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.
Tony Romo (at Panthers) vs. Christian Ponder (vs. Cardinals)
Cullen (Ponder #12, Romo #20) - What is the world coming to, when I would put second-year Vikings QB Ponder ahead of an established 4,000-yard passer like Romo?
Well, it turns out that Romo hasn't been very productive for fantasy purposes this year. His average 281.8 yards per game, seven touchdowns and nine interceptions in five games is, at the very least, underwhelming. The matchup against Carolina isn't terrible, since the Panthers are below average in yardage allowed through the air, but they are getting quality play on one corner from Chris Gamble, assuming that Gamble will play this week (he hurt his shoulder in practice Wednesday). If Romo can't pick apart rookie Josh Norman on the other side, then it may not be a hugely productive passing day for Dallas.
I've quickly become a believer in Ponder, who has improved significantly in his second season, to the point that he's a middle-of-the-pack fantasy QB that has accounted for nine touchdowns (eight passing, one rushing) in six games. Arizona's pass defence has been very good, allowing opposing quarterbacks a rating of 70.7, second-lowest in the league. However, aside from a game against Tom Brady, in which Brady passed for 316 yards (on 46 attempts), the cast of quarterbacks that the Cardinals have faced -- Russell Wilson, Michael Vick, Ryan Tannehill, Sam Bradford and Ryan Fitzpatrick -- has been mediocre, so I think Ponder will be able to move the ball down the field, maybe passing for 250 yards and a couple of touchdowns.
Boone (Romo #7, Ponder #18) - Let's begin with Romo's interception total of nine, which is inflated by one bad outing against the Bears where he threw five picks on Monday Night Football. Outside of that game, Romo has one pick per contest, which is annoying for fantasy owners, but not the end of the world. The bigger issue for Romo is that he only has two games with multiple touchdowns so far this year. With Romo's receiving weapons, he needs to find the end zone more often and I believe he will do just that in Carolina this week.
The Panthers are in the bottom half of the league in pass defence and if Chris Gamble is out of the lineup they will have no answer for the duo of Dez Bryant and Miles Austin. Bryant has been more of the focus in recent weeks and he has responded with two of his best games as a pro. Don't forget about Jason Witten, who is coming on after a slow start to the year.
Ponder has been executing well in the Vikings' simplified game plans, but most of those stats have come against weak defences like Jacksonville, Indianapolis, Tennessee and Washington. The Cardinals are one of the better units in the league and won't make life easy on the Vikings' offence.
Mikel Leshoure (at Bears) vs. Doug Martin (vs. Saints)
Boone (Martin #10, Leshoure #20) - Much has been made about LeGarrette Blount's carries increasing, but most of those stats came in garbage time. Martin is still the most talented back in Tampa Bay and he will lead the team in touches the rest of the way by a large margin. It's not all about matchups, but the Saints have the NFL's second worst run defence, allowing 172.8 yards per game and seven touchdowns. If the Saints offence can open up a lead, that's no worry for Martin, since he is the team's best receiving back as well. One way or another, Martin will get his fantasy points this week.
Leshoure is firmly entrenched as the Lions' starter now that Jahvid Best is officially done for the season. The Lions have made a commitment to run the ball more and they will try to do that on Monday night. Unfortunately for Detroit, Leshoure will run directly into the Bears' defence that ranks number one against the run allowing a mere 65.8 yards per game.
Cullen (Leshoure #13, Martin #18) - Since rushing for 100 yards in his Week 3 debut, Leshoure hasn't exactly been a force in the Lions' running game, but he did put up 94 yards from scrimmage on 18 touches against the Eagles last week and, while I acknowledge that the Bears have been great against the run this season, physical runners can carve out yards against the toughest defences. Not unlike the Cardinals argument above, the Bears strong run defence has been compiled against Indianapolis, Green Bay, St. Louis, Dallas and Jacksonville. The Jaguars have an elite runner, but in a 41-3 loss, there wasn't much for Maurice Jones-Drew to contribute. Against the Lions, in a close game, Leshoure should have a decent chance to be productive this week.
Not unlike Leshoure, Martin has faltered after an impressive debut this season, but he did accumulate 131 yards from scrimmage on 15 touches in a blowout win over Kansas City last week, so there is obvious value to be had. Facing New Orleans this week, however, the Bucs could get pressed into the passing game to play catch-up. The Saints' defence is weak all the way around, so Martin could very well have a good day, but the Bucs might also rev up the passing game which would mean big days for QB Josh Freeman and wide receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams.
Marques Colston (at Buccaneers) vs. Larry Fitzgerald (at Vikings)
Cullen (Colston #5, Fitzgerald #18) - Sticking with that Saints-Bucs game, the Saints' passing game has been much better the last couple weeks, with Drew Brees passing for 816 yards in the last two games and Colston has been front and centre with 18 catches for 284 yards and four touchdowns. Facing Tampa Bay, one of six teams to allow more than 8.0 yards per pass attempt and missing suspended CB Aqib Talib, seems like an opportunity for Colston to continue his recent successful run.
I come across as a Fitzgerald skeptic, yet I have tons of faith in his ability. The problem is the players around him, most notably the quarterback, but also the Cardinals' porous offensive line. John Skelton steps in for Kevin Kolb under centre and, while Skelton's had some decent games, he was 2-for-10 in last week's relief appearance and he's hardly established enough to think that he's destined for success against a Minnesota defence that has been above average in both run and pass defence this season.
Boone (Fitzgerald #7, Colston #10) - For me it's simple, Fitzgerald is the better player and now that Skelton is back at the helm in Arizona, Fitzgerald will see even more targets. Last season, Skelton showed that he only has eyes for Fitzgerald as he targeted the top wideout early and often. Four of Fitzgerald's six 100-yard games and six of his eight touchdowns came in the second half of the season, once Skelton was playing. Kolb is out for six to eight weeks. If you haven't tried to trade for Fitzgerald yet, go do it now before it's too late.
Colston is coming off his best game of the entire season. His nine-catch, 131-yard, three-touchdown effort before the bye week won't be topped by him this year. Colston had 10 catches in the first three games and then 18 receptions in his last two contests. Don't be fooled into thinking this is normal for Colston. He is an injury-prone receiver in a high octane offence that will be a strong WR2, but isn't going to put up WR1 totals for a third straight week.