The Bills may need Jackson for their Week 4 matchup vs New England.
The Buffalo Bills are thankfully deep at the RB position. After Fred Jackson was injured in Week 1, C.J. Spiller took over and made many wonder why he wasn't the starter to begin with. So how has Jackson's injury really impacted the team?
The answer is complicated, to say the least.
As the Bills look ahead to their Week 4 matchup at home versus New England, the health of both backs remains a question. According to James Walker of ESPN.com, Jackson is giving himself a 70 to 75 percent chance of suiting up Sunday against the Patriots. CBSSports.com's Jason LaCanfora is reporting that Spiller has a sprained joint in his shoulder and is likely to miss this week's game.
Jackson's return would be perfect timing for Buffalo. They have a chance to put two games between themselves and the Pats with a win, and they're going to need as much firepower as possible to do that.
Ahead, we're going to examine a few different ways Fred Jackson's injury has affected the Bills.
Spiller was shredding the Browns before he got hurt.
It's hard to make the argument that any positive can be taken out of Jackson's injury. He's one of the unquestionable leaders on this team and plays the game the way it was meant to be.
But there's no denying his absence has given Spiller his opportunity to shine.
He's taken full advantage of it as well. Spiller was leading the NFL in rushing coming into the Cleveland Browns game, and looked well on his way to another huge outing before he suffered the shoulder injury at the end of the first quarter.
The Clemson alum has now started eight out of the last nine games for the Bills, dating back to last year. He's shown that if you can get him the ball in the open field, he's got a chance for six every time. Spiller has proved he's more than just a third-down back. Buffalo would be foolish to relegate him to that role once the both of them are healthy again.
Tashard Choice would get the bulk of the carries if Jackson can't go.
It's easy to overemphasize a Week 4 matchup, especially when it's between division rivals. Although the Bills' season is hardly over if they lose to fall to 2-2, a win would set the tone for the rest of the season.
But does Tashard Choice bring enough to the table to help Buffalo overcome the loss of Jackson and Spiller?
Obviously, that's a moot point if Jackson plays. However, the negative effect his injury could have on the Bills in this game is two-fold.
If Jackson isn't ready to go, the majority of the workload will go to Choice. He was effective in the Browns game, finishing with 91 yards on 20 carries. Yet, can he make the Bills offense explosive enough to keep up with Tom Brady in what figures to be a high-scoring affair?
With that said, though, will Jackson rush himself back from his knee injury too soon because he feels like his team needs him? That's definitely possible, because No. 22 takes his role on the Bills so seriously.
Either way, with Spiller likely out Sunday, the pressure Jackson puts on himself to play will continue to mount as gameday approaches.
The Bills have as good a 1-2 punch at RB as anyone else in the NFL.
The clearest impact Fred Jackson's injury will have had on the Bills is the decision Chan Gailey will be forced to make once Jackson and Spiller are both back at 100 percent. Splitting the touches almost exactly in half is likely to be his choice when that situation arises. However, Gailey has to be willing to lean on whoever has the hot hand.
Spiller has one clear advantage over Jackson. His speed allows him to turn simple plays into big plays.
Look no further than the 32-yard TD he scored against the Browns on a screen pass. He has made it almost impossible for the coaching staff to limit his play in any way. Most teams wish they had the problem the Bills do. Jackson is the epitome of a team player, so even if Spiller gets the nod over him, expect the veteran to take it in stride.
We should clarify too—the media will make this out to be a "controversy." But the Bills locker room is strong enough to accept Gailey's decision and focus on winning games.
With New England coming to town, they're going to need that focus to beat the Pats.