Hey, again. Welcome back to the preview. This was Part 1. And here’s Part 2.
Football’s a team game, but deep down we’re all suckers for stats. We love to gawk at records, celebrate milestones and pretend we’re a part of history.
So, for what’s on tap in the world of milestones, let’s break it down position by position, and have some fun via Pro Football Reference in the process:
Aaron Rodgers is probably the best quarterback in the game today. But if you want living and breathing quarterback history it’s all about three guys: Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.
As long as they’re healthy, all three will continue to put up big numbers this year. Manning won’t be able to help it with the trio of receivers at his disposal. The Saints defense might stink, but the O can still score with anyone. And Brady? He’ll be fine. I don’t care if Jonathan Kraft is lined up in the slot. The Pats will find a way to score.
Meanwhile, all three will continue to tear up the record books.
PASSING YARDS: Manning needs 513 passing yards to become the third player in NFL history to throw for 60,000 in a career. Brady needs 194 to become the ninth player to hit the 45,000 mark. Brees is only 91 yards shy of 46,000. (For comparison’s sake, Rodgers has *only* thrown for 21,661 yards)
QB Quiz I: Can you name the other six quarterbacks with more than 45,000 career passing yards?
Answer: Favre, Marino, Elway, Moon, Tarkenton and, of course, Vinny Testaverde
QB Quiz II: After Manning, Brees and Brady, which active quarterback has thrown for the most career yards?
Answer: Matt Hasselbeck. He’s backing up Andrew Luck this season in Indianapolis, so who knows if we’ll ever see Hasselbeck take another significant snap in the NFL. Still, he’s only 149 yards short of passing Jim Hart for 20th on the all-time list. Pretty solid status for a local guy out of Xaverian.
TOUCHDOWN PASSES: Manning is already second on the all-time list with 436, and needs 73 more to pass Brett Favre. With seven more touchdowns, Tom Brady will pass Fran Tarkenton for fourth all time, behind only Marino, Manning and Favre. As of right now, Brees trails Brady by 10 career TDs, and will likely pass Tarkenton a few weeks after Brady.
QB Quiz III: After Manning, Brees and Brady, which active quarterback has thrown for the most career touchdowns?
Answer: Eli Manning with 211. That said, Manning only threw for 26 last year, which was his lowest total in four seasons. He’ll need more for the Giants to emerge from the NFC East.
RUSHING YARDS: No running back has ever rushed for more than 2,000 yards in consecutive seasons. Only eight running backs, including Adrian Peterson, have rushed for 2,000 in one season.
RB Quiz I: Can you name the other seven?
Answer: Eric Dickerson, Jamal Lewis, Barry Sanders, Terrell Davis, Chris Johnson and OJ Simpson.
Of that group, exactly zero broke even 1500 yards the following season, which doesn’t bode well for Peterson. But working in his favor is the fact that he’s Adrian Peterson.
A more reasonable goal for AP is 10,000 career rushing yards. A milestone he needs only 1151 yards to eclipse. That would make him only the 27th back in NFL history to go over 10K, but of the other 26 players, only one of them is still active.
RB Quiz II: Who is the only active NFL running back with over 10,000 career rushing yards?
Answer: Steven Jackson.
And you’ve got to feel good for Steven Jackson. After nine seasons of busting his ass for the hapless Rams, he’s finally on a contender in Atlanta. If he’s healthy, he’ll take that already dynamic offense into another stratosphere and is big component in my picking the Falcons to win it all.
There’s also one other back that looks poised to join the 10K rushing club this season.
RB Quiz III: Who’s third on the active rushing list behind Jackson and Peterson?
Answer: Frank Gore.
Gore’s had an interesting career. He’s a guy with a reputation for being hurt a lot. The back that no one is ever that excited to have on a fantasy team. Yet, you look at the numbers, and Gore’s actually played at least 14 games in seven of his eight seasons, and went over 1,000 yards all seven. He doesn’t catch the ball out of the back field as much (he made 61 catches in 2006, and only 45 combined over the last two years), but he was still a huge part of the Niners success last year, and will have to carry a load again with all the injuries in the San Francisco passing game. He needs 1,161 to crack 10K.
RUSHING TOUCHDOWNS: This might be a stretch, but he’s such a freak so who knows? Adrian Peterson needs 24 touchdown runs to become the ninth back in NFL history to break 100 for his career.
RB Quiz IV: Who’s second on the active rushing touchdown list?
Answer: Michael Turner, although he won’t be active for much longer if he can’t find a team. Turner’s still a free agent, after being knocked out of Atlanta by the arrival Steven Jackson.
Calvin Johnson is the story here. Last season, he broke Jerry Rice’s all-time record for yards in a season with 1,964. But Megatron isn’t satisfied. He wants 2,000. And far be it from me to tell him he can’t.
But while Johnson is the single-season star, we’ve got a few years before he really starts to close in on all-time career receiving marks. For now, these guys will have to do:
RECEPTIONS: After Randy Moss’ retirement, one wide receiver’s career accomplishments currently stand out among the rest.
WR/TE Quiz I: Who has the most career receptions among all active wide receivers?
Answer: Reggie Wayne, who needs 32 more to become only the ninth player in NFL history to catch 1,000 balls in his career. And with the way Andrew Luck targets him, he might be there by Week 2.
WR/TE Quiz II: Who are the other eight players to catch more than 1,000 balls in their career?
Answer: Hines Ward, Isaac Bruce, Terrell Owens, Tim Brown, Cris Carter, Marvin Harrison, Jerry Rice and . . .
Gonzalez, 37 years old and ready for his 17th season in the NFL, is not only second on the all-time receptions list with 1,242, but he also needs only 732 receiving yards to become the fifth player to break 15,000 for his career. And considering he’s failed to pick more than 732 yards in a season only once since 1999, there’s a pretty good chance he’ll get there.
WR/TE Quiz III: Other than Wayne and Gonzalez, there are four active receivers/tight ends with more than 10,000 career yards. Who are they?
Steve Smith (11,452): People have been writing him off for years, but the combination of Cam Newton’s legs and arm will keep the big plays coming in Carolina, and Smith with be in on the action. Another 70 catches and 1,000 yards seems fair.
Andre Johnson (11,254): Everyone buried AJ after an injury-plagued 2011, and he bounced back last year with 112 catches for a career-high 1,598 yards.
Larry Fitzgerald (10,413): Dear Arizona, either trade him or find a real quarterback. It’s far too depressing to see Fitgerald’s talent go to waste every year. It’s approaching Felix Hernandez territory.
Anquan Boldin (10,165): One of the last healthy receivers standing for the 49ers, and a soon to be favorite target for Colin Kaepernick. Still hard to believe they got him from Baltimore for a seventh round pick. Honestly, how did that happen? You’d think the two coaches were brothers or something.
Quick shout out to Santana Moss who needs only 285 yards to join the 10,000 Club. Moss was never a superstar but has been consistent for more than a decade. His eight touchdowns last season were the third most of his 12-year career.
Jason Witten needs 1,052 to surpass 10,000, which might sound like a lot and that’s because it is. However, Witten has gone over 1,000 yards in three of the last four seasons, so maybe there’s a chance.
Or maybe Tony Romo will just take the safer route and throw every ball to Dez Bryant.
INTERCEPTIONS: OK, so there are four active players with 50 or more career interceptions:
Defense Quiz I: Who are the four active players with 50 or more career interceptions?
Ed Reed: Reed is the active leader with 61, but the question is how many he has left in the tank. After signing with the Texans in the offseason, he missed the whole preseason recovering from hip surgery and still isn’t guaranteed to play in Week 1 (although he is practicing). It will be interesting to see how he fits with the Texans. One thing about Reed is that he’s a big time freelancer; he does what he pleases, and it’s on the rest of the defense to react to his instincts. So, how will the rest of the Texans secondary react when they’ve never been out there with Reed in an actual game? That something to watch early in the season.
With five more interceptions, Reed will pass Ken Riley for fifth on the all-time list.
Charles Woodson: It’s great to see Woodson still in the league. I think most fans have an enormous amount of respect for his career (and all 55 interceptions) and hope he plays as long as he wants. It’s just sad that he’ll be toiling away with Raiders this season. Be nice to see him compete for another ring.
Champ Bailey: A future Hall-of Famer with 52 career interceptions, it’s sometimes easy to forget about Bailey because QBs spend the entire game trying to avoid him. Still, he’s one of the lynchpins of the Broncos defense and they’ll have their hands full without him tonight against the Ravens.
Asante Samuel: 50 interceptions exactly. Back for his second seasons with the Atlanta Falcons. What did Bob Lobel used to say?
SACKS: The big story in sacks (sorry), is JJ Watt who will look to become the first player in league history to have 20 sacks in consecutive seasons. Last year, he became only the ninth guy to do it in one season.
Defense Quiz II: Who are the other eight guys to register 20 sacks in a season?
Answer: Michael Strahan, Jared Allen, Mark Gastineau, Chris Doleman, Reggie White, Lawrence Taylor, Derrick Thomas and DeMarcus Ware.
And much like with AP, the odds of Watt repeating his 20-sack feat are not very good. Of the eight guys to do it before him, Reggie White was the only one to even break 15 sacks the following year.
On the career sack front, the Colts Robert Mathis is the only player within striking distance of a major achievement. He needs only 9.5 to become the 30th guy in history to reach 100 for his career. Mathis had eight last year, and 9.5 the year before, so he should at least come close this season. The one wild card is how he’ll be affected by the departure of Dwight Freeney. In his absence, the Colts have moved Mathis to the strong side, which means he’ll get most of the extra attention that used to be reserved for his Hall of Fame teammate.
If Mathis does get to 100, he’ll be the sixth active player on the list. So, for the final question of Part 2 of the preview:
Defense Quiz III: Who are the five active players with more than 100 career sacks?
John Abraham (122): He’s in Arizona this year, but at this point in his career will only get reps in the nickel. Last Cardinal to have more than 10 sacks in a season? Bertrand Berry in 2004.
Jared Allen (117): Still up in Minnesota, there’s no doubt Allen is one of the best pass rushers in NFL history. He’s also a first ballot no doubt in the Wikipedia profile Hall of Fame. But he’s 31 and coming off offseason shoulder and knee surgeries.
Julius Peppers (111.5): He’s been everything the Bears could have hoped for when they signed him to a huge deal in 2010. With Urlacher gone, Peppers becomes the leader of a Bears defense that won’t lose much ground despite the departure of Captain Urlacher and long time coach Lovie Smith.
DeMarcus Ware (111): He’ll have to adjust to Monte Kiffin’s 3-4 defense but it shouldn’t be a problem. Another 10 sacks are on the way.
Dwight Freeney (107.5): Freeney is definitely on the back nine. He’s probably on the 17th hole. But he won’t get a break in San Diego. The Chargers have already announced that they plan to use Freeney as an every down rusher, and while that might be good news for his early production, it’s fair to wonder if he’ll still be standing come December.
And I just set the NFL record for longest post about NFL records..
That’s all for today.
See you tomorrow for Part 3.
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