Some players in the NFL are just impossible to stop.
Teams can typically game plan for a star running back or wide receiver, but the goal is more often containment than anything else.
That’s surely how the Lions (4-7) and Colts (7-4) secondaries are approaching today’s matchup.
Indianapolis receiver Reggie Wayne ranks first in the league in receptions (84) and second in receiving yards (1,105).
Lions receiver Calvin Johnson ranks first in yards (1,257) and is tied for fifth in receptions (73).
Wayne has been the most consistent receiver in the NFL this season, catching at least five passes for surpassing 70 yards in every game this year.
Johnson, meanwhile, is on a tear better than anyone in the league this season, averaging 8 receptions for 154.8 yards in his past four games. He can become the first player in more than 45 years with five consecutive games of 125 receiving yards if he reaches the mark Sunday, and Jerry Rice’s single-season yardage record (1,848) appears to be within reach.
Both defenses will try to minimize the impact of the opposing No. 1 receiver, and how they manage could decide the game.
If either team allows Wayne or Johnson to run free, both players are capable of carrying their team to a win. Since that’s unlikely, it will be on the secondary receivers to secure a victory.
The Colts seem to have an edge if that’s the deciding factor in the game. No. 2 receiver Donnie Avery has 44 catches for 584 yards this season, and rookie T.Y. Hilton has 33 catches for 488 yards.
It’s harder to judge the effectiveness of Lions’ rookie Ryan Broyles and recent trade acquisition Mike Thomas because this will only be the second game with them as the second and third receivers behind Johnson. Neither has stats comparable to Hilton or Avery, but both played well in the Lions’ loss to Texans last week, combining for 8 catches for 143 yards and a touchdown.
If they rise to the challenge with Titus Young inactive again Sunday (insubordination), the complement they provide to Johnson could be enough for the Lions to beat a Colts team that appears playoff bound.