The Detroit Lions have been one of the most disappointing teams in the NFL this season. After reaching the playoffs last season after years of frustration, the Lions have regressed in 2012. Poor special teams play, lapses in the defensive secondary and injuries have taken a toll on the Lions as they’ve struggled to achieve a 4-9 record. The team cannot even hope to achieve a .500 record this season, but there could be a lone bright spot. WR Calvin Johnson could eclipse Jerry Rice’s single season receiving yardage record.
Johnson has clearly stated his case to be known as the best receiver in the NFL this season. While scoring just five touchdowns, he has managed to record 96 catches for an astounding 1,546 yards. He is just 303 yards shy of Rice’s all-time record.
What has made his achievements on the field so remarkable this season is the fact that Johnson is routinely double and sometime triple-teamed by opposing defenses. He has had little help on the other side of the field. The Lions have placed wide receivers Nate Burleson, Titus Young and rookie Ryan Broyles on the season ending injured reserve list. Johnson has also been nursing a season long knee injury.
Reaching the record however will be difficult. The Lions square off against the hapless Arizona Cardinals this afternoon, but Arizona has the league’s 5th best pass defense. Johnson will be covered by CB Patrick Peterson.
The Lions finish the season out with two home games, a primetime matchup with the Atlanta Falcons and the regular season finale against divisional opponent, Chicago. Against the Bears earlier in the season, Johnson was held to just 34 yards. Atlanta ranks towards the middle of the pack in pass defense, but could be resting several starters with little to play for in week 16.
In his last six games, Johnson has posted no less than 118 yards in any game, even going over 200 yards against the Minnesota Vikings in November. At his current pace, Johnson would add another 354 yards to his season total, giving him exactly 1,900 yards on the season, and his place in the NFL record book, while putting a bright spot on an other wise dismal season for the Lions.