How to take advantage of the early-season NFL schedule in fantasy football

What can you tell about the potential early-season upside of Amari Cooper by examining the Dallas Cowboys' schedule? Shane Roper-USA TODAY Sports

How does one properly gauge the value of schedules in fantasy football? There is obviously value to be found, but the litany of injury and personnel changes that can happen by the latter weeks of a fantasy campaign can make it seem like a fool's errand to chase schedule strength disparities. So what can fantasy managers do to resolve this?

That thought went through my mind after Week 4 last season when my colleague Mike Sando shared a discussion he had with an NFL scout regarding the subpar level of defensive play in the league. The scout said this was due to teams not giving players much on-field time during the preseason, and the result is that the first few weeks of the regular season end up serving as game training that used to occur prior to Week 1.

Since so many players seemed to start the season off at a tremendous fantasy production clip last year, it led to a question: Is there value to be found in using early-season schedule strength as a tiebreaker in selecting fantasy football picks?

Let's take a look at what the metrics and tape reviews have to say about this.

First, let's start with some basic questions. Is the gut instinct take on this correct? Are more points being scored earlier in the season than later in the season? And if that is the case, is it due to subpar defensive play?