Thoughts After Week 8 2015

I haven’t had time to do much more than update stats recently, so I figured I’d write a little something to prove I’m still alive. Here are some thoughts and statistical curiosities so far this season.

tom brady
Your 2015 MVP.

Tom Brady is the clear frontrunner for MVP. I don’t think I am going out on a limb when I say that; I’m not even climbing the tree. He’s leading the best team in the league, and he’s doing it with a great set of box scores; voters love that stuff. Unlike MVP candidates Carson Palmer and Andy Dalton, Brady plays in a rather low variance offensive system. Palmer and Dalton have had great success on big plays so far, but there’s no telling how sustainable those are. Unlike MVP hopeful Aaron Rodgers, Brady plays for a coach who actually knows how to maximize his team’s strengths while mitigating their weaknesses. Add all those together, and Brady is the obvious choice (barring injury or apocalypse).

Speaking of Brady, he and Drew Brees have inched closer to history with their incredibly productive weeks. With four and seven touchdown passes, respectively, Brady and Brees are both in position to pass Dan Marino on the career list in the next few weeks. Brady (412) and Brees (411) could combine to knock Marino into fifth place in week eleven.

A slow start (to say the least) to the season has kept Peyton Manning from owning the career passing yards record. He is currently 284 yards away from breaking Brett Favre‘s 71838 passing yards mark. Look for him to gain sole possession of that record some time against the Chiefs in week ten.

It may come to the surprise of some fans that Adrian Peterson does not currently rank in the top ten in any major career counting stat. He has an outside shot at cracking the top fifteen in career rushing yards (he currently needs to rush for 873 yards and hope Frank Gore doesn’t rush for 107), but he has a realistic chance to make the top ten in rushing touchdowns. With three more scores on the ground, Peterson will have 93 and jump Steelers greats Jerome Bettis and Franco Harris.

Houston wide out DeAndre Hopkins is currently on pace for 132 receptions, which would rank second all time in a single season. However, and more importantly, he is on pace for a staggering 108 first down catches. The current record is 92, shared by Marvin Harrison (2002) and Calvin Johnson (2012). It’s not often we get the chance to see a player break a record by nearly twenty percent, but this may very well be one of those seasons.

Going into week eight, Russell Wilson was on pace to take 71 sacks this season (which would hold the dubious rank of third most ever). After shutting out real-life supervillain, Greg Hardy, and the rest of the Dallas defense in the sack department, Wilson is now only on pace to hit the dirt 62 times this year. That would tie him with Steve Beuerlein (2000) and Ken O’Brien (1985) for fifth place.

Ryan Tannehill is also venturing into elite sack territory. He isn’t eating sacks at a historic pace, but he is losing yardage on sacks like few before him have managed. Having lost 196 yards in seven games, Tannehill is on track for 448 yards lost on sacks this season. That would tie him with Dave Krieg (1085) and Fran Tarkenton (1963) for fifth on that dishonorable list.

Currently, Steve Smith Sr. ranks tenth all time in receiving yards. Andre Johnson ranks twelfth but is only 47 yards shy of tying him (13932 total). Given Smitty’s recent injury (and the possible end of his Hall of Fame worthy career), it seems likely that Johnson will crack the top ten in the next few weeks.

Rob Gronkowski is a singular talent and probably the biggest mismatch at the tight end position since Kellen Winslow (the father, not the “soldier” son). Gronk is 26 years old and has played in just 72 games in his entire career. Despite the brevity of his NFL tenure, he already ranks fourth all time in career receiving touchdowns among tight ends (with 61). With one more, he will move into a tie for third with Shannon Sharpe. He still has a way to go before catching Antonio Gates (101, for now) and Tony Gonzalez (111), but it seems like an inevitability at this point.

jj watt
Your rightful DPOY.

Perhaps the only player in the league better than Gronkowski is Houston superduperstar J.J. Watt. Watt has 8.5 sacks through eight games this year, putting him on a 17 sack trajectory for the season. That would give him exactly 60 sacks over the last four years – a 15 sack per year average. That’s very impressive, but let’s not forget about some of the great pass rushers of the past.

  • Reggie White averaged 17 sacks per season over the first four years of his career (including 21 in the 12-game strike season of 1987). He averaged just over 15 sacks during his first nine seasons in the NFL.
  • Playing end in a 3-4 scheme, like Watt, Bruce Smith also averaged 15 sacks per game from 1989-1993 (excluding his 1991 bout abbreviated by injury).
  • From 1964-1970, Deacon Jones averaged 19 sacks per season. This includes seasons of 26, 24, and 22 sacks. These sacks, of course, aren’t included in the NFL’s official record book, because sacks didn’t become an official statistic until 1982 and the league can’t spare any of that pink ribbon money to mine the data.1

Watt is, in my opinion, playing as well as he ever has and is still the leading candidate for defensive player of the year. However, his team’s lack of success, coupled with voter fatigue, will probably see him passed over for a less deserving player. It happened to him with Luke Kuechly in 2013; it will happen this year unless he somehow kicks it up a notch.

  1. Never mind the fact that NFL historian John Turney has already done most of the dirty work. We’ll just have to pretend those 9.5 sacks Lawrence Taylor picked up as a rookie never happened.