Each week, TSN.ca's NFL Editor Justin Boone and Fantasy Editor Scott Cullen compare fantasy football rankings and provide justification for some of the more notable differences in their opinions.
Andy Dalton (at Chiefs) vs. Cam Newton (vs. Buccaneers)
Cullen (Dalton #10, Newton #12) - Maybe Andy Dalton doesn't duplicate last week's career-high four touchdown performance, but the Bengals go up against the Chiefs, who have allowed a passing touchdown every 13.44 attempts, easily the worst mark in the league. Additionally, Dalton is averaging 258.8 passing yards per game and the Chiefs are surrendering 8.4 yards per pass attempt, second-worst in the league, so there should be an opportunity for the Bengals to move the chains with the passing game.
As always, there is probably more upside with Cam Newton and he matches up against a Bucs defence that has allowed a league-worst 321 passing yards per game. However, Newton has thrown only eight touchdown passes (rushing for four more), compared to Dalton's 18, so I'm inclined to like Dalton's chances to put up multiple touchdowns in addition to his typically better passing yardage.
Boone (Newton #10, Dalton #15) - At the beginning of this year, it would have been insane to suggest that Newton and Dalton could be compared in a given week, regardless of the matchups. However, Newton hasn't lived up to his expectations this season and here we are. Thankfully for Newton, the Panthers host the Buccaneers and their ridiculously accommodating pass defence. Tampa Bay has allowed the most passing yards against in the entire NFL and Newton will happily capitalize on that fact this Sunday.
Dalton has had some impressive outings this season, taking advantage of weaker defences. The Chiefs aren't exactly a shutdown defence, but they are more talented than their record suggests. With Eric Berry and Brandon Flowers in the secondary, Derrick Johnson at linebacker and Tamba Hali and Justin Houston creating pressure, the Chiefs have talent at each level. In their first game under defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs, Kansas City played more sound and I expect that to continue this week at home against the Bengals. The Chiefs will do their best to rely on the run and shorten this game, leading to a lower scoring affair and less opportunities for Dalton to find the end zone.
Steven Jackson (vs. Jets) vs. Mikel Leshoure (vs. Packers)
Cullen (Leshoure #14, Jackson #18) - Admittedly, the Lions' running game has been meager this season and Leshoure hasn't been getting a lot of touches (16.0 per game since 30 in his first game of the season), but if the Lions are going to beat the Green Bay Packers, keeping the ball away from Aaron Rodgers isn't a bad way to go about it, which means allowing Leshoure to play a more prominent role this week.
If Steven Jackson can run for 100 yards against San Francisco, as he did last week, then he must be a good play against the New York Jets, who rank 30th in the league with 145.0 rushing yards allowed per game. But last week was Jackson's first 100-yard game of the season and while Leshoure has gained more than 60 yards from scrimmage in five of seven games, Jackson has crossed that threshold five times in nine games, meaning greater risk that Jackson's production will disappoint.
Boone (Jackson #14, Leshoure #19) - Jackson dialed up a vintage performance against one of the toughest run defences in the league last week. The veteran rattled off 127 yards on 31 touches and found the end zone once. While Daryl Richardson has stolid carries this season, it appears head coach Jeff Fisher may be willing to lean on his lead back more down the stretch. The Jets have given up the eighth most fantasy points to running backs this season and the Rams favorite method of attack is the run. All signs point to Jackson having a nice day at home against New York.
While Leshoure has given the Lions a legitimate rushing threat, he has faded into the background in games where the team is trailing. When Detroit gets into comeback mode, they turn to Jacque Bell, who is a better pass catcher than Leshoure. With Green Bay coming to town, odds are in favor of a shootout with the Packers and that means more of Bell and less of Leshoure.
Larry Fitzgerald (at Falcons) vs. Miles Austin (vs. Browns)
Cullen (Fitzgerald #14, Austin #19) - What is the world coming to when I'm going against Miles Austin? I'm generally skeptical of Fitzgerald, mostly because of the Cardinals' quarterback play, but also because Andre Roberts has been just as productive for fantasy owners. While visiting Atlanta appears to be a matchup that will be too much for the Cardinals to handle, they're also likely to throw the ball a lot as they try to keep pace with the Falcons, so that offers some hope for Fitzgerald to rack up yardage, even if it comes in a losing effort.
As much as I have favoured Austin at times this year, going against Cleveland presents a challenging (if underrated) matchup, particularly against corners Sheldon Brown and Joe Haden (less so if Haden's injury in practice keeps him out of Sunday's game), who have helped the Browns allow a 6.9 yards per pass attempt, which is better than the league average. Dallas also isn't afraid to spread the ball around, more so than Arizona because they have the personnel to handle it, which also makes Fitzgerald more appealing this week.
Boone (Austin #14, Fitzgerald #18) - Joe Haden is a game-time decision for Cleveland. Let me repeat that, Joe Haden is a game-time decision for the Browns. Without their best defensive player and top cover man, the Browns defence becomes vulnerable to the pass. Upgrade Tony Romo, Dez Bryant and especially Austin, who has quietly put together a solid fantasy season. Outside of two bad games against Baltimore and Philadelphia, Austin has played extremely well posting double digit fantasy points in six games (seven in PPR or half-PPR leagues). Austin will take advantage of this matchup and post WR2 stats once again.
Free Larry Fitzgerald. The Cardinals' star continues to give his all to an offence that consistently lets him down. Teams have figured out that removing Fitzgerald from the game cripples Arizona's attack and fighting through double and triple teams has become a regular occurrence. Atlanta has given up the 27th most fantasy points to opposing receivers, which suggests another uphill battle for Fitzgerald.