Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
The NFL schedule-makers didn't do Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson any favors during the first half of this season, but he has done something he wasn't able to do in the past: grind out yards.
Johnson has faced the Pittsburgh Steelers, Houston Texans and San Diego Chargers. The Steelers have allowed four rushing touchdowns, but are tied for fifth in the NFL with the Texans in allowing only 3.3 yards per carry. The Chargers have yet to allow a rushing touchdown to a running back and are 14th in the NFL in fantasy points allowed to the position.
Johnson hasn't scored yet, but he has produced at least 70 yards in all three games, including 90-plus in the last two.
The former 2,000-yard rusher will have to deal with another tough matchup in Week 4 against the New York Jets, who have surrendered the third fewest fantasy points per game to running backs and have allowed 3.2 yards per carry.
In Weeks 5 and 6, Johnson will face the Kansas City Chiefs and Seattle Seahawks.
The Chiefs allowed 165 yards and a touchdown to Philadelphia Eagles running backs in Week 3, but gave up only 92 yards on 32 carries over their first two games, and the Seahawks have the best defense in the NFL.
However, Johnson's luck will turn come Week 7 against the San Francisco 49ers.
San Francisco appeared to be a tough matchup on paper after allowing the second least fantasy points to running backs in 2012, but they have allowed the most points to running backs this season.
Following the Titans' bye in Week 8, Tennessee will play St. Louis, Jacksonville, Indianapolis, Oakland and Indianapolis again, and that's when Johnson should really be able to do some damage.
The Rams, Jaguars and Colts are in the bottom half of the league in fantasy points allowed to running backs this season, and while the Raiders were surprisingly stout against the run in the first two games, allowing 123 rushing yards on 36 carries and no touchdowns to running backs, they gave up 166 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries to Denver Bro
ncos running backs Monday night.
Johnson has been able to produce respectable totals in each of the first three weeks without breaking off a run longer than 23 yards. Even against tough opponents like the Jets, Chiefs and Seahawks, the 28-year-old is not going to be contained from making some big plays for much longer.
And even if he is bottled up over the next three weeks, he has shown he can still be effective and consistent without the benefit of a long run, something he did not do over the last two years.
Stick with him now and reap the rewards when his schedule softens up in the middle of the season.