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The two-time fantasy killer
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Everyone knows the saying, "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me." Well, shame on all of us then for trusting Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson again.

Johnson had his worst season as a pro last year, but he had the built-in excuse that he was out of shape after staging a lengthy holdout. And we all bought it.

Instead of being wary of Johnson going into this season, we heard how he was "back to his old self" in training camp, leading fantasy owners to draft Johnson in the first round again.

After three games, Johnson has provided loyal fantasy owners with a measly 45 yards on 33 carries, a 1.4-yards-per-carry average. He has zero touchdowns and nine catches for 63 yards.

The abysmal output is not entirely Johnson's fault, as his offensive line has been terrible, but he must get some of the blame for being a hesitant runner when the holes have been there.

After three weeks, 63 players have produced more rushing yards than Chris Johnson. In fact, 10 players have rushed for a long of more than 45 yards.

While it can't get much worse, it's unlikely the situation is going to get markedly better, either. A breakdown of the stats shows that Tennessee's running back-offensive line combination really hasn't been good for 19 games, save three exceptions last year that inflated Johnson's averages. Plus, Tennessee's schedule is mostly unfavorable.

In 2011, 45 percent of the running back's rushing yards and 75 percent of his touchdowns came in the three games in which he had 130-plus rushing yards. In his other 13 games, Johnson rushed for 574 yards on 189 carries, a 3.0 ypc average and 44.2 yards per game.

The Titans will face tough run defenses in Houston, Minnesota and Pittsburgh in the next three weeks. And while things get easier for Johnson against Buffalo and Indianapolis in Week 7 and 8, respectively, Chicago and Miami will be two more tough tests before the Titans are finally granted mercy by the league with their Week 11 bye.

The worst part about owning Johnson is that there's nothing fantasy owners can do. Our hands are tied. Nobody is going to trade anything of value for Johnson because this is the second straight season he's struggled mightily.

When he got off to a lousy start last year, at least he wasn't too far removed from his 2,000-yard season. Other owners were still willing to pay for that potential. Not anymore.

The only option Johnson owners have right now is to wait, which can be one of the toughest things to do in fantasy sports.

Before you exercise patience, though, the first thing you need to do is hastily plant Johnson on your bench and leave him there. Pretend he doesn't exist until he's able to exceed three yards per carry in a game. Just because you've sunk a sizeable portion of your fantasy budget into the Titans running back doesn't mean you should compound the problem by continuing to play him.

One factor working in Johnson owners' favor is that the NFL is consistently unpredictable. Things change in a hurry, so it's possible Johnson can turn things around without a logical explanation.

If you're looking for a silver lining, Sunday wouldn't have looked as bad if Johnson didn't lose 16 yards on his final two carries. Prior to those two big losses, he had 40 yards on 12 carries, a better-looking 3.3 ypc average.

Unfortunately, clinging to what-if scenarios as flimsy as that one will probably make you feel worse instead of inspiring optimism.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Thomas J. Harrigan at tharrigan@sportsnetwork.com.

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