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.
Cam Newton (at Bears) vs. Philip Rivers (at Browns)
Cullen (Newton #10, Rivers #18) - It's hard to describe Newton's second season as anything but a disappointment, but he still ranks ninth among quarterbacks in fantasy points per game, thanks to his rushing contributions. The Bears defence -- the league's best against the run (allowing 71.0 yards per game) -- may stifle the ground attack, but the expectation that the Panthers will be trailing, requiring Newton to pass, still presents an opportunity to be productive.
While Philip Rivers has a big name, his production has been mediocre this season, ranking 17th in the league in average passing yardage (248.7 per game). Certainly the Cleveland Browns are a more favourable matchup, but Cleveland's pass defence is better with CB Joe Haden in the lineup and Rivers has been held under 250 yards in three of his last four games, so it's not unreasonable to think it could happen again.
Boone (Rivers #11, Newton #15) - Last time we saw Rivers he was spontaneously combusting on Monday Night Football against the Broncos. Rivers gave away a game that the Chargers had a comfortable lead in, due to his six turnovers. Needless to say, the bye week couldn't have come at a better time for San Diego. Now that the Chargers' offence has regrouped, they get a chance to get back on track against a Browns' defence that has allowed the fifth most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. Norv Turner has suggested that the team might simplify the offence and I think that helps Rivers more than it hurts him. His strength is going to be screen passes to Ryan Mathews and finding Antonio Gates short, not throwing up jump balls down the field. I see a multiple-touchdown day for Rivers with a lot less turnovers.
Newton has been a disappointment this season, after being selected in the first or second round of most fantasy drafts. To make matters worse, he has to go up against the Bears' defence that is giving up the least fantasy points to opposing passers. Chicago has been able to bottle up offences and with the Panthers already struggling, this could be a long day for Newton. Ron Rivera has hinted that the team will transition to a more power run scheme the rest of the season, but that plays right into the Bears strength, since they are deadly against the run. I'd have no problem leaving Newton on my bench this week.
Ryan Mathews (at Browns) vs. Alfred Morris (at Steelers)
Cullen (Morris #3, Mathews #14) - Clearly I'm all in on Alfred Morris, which isn't easy for a Mike Shanahan running back, but Morris ranks fourth among running backs in fantasy points and second in rushing yards (one yard behind Arian Foster) and has run for 100 yards in three of the last four games so, even against the Steelers, Morris is a must-start.
It looks like I'm going into the Cleveland Browns' corner this week -- yikes!! -- picking against both Rivers and Mathews. While Mathews has re-established himself at the top of the Chargers' running back depth chart, but he's gained 100 yards from scrimmage, rushing and receiving combined, just once in four games this season and has one touchdown compared to Morris' five scores.
Boone (Mathews #5, Morris #10) - As mentioned above, the Chargers are going to simplify things on offence and that means a much bigger dose of Mathews. After benching him a few weeks ago, Turner has finally realized that this offence should run through their skilled back. Mathews can get it done both on the ground and through the air and he will be asked to do both against the Browns, who are a middle of the pack run defence at best. For owners who have waited patiently for Mathews, this will be the week you are finally rewarded.
Morris has been a beast and is a major reason why the Redskins' offence has been so effective this season (that RG3 guy isn't bad either). Morris has become a surprise RB1 in fantasy land, but this week he will have to deal with the Steelers. Even though their defence has been troubled by injuries, the Steelers are still in the top 10 against the run. On the road in Pittsburgh, Morris won't out-produce Mathews, but he is still a fine option on Sunday.
Miles Austin (vs. Giants) vs. Mike Wallace (vs. Redskins)
Cullen (Austin #12, Wallace #18) - Austin quietly ranks 12th among all wide receivers in fantasy points per game this season, thanks for four touchdowns and registering at least four catches for 50-plus yards in five of six games. Even in the season's first game against the Giants, Austin wasn't the primary receiver for the Cowboys and he still managed four catches for 73 yards and a touchdown, his fourth career touchdown against the G-Men (who also rank 31st, allowing 8.7 yards per catch), the most Austin has against any team. Dallas will need to score to keep pace with the Giants and Austin has been a reliable target for QB Tony Romo, making him a safe play this week.
Like Austin, Mike Wallace has four touchdowns on the season and does rank 15th among wide receivers in fantasy points per game as a result. Wallace even gets a good matchup against a Washington secondary that tends to be high-risk and has allowed a league-high 328 passing yards per game and 16 touchdowns, but Wallace had a bad case of drops last week that could steer the Steelers' passing game to Antonio Brown, Heath Miller and even Emmanuel Sanders.
Boone (Wallace #8, Austin #17) – Wallace and Austin each have one 100-yard game this season and have only broken the 75-yard mark twice all year. However,bBoth these players are going against secondaries that have been generous. The Giants have hope of correcting their issues, while the Redskins are destined to falter all year long. Wallace will capitalize this week, as he faces Washington on his home field. A threat to score at any moment, Wallace is almost a lock to get behind the Redskins' safeties and take one to the house. As we've seen, it only takes one play (80+ yard touchdown) and Wallace can vault into the top fantasy players any given week. Odds are in his favour for a big outing on Sunday.
Austin had a decent game the first time the Cowboys met the Giants (four receptions, 73 yards, 1 TD), but I believe the result will be much different for his team this time around. The Giants secondary suffered several injuries leading up to and during the season opener. Austin and the Cowboys took advantage of that and beat the Giants 24-17. Thing won't be so easy in this matchup, as New York will be out for revenge and won't be asking third stringers to cover Austin.