Is It Finally Safe for Fantasy Owners to Start C.J. Spiller?

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Is It Finally Safe for Fantasy Owners to Start C.J. Spiller?
Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

In the world of fantasy football, Buffalo Bills running back C.J. Spiller has been a thorn in the side of fantasy owners so far in 2013. Owning Spiller generally means a first-round pick was used in re-draft leagues. Unfortunately, he has not lived up to expectations this season.

Through his first seven games played, Spiller only eclipsed the 100-yard mark once—a 103-yard performance against the Carolina Panthers in Week 2. To make matters even worse, throughout that span he only scored one touchdown. Spiller did not live up to expectations as a receiver either, with just 36 total yards through the air.

Adding insult to injury—no pun intended—Spiller missed the team's Week 8 matchup against the New Orleans Saints due to a high ankle sprain.

At this point, most fantasy owners were reeling. Many even began to indicate that Spiller should be considered a bust for the 2013 season.

This was an entirely reasonable reaction to the situation. Some fantasy owners jumped ship, and others stashed Spiller on the bench.

Those who stuck with the running back will be handsomely rewarded.

Despite Spiller's lingering injury, he put up a very respectable performance against a good Kansas City Chiefs defense in Week 9. Spiller rushed 12 times for 116 yards and caught two passes for 39 yards—both season-high yardages for the back despite his limited role.

Perhaps the extra week to rest was more beneficial to Spiller than many had thought. Bills center Eric Wood certainly thought so, according to an interview with Tim Graham of The Buffalo News:

He was banged up, and I think he came back explosive today. It's not really fair to put a player like that, whose game is explosion, out there injured. I thought a week off did a lot for him.

We know what he can do. He's lost no confidence from us. We knew he was gutting it out week-to-week. We appreciated that. We're not looking at averages, not looking at numbers with him.

Spiller was also delighted with the way he was able to perform, "It's still not there, but it's definitely very close. Today was very encouraging to me."

This brings up an interesting question: Could Spiller's lack of activity over the first half of the season make him a breakout candidate over his final seven games?

Some fantasy owners are still concerned about the presence of veteran running back Fred Jackson. After all, he had a fine performance against the Chiefs, racking up 77 yards on 16 carries and catching one pass for 22 yards.

However, one thing simply cannot be denied: Jackson does not have the game-breaking ability that Spiller possesses. A healthy Spiller gives the Bills the best chance to succeed over the remainder of the season, and head coach Doug Marrone knows exactly that.

Spiller's fresh legs after limited early season carries and an extra week to rest in Week 8 makes him a valuable commodity for the team going forward. 

If any fantasy owners are still unsure about adding Spiller to the starting lineup in Week 10, consider one more significant change: EJ Manuel has been cleared to play.

Chris Brown of BuffaloBills.com reported that Manuel has been "fully cleared to return" and "the odds seem good" that the rookie quarterback will get the start this week.

During an interview with Manuel, the quarterback expressed how he feels now that he is able to practice:

It’s feeling a lot better. Been working out on it the past week and had a good workout (Sunday) before the game. It felt really good. It was good to get out there in the cold too to move around in that to see how it felt and reacted after, so it’s doing good.

After suffering a thigh injury early in the season, Spiller has not had the chance to play at his highest-possible level with Manuel under center.

The Bills simply have not been any kind of a threat through the air with Manuel sidelined. Rookie quarterback Jeff Tuel has been awful, posting passer ratings of 31.3 and 52.2 over his two games played this season.

If Spiller is capable of his Week 9 performance with Tuel under center, imagine for a second what he could do with a quarterback who actually provides some kind of aerial threat.

All of these reasons to get Spiller back in the starting lineup are certainly encouraging; however, the Bills remaining schedule is the icing on the cake. Aside from the stingy rush defense of the New York Jets, the subsisting opponents are very favorable for a healthy and fresh Spiller:

Bills' Remaining Opponents vs. Run
Week Opponent Rank vs. Run
10 Steelers 31st
11 Jets 1st
13 Falcons 20th
14 Buccaneers 13th
15 Jaguars 32nd
16 Dolphins 21st
17 Patriots 30th

ESPN.com

Yes, things were shaky over the first half of the season for Spiller. However, after a solid performance last week, an ankle injury that looks to be healing nicely, the return of the team's starting quarterback and a favorable schedule, fantasy owners should not hesitate to add Spiller to their starting lineups in Week 10 and beyond.

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