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.
Joe Flacco (at Chargers) vs. Jake Locker (at Jaguars)
Cullen (Flacco #16, Locker #23) - By no means am I excited about the prospects of Joe Flacco - he's been held under 170 yards passing in three of the last four games - but the Chargers' pass defence allows 236 yards per game, ranking 19th in the league, and they've allowed 19 passing touchdowns, which is tied for 25th. While the Ravens may not be utilizing the passing game as effectively as they did early in the season, as long as they have Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin on the outside, there will be an opportunity to take advantage should the Ravens decide to air it out.
Certainly going against Jacksonville would figure to be a favourable matchup for Jake Locker, but (prior to the bye week) he was coming off a game in which he completed 9-of-21 passes for 122 yards against a Miami pass defence that has been subpar this year. Maybe Locker will be fully healthy now and ready to go to work on the Jaguars, but I'd rather wait and see for another week, particularly when the Titans may just as well run Chris Johnson to pay dirt against the Jaguars, who have allowed 14 rushing touchdowns this season (only the Bills have allowed more).
Boone (Locker #18, Flacco #20) - Prior to his injury, Locker threw for 378 yards and two touchdowns in an overtime win over the Lions. The mobile passer now has a full arsenal at his disposal with Kenny Britt, Nate Washington, Kendall Wright and Jared Cook. The Jaguars have given up the 10th most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season, including 527 yards to Matt Schaub last week and Locker will be more than happy to take advantage of them. Johnson may get a big workload against Jacksonville, but that will only help propel the Titans' offence into the red zone, giving Locker more opportunity to find the end zone. If you are a Ben Roethlisberger owner looking for help at quarterback, Locker is an excellent choice as a QB2 with definite QB1 upside this week.
Flacco still hasn't lived up to the pre-season hype that suggested he may take the leap this year. The Ravens' passer has taken advantage of bad secondaries like the Patriots, Browns (without Joe Haden), and Raiders, however aside from the game against Oakland, Flacco has struggled recently. In his last four outings Flacco has three games with 164 passing yards or less. He may have a big arm, but Flacco hasn't shown that he can be a consistent fantasy producer and because of that I don't trust him, even against the Chargers' middle-of-the-pack pass defence.
Frank Gore (at Saints) vs. Trent Richardson (vs. Steelers)
Cullen (Gore #9, Richardson #11) - Gore has been consistently productive, ranking ninth among running backs in fantasy points, just behind Richardson who is eighth, but the matchup this week is much more in Gore's favour. New Orleans has allowed a league-worst 157.8 rushing yards per game and the 49ers' game plan ought to focus on the ground so that they can keep the ball away from Drew Brees and the Saints' offence.
Richardson's been on a roll lately, with more than 130 yards from scrimmage in each of the last three games, but facing the Steelers isn't an easy way to continue that streak. Pittsburgh has allowed 89.8 rushing yards per game, which ranks fourth in the league, so for all the injury issues that may plague the Steelers' offence, their hard-hitting defence could make life difficult for Richardson this week.
Boone (Richardson #8, Gore #11) - Playing in Cleveland doesn't help Richardson get recognized, but he has become an extremely dependable running back. In his last three games, Richardson has 322 rushing yards, 92 receiving yards and one touchdown. While you would like to see him find the end zone more often, he is used so frequently in the Browns' offence that he doesn't need a touchdown to have a successful fantasy day. Against the Steelers I expect another game with 25-30 touches, as well as a trip to the end zone, as the Browns try to grind down the Steelers in Cleveland.
Gore has a fantastic matchup on the road against the Saints' defence this Sunday. However, with Colin Kaepernick set to start at quarterback, I don't see the 49ers feeling the need to lean on Gore as much as they have in the past. Kaepernick showed that he can move the ball downfield through the air, in addition to making plays with his legs. Gore will have a nice day, but will lose touches to backup Kendall Hunter and finish in the area of 15-19 carries. Gore will continue to be effective, but with Kaepernick breathing life into the passing attack, Gore won't be the focus of the 49ers' gamelan.
Hakeem Nicks (vs. Packers) vs. Denarius Moore (at Bengals)
Cullen (Moore #18, Nicks #26) - This may be a reflection of my disdain for Nicks, who has at least been an accomplice to killing one of my fantasy teams this season, though given Eli Manning's woes, all of the blame can't be put on Nicks. Nevertheless, he has one touchdown all season and Week Ten's 75 yards receiving against the Bengals was his second-best total of the season. I'm skeptical that, facing Green Bay this week, the numbers will suddenly get better.
Moore, on the other hand, is coming off his worst game of the season, one catch for nine yards and one rush for a five-yard loss, against New Orleans, but in the five weeks prior, he had 392 yards and four touchdowns. While the Raiders seem to be in free-fall the last three weeks, and that may continue against Cincinnati this week, odds are that Oakland will need to throw the ball in an effort to keep pace and Moore is Carson Palmer's preferred target when he goes down the field.
Boone (Nicks #18, Moore #22) - The Packers are allowing the ninth most fantasy points to wide receivers in 2012 and coming off a bye, Manning and Nicks will be back in sync. The Giants always get up for big games and this will be a huge meeting with playoff implications. Prior to their Week 11 bye, Nicks received 14 targets, catching nine of them for 75 yards. Finally healthy, Nicks will be a force once again down the stretch and the Packers will be the first victim.
The Bengals have used their top corner Leon Hall to shadow opponent's top receivers in the last few weeks with positive results. Hall will likely get the call to matchup with Moore and that is bad news for a player who had one catch for nine yards against the Saints' secondary a week ago. Moore has had a good season and will finish the year with a solid stat line, but he won't add much on Sunday against the Bengals who are allowing the 26th most fantasy points to wideouts.