Week 11 Matchup: Dolphins at Bills

Author Christian Peterson
C.J. Spiller
With Fred Jackson injured, C.J. Spiller should shine on Thursday night. (Photo: Icon SMI)

When the Dolphins have the ball:

BENCH QB Ryan Tannehill. Yes, it’s tempting to point out that only one team has been worse at stopping QBs than the Bills this year. Nobody has allowed more total QB TDs (20) than the Bills, but you’d have said the same thing in Week 6, when Kevin Kolb threw for just 128 yards and a TD, or Week 7, when Matt Hasselbeck had 205 & 1. There’s a remote chance you’ll get something like Mark Sanchez’s 266 & 3 in Week 1, but coming off a 217-yard, 3-INT debacle against an awful Titans defense last week, do you really trust Tannehill? The man has thrown more than 1 TD pass in a game exactly once in his entire NFL career. He has almost twice as many INTs as TDs. He’s a struggling rookie on a bad team. Let someone else take the gamble.

START WR Brian Hartline. With at least 8 catches and 79 yards in each of his last two games, Hartline is back in the fantasy picture as the Dolphins obvious No. 1 option. Though the obvious caveats apply to his rookie QB, Hartline can be started in PPR formats against a Bills defense that’s allowed 12 WR TDs and six games of at least 89 yards to opposing wideouts. He’s a mere WR3 in the best of times, but go ahead and start Hartline if you need help at WR3 or flex.

START RBs Reggie Bush & Daniel Thomas. The Bills field the worst run defense in the NFL, and it’s not that close. They’ve allowed the most RB rushing yards, the most RB TDs, the highest YPC average, and the third-most combo yards. They’ve allowed five 100-yard rushers and four multiple-TD efforts. Bush is coming off a benching last week and is part of a timeshare with Thomas, but a date with the Bills can cure a lot of ills. Last time the Dolphins faced this malleable front 7, Bush ran for 203 yards and a TD (Week 15 of last year). Bush is in as a huge bounce back candidate, and Thomas is a top-notch bye week fill-in option for those who are desperate.

When the Bills have the ball:

START RB C.J. Spiller. Spiller leads the NFL with an other-worldly average of 7.3 YPC this season. The only reason he’s not a top-5 fantasy back this year is because he got hurt for a couple of games and because Fred Jackson is pretty darn good too. But Jackson has already been ruled out of this game, which opens the door for 20-plus touches for Spiller. In the above-referenced 2011 Week 15 matchup, Spiller ran for 91 yards and a TD on just 12 carries, and chipped in 9 catches for 76 yards and another TD through the air. It won’t be easy against a Dolphins defense that’s allowed just 3.7 YPC and 4 RB TDs in nine games, but the explosive Spiller’s upside is immense. Start him with confidence.

START QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick delivered as a fantasy sleeper last week, notching a 337 & 2 line against a bad Patriots secondary. The Dolphins pass defense is better, but only marginally. Only three of the nine QBs they’ve faced have thrown for more than 1 TD pass, but opposing passers are putting up 295 YPG against them, and Fitzpatrick threw for 316 & 2 in last year’s Week 15 matchup. If you’ve lost Eli Manning to the bye or Michael Vick, Ben Roethlisberger, or Jay Cutler to injury, take a gander at Fitzpatrick this week.

START WR Stevie Johnson. I’m not thrilled about Johnson, but he continues to put up barely startable stats on a semi-regular basis. His 6-86 line in last week’s loss to the Patriots represent season highs in both categories, but he’s only got 1 TD since Week 3. You’ve come to expect WR3 digits of Johnson regardless of the strength of his opponent. In what amounts to a neutral matchup with a “meh” Dolphins secondary that ranks in the bottom third of the NFL in terms of both yardage and TDs allowed to opposing WRs, you can roll with him as his usual WR3 self this week. With TDs in two of his last three and 6 catches in two straight, Donald Jones might actually be the more intriguing play here. It’s a rather large leap of faith to trust Jones in a critical late-season fantasy week, but he can serve as a flex fill-in if you’re desperate.