Fantasy Football Week 3: Will Chris Johnson Rebound Against the Detroit Lions?

Jamal CollierAnalyst IIISeptember 23, 2012

ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 04:  Chris Johnson #28 of the Tennessee Titans stands on the field during a time out  against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on December 4, 2011 in Orchard Park, New York.Tennessee won 23-17.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

The early-season struggles of Tennessee Titans’ running back Chris Johnson are well-documented: 19 carries for 21 rushing yards to go along with eight receptions for 58 yards in his first two games.

But by the end of the day on Sunday, we will have a third game’s worth of data with which to dissect the rusher’s fantasy prospects.

What will that day look like?

For starters, the Titans offense has scored exactly half of the points (23) that its opponent, the Detroit Lions, have put up (46) in the first two weeks of the season. Chances are that they will be playing from behind.

That doesn’t bode well for the ground game.

But the Lions defense hasn’t necessarily been stout against the run. It corralled the Rams’ Steven Jackson in Week 1, allowing 53 yards on 21 carries, but gave up 20 yards on two totes from rookie Daryl Richardson.

In Week 2, the Lions got gashed by Frank Gore. On 17 carries, Gore tallied 89 yards and a touchdown. He added two catches for 16 yards, in total a 105-yard performance.

Between the two starters (Gore and Jackson), the Lions allowed an average of 3.74 yards per carry.

That’s probably not the most attractive matchup for the struggling Johnson, however. If he were matched up against the Carolina Panthers this week, I’d be all for starting him.

This middle-of-the-road rushing defense places Johnson in a wait-and-see situation in terms of whether or not he should be benched.

The Titans should put some emphasis on succeeding in the running game to eliminate the distractions caused by the struggles of their star rusher.

But with the way they have been playing, they won’t be able to stick with that game plan.

A reasonable expectation that would also reflect some improvement for Johnson’s rushing stats at the end of the game would be as follows: 18 rushes, 60 yards and a touchdown.

If that happens, along with a healthy dose of receiving yards, Johnson is going to be a hot fantasy commodity all over again simply by virtue of double-digit fantasy points next to his name.

If he doesn’t score with that line, much will still be made of his struggles despite the fact that his yards-per-carry average would be 3.3 in either scenario.

The reason I wouldn’t start Chris Johnson this week is that I don’t want to have to chase touchdowns from the RB position. Running backs are supposed to anchor a fantasy lineup with a certain measure of consistency.

The only consistency that Johnson has provided fantasy owners this year is consistent frustration.