Oakland Raiders vs. Miami Dolphins
Reggie Bush – The Dolphins made it extremely clear that they were not satisfied with last year’s running game in the 2011 offseason. Ricky Williams was sent packing to Baltimore and Ronnie Brown moved on to the “Super Team” in Philadelphia. The Dolphins brought in new, young blood via free agency and through the draft. Once the Dolphins secured Bush and drafted Daniel Thomas, the new personnel was in place and the new strategy was ready to roll.
Bush was going to be used as the complimentary back to Thomas. Isn’t it funny how things work out sometimes? Instead of Bush becoming a third-down specialist he’s become more or less the featured back in Miami. As a matter of fact, he’s just a few carries away from amassing the most rushing yardage he’s ever had in one season. Not bad for a change-of-pace back. The question becomes how will Bush’s 2011 production impact the Dolphins’ purposed game plan moving forward? Thomas has been slowed by hamstring injuries all through the season, and one would think that wouldn’t be the case next year. What is going to happen to the Miami running back situation in the long run? This is entirely up to Bush. If he continues on the pace he’s on and proves that he was right in saying that the New Orleans Saints underused him, then he would deserve the featured back role. It could be more a lightning-and-thunder situation and less of a thunder-and-lightning formula. As long as coach Tony Sparano continues to use Bush in the” right way” then there is no reason to think that the stats wouldn’t continue to come in.
If Bush can keep up this pace for the rest of the season and earn the role again in 2012 then dynasty owners of Thomas would lose a ton of value, especially if Bush continues to see goal line touches and even worse, succeeds. I’d look for Bush to continue rolling with about 75 yards rushing and 50 yards receiving with a touchdown and further his already expanded role.
Tennessee Titans vs. Buffalo Bills
C.J. Spiller – Not exactly a great showing last week from Spiller. Being a former first-round pick we know the kind of ability and talent that Spiller must have. Neither talent nor ability was demonstrated in way, shape or form in Week, 12, though. Spiller received the best chance he’s had to put up big numbers since he was drafted and was stuck on the depth chart behind both Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson.
Here and now in 2011, Lynch is playing on the opposite side of the country and Jackson is listed on Injured Reserve. Week 13 gives Spiller his second chance at finally living up to his high draft position. The bad news is that the Titans defense is no joke, especially when taking into consideration how badly they beat up on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last Sunday. But like I’ve mentioned with many other players over the past two weeks, the clock is about to hit midnight on Spiller’s chance to earn a bigger role in the offense.
Jackson will be back next season, and his 2012 role will likely be waiting for him like a present under the Christmas tree. That’s unless Spiller shows the coaching staff enough to earn additional carries. Spiller will have the next five games to impress and raise his value from nothingness to potential sleeper. Spiller is a lot like the aforementioned Reggie Bush in terms of his skills. He is a great receiving option, has incredible speed and quickness, but has a hard time running in between the tackles. If the Bills can figure out a way to use Spiller in the same way that the Dolphins are using Bush then the numbers could start to come forth. Spiller has a lot of maturing to do in the pro game in order to save any value. The next five weeks are his best chance and very well could be his last.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Chicago Bears
Marion Barber – Caleb Hanie threw the ball a lot more than anyone could have expected last week. It’s especially surprising when you think back to the weeks that the Bears completely limited Jay Cutler’s passing attempts in order to stay with the run, control the clock and limit turnovers. This week I’d be guessing that the Bears will get back to the Chicago way: running the ball well and stout defense.
Matt Forte has been incredible here in 2011. He’s posting staggering numbers when it comes to how much of the production goes through him as a runner and receiver. With that in mind, it’s terribly unrealistic for anyone to be able to take on even more work and realistically expect to finish the season in one piece. The Bears are already on the verge of running Forte completely into the ground the way that teams like the Seattle Seahawks (Shaun Alexander) and the Kansas City Chiefs (Larry Johnson) have in the past. Not only can Forte not take more work on, it would be bright idea to actually lighten his load to help keep him on the field in the long run.
Enter Barber. Barber will have the best opportunity to put up good numbers since his early playing days with the Dallas Cowboys when he was the change-of-pace back behind Julius Jones. This is actually the perfect way to utilize Barber’s skills. You have to give him enough chances to capitalize while also limiting the chances to keep him fresh for when you need him. This will be a great chance for Barber to go back up the board in fantasy rankings. Not only will he receive the ideal amount of carries, but added to that is the fact that Forte is having problems finding the end zone. Luckily for the Bears, that just so happens to be Barber’s specialty.
Look for Barber to receive more carries, gain more yards, contribute in the passing game, and also start finding the end zone more frequently. Barber could become next season’s biggest handcuff at the running back position, right up in the same company as Ben Tate.