This caliber of matchup doesn’t happen very often; the greatest wide receiver of the past five years going up against the greatest cornerback of the past five years.
Two players who put the fear of God into every opponent they face will battle it out against each other in Detroit’s Ford Field on Sunday, making it easily the most interesting one-on-one player matchup of the season so far.
Calvin Johnson has looked nearly impossible to stop this season. He leads the league in touchdown receptions (11), receiving yards (1,083) and first down receptions (48).
In his last four contests, Johnson is averaging 185 yards per game, and has scored 2 touchdowns in three of those four games.
Darrelle Revis, meanwhile, is slowly rounding back into form after missing the entire 2012 campaign with a torn ACL. The All-Pro cornerback, who was traded from the Jets to the Buccaneers in the offseason, looks every bit as explosive as he did in the Meadowlands, but hasn’t yet shown the people of Tampa Bay the elite play that we were used to seeing before his 2012 injury.
This is mainly because Revis, who hasn’t felt confident on his surgically-repaired knee, has been forced to alter his approach to the game. It is no secret that Revis’ skills are best utilized when he is playing press man-coverage.
However, Revis himself has stated that through the first few weeks of the season he hasn’t felt comfortable staying in press coverage because of his knee. As a result, we have seen a frustrating number of plays with Revis playing off the receiver and in zone coverage, where his talents are somewhat diminished.
That story seems to be changing now, though, as the cornerback is getting stronger and being asked to do more every week. So far, we haven’t seen the best of Revis as teams have simply steered away from him, not even trying to attack his side of the field.
Unfortunately for Detroit, that probably won’t be an option. Johnson has accounted for 1,089 of the Lions' 3,198 receiving yards this season, and has caught over half of Matthew Stafford’s 21 touchdown passes. If Stafford ignored Johnson this offense wouldn’t be able to function, so there should be plenty of opportunities to see these two elite players go up against each other on Sunday.
The advantage would seem to be in Johnson’s favor. Not only is the Lions’ receiver is having the better year so far, he also has the height-weight-speed advantage that has seen him dominate almost every defensive back he’s come up against. But Revis is no ordinary defensive back. He is getting better every week, and has proven in the past that he is more than capable of handling the Lions’ big receiver.
In their last meeting in 2010, Revis displayed his All-Pro talents by all but shutting Johnson down. The Lions’ receiver was held to 1 catch on 4 targets for a pitiful 13 yards. Nobody has held Johnson to under 20 receiving yards since, and it was one of only 5 games in his 7 year career where Johnson has been held to only a single catch.
There is hope in Tampa Bay that Revis can perform the same feat again. Johnson can sometimes struggle when going up against truly elite cornerbacks in man coverage. His worst stat line of this season, 3 catches for 25 yards and 0 touchdowns, came against Joe Haden and the Cleveland Browns. Revis and the Buccaneers will be hoping for a similar outcome on Sunday.
Whatever happens, make sure you don’t take your eyes off what is destined to be one of the best one-on-one battles of the season.