The rushing game takes center stage as the Detroit Lions prepare to take on the Tennessee Titans. Neither team ran the ball particularly well in Weeks 1 and 2. Mikel Leshoure and Chris Johnson will get the bulk of the carries for their respected teams, and who will finish better is a hot topic.
On paper, there is no doubt that Chris Johnson should be the favorite. He ran for over 2,000 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2009. It takes an elite talent to put up such gaudy numbers.
However, he's been a shadow of his former self since then. Last season he barely surpassed 1,000 yards and only hit paydirt four times. The fact that this drop off came immediately after he signed a big contract makes his performance harder to swallow for Tennessee fans.
It hasn't gotten any better this season. Through two games the Titans are dead last in rushing and Johnson has 21 total yards and a 1.1 yard average.
He might think his offensive lineman are at fault, but no one is buying his excuses. He's simply not the player he once was. Tennessee's line, particularly the interior lineman, might not be Pro Bowlers, but great players find success no matter what.
After all, Barry Sanders didn't have a great line blocking for him but he managed to do pretty well.
Johnson prefers to blame everyone else instead of concentrating on how he can fix the problem.
His outstanding 2009 season now looks like an aberration and his offensive lineman shouldn't knock themselves out to block for a guy who throws them under the bus the first chance he gets.
That's why Leshoure has a great chance to outperform him. He might be playing in his first professional game, but he's in a much better position to be successful.
The Lions, especially their offensive lineman, have been waiting over a year to see what he can do. He missed his rookie year due to an Achilles injury and the first two weeks of this season due to suspension.
That has made the anticipation for his debut extremely high—and I'm not just talking about the fans. The Lions drafted him to be their every-down back. He's a power rusher with the speed and quickness to elude defenders as well.
Their rushing game has been stagnant for years, and Leshoure was drafted to be the solution.
For that reason, the Lions' offensive lineman are going to be heavily invested in making Leshoure successful. They're ecstatic he's finally back there!
That doesn't automatically mean they can successfully run block, though.
Detroit fans who have been critical of the Lions' offensive line might have difficulty believing they can be effective against any team. The fact that the Titans are currently ranked 30th in rush defense should instill some confidence, though.
Their defense is subpar and that bodes well for Leshoure, and his blockers, in his first game.
Eighty to 100 yards and 4.0 yards a carry is a reasonable prediction for him against Tennessee. Johnson will have difficulty equaling those numbers.
The Lions should have an easy time with Tennessee, and Leshoure will have a big role in securing the victory.