The story so far
A figure often cited in the NFL is a team's strength of schedule, referring to the winning percentage of the team's you are set to face in a given season. This is of course useless for the Premier League as all team face other 19 twice. However, in fantasy league, playing the fixture list is vital and if managed correctly can be a real boost to a team and can even give you 12 or 13 players on your side.
To get a very crude strength of schedule (SOS) for the premier league I attach a value (1,2 or 3) to each team's attack and defense whilst at home and on the road, then average these for a team's fixture list to date. So if you've played two 3-rated teams and two 1-rated teams, your SOS would be 2.00 (8/4). Comparing this with other teams gives an indication on how well your players have really done in the games they've played.
For attackers up to the end of week 6, West Ham and Everton have the lowest SOS (1.33), followed by Fulham (1.40), Chelsea (1.5) and Arsenal (1.5). This suggests that the early success of Carlton Cole and Matt Etherington may be short lived, if the fixtures turn against them in the future weeks. United (2.20) have the highest SOS so far, followed by Spurs (2.17) and a host of team at 2.00. This suggests that the modern returns of Berbatov, Rooney and Tevez could be due to turn based on the return of Ronaldo and an easier set of fixtures.
For defenders to the end of week 6, Stoke and WBA (2.33) have the highest SOS, followed by Chelsea and City (2.17). Boro (1.33) have had the easiest run, followed by Arsenal (1.5) and Liverpool (1.67). This may suggest it is time to divest your Arsenal holdings whilst their stock is still riding high.
When evaluating future performance I tend to look at the next 8 weeks, as anything beyond this is too clouded by injury, suspension, loss of form etc. Based on this we see that the following teams look like good plays over the coming weeks:
Arsenal, Chelsea, Boro, and United all have SOS of 1.5 over the next 8 weeks. This is certainly a mouth watering prospect, though isn't really telling us anything we didn't know about getting Arsenal, Chelsea and United players in. Boro are a more intriguing option with decent options in Downing (7.2), Mido (6.5) and Alves (7.5). Downing has been a massive disappointment so far failing to score or notch an assist and missing two penalties to boot. However, home games against Bolton and West Ham and trips to Wigan and Blackburn all present good opportunities to break his duck. Of Alves and Mido I rate Alves higher and I think he could notch two or three goals over this run of fixtures. However at 7.5 he isn't incredibly cheap and better options may be available.
After the first four come Bolton, Newcastle and Sunderland (1.625) who each provide one or two options who won't be widely held. One of my favourite players, Kevin Davies, has quietly notched 3 goals this term and had a PPMS of 0.667. With upcoming games at home to Blackburn and Everton and away at Hull and West Ham, Davies could be good for another couple in the next few weeks.
Fulham (1.500) have the best upcoming SOS which makes the likes of Schwarzer (4.0) and Paintsil (4.1) attractive options. Fulham have conceded 6 in 5 so far notching one clean sheet against Arsenal in week 2. They face Sunderland, Wigan, Newcastle and Spurs at Craven Cottage and their only 3-rated fixture is Liverpool away in 8 weeks time. Next up are Everton (1.625) followed by Chelsea, United and Portsmouth (1.750). Everton do not look good right now and with their defenders being pretty costly I would stay away for at least a few more weeks. United and Chelsea are always good bets, though a couple of bargains can still be had. Van der Sar (5.9) is a top line keeper whose personal troubles have cause his value to fall. However, you are buying into a defensive unit not an individual keeper so at 0.3 below Cech he represents good value. The other bargain in Alex (5.6) who is filling in for the injured Carvalho, due to be out for a month. Chelsea have conceded one in two when Alex has been playing, and he even notched a bonus point in the 1-1 draw with United. With the added bonus of the odd free kick Alex is one of the best buys right now.
When Carvalho returns you could replace Alex with a Portsmouth player, with Traore (4.5) being the best pick right now. Traore is owned by just 1.7% of players right now which is frankly amazing. Portsmouth have a decent defense (excluding two games against Chelsea and City) and Traore is playing left wing. Pompey have notched two clean sheets since Traore has been in the side, and he added an assist last week to earn a spot in the dream team. To gain some idea of what value Traore represents, just two midfielders (Ashbee and Marney) have played more minutes than him within his price bracket. So as a midfielder he is playing as many minutes on a better team. Add in the fact that he is classed as a defender with the previously discussed SOS and you get the best buy in fantasy football right now.