What has changed to trigger the Tennessee Titans’ turnaround is obvious. Running back Chris Johnson has been a constant, however, producing highlights even during the team’s lowest moments.
It would seem difficult for the NFL’s leading rusher to get overshadowed, but it has happened to Johnson for two reasons.
When the Titans were 0-6, everyone preferred to laugh at their demise rather than tout Johnson’s excellence. And while the Titans have ripped off five consecutive wins, many followers have been praising quarterback Vince Young for bringing the team — and his career — back from the dead.
Six weeks ago, I would have performed the Lionel Richie song “All Night Long” on karaoke night before I would have considered taking the Titans as 7-point road underdogs to the Indianapolis Colts.
After all, Tennessee was embarrassed 31-9 by the Colts on Oct. 11, and that score could have been much worse.
The New England Patriots proved that a week later by crushing the Titans, 59-0. The score could have been worse in that game, too.
But Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher made the quarterback switch from Kerry Collins to Young after a bye week, and the change created a miracle. Young now has a realistic shot to outgun Peyton Manning and stop the Colts’ 20-game winning streak in the regular season.
But, again, it’s not all about Young. Johnson is due some credit for putting together an amazing season that might result in 2,000-plus yards rushing.
Johnson, a second-year speedster from East Carolina, has burst onto the scene to top the charts with 1,396 yards rushing. He just turned in his sixth straight game with at least 125 yards rushing.
The Colts’ run defense is no doormat, but it will be easier for Johnson to break loose without the presence of injured safety Bob Sanders. Johnson had an 85-yard touchdown run in Week 12 against Arizona.
Indianapolis (11-0) has been much stronger on the road (6-0 against the spread) than at home (1-4 ATS).
Two running threats are better than one, and Johnson and Young can continue another pattern by making the Colts sweat out a close game.
It’s amazing how things change. But I still will never consider taking the stage on karaoke night.
Four more plays for Week 13 (Home team in CAPS):
• BEARS (-81/2) over Rams: Another overlooked running back having a great season is St. Louis’ Steven Jackson. But he can’t play quarterback, and neither can anyone else on the Rams’ roster. It might seem crazy to back Jay Cutler and Chicago laying more than a touchdown. But the Bears have taken care of business against bad opponents, beating Cleveland and Detroit by 24 points each.
• Chargers (-13) over BROWNS: Cleveland’s offense has been a joke all season, and now its defense is breaking down. Browns nose tackle Shaun Rogers is out, and cornerback Eric Wright is doubtful. San Diego, which has won six straight, should roll behind quarterback Philip Rivers.
• Patriots (-4) over DOLPHINS: There were questions this week about the status of New England quarterback Tom Brady. Expect him to play, and expect the Patriots to bounce back from a rare blowout loss. The road team has covered the past five in this series. Miami’s offense will sorely miss injured running back Ronnie Brown.
• Ravens (+31/2) over PACKERS: Joe Flacco has failed to move the Baltimore offense in recent weeks. The Ravens are close to falling out of the playoff picture. This game is a big one for Baltimore. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers will surely get pressured and sacked more than once, and key injuries have weakened the Packers’ defense.
Last week: 1-3-1 against the spread
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907.