Just when you think Chris Johnson‘s fantasy value has been beaten, dragged behind a dark alley and hurled into a dumpster, he pulls you back in again.
The Tennessee Titans running back—he of more fantasy lives than a litter of kittens—got back in the good graces of his owners within the first four minutes of Thursday night’s game against the Indianapolis Colts. And then he got into their better graces seven-and-a-half minutes later.
Johnson scored on a 30-yard touchdown and then scampered into the end zone from seven yards out in the first quarter of Week 11, helping spur the Titans to a 14-0 lead. Overall, he had 70 yards on his first eight carries.
That’s 19 fantasy points, if you’re keeping track at home.
Yes, this is the same Johnson who has rushed for fewer than 40 yards in five of his past six games. The same dude who had all of two rushing touchdowns through the first 10 weeks of the 2013 season—both of which came in the same game. The player who has vexed fantasy owners each of the past three campaigns; his frustrating inconsistencies have sent owners into long cabin weekends “just to get away.”
That Chris Johnson.
It should be noted that the Colts are the ninth-best fantasy defense against opposing running backs this season. And that they had given up only five rushing touchdowns. Sure, Football Outsiders was not swayed by these silly counting stats, ranking Indianapolis 23rd in its run defense DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average). But Pro Football Focus’ (subscription required) grading system put the Colts eighth.
If an owner had grown frustrated with Johnson and his propensity to need receptions to have fantasy value, he wouldn’t have been crazy to bench the running back this week. Thursday games are inherently fluky, and no one would have been shocked if he came away with a Trent Richardsonian stat line.
And so is life as a CJ2K fantasy owner. There is no reliability, rhyme or reason to when and if he goes off for a big game. You know that it will happen at various points throughout the season, but there is no telling when that will come, or if he’ll bludgeon your fantasy team’s playoff hopes on the way.
There is nothing different about the way he ran or his blocking schemes. The Titans just opened up holes, and he ran through them. Quickly. These things are prone to happen. But it makes Johnson no more or less reliable going forward than it did coming into Week 11.
By the time he’s finished, who knows? He might have 50 points on Thursday. He might break off a 90-yard run and single-handedly win the week. But then it’s wholly possible that he’ll score five points total over the next two Sundays.
You live by the Johnson, you die by the Johnson. Nothing changes.
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