Roto Arcade - Fantasy

Embracing CJ Spiller, unlikely playoff hero

Here's a sentence that I didn't expect to write this season, or possibly ever...

Buffalo's CJ Spiller led all running backs in fantasy scoring on Sunday, in a critical week, facing one of the league's top run defenses.

Spiller finished with 12 carries for 91 yards and a touchdown against Miami in Week 15, and he added nine catches for 76 and another TD. Check the tape on his 24-yard first quarter touchdown. The Bills' line cleared a path to the second level, then Spiller embarrassed everyone else. Even on a day when Buffalo fell behind by multiple scores, leading to a severe run-pass imbalance (19 to 47), Spiller remained a fantasy asset. On his second touchdown against the Dolphins, he lined up as a receiver in a five-wide set and found himself covered by a linebacker. Easy six.

Miami's defense entered Week 15 ranked third in the league against the run, allowing only 3.5 yards per carry. For that reason — and perhaps because Spiller himself has shown us so little over two NFL seasons — CJ was buried in the RB ranks, started in just 30 percent of Yahoo! leagues. I benched him in the Friends & Family semi-finals, and it wasn't really a difficult call — horribly wrong, as it turned out, but not difficult.

But Spiller was tremendous on Sunday, despite the difficult match-up. His 24-yard TD was actually the longest run against the Dolphins defense this season. Spiller is at home against Denver in Week 16, facing a middle-of-the-pack run defense, a group that allows 125.4 rushing yards per game. The Broncos haven't raced out to big leads during the Tebow surge, so there's no reason to think the Bills will be forced scrap the run on Saturday. The greatest obstacle Spiller may face in the match-up ahead is, in fact, his skeptical head coach.

This from the Buffalo News' Rodney McKissic:

...the Bills once again abandoned Spiller and the running game in the second half. He had eight carries for 64 yards in the first half and received just four carries in the second half. Backup Tashard Choice had only one carry over the final two quarters.

"We had a plan of certain packages that we were using CJ and we were using Tashard in," Bills coach Chan Gailey said. "We knew we were going to use CJ a lot in the passing game. We knew that was going to be part of it so we're trying not to wear the guy completely out. He's not the biggest back in the world. I don't think he can go out there and carry it 25 or 30 times."

Spiller, for the record, is 5-foot-11 and 195 pounds. No, he isn't "the biggest back in the world," but he's not Mugsy Spiller, either. He's a low-mileage back who's carried the ball just 152 times over two NFL seasons. Spiller has earned at least a modest increase in workload, and a significant bump in the fantasy ranks.

We should also note that his late-season emergence is nothing but bad news for Fred Jackson's keeper value, and for Freddy's hopes for a contract extension. Next year, Jackson will be a 31-year-old back returning from a broken leg, under contract for 2012 at  low dollars. Spiller is six years younger, he's signed through 2014, and, just maybe, he'll be coming off an end-of-season binge.

If you had CJ on the bench in the semis, let's just hope you're still alive to use him in Championship Week. Please use the comments section to complain or crow, depending on your present situation...

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