Each week, TSN.ca's NFL Editor Justin Boone and Fantasy Editor Scott Cullen will compare fantasy football rankings and provide justification for some of the more notable differences in their opinions.
Michael Vick (Eagles) vs. Matthew Stafford (Lions)
Cullen (Vick, #6, Stafford #12) - Anything involving Michael Vick comes with an element of risk and recommending a quarterback that has thrown six interceptions in two games may be a stretch, but I'm also looking at a guy who has thrown for 688 yards in two games, including 371 (on 32 pass attempts) against Baltimore last week. If he can throw for 300 against Baltimore, he should be able to at least approach that threshold at Arizona.
I was down on Matthew Stafford last week going into San Francisco, but that was primarily a function of going up against San Francisco's defence. However, after seeing a few too many passes sail out of the reach of Lions receivers, I remain skeptical. Maybe this week, visiting a much weaker Tennessee team, is a prime opportunity for Stafford to put up big numbers, since the Titans can't seem to do anything right thus far (outscored 72-23 in two games), but there's something about the Lions that seems out of sync early in the season.
Boone (Stafford #3, Vick #10) - Stafford may be off to a slower start than he had last season, but that will change in Week 3. The Lions' offence goes up against a Titans team that ranks 20th in passing yards allowed and has given up five passing touchdowns through two games. Against Tennessee, Calvin Johnson will have a great opportunity to visit the end zone for the first time this season and spark plug Titus Young should finally establish himself as the second option in the Lions' passing attack. The Titans lack a consistent pass rush and as we saw on Thursday night with the Panthers and Giants, if you can't get pressure on a quarterback, he will carve up your secondary. With Mikel Leshoure returning from suspension and adding a new dimension to the offence, Stafford will thrive on the road in Tennessee.
Vick has put decent fantasy numbers this year, but his habit of turning the ball over will come back to haunt him against the Cardinals. Arizona's defence may be the most underrated unit in the NFL and the Eagles will find out why on Sunday. Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett and Patrick Peterson will make it their mission to frustrate Vick into making mistakes. In Week 10 last season, the Cardinals limited Vick to 128 passing yards and no touchdowns, while intercepting him twice. With Jeremy Maclin expected to miss this game, Peterson will lock in on shutting down Vick's other top receiver DeSean Jackson. The result could be a long afternoon for the Eagles' quarterback.
Doug Martin (Buccaneers) vs. Willis McGahee (Broncos)
Cullen (McGahee #12, Martin #18) - Admittedly, the Houston Texans have a terrific defence, so there is a leap of faith required to rank McGahee in the top dozen. However, he's also an established number one back, ranking 11th in the league in touches through two weeks and even if last week's two fourth-quarter touchdowns aren't likely to be duplicated, McGahee rushed for 113 yards at Atlanta too, even though the Broncos were trailing for virtually the entire game.
Martin gets a lot of touches in his own right -- fifth in the league with 48 -- but after 66 yards on 20 carries at the Giants last week, I'm exercising a little caution. The Cowboys surrendered 122 yards on the ground to Marshawn Lynch last week, so there is reason to suspect that their run defence could be an issue, but I expect Dallas' defence to be significantly better in their home opener than what they showed last week at Seattle.
Boone (Martin #9, McGahee #25) - Martin captured the starting job and has turned the Tampa Bay backfield into a one-man show. The rookie is 13th in the league in rushing and his 48 touches rank fifth overall in the NFL heading into Week 3. Martin meets the Cowboys, who allowed Marshawn Lynch to run for 122 yards and a touchdown, controlling the pace and sending Dallas to a loss a week ago. Greg Schiano will follow the same blueprint, leaning on his young tailback in hopes of shortening the game and keeping the Cowboys' offence off the field. If Tampa falls behind early, Martin is also a good receiver and will continue to get his touches as the focal point of the offence.
McGahee is still going strong as a member of the Broncos, but this week he will run up against one of the best defences in the AFC. The Houston Texans haven't allowed a running back to break 70 yards this season and Sunday will be no different. While it may be a small sample size, it's a continuation of the type of dominating defence the Texans began playing last year. McGahee will get his carries, however he won't find the big running lanes that were there against the Falcons.
Andre Johnson (Texans) vs. Dwayne Bowe (Chiefs)
Cullen (Bowe #13, Johnson #20) - I acknowledge that Dwayne Bowe's two touchdowns at Buffalo last week were total garbage time efforts, after the Bills had built a 35-3 lead, but Bowe remains a preferred target for quarterback Matt Cassel, leading the Chiefs with 21 targets through the first two games. That Bowe gets matched up against a Saints secondary that has been torched in back-to-back weeks, allowing a league-worst 12.5 yards per passing attempt, is reason to hope for another score.
The Texans have played such a conservative offence through their first two games, focusing on runs and short passes, that they've left Andre Johnson as an afterthought. He's been targeted 14 times, catching 11 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown, which is fine, but not at his peak level either. Perhaps the matchup against Denver will force the Texans' offence to open up and Johnson will play a bigger role, but even if that's the game plan, the Broncos' secondary shouldn't be discounted entirely either. With Champ Bailey and Tracy Porter on the corners, the Broncos have allowed 6.1 yards per pass attempt, fifth-best in the league, so while I would still play Johnson, he's no better than a number two fantasy receiver this week.
Boone (Johnson #5, Bowe #20) - The Texans have moved towards a more run-heavy approach with Arian Foster and Ben Tate carrying the load. When it works to perfection, there will be games like last week's win over Jacksonville that was never in doubt. Unfortunately for an elite receiver like Johnson, that means less targets as the offence is playing with a lead and focuses on killing the clock. Make no mistake; last week will be Johnson's lowest fantasy output of 2012. Johnson came out of the gates strong with eight catches, 119 yards and touchdown over Miami and showed that he is still among the game's best. The Broncos will present more of a challenge than the Jags, so Johnson will be more involved this week.
Bowe had a monster game against Buffalo, but all his points came in garbage time. The Chiefs have fallen behind twice and their offence has looked out of sorts in the process. When teams drop back into prevent coverage to protect their lead, Matt Cassel capitalizes on the relaxed defenders. In Week 1, that led to three catches and 53 yards for Bowe. In Week 2, he caught eight balls for 102 yards and two touchdowns. This week, the Saints have a good chance of pulling away early and if they do, but gambling on garbage time production is dangerous. I have Bowe ranked as a low-end WR2, but he is not going to out score Johnson on a weekly basis.