthers also start with four of their first six on the road: Falcons, Seahawks, Lions, Dolphins. They’ve got the Saints and Vikings (Adam Thielen revenge game!) in Weeks 2 and 4. And their schedule continues to be favorable after they return from their Week 7 bye, with the Texans and Colts at home, followed a game at Chicago.

The Cardinals, Jets, Browns and Raiders, on the other hand, project to face the toughest defenses early.

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE (G 1-6)
TeamPoints
Arizona20.2
NY Jets20.2
Cleveland20.3
Las Vegas20.7
Miami21.0
Dallas21.0
New England21.2
Houston21.3
NY Giants21.3
Philadelphia21.3
Indianapolis21.4
Tennessee21.5
Pittsburgh21.5
Buffalo21.5
Chicago21.8
New Orleans21.9
LA Rams22.0
Detroit22.1
San Francisco22.3
Baltimore22.3
Atlanta22.4
Cincinnati22.4
Minnesota22.5
Washington22.6
Denver22.6
LA Chargers22.7
Jacksonville22.9
Kansas City23.0
Seattle23.0
Carolina23.4
Tampa Bay23.5
Green Bay23.5

—Ian Allan

Fantasy Index