Three And Out: Analyzing the value of Manning and Stafford Staff

9/14/2012 5:15:22 PM

Each week,'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.

Matthew Stafford (Lions) vs. Peyton Manning (Broncos)

Cullen (Manning #4, Stafford #13) - This isn't so much about Stafford's three picks last week against St. Louis, though that doesn't inspire confidence, as it is an expectation that the 49ers' defence will bring the heat and make for a difficult day for the Lions, Stafford included. Stafford had a decent game against the Niners last season, passing for 293 yards and two touchdowns, but it also required 50 passing attempts and was played indoors at Ford Field. Add in Calvin Johnson missing some practice time with a foot issue this week and I'm hedging against Stafford, to the point that I'd consider other options to start if you have a really good backup with a favourable matchup.

As for Manning, his performance against Pittsburgh's defence Sunday night was impressive. Maybe he's not quite the same old Peyton, but close and playing in a dome against Atlanta, who lost cornerback Brent Grimes to a torn Achilles, could be an opportunity for a 300-yard day. There's also some expectation, on my part, that the Broncos will have to air it out to keep pace with the Falcons, who scored 48 points on the road at Kansas City last week.

Boone (Stafford #6, Manning #9) - If you drafted Stafford, then he's almost certainly going to be starting for you regardless of matchup. It's true that Stafford faces one of the league's best defences, however it's a defence that allowed Aaron Rodgers to post a 93.2 QB rating, throwing for 303 yards and two touchdowns with only one pick. That's exactly the kind of production I would expect from Stafford, who is going to throw non-stop in this game. The Lions might not win, but Stafford can still help your fantasy team march towards victory this week.

I'm not down on Manning, he actually played a very efficient game against the Steelers, completing 73 per cent of his passes for 253 yards and two scores. Things won't be as friendly in Atlanta, where the Falcons are 26-4 with Matt Ryan as a starter. Manning will have another respectable day, throwing for over 200 yards with a touchdown or two, but he is no longer on the elite level where Stafford now resides.

Steven Jackson (Rams) vs. Stevan Ridley (Patriots)

Boone (Ridley #12, Jackson #14) - All you have to do is watch Ridley run and you will understand why he is a top 12 back in my rankings this week. Ridley is a violent runner, along the lines of DeMarco Murray. Someone who attacks the line of scrimmage and any defender that tries to get in his way. Playing in an offence that is almost a two-touchdown favourite over the Cardinals, Ridley will be asked to control the game and punish the Cardinals in the second half.

I would love Jackson this week if he were playing for the Patriots, but unfortunately for the veteran rusher he is stuck in a St. Louis offence that lacks weapons and struggles to put points on the board. Jackson is the Rams' biggest threat and everyone knows it, which leads to added players in the box and ultimately lower rushing totals. With Robert Griffin III coming to town the Rams may fall behind early, limiting Jackson to the short passing game, if that.

Cullen (Jackson #6, Ridley #17) - As always, it seems, I'm hesitant to rush to a decision on one week's results, so even though the Saints didn't run much against the Redskins in Week 1, I don't think we can definitely say that Washington's run defence is materially better than the group that was in the bottom half of the league in yards per rush (4.3) and touchdowns allowed (15) last season. Additionally, Jackson ranked seventh in the league in touches for Week 1, with 25 (gaining a total of 84 yards from scrimmage), and the Rams don't have so many other options that their game plan would involve significantly fewer touches for Jackson this week.

I love Ridley's breakout performance from Week 1, and what it means for the Patriots offence to have a physical back that can grind out yards, but I won't be surprised if the Patriots choose to air it out a little more in Week 2, perhaps involving Wes Welker in the offence more than Week 1. For that reason, while I think Ridley could have a good week, I'm waiting to see if he can do it again before he soars in my rankings.  

Reggie Wayne (Colts) vs. Marques Colston (Saints)

Cullen (Wayne #12, Colston #18) - For the second straight week, I like Wayne and why not? After 18 targets at Chicago last week, there has to be an expectation that he is going to be the focus of the Indy offence, particularly against a Minnesota secondary that allowed 260 yards passing by Blaine Gabbert last week.

Colston was targeted 11 times last week, finishing with only four catches, so there is every reason to expect that he will be a significant part of the Saints' gameplan at Carolina. With TE Jimmy Graham playing such a big role in the New Orleans' passing game, I'm just a tad hesitant with Colston right now. He's still a fantasy starter and if the Saints' offence is clicking better in Week Two, a 100-yard game is easy enough to project, but I like Wayne (among others) better this week.

Boone (Colston #13, Wayne #21) - It's tough to put Colston outside the top 20 playing in the Saints' offence. Yes, Graham has come along and established himself as Drew Brees' new favourite option, but Colston still had double digit targets in Week 1. Colston had 12 catches, 214 yards and two touchdowns in two games against the Panthers last season and that shouldn't change. The Saints will be out to show that their opening weekend loss to Washington wasn't a sign of things to come in 2012 and Colston will be heavily involved.

Wayne had a resurgence in Week 1, but it's easy to predict that his 18 targets will be his highest total on the season. The Colts do not want rookie Andrew Luck attempting 45 passes per game like he did in his first start. Against the Vikings, Indy will try to get their running game going with Donald Brown and that will take the emphasis off Wayne. As the season goes on the Colts will find themselves trailing and turning to the air to catch up, but Minnesota doesn't have the talent to take a sizable lead early. Wayne is a great pick in fantasy, but don't expect a repeat of his Week 1 numbers.