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C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson Injuries Mean Bills Backfield Is Fantasy No-Fly Zone

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistOctober 19, 2014

ORCHARD PARK, NY - OCTOBER 19:  C.J. Spiller #28 of the Buffalo Bills warms up before the first half against the Minnesota Vikings at Ralph Wilson Stadium on October 19, 2014 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Fantasy owners are similar to NFL coaching staffs in that the next-man-up approach is the avenue of choice once an injury occurs, but this is not the case in regards to the Buffalo Bills' situation now that C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson are injured.

Normally when an unfortunate injury befalls a starter, or in this case a pair of starters, owners are wise to hit the waiver wire.

According to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com, Spiller will be on the shelf for an extended period of time, while Jackson's prognosis is yet unknown:

Jason La Canfora @JasonLaCanfora

Initial diagnosis is a broken collarbone for CJ Spiller. Fred Jackson will need an MRI on his groin. Rough day for the Bills

For fantasy owners who have yet to look up the depth chart, here is the legwork eliminated from the equation—Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown are due for a bump in playing time in the coming weeks.

First let's chat about Dixon, who is owned in 0.2 percent of leagues and carried the ball 13 times for 51 yards this week after the injuries, good for a cool six points—matching his season-high mark posted in Week 1. He has four games with no points under his belt and no more than 29 attempts in each of his past three seasons.

Bryce Brown Career Stats
YearRushYdsAvgTD
20121155644.94
2013753144.22
ESPN

Joining the former San Francisco 49ers backup is Brown, a 23-year-old back who has yet to be active in a game this season despite the Bills sending a fourth-round pick to Philadelphia in exchange for his rights this past offseason. His numbers are a tad more encouraging in spot duty the past two years but nothing to write home about, hence his being owned in 1.3 percent of leagues.

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Brown has already had his name in the headlines since the injuries, though, as coach Doug Marrone threw his support behind the Kansas State product after the game, per ESPN.com's Mike Rodak:

Mike Rodak @mikerodak

Marrone: "I have no problem bringing up Bryce [Brown]. I talked about that last week, which I hope wasn't a jinx."

The situation on the whole is best summed up by Sigmund Bloom of Footballguys.com:

Sigmund Bloom @SigmundBloom

Time for the epic Bryce Brown vs Boobie Dixon Week 8 waiver wire debate we've been anticipating all season

There is no question Brown is a talented runner. The path to playing time is there, too, as is the age-old adage for backs that usage equals production.

Still, let's not even put the car in drive in regards to either of the two waiver-wire options.

There is a reason Spiller has been one of this year's biggest disappointments, having most recently rattled off five straight games without a double-digit performance. The same goes for Jackson, who has just two trips into double digits this year.

The offensive line is a mess. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), the Bills entered the weekend with the fifth-worst grade in terms of run blocking. Starting a pair of rookies (Cyril Richardson and Seantrel Henderson) and an ineffective journeyman (Erik Pears) may have something to do with that.

Alright, so both backs—backups, at that—are running behind a miserable line. Maybe they have an easy schedule? That is a resounding nope:

WKOPPRank vs. RBs (avg. points surrendered)
8@NYJ6 (11.7)
9BYE
10KC10 (12.8)
11@Mia17 (17.6)
12NYJ6 (11.7)
13Cle24 (20.2)
14@Den16 (17.2)
15GB22 (19.7)
16@Oak29 (21.0)
17@NE20 (18.3)
ESPN

Now, there are some decent matchups on the schedule right around fantasy playoff time, but owners who are reading this need help now, not in five or six weeks.

Right now, grabbing either of the backs throws them not only into matchups that should make Spiller and Jackson owners uncomfortable, but makes them ineffective thanks to the untimely bye week. It also blatantly assumes that Jackson will be out an extended period of time, whereas his return could be at any point.

Now, if Brown or Dixon goes out next week against a defense that is elite against backs and performs well, this conversation shifts entirely. But fantasy is about taking the safest risk of all available options, and if the starters have not done well from a fantasy standpoint in Buffalo, why would the backups?

Surely there are better immediate-help options at the position (Tre Mason, Tre Mason and Tre Mason) as opposed to a shaky situation that has been miserable all year long. Look elsewhere for help, no matter how great this situation appears at face value.

All scoring info courtesy of ESPN standard leagues, as is points-against info and ownership stats. Statistics courtesy of ESPN. Philadelphia, Tampa Bay on bye.

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