Tennessee Titans: Chris Johnson the Key to Beating New England

Chad Minton@@chad_mintonCorrespondent ISeptember 2, 2012

SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 11:  Running back Chris Johnson #28 of the Tennessee Titans rushes against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on August 11, 2012 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

There won't be any time wasted for the Tennessee Titans to start the regular season as they welcome in the New England Patriots to get the 2012 season underway.

If the Titans are going to shock the masses and pull off the upset, they're going to have to establish a reliable running game early on.

It doesn't take a brain surgeon to realize that Chris Johnson will have to justify some of that contract he received just one year ago by having a solid performance.

In the seven Titans losses from last season, Johnson never rushed for more than 64 yards. In four of those seven losses, he rushed for less than 30 yards.

That just can't happen in Week 1.

The score could get ugly much like the last time these two teams met if Johnson has another no-show and forces Jake Locker to do it all through the air.

No matter how many positive strides the Titans defense has made since the beginning of last season, the Patriots are still going to get their fair share of points.

That means the Titans are going to have to win the time of possession battle. Keeping Tom Brady on the bench will at least give the Titans a chance to stay within striking distance.

Where's Jeff Fisher when you need him? Oh yeah, he's in St. Louis.

Let's not forget that the Titans have some weapon of their own that will be able to make plays against a Patriots defense that has plenty of holes in it.

The bottom line is that the Titans go as Johnson goes. If he becomes unstoppable early on, then that will open up things for Locker in the secondary.

Locker has plenty of options in the passing game as long as the Patriots are being forced to respect Johnson in the backfield.

Pretty much no one is giving the Titans a prayer at taking down the Patriots, but it isn't as far fetched as it may seem if Johnson can somehow find some space to work with.

Playing at home also never hurt anyone, and the Titans should have a great home crowd supporting them to bring in the new season.

However, if Johnson lays another egg to start this game then the fans will grow restless.

They've already lost patience with him on a few occasions in meaningless preseason games.

The Titans can't afford to have the crowd grow restless due to Johnson's two yards per carry average. He has to remind everyone that he once was a 2,000-yard rusher.

If that happens, the crowd is going to get amped up.

It seems all so simple, but nothing has come simple for Johnson since 2009.

For the sake of possible embarrassment to the defending AFC champs, Johnson has to step it up in the season opener.