It was a great comeback season for Chris Johnson, but a fractured tibia means he’s out for the regular season and most of the playoffs. The only way he plays against this season for the Arizona Cardinals is if the team make the Super Bowl.
The Cardinals certainly look capable of that in an NFC that has very few winning teams, with the Cardinals playing like the best of them, alongside the Carolina Panthers. But the running game, for the first time in years, has finally been an important part of that success. Johnson has 814 yards in 11 games. The team is averaging 115.2 yards on the ground per game. Play-action through Johnson has been an important part of their passing game. Now they need to do without it.
Can the Cardinals make the Super Bowl without Johnson? We saw in the win against the 49ers that Carson Palmer can run himself, even quickly, but that’s not something the Cardinals rely on. It probably means we’re going to see more of Andre Ellington (6.9 yards per carry this season) and David Johnson, although both of them don’t have the power of Chris Johnson, relying more on speed and open spaces than being the third-down type of guys.
The Cardinals have a good enough defense and versatile enough offense to overcome this injury, but it might be a bit soon to tell whether Johnson, who was hoping to get his 7th career 1000-yard season, is going to throw the entire team offense off balance by not being on the field. The Cardinals probably don’t have to worry about the NFC West or making the playoffs – they’re pretty much a lock, but picking up unwanted struggled and not finding out how to shake them off could put an end to their season sooner than they were hoping for.