Adam Levitan

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Free Spiller

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Nothing infuriates the fantasy world more than underutilization. Bills coach Chan Gailey has become a professional at it this season.

Gailey has made himself into an enemy of the fantasy state thanks to his treatment of C.J. Spiller. He has a guy averaging a mind-boggling 6.55 yards per carry and 10.4 yards per reception, yet he was playing a third of the snaps some games thanks to Fred Jackson. The #freespiller campaign was on in full force.

What we can’t fault Gailey for, however, is his willingness to speak freely in the media about his players. He said he used Jackson, a team leader, because of his ability in short yardage, his style in the Buffalo winter weather and his pass protection ability. Was it the right call? Maybe not. But he’s a professional football coach that knows his team much better than we do.

So now that Jackson is done for the year thanks to a knee injury, some owners feared that Gailey would continue tying Spiller to the pine by simply plugging Tashard Choice in. Nope. Gailey spoke freely on the topic, as he is prone to do. Take it away, Chan:

“We’re going to get the opportunity here in the next few weeks for him to get it a lot and we won’t have what I term two great backs. I think Tashard is a very good back, but to me he’s not in Fred’s category. So there won’t be a lot of sharing of duties. C.J. will have to take a big part of the load now.”

That’s right, Gailey took a shot at Choice and talked up Spiller.

We also have some data here. In the two games Jackson missed and Spiller finished earlier this season, Choice saw just 15 total touches. Spiller got 43. If you’re still alive and carrying Spiller, you have been freed. He's a top-5 option at the running back position this week.

The Cowboys really haven’t done Dez Bryant justice in their handling of his finger situation.

On Tuesday morning, owner/GM Jerry Jones went on the radio and said that the ultimate decision on if Dez plays Sunday will be left up to the player. So, Dez now has a choice: Opt for surgery and protect his long-term career. Or gut it out and risk permanent damage.

Unsurprisingly, Dez says he wants to suit up. He’s a football player that finally feels like he’s carrying the team. This is what he does.

“It would take more than this to take me out,” Bryant told Tuesday. “No Way. They’d have to break my leg to keep me out.”

At this point, it looks like he’s going to splint up and suit up. Is there a chance he’s ineffective? Yes. Is there a chance he drops a couple balls and hits the pine? Yes. Is there a chance he’s a decoy? Yes. Would I ever consider sitting him if he’s active? No.

Add Dwayne Harris, who has passed Kevin Ogletree on the depth chart, and wait.

Oft-injured Darren McFadden may never be truly 100 percent. But it sounds like he’s about as close as it gets right now. The ankle “tweak” he sustained late in last Thursday’s loss to the Broncos turned out to be a mere scare.

“It made my nerves kind of jittery,” he said Monday. “[But] it was more of a scare than anything. It was cool today. … I was moving good, making all my cuts. I’m not concerned.”

Expect a full workload in a dream home matchup against the Chiefs Sunday.

With their receiving corps decimated by injury, the “idiots calling the shots” for the Jets claimed Braylon Edwards off waivers. … Pete Carroll balked at any talk of lessening Marshawn Lynch’s workload. Beast Mode will beast on. … The Steelers aren’t making any changes to their running back rotation. Jonathan Dwyer starts, and Rashard Mendenhall is suspended. He‘s not happy about being a healthy scratch the last two weeks. … The Ravens are expected to run more no-huddle now that Cam Cameron is out and Jim Caldwell is in at offensive coordinator.

Donald Brown (ankle) is done for the year and Delone Carter (ankle) is in doubt. Vick Ballard’s workload will be there, but he has a tough matchup in Houston this week. … LeSean McCoy (concussion) is one step away from getting cleared, but he’s not going to play Thursday. Bryce Brown is a solid bounce-back candidate. … Brent Celek (concussion) is already back to baseline. He should be able to play in Week 16.

Jeremy Maclin strained his groin while celebrating his game-winning score last week. He’ll still be fine for Thursday. … Danny Amendola (foot) has a “much better chance” to suit up this week, per coach Jeff Fisher. … Jay Cutler said he will “absolutely” play Sunday. … Robert Griffin III (knee) has a Grade 1 LCL sprain. He can play through it, but we won’t know if he will until Thursday at the earliest.

Adding a different D/ST each week based on matchups is a fine strategy. Here are three units that might be on waivers to consider for streaming purposes:

* For more waiver thoughts at all positions, check out Chris Wesseling’s latest here.

1. LIONS vs. Cardinals - Hopefully, you’ve been stashing the Lions’ D in anticipation of this matchup for a few weeks now. The Cards gave up 41 points to the Seahawks D/ST last week. 41! John Skelton and Ryan Lindley have combined to throw two touchdowns and 14 interceptions this season. Larry Fitzgerald has six catches for 67 yards and no touchdowns over the last four weeks.

2. DOLPHINS vs. Jaguars - This is an especially strong play if Cecil Shorts (concussion) sits out again. Without him and with Sean Smith likely on Justin Blackmon, there’s just nowhere for Chad Henne to go.

3. BROWNS* vs. Redskins - The asterisk is here for an obvious reason. If Robert Griffin III (knee) suits up, we can’t use the Browns. Even if his running ability is limited, RG3 leads the entire league in passer rating this season. If Kirk Cousins starts, it’s a field day for a wildly underrated Browns’ defense.

Adam Levitan is in his sixth season covering football and basketball for Rotoworld. He won the Fantasy Sports Writers Association award for Best Series in 2011 and 2009, and ESPN's overall fantasy football title in 2000. Find him on Twitter.
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