Mega-bust?
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The relationship between fantasy players and owners can sometimes be a complex thing.

With the exception of the cast of "The League," most of us will never get to meet our real life fantasy lineup (mention of this brings to mind a particularly hilarious moment in Season 1 when Ruxin and Antonio Gates came to blows at a day spa).

It's unlikely but if I ever do get the chance to meet any of the players on my fantasy team in real life, I know exactly what I would say to Calvin Johnson. In fact, I wouldn't say it, I'd shout it.

"WHY HAVE YOU STOPPED SCORING TOUCHDOWNS???!!!"

Fantasy owners have been pulling their hair out all season trying to find the answer to this question.

It doesn't makes any sense. The Detroit Lions wideout is second in the NFL in receiving yards per game (98.7) and 10th in receptions (38). His 29 first-down receptions ranks eighth and nobody has more catches of 20-plus yards (12).

So, why can't Johnson just get in the darn end zone? Does he think it will bite?

Last year only Rob Gronkowski scored more receiving touchdowns than the one they call Megatron. This season, Johnson is in an 88-way tie for 73rd in the league in receiving scores. He's visited the end zone just once in six games.

Johnson came into the year with 28 receiving touchdowns in his previous two seasons, so this total represents a pretty dramatic change. It's like if Kanye West decided to make a country album or the Rolling Stones started exclusively using autotune.

As it stands now, Johnson is on pace to finish the year with 1,578 yards on 101 catches, not far off from the 96-reception/1,681 yard campaign he turned in a year ago. But without the touchdown production to back it up, his fantasy points per game average has fallen from 15.9 (2.8 ppg more than any other receiver in fantasy last season) to 10.5. That's good for 13th-best among NFL wide receivers.

If I wanted that kind of production I could have drafted Johnson in the fourth round. Instead, I used my ninth overall pick on him.

In most leagues, he went even higher. According to Fantasy Football Calculator, Johnson's average draft position this year was 5.7.

If I had to place blame for Johnson's touchdown drought, I'd point my finger at whoever put together Detroit's impossibly challenging schedule this season.

Through six games, the Lions have already faced four of the NFL's top-10 defenses in yards allowed including the St. Louis Rams (10th), Minnesota Vikings (9th), Chicago Bears (6th) and the San Francisco 49ers (1st). Given that murderer's row of defenses, it's amazing Johnson has done as well as he has.

Matthew Stafford's uneven performance in 2012 hasn't done Megatron any favors either. After exploding for 41 touchdown throws last year, Stafford is on pace for just 13 this season. Stafford's quarterback rating (78.4, 24th in the league) is also well-below the one he posted during his breakout 2011 campaign (97.2, fifth in the NFL).

Stafford has been especially bad inside the red zone this year. Only 40.5 percent of his throws inside the 20-yard line have gone for completions and his QB rating at that spot on the field is a mere 54.3. Stafford had an 87.3 QB rating with 29 touchdown passes inside the red zone in 2011 with nine of those going to Johnson.

It's unclear if Johnson will be able to turn things around. If we look at Johnson's first and second half performances from a year ago, he was actually more productive during the season's first eight games than over the last eight (11 touchdowns in the first half compared to five in the second half). That's not a good sign.

The Lions' schedule doesn't get any easier either as five of Detroit's final 10 contests will come against current top-10 defenses (Arizona, Chicago, Houston, Minnesota and Seattle).

The absence of wideout Nate Burleson (out for the year with a broken leg) could mean more targets for Johnson going forward but that also means Johnson will face tighter coverage. We saw this happen on Monday night with Peanut Tillman blanketing Johnson everywhere he went. Megatron finished the night with only three receptions on 11 targets.

Johnson's talent hasn't waned but sometimes circumstances beyond anyone's control (like scheduling) can get in the way of fantasy success. Johnson's touchdown slump won't last forever but I think it's safe to say Megatron won't be as prolific in fantasy as he was last season. As Justin Timberlake put it in the movie "The Social Network," that's life in the NFL.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Jesse Pantuosco at jpantuosco@sportsnetwork.com.

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