C.J. Spiller (ankle) has been “extremely limited” in practice this week, and while I expect him to try to give it a go tonight in Cleveland, he seems destined to be the dreaded “game-time decision”. Fred Jackson (sprained MCL) reported soreness this week, but has been an active member in practice and told the media that he is going to play.
Spiller, who averaged 6.0 yards per carry last season (including 8.3 YPC in September), has managed just one big run this season, a 46-yard scamper against the Carolina Panthers and is facing loaded fronts as the result of having a rookie signal-caller. Subtract that one spurt from the equation, and the tailback some considered to be the most explosive in the NFL is averaging 2.8 yards per carry, the same rate as Sam Bradford.
He also hasn’t been nearly as productive in the passing game presumably because the Bills want an extra pass protector in, managing only 29 receiving yards through four games, a total he exceeded in eight individual games last season.
Jackson has been by far the more productive of the two backs this season, but a 32-year old RB with a nagging knee injury and over 1,200 career touches raises more than just one red flag. At this point in his career, he can produce in a two-back system, but elevating him to a top-15 back should Spiller miss this game is a mistake.
The Browns are only allowing 2.9 yards per carry this season and have been even better than that at home. The less than fleet-footed Andy Dalton had the Cincinnati Bengals‘ longest rush last week against this stingy front line of the Browns. In fact, in two home games this season, the Browns have given up less than 2.0 yards per carry (43 rushes for 83 yards).
Joe Haden will likely be matched up with Stevie Johnson, likely erasing him from the game plan (just ask Mike Wallace or A.J. Green owners about that). I’m banking on the Browns loading the box and making a rookie quarterback/receiver tandem in E.J. Manuel and Robert Woods beat them down the field as opposed to letting these established running backs find a groove.
Neither of these teams gets the national spotlight often, and I suspect we will see why. Unless you play in a fantasy league that starts punters (in which case I’m all in on Shawn Powell), the Browns’ Josh Gordon is the only player I feel remotely comfortable in starting tonight.
If your question remains unanswered, reach out to me on Twitter @unSOPable23.
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