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Three and Out: Does Decker have the hot hand over Megatron?

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Scott Cullen and Justin Boone
11/9/2012 4:48:56 PM
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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.

Carson Palmer (at Ravens)  vs. Eli Manning (at Bengals)

Cullen (Palmer #10, E.Manning #13) - On its face, it seems preposterous to rank Carson Palmer ahead of Eli Manning, but Palmer has been a productive fantasy quarterback, ranking seventh in passing yards per game (294.4) and his 1.51 passing touchdowns per game ranks 10th. In years past, facing the Baltimore Ravens would limit a quarterback's appeal, but the Ravens' defence has struggled this season, ranking 22nd in passing yards allowed per game and, with the Ravens missing top cover corner Lardarius Webb and the Raiders down to their third and fourth-string running backs, it seems reasonable to expect Palmer to push for a 300-yard passing game.

Manning has hit a bit of a rough patch, being held under 200 yards passing in three of the last four games, and throwing a total of two touchdowns in those four contests. Hakeem Nicks is perpetually banged up, leaving Victor Cruz to carry a heavy load in the passing game, but that also allows the opposition (Cincinnati, this week) to send double coverage at Cruz because the Giants don't have other weapons to make teams pay, or if they do have them, they aren't being used efficiently.

Boone (E.Manning #9, Palmer #15) - Manning may be in a bit of a slump, but this is nothing new from the younger Manning brother. He has been known to struggle through a stretch every season, before eventually righting the ship. The Bengals' secondary is an older group that lacks elite speed and will be on their heels all day trying to keep up with Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks (he will be playing), as well as Domenik Hixon and Martellus Bennett. Cincinnati has given up the 13th most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season and I expect Manning to come back strong after a 125 yards and no touchdowns last week.

I can agree that Palmer is a better play this week than one would have thought earlier in the year thanks to the Ravens' injuries. However, let's not forget he is still Carson Palmer. That fact alone should keep him out of your top 10 any given week. Palmer's 414-yard, four-touchdown performance was impressive last Sunday, until you remember that it came against the Buccaneers. Oakland had to keep up with Doug Martin, who was running wild on them all afternoon and to do so they took to the air against a weak secondary. Baltimore may be depleted, but they are still going to put up more of a fight than the Bucs did a week ago.

C.J. Spiller (at Patriots) vs. Chris Johnson (at Dolphins)

Cullen (Spiller #11, Johnson #16) - Even in a timeshare backfield, C.J. Spiller has gained over 100 yards from scrimmage in each of the last three weeks and he may be the Bills' best chance to stay competitive with the New England Patriots. The Patriots are strong against the run, but Spiller's appeal rests in his ability to contribute with receiving yards as well, ranking seventh among running backs in receiving yards per game (29.5).

Chris Johnson has rebounded after a slow start, running for 526 yards in the last four weeks, but the Miami defence is a force against the run, holding opponents to 3.6 yards per carry and 83.9 yards per game. If the Titans are going to move the ball, passing figures to be their best bet, so Johnson may not go off for quite as much production as he has had in recent weeks.

Boone (Johnson #13, Spiller #17) - With 526 rushing yards and three touchdowns in his last four games, Johnson has begun to reward those who drafted him in the first round. Johnson isn't the same back he was during his 2,000 -yard campaign, but he has been able to break a few longer runs and has grinded out tough yards against the Steelers and Bears in recent weeks. The Dolphins have a solid run defence of their own, but Johnson is a one-man show running the ball in Tennessee and he will be centre stage on Sunday.

Spiller is clearly the more explosive ball carrier in the Bills' backfield, but Fred Jackson is a talented veteran that isn't going to be pushed to the sidelines easily. That means the timeshare will continue and Spiller will be dependent on big plays. In their first meeting with the Patriots, Spiller managed just 38 yards on 10 touches and had a costly fumble in the red zone. While he may be healthier this time around, I don't see Spiller taking advantage of New England like he did the Jets and Chiefs early in the year.

Eric Decker (at Panthers) vs. Calvin Johnson (at Vikings)

Cullen (Decker #8, Johnson #14) - Is it time for Calvin Johnson to get in the end zone? He ranks third among wide receivers with 95.9 yards per game, yet has scored only one touchdown, getting tackled inside the two yard line five times already this season. Maybe this week at Minnesota is the week for him to break through, but with his wonky knee and the lack of touchdowns thus far, I'm skeptical.

Decker is at the other end of the spectrum, averaging a respectable 72.9 receiving yards per game, but tied for third among wideouts with seven touchdowns, one behind A.J. Green and James Jones, scoring all of those touchdowns in the last five weeks. This is, essentially, a vote for Peyton Manning against the Panthers this week, figuring that Manning has a decent shot to extend his streak of five straight games with at least three touchdown passes and, if he does that, it stands to reason that Decker, who is a big red zone target at 6-foot-3, will be one of the beneficiaries.

Boone (Johnson #8, Decker #11) - Calvin Johnson must be feeling the effects of a big hit early this season, because he can't seem to figure out if he had a concussion or not. First he claimed he did, then he came out and said he misused the word concussion. Even after getting the stinger, he has still been effective. He was well on his way to a monster game last week, before the Lions turned to the ground game to finish off the Jaguars. Minnesota is without 6'2, 212-pound cornerback Chris Cook, who has played well against Megatron in the past. The Vikings have been giving up easy yards through the air in the last few games and Johnson will be a catalyst for Detroit's passing game on Sunday.

Decker is also a good option this week, landing just outside of my top 10. However, when he's up against the best receiver in the game, it's no contest. Decker has developed into Manning's favourite target with seven touchdowns in his last five games. He may even reach the end zone against the Panthers, but my belief is that Carolina is so generous with their run defence that Manning won't need to take to the air like he has against the Chargers, Saints and Bengals. Don't be scared to play Decker, just don't sit Johnson to do so.

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