After a full Thanksgiving slate of games, it seems like so long ago that C.J. Spiller ran for 91 yards in Week 11 on Thursday Night Football. Fantasy owners have been clamoring to see what he could do with a full workload all season; he was finally handed the football a career-high 22 times against the Miami Dolphins.
It’s about time.
The Buffalo Bills walked away with a win on that night—something that psychologists like to call positive reinforcement. In other words, if getting Spiller the ball more frequently translates into wins, that’s what the Bills are going to do.
Gailey: Spiller starts at RB, Fred Jackson will still get his share of carries. Rotation between players uncertain.— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) November 21, 2012
What exactly starting means for Spiller in terms of fantasy production remains to be seen. He’d like to have 20-plus carries—what running back wouldn’t?—but there remains the presence of another talented rusher in the Buffalo backfield, Fred Jackson.
Projecting how many touches Spiller will get as the “starter” is more difficult than transposing Jackson’s rushing attempt totals onto his own stat line. Spiller has led the duo in carries more than once this season.
What should be a safer assumption is that Spiller’s percentage of offensive snaps and overall number of touches will increase in Buffalo’s final six games. He is currently averaging 14.0 touches (10.9 rushes, 3.1 catches) per game and 7.6 yards (6.6 rushing, 10.8 receiving) per touch. If he siphons six more per game from Jackson (averaging 14.4) to reach that magical 20-touch per game mark, Spiller will be a top-10 fantasy RB for the rest of the season.
That development would also strip Jackson of his value as a starting fantasy running back outside of very favorable matchups. Despite their reputation, the Colts aren’t the best of fantasy matchups for running backs—especially at home.
Maurice Jones-Drew went up to Indy in Week 3 and rushed for 177 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries, but he’s the exception. Other running backs in Indianapolis have not fared quite as well: In four games at Indianapolis, running backs not named MJD totaled 294 rushing yards and one touchdown on 73 carries (4.0 avg).
They also caught 17 passes for 142 yards (8.4 avg).
Spiller is certainly worth a start for owners without two top-10-type alternatives, but the Colts are tougher than you might think. Better days are ahead for the Bills’ speedster—and he could still impress against Indianapolis as he puts his league-leading 6.6 yards per carry on the line this Sunday.
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