Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 9/10/12

Four was the magic number for Chris Johnson yesterday. Four yards rushing, 47 yards receiving, and four points for fantasy in non-PPR leagues. 

Certainly those who drafted Johnson spent either a first or second round pick to get the $53 million man. 

So if and when can owners expect a return on their lofty investment?

Short answer - sometime soon. 

Johnson ebbs and flows around a multitude of conditions more so than any other back in the league. 

Take a look at this stretch from mid-season last year.

Week 10 @ Car:  27 carries, 130 yards, 1 TD

Week 11 @ Atl:  12 carries, 13 yards, 0 TD

Week 12 v TB:  23 carries, 190 yards, 0 TD

Week 13 @ Buf: 23 carries, 153 yards, 2 TD

Week 14 v NO:  11 carries, 23 yards, 0 TD

What are the causes for the variance in production? 

He had stellar games both home and away, so playing in Nashville isn't a huge factor.

A deeper look into the numbers reveals a key indicator of his performance. Last year, the Panthers were the 25th worst team against the run, Buccaneers were dead last at 32nd, and the Bills were 28th worst.

The Falcons were the 6th best team against the run, and the Saints were 12th best in 2011. 

Guess what? The Titans won against the Panthers, Buccaneers, Bills - and lost against the Falcons and Saints.

Obviously teams lose the ability to run the ball when they start the game off losing by a couple touchdowns. Johnson is a victim of this often, as witnessed Week 7 last year against the Texans and Week 1 this year. 

Owning Johnson means you have to know who he is playing. Was he a good start against the Patriots - a middle to lower of the pack rush defense? Yes, on that aspect you would start him. 

But the Patriots beat the living mess out of the Titans last year. The Titans had no Kenny Britt for this game, leaving Jared Cook and Nate Washington as their most viable passing threats. 

Simply assessing this game one would see that if the Patriots get out to an early lead - which was very likely - the Titans would lose their ability to run due to the Patriots not respecting the pass game and stacking the line.

Johnson's game yesterday was foreseeable. Whether it's the Patriots in Week 1, or the Packers in Week 16, against an elite offense he more often than not lays an egg.  

Now let's look ahead to when Johnson can bounce back and put up big points - because he will this season.

The next two games for the Titans are against the Chargers - 20th worst rush defense, and the Lions - 23rd worst rush defense. There is potential for Johnson to put up big numbers against these two squads. He is a must start Weeks 2 & 3 this year.  

Weeks 4-7 are tougher pills to swallow. Houston and Pittsburgh were top-10 rush defenses last year, which isn't good for Johnson owners. If you have depth bench him those weeks.  

Sandwiched in between the Texans and Steelers game is a trip to Minnesota - the 11th best rush defense last year. Johnson is a questionable play that week.

Weeks 8 & 9 offer a reprieve from tough defenses, with match-ups against the Bills and Colts who both ranked in the bottom five against the run. The Bills' defense is so porous this year they made Stephen Hill and Mark Sanchez look like Montana & Rice. 

Then the schedule gets brutal. The Titans play four top-10 rush defenses in a row. Fantasy playoffs offer only one good match-up against the Colts. Then championship week will either be against the Jets or Packers.

What does all this data and analysis add up to? Johnson should be moved from your roster. But how and when - no one wants a player after he rushes for four yards the first week right?

Following the Lions' game in Week 3, Johnson may have had two solid performances. Try to move him then. Otherwise the time to move him is after the Colts game in Week 8. 

Just don't be afraid to pull the trigger on a trade if he runs for 200 yards and two TDs against a poor defense! That's what he does best. When the going gets tough, he puts up a four spot. 

If you ride him out through the playoff chase and into the fantasy postseason, be prepared for some lackluster games that give you 10-20 yards rushing and zero touchdowns. Consider yourself warned. 

Johnson has speed like a meth dealer and off the charts natural ability. But he needs everything to be right for him to excel. The game has to be competitive, and the opposing team can't be full of big hitters who stop the run. This is the difference between CJ4Y and CJ2K anymore. 



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