If you’ve been relying on Chris Johnson so far this fantasy football season, then surely you must be happy with the results. Johnson is the seventh highest scoring running back in all of fantasy through 14 weeks and he’s scored at least 15 fantasy points in four of his last seven games; if you’ve been depending on the speedster so far, though, I believe you need to explore other options for Week 15.
Chris Johnson — to put it simply — is not a good running back; Johnson has one elite skill, his speed, and when his team is able to get him into open space, he can use his speed to break out large gains that many times result in touchdowns. All running backs benefit from running behind great offensive lines, Johnson though, is incapable of gaining positive yardage unless his line creates a Red Sea-like lane for him to run through. If a hole is there, Johnson can run really fast through it. If the line is struggling, though, then Johnson has virtually no hope at being productive.
Johnson is great at using his speed to break away from the defense, the only problem is the defense starts in front of you, not behind you, and it’s getting by them that he struggles with. The Tennessee Titans have a good offensive line that has had success in certain matchups at creating crater-like holes for Johnson to run through, but they’ll have arguably their toughest test of the season this weekend when they take on the Arizona Cardinals.
You’ll have to go all the way back to Week 7, when the Cardinals took on the Seattle Seahawks, if you want to find the last time the Cardinals allowed double-digit fantasy points to an opposing running back. The Cardinals have allowed the third fewest rushing yards, third fewest yards per attempt and fifth fewest rushing touchdowns all season which has resulted in them giving up the fewest fantasy points to opposing rushers. The Cardinals also excel at taking away the big run, as they have allowed opposing running backs to gain 15 more yards on just nine rushes all season, and eight of those nine came Week 7 or earlier, and the ninth was a 22-yard run by Daniel Herron with two minutes left in the fourth quarter of a 40-11 blowout against the Indianapolis Colts.
Essentially, the Cardinals haven’t given up a meaningful run of 15 yards or more in seven weeks. This is bad news for Chris Johnson. His game is to get into space and use his speed to break out big runs; 24.5 percent of his yardage this season (201 yards to be exact) have come on rushes of at least 15 yards. Johnson should have a very difficult time finding space this weekend against the tenacious Cardinals’ defense, severely limiting his fantasy upside.
The Cardinals’ defense isn’t the only detractor to Johnson’s fantasy value this week, though. Shonn Greene also presents a problem. Greene got nine carries last week against the Denver Broncos — making it the second week in a row that he’s been given at least nine carries — and he ran effectively, averaging 5.1 yards per carry and scoring two touchdowns. Greene isn’t going away anytime soon and should continue to eat away at CJ2K’s touches, especially around the goal line. And in a game where the only conceivable fantasy production is expected to come around the goal line, that’s assuredly not a good thing.
If you’ve been relying on Johnson so far this season, then you’ve certainly been happy with his production so far. If you want to win in Week 15, though, you’d be better off leaving CJ2K on your bench.