Ah, yes. Another Thursday night NFL contest has arrived, and unlike the previous two weeks, this game looks (on the surface) to be competitive, and hopefully will be a fulfilling performance for fantasy football owners.
The Miami Dolphins (4-5) bring a two-game losing streak into the battle, playing arguably their worst game of the season last week against the Tennessee Titans. QB Ryan Tannehill threw for 217 yards but had three interceptions and zero touchdowns. RBs Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas combined for 42 rushing yards as the Dolphins were forced to play “catch-up” for almost the entire game. Be assured that head coach Joe Philbin will use that lousy performance to re-focus his team heading into the cold of Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Buffalo’s losing streak reached three games as they came up short in their road game against the New England Patriots last week. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick had another solid outing against the Pats, passing for over 300 yards with two TDs and only one interception. The Bills (3-6) now share the cellar in the AFC East division with the New York Jets and need a win tonight to maintain their quickly-fading playoff dreams for the season. In addition to losing the game Sunday, Buffalo also lost RB Fred Jackson (who scored two TDs) as he suffered a concussion and is unlikely to suit up against the Dolphins.
Now in this column I generally try to highlight players who may be somewhat under the radar for fantasy purposes. Sometimes, however, these Thursday night games don’t have enough startable players to avoid the “no-brainer” starts. This week’s game kind of falls into that category, and so, with my apologies for insulting your fantasy football intelligence, let’s look at tonight’s Three-Fer…
1. C.J. Spiller
I’m using my first call on what should be this game’s version of drafting Arian Foster at 1.01 – a can’t miss choice. Spiller’s 2012 production exploded when Fred Jackson went down with an injury early in the Bills’ season-opener, and Spiller was fantasy’s top back until his own injury two weeks later against the Browns. Spiller is now fully healthy and while he has been patiently splitting time and carries with Jackson, tonight’s spotlight will be Spiller’s and Spiller’s alone.
While I actually don’t love Spiller’s matchup (the Dolphins are 7th-best in fantasy points allowed to opposing RBs) his focused opportunity tonight should lead to a solid game against the Dolphins, who gave up a surprising 126 yards to Chris Johnson last week. Look for Spiller to near 150 all-purpose yards and score at least one TD.
2. Daniel Thomas
Over the Dolphins’ last three games, their running back situation has developed into a full-blown committee with Thomas and Reggie Bush sharing almost identical statistics. The big difference is that Bush’s playing time and fantasy production is declining, and Thomas’ workload and production is increasing.
To say that the Bills are generous to opposing running backs would be an understatement – they are last in the NFL allowing 164 yards per game on the ground, and they are last in the NFL having given up 16 rushing TDs so far in 2012. I expect the Dolphins to take advantage of this mismatch and control the game’s tempo with their running game. Daniel Thomas should gain 50 yards on the ground with a TD, and should catch three passes for another 20 yards.
3. Donald Jones
While Stevie Johnson is the Bills’ number-one WR, Donald Jones has quietly been putting up some very solid performances. Over the past three weeks, Jones has pretty much mirrored Johnson’s statline, actually outperforming Johnson with one more receiving TD over the span.
Miami’s rushing defense has been relatively solid, but their defense against the pass is one of the shakiest in the league as they are allowing 278 yards per game and ranking 26th in points-allowed to opposing WRs. Johnson should remain Fitzpatrick’s main target, but I think Jones will see enough action to be a good WR3 or Flex start tonight. I think he’ll produce 6 catches for 75 yards.
While I think the Dolphins will rebound from last week, traveling on a short week hasn’t been a recipe for success in these Thursday night games. A warm-weather team heading into near-freezing temperatures doesn’t make things any easier and I think the Bills will find a way to win this game in the fourth quarter. Enjoy the matchup and let’s root for a ton of offense this week!