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.
Cullen (Freeman #12, Manning #18) - Maybe I should be more favourable to Eli since, after a bye week, he delivered one of his best games of the season against Green Bay, but I'm still left with lingering doubts, based on the previous four games when he threw one touchdown and six interceptions so, even against a soft Washington secondary, I'd rather look elsewhere.
Say, in the direction of Josh Freeman, who didn't throw a touchdown pass against Atlanta last week, but had multiple touchdown passes in each of the previous six games, building up to a total of 16 touchdowns and only three interceptions. Denver's defence is steadily improving, but when Tampa Bay needs to pass -- and they likely will in order to keep pace with teh Broncos -- they have receivers who can get down the field. Denver is one of the better pass defences in the league, but they allow a touchdown every 22.11 passes, which is in the middle of the pack.
Boone (Manning #12, Freeman #17) - The younger Manning has once again been overshadowed by his big brother Peyton this season. Leading up to last week's game with Green Bay, Eli hadn't thrown a touchdown in three weeks and he didn't throw for more than 215 passing yards in any of those games. However, coming off their bye week the Giants solved their offensive issues and Eli had 249 yards and three scores in the win. Eli will be in the spotlight once again in Week 13 as he faces the Redskins, who allow the third most fantasy points to quarterbacks.
Freeman has put together a great season thus far, but he goes on the road this week against a formidable Broncos' defence. Champ Bailey is very familiar with Vincent Jackson from their time spent facing each other in the AFC West, and Von Miller will be hunting Freeman down all day long off the edge. After feasting on weaker secondaries for seven straight games, Freeman was held without a touchdown in Week 12. The Broncos will present another tough matchup for the Buccaneers' passing attack.
Cullen (Bush #16, Brown #22) - The Dolphins have been splitting carries between Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas, but that has, in part, been because of Bush's fumbling problems, but I also suspect that it has taken Bush some time to recover from the knee injury he suffered in Week Three and with last week's 87 yards rushing representing his most since Week Two, he could be ready for a decent finish to the season. That, and the Dolphins should be doing everything they can to keep the ball away from the Patriots offence, so running the ball would be a decent way to go about that.
Obviously there is lots to like about Bryce Brown running for 178 yards in his first start, but Dallas' run defence is better than Carolina's and, having witnessed Brown's performance on Monday night, the Cowboys aren't about to be caught by surprise. In fact, since DeSean Jackson is injured, further limiting Philadelphia's ineffective passing game, Dallas can focus their defensive game plan on stopping Brown.
Boone (Brown #15, Bush #26) - Both Brown and Bush are facing middle-of-the-pack run defences, so their output this week will come down to talent and opportunity. Brown has been given the starting job in Philadelphia with LeSean McCoy sidelined and he has little competition for carries. Brown has the size (6'0, 223-pounds) to be a feature back and he showed that he is more than up to the task in his first start. Brown rattled off 178 yards on 19 carries, including two touchdowns.
Bush finally came back to life for fantasy owners with 87 yards and a score in Week 12. However, the majority of Bush's production came on a 22-yard touchdown run. Prior to last week, Bush had only broke the 70-yard rushing mark once on the year. With Daniel Thomas splitting carries, Bush remains a flex play.
Cullen (Smith #17, Johnson #24) - Maybe I'm caught up in the emotion of Torrey Smith's performance last week against San Diego, when he delivered a season-high 144 yards on seven catches. He was shut down the week before against Pittsburgh (one catch for seven yards, but that's precisely why I expect Smith to bounce back. As good as the Steelers have been against the pass, I don't expect them to grind the Ravens down completely in back-to-back games.
My concern with Johnson isn't so much his production, because he has 271 yards receiving in the last three games, rather it's about the touchdowns. He's scored once since Week Three and a general lack of confidence in QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (6 TD, 4 INT in last 7 GP) makes it easier to side with Joe Flacco and Torrey Smith, even going up against an elite defence.
Boone (Johnson #18, Smith #21) - Johnson may have posted is first 100-yard game of the season in Week 12, but he has hauled in at least 70 yards in five of the last six games. After starting the year by scoring in three straight games, Johnson has only found the end zone once since then, but there is no better cure for that than the Jaguars. Johnson will continue to be the first read in the Bills' passing game and that means consistent fantasy production.
Smith is an exciting receiver, who can score from anywhere on the field. The knock against Smith from a fantasy perspective is that he tends to be a boom or bust player. If the Ravens can find him deep then he is guaranteed to reward fantasy owners, but in tougher matchups he can be held in check. Two weeks ago in Pittsburgh, the Steelers were able to take smith out of the game (one catch for seven yards). Unfortunately for Smith, Sunday's game is another division battle with the Steelers.