RB Johnson Should Be Quite The Test

Chris Johnson

Normally, this would be my second blog post of the week here at Chat Saints; however, the reality of being a college student finally decided to hit me over the course of the last seven days (Who doesn't love finals week?).  There are a number of new additions to my work at the site that I intend to implement over the next few weeks (look for a podcast in the near future), so be sure to stay tuned and keep your ears open.  Chat Saints is on the rise, and with the New Orleans Saints en route to another playoff appearance, things should get to be pretty hectic around this area of Chat Sports.

But enough about me, as there is a pivotal matchup occurring on Sunday afternoon that must be discussed.  The 7-5 Tennessee Titans play host to the hometown 9-3 New Orleans Saints at LP Field in Nashville, and the boys in blue are looking for their fourth win in the last five weeks (Speaking of blue, the Black and Gold have been seeing a lot of it lately between the New York Giants, Detroit Lions and the Titans.).  The Titans' stud RB, Chris Johnson, who was inked to a six-year, $53.5 million deal this past off-season, began the year at a tortoise-like pace.  In the first nine contests of the season, Johnson totalled 366 yards and two TDs, something that left both Titans fans and fantasy owners around the country disgusted and disheartened.  Suddenly, though, Johnson seems to have found his stride.  Over the last four weeks, Johnson has gained 486 yards and three TDs on the ground, and now that contract of his doesn't seem as overblown as it initially appeared.

Johnson's resurgence looks as though it is arriving at the perfect time for a growing Tennesee squad, as injuries to both Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart have made the first-place Houston Texans vulnerable to missing the playoffs as the season wears on.  Even with this recent amount of production from the ground game, though, the Titans still rank in the bottom percent of the league in several offensive categories.  Their running game is currently sitting at 28th in the league, as the squad is still averaging a mere 96.8 yds/game.  The passing offense hasn't looked much better, as veteran QB Matt Hasselbeck has Tennessee sitting at 18th in the NFL with 222.5 yds/game through the air.  Add on the fact that the offense only totals 319.3 yds/game (ranked 22nd in the league) and compiles 20.8 points/contest, and the Titans seem like a minimal threat to the New Orleans Saints' defense. 

Speaking of defense, even with the poor rankings of Johnson and the Titans' rushing offense, LB Jonathan Vilma should have his hands full with the 5'11 RB out of East Carolina.  For a further analysis, where better to look than the game splits?  Against NFC opponents this season, Johnson has carried the ball 62 times for 333 yards and a TD, as he is averaging 5.4 yds/carry against cross-divisional opponents.  At LP Field, Johnson has carried the rock 98 times for 380 yards and no TDs (Long story short:  he's finding more success on the road.).  He is currently averaging 3.9 yds/carry at home in 2011. 

As I previously mentioned, his numbers over the past month and a half have been phenomenal, though.  In November and December, Johnson has totalled 550 yards and three TDs, and he is averaging 6.0 yds/carry over that span.  Considering that he'll be facing off against a 16th-ranked rush defense on Sunday (The Saints are currently allowing opponents to rush for 114.6 yds/game.), there's a good chance that he will be a hassle this weekend.  Finally, add in the fact that LB Jonathan Casillas has missed practice this week due to a knee injury, and suddenly a win against the Titans seems that much more difficult to obtain.

Regardless, Johnson will be one of the bigger tests that the Saints' run defense has had to face this season, and if they expect to be ready for another playoff push, then they will have to buckle down and keep his production to a minimal on Sunday.  Now it's time for me to head back and hit the books.  I still have a final or two left to study for, and the "Who Dat Nation" has a contest to anticipate.  Remember to stay tuned to Chat Saints through December.  You won't want to miss it!

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