CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson's Updated 2013 Fantasy Outlook with Thad Lewis

Donald WoodFeatured ColumnistOctober 7, 2013

CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 02:  Fred Jackson #22 and C.J. Spiller #28 of the Buffalo Bills celebrate after scoring a touchdown during the NFL game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Buffalo Bills have officially announced via Twitter that the team’s former practice squad quarterback Thad Lewis will get the start in Week 6 against the Cincinnati Bengals.

This news has fantasy owners of running backs CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson concerned.

While it was already tough enough trying to decipher how the team would split carries between the two backs week by week, the equation has become even more convoluted with an unproven player like Lewis taking the helm of the offense.

Lewis played in one game for the Cleveland Browns in 2012—throwing for 204 yards with one touchdown and one interception—and that lack of experience will force Buffalo to keep Sunday’s game plan simple.

The strategy will likely feature both Spiller and Jackson being heavily involved on the ground and through the air, but it also gives Cincinnati the chance to bring serious pressure and stack the box against the run.

Fantasy owners should expect between 13-17 touches for each back—a mixture of receptions and carries for both versatile players—but the statistics will not be as impressive as they would have been with rookie EJ Manuel still under center.

With Manuel recovering from a knee injury that will keep him out of the lineup for several weeks, according to Lindsay H. Jones of USA Today, the game plan in Buffalo must shift to a more West Coast style built on short passes and running the ball effectively.

Of the two running backs featured for the Bills, the veteran Jackson will likely see his role increase the most. As the more consistent of the two, the more reliable on third downs and the more effective pass-blocker, Lewis will look to the calming force of Jackson early and often.

Aug 29, 2013; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Thad Lewis (9) hands off to running back Kendall Gaskins (42) against the Detroit Lions during the second half at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Spiller is still one of the most dynamic players in the NFL, but he needs to get the ball in open space to be at his most effective. With the Bengals focusing in on the short passes because of Lewis’ inexperience, Spiller won’t have a chance to breath on Sunday, let alone break off a huge run.

Jackson is also the more effective red-zone running back (the veteran has four touchdowns to Spiller’s one), but the team will give both men ample opportunities to shine.

With Spiller running for 66 yards on eight carries last week against Cleveland and Jackson amassing 17 carries for 53 yards and two touchdowns while adding four receptions for 40 yards, it’s clear that both men will be in for a heavy workload with Lewis under center.

It won’t be easy running on Cincinnati’s 11th-ranked rush defense, but each back will get enough touches on Sunday to warrant a fantasy start. As long as Lewis is the starting quarterback, expect Spiller and Jackson to carry most of the offensive workload.