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Three and Out: Will Jackson or Spiller find success vs. 49ers?

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TSN.ca Staff
10/5/2012 1:54:51 PM
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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.

Andrew Luck (vs. Packers) vs. Christian Ponder (vs. Titans)

Cullen (Luck #12, Ponder #18) - It's been a bumpy enough ride for Andrew Luck in his first three pro games (completing 47 percent of his passes in his last game, for example), but he's also thown for 282.0 yards per game, which ranks 11th in the league and he's facing Green Bay, which presents a couple of possibilities.

The Packers' pass defence hasn't been terrible this season -- as it was in 2011 -- but they were also shredded for 446 passing yards by Drew Brees in Green Bay last week. Additionally, there is a reasonable likelihood that the Packers will get the lead, forcing the Colts to play catch-up and if Luck throws 40-plus times, as he has in two of his first three games, that's an opportunity to have a productive day.

Christian Ponder's development this season has been a significant reason for the Vikings' early success and he's passed for 309 yards over the last two weeks, but the Vikings may be able to get the job done against Tennessee primarily with their defence and running game. That's not to say that the Titans aren't vulnerable if the Vikings do take to the air but, for this week, it seems more likely that Luck will be the one required to play a bigger role in his team's offence.

Boone (Ponder #14, Luck #16) - With a couple of the top quarterbacks on bye (Matthew Stafford and Tony Romo), Ponder will find himself suiting up on the fantasy field in Week 5. While others may turn to Andy Dalton as a one week fill-in, Ponder is the more intriguing backup quarterback this week as he welcomes the Tennessee Titans to town. The Titans' secondary  is ranked 27th in passing yards allowed and is one of only three teams to allow double digit touchdowns through the air so far. Ponder has shown poise in the pocket and even has an ability to scramble for yards on the ground. With Jerome Simpson settling in as the team's deep threat, Percy Harvin working the entire field and Kyle Rudolph giving them an excellent red zone target, Ponder is lined up to produce as a QB1 this week.

Luck has been solid in his three starts and coming off a bye week, he should be well prepared for his next game. Unfortunately for the rookie, his offensive line is about to receive their one of their most difficult challenges of this young season against the Green Bay Packers' pass rush. Clay Matthews is second in the NFL with seven sacks and he will be a disruptive force in the Colts' backfield all day long. The Packers are in a close battle in the NFC North and they won't falter against a weaker opponent. Luck has only completed 53.2 percent of his passes through three games and has four interceptions on the year. This season is a learning experience for the first overall pick as he gets acclimated to the pro game, and Week 5 will be another hard lesson. 

C.J. Spiller (at 49ers) vs. Fred Jackson (at 49ers)

Boone (Jackson #23, Spiller #27) - I don't feel great about either Bills' running back this week as they are forced to do battle with the 49ers. Given the option, I'd go with Jackson. The veteran is loved by the coaching staff and that endearment will only grow after the heart he showed to fight back from injury and play a week ago. Jackson also appeared to be the healthier of the two tailbacks last week, garnering 79 yards on 16 touches, while Spiller was held to 38 yards on 10 attempts. I think both players will split carries as the season goes on, but I give Jackson the edge this week as Spiller's shoulder gets more comfortable.

Choosing one back over the other in this circumstance really comes down to how you feel about their recoveries. Jackson wore a pretty large brace on his knee last week, but he still ran strong. Spiller seemed a bit more tentative and that's understandable as his shoulder was injured the week before and many thought it was a two week injury. Spiller exploded early in the year when he filled in for Jackson, but both backs have the ability to put up big numbers in this offence, just not this week. With Spiller continuing to struggle with pass protection, I think Jackson sees more snaps and earns a slight edge in fantasy points.

Cullen (Spiller #16, Jackson #32) - I admit that Jackson may be the safer of the two Bills' runners going into San Francisco this week, but Spiller is a total upside play. He had 10 touches last week, in a surprisingly quick return from a shoulder injury that knocked him out of the game the week before, and I expect even more for Spiller in San Francisco this week. Taking on the Niners and a run defence that is allowing just 3.2 yards per carry means that it could be a tough day for whomever is running the rock for Buffalo so, if given the choice, I prefer the guy that is more likely to break one big play; that, and I can't seem to get Spiller's first two games of the season (364 total yards) out of my head yet.

Jackson also returned to the lineup last week, after getting injured early in Week One, but he has yet to find his mark in the running game, with 44 rushing yards on 19 carries this season. That is a very small sample size, of course, but I'm inclined to think that a visit to San Francisco may not be what the doctor ordered to get out of that funk.

Mike Wallace (vs. Eagles) vs. Jordy Nelson (at Colts)

Cullen (Wallace #9, Nelson #25) - The Eagles pass defence has been among the best in the league so far this year, so Wallace doesn't get the benefit of an easy matchup, but he is also averaging 78.0 receiving yards per game and, more importantly, has scored a touchdown in each of the Steelers' first three games this season. Wallace isn't targeted as often as Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh's other starter at wide receiver, but Wallace's big-play ability has made him the fourth highest-scoring wide receiver on a per game basis, so he's worthy of a top ten spot until he stops scoring.

After a relatively slow start to the season, through the first three games, Nelson had eight catches for 93 yards and his first touchdown last week. I'm just not confident enough that he will duplicate those numbers again this week. Indianapolis' pass defence has been suspect, with newcomer Vontae Davis getting torched according to the fine folks at Pro Football Focus, so that does lend to the possibility that the Packers will have success in the passing game at Indy. However, that passing success doesn't have to involve Nelson. Particularly with Greg Jennings hurt, it could, but he ranks 37th among wide receivers in fantasy points per game (8.50) through the first four weeks and Aaron Rodgers has been more than willing to spread the ball around to James Jones, Randall Cobb and tight end Jermichael Finley. If the Packers get a lead, there also will be less reason to throw downfield, potentially limiting the window for Nelson's production.

Boone (Nelson #7, Wallace #16) - Green Bay's passing attack got back on track last week against the Saints, and that included Nelson having his best game of the season (eight receptions, 93 yards, 1 TD). Part of the reason for Nelson's strong outing was the absence of Greg Jennings, who left with an injury. Jennings will once again be missing in action and that bodes well for Nelson's fantasy day against the Colts' generous defence. Nelson has been relatively quiet through four games, but is still on pace for 84 catches and over 1,000 yards. With Jennings out, Jones, Cobb and Finely will get more targets, but Nelson is by far the most talented of the group and Rodgers will take advantage of that.

Wallace first broke on the scene as a deep threat, however his game has developed and he may be one of the most underrated players at his position across the league. I normally like offensive players coming off their bye week, but Wallace has to try to carve out his production against the Eagles this week. Philadelphia is a bad matchup for the Steelers, since they have strong corners that can cover well, in addition to a diverse pass rush. With the Steelers' offensive line still trying to find its way, Ben Roethlisberger will need to buy time in the pocket to find Wallace downfield. I don't see that happening often enough for Wallace to crack my top 10 this weekend.

Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller (Photo: Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty Images)
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