The Buffalo Bills have been one of the most injury-plagued teams of the season. It finally appears they’re rounding back into health, minus a couple of rookie receivers. C.J. Spiller has been battling an ankle issue since Week 5 but was removed from the injury report Wednesday. E.J. Manuel sprained his LCL the same week Spiller tweaked his ankle. Manuel’s been cleared to return to practice. Backup quarterback Thad Lewis (ribs), who missed last week’s game, also returned to the field Wednesday.
Let’s start with Spiller. Anyone who watched last week’s game versus Kansas City knows Spiller’s still battling the ankle. He noticeably came up lame at the end of a couple runs. However, coach Doug Marrone says the injury is “behind” Spiller. That may not be 100 percent true, but a hobbled Spiller still possesses more pure game-breaking running abilities than most backs that put on an NFL uniform every week. Marrone didn’t stop there. He added that the team is “excited” to get Spiller more touches down the stretch. Spiller has been averaging just over 11 touches per game in the three games since he was hurt. Before going down in Week 5, Spiller was averaging nearly 19 looks per game in the opening four contests. The expectation – and hope – is that he’ll see that early-season workload again. Next up would be to get Spiller some goal-line opportunities, though it appears the Bills are satisfied with Fred Jackson filling that role. Still, Spiller is firmly back on the high-end RB2 radar starting this week against Pittsburgh. Spiller has fantasy football title-winning talent.
On to the quarterback situation. CEO Russ Brandon confirmed Wednesday morning that Manuel will be back under center this week “unless he has a setback.” Manuel has proven to be quite the quick healer. He’s 23 years old. We wouldn’t expect anything less. Manuel practiced in full Wednesday. He and Lewis split the first-team reps, but the Bills are just protecting themselves in case that “setback” does come. The Bills and their fans are singing in the streets. Jeff Tuel’s “Tuel Time” should never be a thing again. Manuel is still raw, but he was averaging a respectable 214 yards passing per game and tossed five touchdowns to three interceptions before going down. His return is a boost to the entire offense. Manuel has a big arm that can thread balls through the Western New York winds. He’s in the QB2 mix.
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News Nugget #2
Andre Brown (broken leg) confirmed earlier in the week that he’d make his season debut Sunday against the Raiders. It doesn’t sound like the Giants are ready to make Brown their feature back, though. The Newark Star-Ledger reported Wednesday that Peyton Hillis is expected to be the “primary option” in the backfield this week versus Oakland. Brandon Jacobs returned to practice Wednesday and should also be in the mix.
Hillis was signed last month. In the two games he’s appeared in, Hillis rushed 38 times for 106 yards and one touchdown. He also caught eight passes for another 60 yards. Nothing that blows the mind but Hillis has been the lead back in the Giants’ two wins this season. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Right?
Eventually, we’d expect Brown to become “the guy” in the Giants backfield. And that may happen sooner rather than later. For now, look for some kind of committee with Hillis leading the way. The Raiders were straight-up shredded by Nick Foles last week. But for the most part, they held the Eagles’ rushing attack in check. Oakland has surrendered just five rushing touchdowns to running backs all season. Hillis is merely a low-end flex option, while Jacobs and Brown aren’t recommended plays in Week 10.
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News Nugget #3
You guys and gals know how it goes here in the third “News Nugget” section on Thursdays. I’ll check in on a handful of key injured players and discuss their situations at length a bit.
A source informed FOX Sports’ Mike Garafolo that Aaron Rodgers’ broken collarbone will cost him 4-6 weeks. While broken bones typically take 4-6 weeks to heal, Rodgers is dealing with a “chip” or small fracture. It’s also in his non-throwing shoulder. Rodgers likely has his sights set on the Thanksgiving tilt with the Lions. That’s three weeks from today.
Victor Cruz suffered a stinger in Week 8. He practiced Monday as the Giants came out of their bye but then missed Wednesday’s session. Coach Tom Coughlin said Cruz could have practiced if they really needed him to. It doesn’t appear to be a major concern. The Newark Star-Ledger’s Jordan Raanan expects Cruz to be ready for Sunday’s matchup with Oakland.
Giovani Bernard exited last Thursday night’s game against the Dolphins with bruised ribs. He returned to practice Wednesday, getting in a limited session. That puts the rookie on track to play this week against the Ravens. Bernard remains on the RB2 radar and should continue to see increased touches at BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ expense. BJGE is not a fantasy option.
Darren Sproles exited last Sunday’s game against the Jets very early in the first quarter after being concussed on his lone touch, a two-yard reception. Sproles has passed the league’s concussion protocol and practiced in full Wednesday. He said he’s fine. Sproles has a very favorable matchup against a Dallas defense that can’t seem to keep running backs under wraps in the passing game. That’s Sproles’ specialty. Hopefully he can get back on track this week.
Arian Foster missed practice Wednesday to meet with a back specialist. We still don’t have an exact diagnosis on Foster. He left last Sunday night’s game against the Colts during the offense’s first series. At this point, it’d be a surprise if Foster were able to suit up this week against the Cardinals. Ben Tate still has four broken ribs floating around in his belly but practiced Wednesday. He’ll get the start against a stout Arizona front seven and will be in the RB2 mix this week.
Trent Richardson was held out of Wednesday’s practice with an ankle injury. It’s his first appearance on the injury report this season. We didn’t notice Richardson in any pain last Sunday night. It could just be a rest day for a guy that has struggled mightily since the Colts acquired him. Keep an eye on Richardson’s participation level Thursday. Donald Brown would be a smart add for Richardson owners. Brown’s inarguably been the team’s best back since Richardson entered the mix, anyway.
Quarterback/Running Back Slants
Jay Cutler (groin) would have been limited had the Bears practiced Wednesday. We should learn a lot more Thursday. … Terrelle Pryor (knee) practiced and showed no signs of discomfort. … Marshawn Lynch (knee) was limited Wednesday. Don’t pay any attention to it. Lynch should feast on Atlanta this week. … Rashard Mendenhall (toe) was also limited. He’s barely on the flex radar. … DeMarco Murray (knee) is practicing in full this week. … Doug Martin (shoulder) missed practice and remains week-to-week. He’ll only be allowed to play again this season if he can’t do any further damage to his shoulder. We don’t envision the 0-8 Bucs exposing Martin. … Zac Stacy (foot) did not practice Wednesday. It’s been pretty standard for Stacy to sit on Wednesdays. … Darren McFadden (hamstring) did not practice. Rashad Jennings will likely get the start against the Giants.
Wide Receiver/Tight End Slants
Michael Crabtree (Achilles’, PUP) ran routes Wednesday but didn’t run them at full speed and was “noticeably cautious” in his return to the practice field. … Cecil Shorts (groin) did not practice. He’s been battling the groin for a few weeks now but likely isn’t in any danger of missing Week 10. The garbage-time wonder is on the WR2/3 radar. … Marques Colston (knee) was limited Wednesday. He missed Week 9 and is merely a WR3. … Roddy White (ankle, hamstring) was limited Wednesday. He was close to playing last Sunday. … Dez Bryant (back) and Miles Austin (hamstring) sat out Wednesday. Bryant reportedly woke up with a “tight” back. There’s no cause for concern. … Robert Woods (ankle) missed practice and isn’t expected to play Sunday. … Riley Cooper (illness) returned to practice. … Calvin Johnson (knee) practiced, as did Nate Burleson (arm). … Darrius Heyward-Bey (head) practiced Wednesday. … Jimmy Graham (elbow, foot) missed Wednesday’s practice. The elbow issue is new, but Graham is expected to be fine. … Dennis Pitta (hip) is “closer than ever” to returning. It’s impossible to get further away, so this is obvious. Pitta is eyeing a late-November return. We’re not going to hold our breath, but we wouldn’t rule it out. … Julius Thomas (ankle) got in a limited session. He’s on track to suit up this week as a high-end TE1.