This week, the Detroit Lions head to Nashville to take on the 0-2 Titans. The Lions are coming off a tough loss to the 49ers, and Matthew Stafford needs to step up his performance against a Titans team ranked 20th against the pass.
The Titans, however, have had more than one tough game. Their first two weeks have been a struggle, as the offense has failed to move the ball and the defense has allowed more than 400 yards per game.
I've got three bold predictions for what we'll see in this game.
Mikel Leshoure Becomes A Top Fantasy Pickup
Mike Leshoure entered the league to excessive hype. I'll admit to stashing him on my bench in several fantasy leagues last year, so my sleeper hopes were dashed when he was lost for the year to a blown Achilles tendon. Now back and healthy (we presume), Leshoure has finished his two-game suspension and is ready to roll. Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press wrote that "Leshoure is expected to play a significant role in the game."
Leshoure took the second handoff in practice Wednesday, so my guess is that he'll be splitting time with Kevin Smith in the Lions' backfield. Even if Leshoure and Smith swap carries Sunday, expect the coaching staff to get Leshoure involved. Smith isn't a team favorite (having once been cut by the team, and only brought back because of injuries), and he's only gained 57.5 yards per game so far.
Reports have said the Lions are looking into free agent running backs including Ryan Grant, which suggests the team isn't thrilled with their options. Here's my first bold prediction: this week the Lions find a stud in Mikel Leshoure, who becomes a top fantasy waiver pickup after Sunday's game, and the team stops looking at free agent running backs.
Jake Locker Gives Way to Matt Hasselbeck
Second-year quarterback Jake Locker hasn't looked good so far. (He's not alone, as the entire Titans offense has struggled to move the ball.) The Lions' defense hasn't recorded an interception yet, but they have sacked the quarterback seven times in two games. Locker will be pressured early and often, and the Lions will give the young quarterback all he can handle.
This year, Locker has struggled in the first half, completing 57.9% of his passes and throwing zero touchdowns and two interceptions. Although Locker's been better in the second half, I predict that the Lions won't let him get that far. Either Locker's injured left shoulder will act up or Locker will get pulled in favor of the veteran Matt Hasselbeck.
Chris Johnson Has His Season-Defining Game
Guess who leads the Titans in rushing yards. Just guess. No, it's not Chris Johnson. It's not even his backup, Javon Ringer. No, Jake Locker leads the team in rushing. He leads the team with 32 yards. Yes, you read that right. Thirty-two yards in two games, and he leads the team.
Chris Johnson has 21 yards on 19 carries, without a run longer than seven yards. By now Mike Munchak, the Titans' coach, has to be tired of telling the media that he will give Johnson another chance. The Lions are allowing 112.5 yards per game and 4.2 yards per carry, hardly a top-caliber squad. This is likely Johnson's last chance. This game will define Chris Johnson's season, one way or another.