Fred Jackson: Injury Questions Make Bills RB Too Risky to Start vs. Patriots

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistSeptember 28, 2012

Sept 9, 2012; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson (22) breaks a tackle by New York Jets linebacker Bart Scott (57) during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-US PRESSWIRE
Ed Mulholland-US PRESSWIRE

For fantasy owners of Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson, the stream of good news has been almost never-ending since he went down with a knee injury Week 1 against the New York Jets.

Though many feared the worst when Jackson's knee buckled and he writhed in pain, his injury turned out to be a simple sprain and all was not lost.

Expected to be out around a month, the 31-year-old has recovered sooner than expected and is now on track to suit up in the team's Week 4 contest against the New England Patriots (per the Bills' official Twitter feed).

While first and foremost this is great news for Buffalo, it may even be better news for fantasy owners. Jackson was drafted by most with the assumption that he would be an every-week start and his absence has left owners scrambling on the waiver wire for replacements.

However, even if Jackson is in the starting lineup for the Bills this week, it's advisable that fantasy teams wait at least a week before plugging him back in.

Coming back from a knee injury is a risky proposition for running backs. It often takes a week or two before they're truly comfortable playing against full contact, and with the stable of backs Buffalo head coach Chan Gailey has on the roster, it stands to reason that he would ease Jackson back.

By now, pretty much everyone in football is aware of C.J. Spiller's scintillating outburst in Jackson's stead. Before going out last week with a shoulder injury, the former Clemson star had put up 308 yards rushing on just 33 attempts and had injected life into the Bills offense every time he touched the ball.

Also listed as questionable for Sunday's contest, Spiller practiced on both Thursday and Friday and "has a chance" at playing, according to Gailey (per the Bills' Twitter feed).

As it currently stands, we have no idea how Buffalo's coaching staff will divvy up the carries if both men are active on Sunday. At worst, it feels like a time-share going forward, which is absolutely the most vexing prospect for fantasy owners.

Considering the idea of fantasy is mitigating risks and hoping for the best possible result, playing Jackson on Sunday is taking far too big of a chance—especially against a strong Patriots run defense.

According to Football Outsiders' advanced metrics, New England gives up 28.6 percent fewer yards than a replacement-level defense would against similar opponents, which is the seventh-best rate in the NFL.

With uncertainty in workload and a tough defense in store, Jackson owners are far better off choosing a safer option and reevaluating the Bills back once we have more information.