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Predictions in Review: NFC North

During the 2013 offseason, I wrote 32 articles under the RPO 2013 tag. In my Predictions in Review series, I review those preview articles with the benefit of hindsight. Previously, I reviewed the AFC West, the NFC West, the AFC South, the NFC South, and the AFC North. Today, the NFC North.

The Detroit Lions will win more games in 2013, June 21, 2013

In 2012, Detroit finished 4-12, but they seemed like an obvious pick to have a rebound season. The Lions went 3-9 in games decided by 8 or fewer points that year, which was the worst mark in the league. Since such a poor record is usually a sign of bad luck rather than bad skill, Detroit wouldn’t need to do much to improve on their 4-win season. The Lions had 6.4 Pythagorean wins, and no team fell as far short of their Pythagorean record in 2012 as Detroit. There was one other reason I highlighted as to why Detroit would win more games in 2013: the Lions recovered only 33% of all fumbles that occurred in Detroit games. As a result, the team recovered 7.6 fewer fumbles than expected.

Of course, none of this was a surprise: Vegas pegged Detroit as an average team entering the season. And even though the Lions did finish 7-9, a three-win improvement wasn’t enough to save Jim Schwartz’ job. After a 3-9 record the year before, the 2013 Lions went 4-6 in games decided by 8 or fewer points, which included losses in the team’s final three games.  Detroit did improve when it came to fumble recoveries, but only slightly: the Lions recovered 42.6% of all fumbles in their games in 2013, which was 3.6 recoveries fewer than expected.

What can we learn: When it comes to records in close games and fumble recovery rates, we should expect regression to the mean.  Last year, the Colts (6-1) and Jets (5-1) had the best records in close games; Andrew Luck has been doing this for two years now, but no such benefit of the doubt should be given to the Jets. Meanwhile, Houston (2-9) and Washington (2-7) had the worst records in close games. All else being equal, we would expect both of those teams to improve on their wins total in 2014 (for the 2-14 Texans, it will take some work not to win more games in 2014; and, of course, such rebound seasons are already baked into the Vegas lines).

As far as fumble recovery rates, well, that’s one area where the Jets are hoping for some regression to the mean.

The 2012 Chicago Bears had the Least Strange Season Ever, August 2, 2013

Here’s what I wrote about the 2012 Bears:

The 2012 Bears played two terrible teams, the Titans and the Jaguars. Those were the two biggest blowouts of the season for Chicago. The Bears had five games against really good teams (Seattle, San Francisco, Houston, and the Packers twice): those were the five biggest losses of the season. Chicago had one other loss, which came on the road against the next best team the Bears played, Minnesota.

But the Bears didn’t just have a predictable season. That -0.89 correlation coefficient [between Chicago's opponent's rating and location-adjusted margin of victory] is the lowest for any 16-game season in NFL history. In other words, Chicago just had the least strange season of the modern era.

This post was not about predicting Chicago’s 2013 season but analyzing a quirky fact I discovered. The Bears struggled against the best teams in 2012, and that cost Lovie Smith his job. In 2013, Chicago’s season was much more normal; in fact, the Bears had a slightly “stranger” season than the average team.

The Bears did manage to defeat the Bengals and Packers (without Aaron Rodgers), but Chicago still finished below .500 against playoff teams thanks to losses to New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Green Bay (with Aaron Rodgers). After a 2-6 performance against playoff teams in 2012, I suppose a 2-3 record is an improvement. But the irony is that the reason Chicago’s season was less normal in 2013 wasn’t due to better play against the best teams, but because Chicago lost to Minnesota and Washington. In the first year post-Lovie, the Bears missed the playoffs because they lost to two of the worst teams in the league, causing them to miss out on the division title by one half-game. Here’s one stat I bet Lovie Smith knows: from 2005 to 2012, Chicago went 30-0 against teams that finished the season with fewer than six wins. As for which teams had the strangest and least strangest seasons in 2013? Check back tomorrow.

Can Adrian Peterson break Emmitt Smith’s rushing record?, August 3, 2013

What a difference a year makes. Eight months ago, the debate regarding whether Adrian Peterson could break Smith’s record was a legitimate talking point. After a “down” season with 1,266 yards in 14 games, nobody is asking that question anymore. Of course, Peterson never had much of a chance of breaking the record anyway, which was the point of my post. Not only had Smith outgained him Peterson through each of their first six seasons, and not only did Smith enter the league a year earlier than Peterson, but Emmitt Smith was also the leader in career rushing yards after a player’s first six seasons.

Peterson just turned 29 years old. He ranks sixth in career rushing yards through age 28, but Smith has a 1,119 yard advantage when it comes to rushing yards through age 28. Barry Sanders has them both beat, of course, but he retired after his age 30 season. The problem for Peterson? He needs to run for 8,241 yards during his age 29+ seasons to break Smith’s record. The career leader in yards after turning 29 is Smith with 7,121 yards.

What can we learn: Unless Peterson finds the fountain of youth, Smith’s record won’t be challenged for a long, long time.

Witnesses to Greatness: Aaron Rodgers Edition, August 30, 2013

In late August, I wondered if we had taken Rodgers’ dominance for granted. After all, he had a career passer rating of 104.9, the best ever. Then in 2013, he produced a passer rating of … 104.9, the fifth best mark among qualifying passers.

Passer rating stinks, as we all know, but Rodgers is dominant in nearly every metric. If we break passer rating down into its four parts we see:

  • Entering 2013, Rodgers was the career leader in completion percentage. Drew Brees now holds a 0.1% edge over Rodgers in this category. Rodgers completed 66.6% of his passes last year, the 5th best mark of 2013.
  • Rodgers was the career leader in interception rate entering 2013, and still holds that crown. Believe it or not, his 2.1% interception rate last year ranked only 12th.
  • With a 5.9% touchdown rate in 2013 (5th best), he remains the active leader in touchdown percentage. Everyone ahead of him on the career list began their career before 1960.
  • Rodgers was the active leader in yards/attempt prior to 2013, and then he had another dominant year by producing an 8.7 average (2nd best). He’s now widened his lead in this metric and should remain the active leader for the foreseeable future.

What can we learn: That Rodgers is the man? Of course, this year we got to see that first-hand. The Packers went 6-3 in Rodgers’ 9 starts and 2-4-1 without him, but remember, he threw just two passes in his Bears start, which the Packers lost. Count that as a non-Rodgers game, and Green Bay went 6-2 with him and 2-5-1 without him. From there, one might infer that he added 3.5 wins to the Packers last year, tied for the 4th most ever from a quarterback relative to his backups.

The only area where Rodgers struggles is with sacks, and it’s worth remembering that all of his other rate stats are slightly inflated because they do not include sacks in the denominator. He’s still the man, of course, but sacks, era adjustments, and the fact that he isn’t done producing top seasons is why he “only” ranked 12th and 14th on these lists.


When I went on the Advanced NFL Stats Podcast in late December, I discussed my use of Z-scores to measure the Seattle pass defense. Host Dave Collins asked me if I was planning on using Z-scores to measure other things, like say, Adrian Peterson’s 2012 season. I told him that would be an interesting idea to look at in the off-season.

Well, it’s the off-season. So here’s what I did.

1) For every season since 1932, I recorded the number of rushing yards for the leading rusher for each team in each league. So for the Minnesota Vikings in 2012, this was 2,097.

2) Next, I calculated the average number of rushing yards of the top rusher of each other team in the NFL. In 2012, the leading rusher on the other 31 teams averaged 974 yards.

3) Then, I calculated the standard deviation of the leading rushers for all teams in the NFL. In 2012, that was 386 yards.

4) Finally, I calculated the Z-score. This is simply the difference between the player’s average and the league average (for Peterson, that’s 1,123), divided by the standard deviation. Peterson’s Z-score was 2.91, good enough for 15th best since 1932. The table below shows the top 250 seasons using this method from 1932 to 2013; it’s fully searchable and sortable, and you can change the number of entries shown by using the dropdown box on the left. [click to continue…]


Two house-keeping notes before we get to today’s post. First, today’s a pretty big day for our friend Neil Paine: he’s getting married. I’ll be there to celebrate with him in Philadelphia, but I know you guys will be with us in spirit. Congrats to Kaitlyn and Neil!

And another set of confetti must be reserve for the seven members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2013: Larry Allen, Cris Carter, Jonathan Ogden, Warren Sapp, Curley Culp, Dave Robinson, and Bill Parcells. Tonight, those men will be inducted into the Hall of Fame, a must-see event for any football fan.

Today’s post focuses on one player already enshrined in Canton and one future Hall of Famer. As a general disclaimer, it’s best not to take too seriously what comes out of the mouths of football players, especially this time of year. That said, Adrian Peterson, part-cyborg, part-Minnesota Vikings running back, recently told Dan Wiederer of the Minneapolis Star Tribute that he thinks he will break Emmitt Smith’s career rushing record:

Q Forget about Eric Dickerson’s record for a minute. Last December, we talked about Emmitt Smith’s record and I told you you were on pace to get there in Week 4 of 2019. You said sooner and promised to come back with a timetable. Emmitt had 18,355 yards. You’re now 9,506 away. We need a week and a year. When do you get there?

A Man. Oh boy. I have to do some calculations. I’ve been in the league seven years. I’m already right around [9,000]. Calculate it out … Let’s think. Maybe get a couple 2,000 yard seasons … I’ve got … Hmmm … 2017.

Q What week in 2017?

A Man. I better go late. I’m already getting too far in front of myself. I’ll say Week 16. There it is. Week 16 in 2017. Whoo. That’s pushing it, huh? But hey, pushing it is the only way to do it. You know it.

Just to break it down for you in full, that gives Peterson 79 games to amass the 9,506 yards he needs to reach Smith. That comes out to a per-game average of 120.3 yards per contest with the assumption that Peterson avoids injury and doesn’t miss a game between now and Week 16 of 2017. Yes, it’s pushing it indeed. But good fun to consider, right?

Let’s talk reality. Peterson has rushed for 8,849 rushing yards in his six-year career, and was 27-years-old last year. The first problem for Peterson is that he was 937 yards behind Smith’s pace before Peterson even entered the league. That’s because Peterson, born in March, entered the league at 22, while Smith, born in May, entered at age 21. Unless you think we should compare the two by seasons and not age — and more on why that’s a bad idea later — we need to give Smith full credit for one extra year. In fact, here’s a chart comparing the two players in career rushing yards through age X. Smith also rushed for slightly more yards from ages 22 to 27 (9223-8849) than Peterson, but when you factor in his age 21 performance, Smith has a big lead on Peterson through age twenty-seven. You might recall I presented a similar chart when comparing Jason Witten to Tony Gonzalez and Jerry Rice.
[click to continue…]


Some Initial Thoughts Running Backs

Peterson and Foster each finished in the top four in rushing first downs

Peterson and Foster each finished in the top four in rushing first downs.

I’ve spent a lot of time this offseason looking at how to grade wide receivers; today I wanted to get some initial thoughts down on paper on running backs.

I’m short on time today, which means a lot of data and not so much theory. One of the more underrated statistics to measure running backs is the number of first downs they produce. I don’t like using Yards per Carry for running backs because that metric is pretty sensitive to outliers. But by using rushing first downs, perhaps we can smooth things out.

We know that the value of a touchdown is about 20 yards, but what is the value of a rushing first down? Being short on time, I took the easy way out. Pro-Football-Reference has produced Expected Points Added for each team’s running game going back to 2000. I decided to run a regression on the team level to best predict rushing EPA based on four rushing statistics. The R^2 was 0.77, but more importantly, here was the best fit formula:

EPA = -16.6 -0.58*Rush + 0.067*Rush_Yd + 1.43*Rush_TD + 1.08*Rush_FD

What interests me is the relationships between the variables. Rushing touchdowns are considered 21.3 times as valuable as rushing yards, which happens to fit in well with our previous assumptions. But more importantly, this tells us that a rushing first down is worth 16.1 rushing yards. That seems pretty high to me, and I reserve the right to adjust this later, but for now, let’s adjust down and say the value of a rushing first down is 15 yards. Now what?
[click to continue…]


NYT Fifth Down: Post-week 17

At the New York Times Fifth Down Blog this week, I explain my choices for the major awards this season.

Offensive Player of the Year: Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings

Generally, the Most Valuable Player award is given to the best quarterback, while the Offensive Player of the Year is usually the player with the most impressive statistics. In the last five years, Tom Brady — first in 2007, and then again in 2010 — is the only player to take home both awards in the same season. Last year, Drew Brees won the award while Aaron Rodgers took home the M.V.P., but running backs Priest Holmes (2002), Jamal Lewis (2003), Shaun Alexander (2005), LaDainian Tomlinson (2006), and Chris Johnson (2009) have all won the award in the last decade. While Calvin Johnson will probably get some support for breaking Jerry Rice’s single-season record for receiving yards, Adrian Peterson has had this award locked up for a month, and finishing the season with 2,097 yards was the icing on the cake.

I don’t think you’ll find too many people arguing about this one. Peterson’s story is outstanding, and it’s hard to argue that he didn’t provide the single most impressive performance by an offensive player this year. Quarterbacks may be more valuable, but it’s hard not to just sit back and admire what Peterson’s done. Johnson’s also had a magnificent season, but he was greatly aided by the Lions also breaking the record for pass attempts in a season.

Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, Houston Texans

The shine is off the Texans, but there’s no denying that their star lineman has been outstanding this year. If the stars were aligned slightly differently — say, the Texans were streaking towards the end of the year, and Watt had a monster primetime game late — he’d have a legitimate chance at the M.V.P. award. Last month, I talked about how this award was a three-man race with the stars all coming from the 2011 Draft. In that article I also mentioned Geno Atkins as a possible darkhorse, and he’s been ever better since. But Watt has 20.5 sacks and the national reputation as the Sultan of Swatt, so this award is pretty easy to predict.

And well justified. Watt’s production as a 3-4 defensive end is remarkable. He now owns the single-season record for sacks by a player at that position, but he’s far from one dimensional. We know that he is fantastic at tipping passes at the line of scrimmage and is excellent in run support. He’s a complete player in every respect, a dominant force at a position that rarely receives media attention.

I’d select Von Miller as my runner-up and give Atkins the bronze. While Aldon Smith gets more attention because of his lofty sack totals, he’s a one-dimensional player. While he’s outstanding at that one dimension, just being a dominant pass rusher only makes him the fourth best defensive player this year. He also disappeared down the stretch, which not coincidentally began when star defensive end Justin Smith went down with a triceps injury.

Comeback Player of the Year: Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

Peyton Manning missed the entire 2011 season, but as soon as he took the field in 2012 he became the favorite to win Comeback Player of the Year. A quarterback has won this award each of the last four years — Chad Pennington (2008), Tom Brady (2009), Michael Vick (2010), and Matthew Stafford (2011) — and the trend should continue in 2012. Comeback Player of the Year is a two-man race, and there’s no wrong answer when choosing between Manning and Peterson. If the voters could, surely the majority would pick that Manning and Peterson split the award. If ever an award called for a split, this was it.

Peyton Manning’s neck injury was considered career-threatening this time last year. Many questioned his arm strength in the pre-season and in September, but by the end of the year he was once again the best quarterback in the league. It’s simply splitting hairs picking between Manning and Peterson, who tore two ligaments in his knee just over a year ago and rebounded to rush for 2,000 yards. And let’s at least recognize Jamaal Charles, who in any other year would likely take home the award. The Kansas City running back tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last season, and rebounded to rush for over 1,500 yards in 2012. My guess is that those voters looking for a tiebreaker focus on the fact that Manning missed the entire 2011 season while Peterson ran for 970 yards and 12 touchdowns last year, making Manning more of a “comeback” story.

You can view the full post here.


Trent Richardson thinks this guy was an average running back in losses.

Trent Richardson thinks this guy was an average running back in losses.

Yesterday, I noted that Adrian Peterson is averaging nearly two more yards per rush in losses than wins. He’s also averaging a nearly identical number of rushing yards per game in wins and losses.

As you’re about to see, that’s pretty rare. We all know that wins are correlated with rushing yards, so it should come as no surprise that running backs generally gain more rushing yards in wins than in losses.

I looked at all games, including playoffs, from 1960 to 2011, for all players with at least 3,000 rushing yards over that time period. The table below lists the following information for each player:

— His first year (or 1960, if he played before 1960) and his last year (or 2011, if still active)
— All the franchises he played for (which you can search for in the search box)
— His number of career wins, and his career rush attempts, rushing yards, rushing yards per carry, and rushing yards per game in wins
— His number of career losses, and his career rush attempts, rushing yards, rushing yards per carry, and rushing yards per game in losses

The table is sorted by rushing yards per game in wins. Again, for players like Jim Brown or Peterson, they are included but only their stats from 1960 to 2011 are shown. The table only shows the top 50 players, but the search feature works for the entire table, which includes 281 players. In addition, you can click on the drop arrow and change the number of rows shown.

As always, the table is fully sortable. If you click twice on the far right column, you see the career leaders in rushing yards per game in losses. You probably aren’t surprised to see Barry Sanders at the top, but the presence of the running back formerly known as Dom Davis up there is a bit surprising. Steven Jackson is one of the few players who have averaged over 70 rushing yards per game in losses, which jives with the sixth post in Football Perspective history. In addition, Jackson (at least through 2011) and LaDainian Tomlinson form an interesting example of Simpson’s Paradox: Jackson has a higher career rushing yards per game average in both wins (93.9 to 89.9) and losses (71.1 to 63.2), while Tomlinson has the higher career average overall (78.6 to 78.3).

1Jim Brown1960--1965cleFB55117665905.6119.82538417064.4468.2
2Terrell Davis1995--2001denRB58141568674.85118.42844418804.2367.1
3Barry Sanders1989--1998detRB75167085265.11113.784148371294.8184.9
4Eric Dickerson1983--1993ram-clt-rai-atlRB74177684114.74113.778136855724.0771.4
5O.J. Simpson1969--1979buf-sfoRB4395048185.0711292144263514.469
6Earl Campbell1978--1985oti-norRB50120954094.47108.270111344183.9763.1
7Adrian Peterson2007--2011minRB3879240025.05105.33868530184.4179.4
8Chris Johnson2008--2011otiRB3677237764.89104.92842619414.5669.3
9Clinton Portis2002--2010den-wasRB58128160514.72104.359101940864.0169.3
10Arian Foster2009--2011htxRB2042820774.85103.91628213054.6381.6
11Emmitt Smith1990--2004dal-crdRB1353036131984.3597.8108172267433.9262.4
12Jamal Lewis2000--2009rav-cleRB74165371934.3597.263101938403.7761
13Walter Payton1975--1987chiRB1132460109754.4697.186155863834.174.2
14Larry Johnson2003--2011kan-cin-was-miaRB4081338424.7396.14362724133.8556.1
15Edgerrin James1999--2009clt-crd-seaRB99225194694.2195.66299536293.6558.5
16Billy Sims1980--1984detRB3060328614.7495.43255423784.2974.3
17Curtis Martin1995--2005nwe-nyjRB96223591344.0995.182146557623.9370.3
18Frank Gore2005--2011sfoRB4793944224.7194.15574333664.5361.2
19Jamaal Charles2008--2011kanRB1621815046.9943429016055.5347.2
20Steven Jackson2004--2011ramRB3776934734.5293.980138856884.171.1
21Shaun Alexander2000--2008sea-wasRB73150666074.3990.55985034104.0157.8
22LaDainian Tomlinson2001--2011sdg-nyjRB104204893464.5689.976125748063.8263.2
23Corey Dillon1997--2006cin-nweRB72139164604.6489.786134752893.9361.5
24Rudi Johnson2001--2008cin-detRB4190136724.0889.65262923633.7645.4
25Eddie George1996--2004oti-dalRB90209478633.7687.46097733543.4355.9
26Wilbert Montgomery1977--1985phi-detRB55101647664.6986.75465225133.8546.5
27Fred Taylor1998--2010jax-nweRB89158876744.8386.272107546344.3164.4
28Jamal Anderson1994--2001atlRB3776731894.1686.24763224233.8351.6
29Gale Sayers1965--1971chiRB2942624925.8585.93651021224.1658.9
30Barry Foster1990--1994pitRB3570429974.2685.62327512304.4753.5
31Curt Warner1983--1990sea-ramRB55113347044.1585.54863623893.7649.8
32Matt Forte2008--2011chiRB3566129854.5285.32739513983.5451.8
33Cookie Gilchrist1962--1967buf-den-miaFB3462528714.5984.43137213813.7144.5
34William Andrews1979--1986atlRB4374936094.8283.94258624394.1658.1
35Marshall Faulk1994--2005clt-ramRB99177483074.6883.989122745743.7351.4
36John Henry Johnson1960--1966pit-otiFB-HB3258926824.5583.83843517183.9545.2
37Tony Dorsett1977--1988dal-denRB1212237101374.5383.868100139853.9858.6
38Jerome Bettis1993--2005ram-pitRB111233392743.9883.593134550623.7654.4
39Priest Holmes1997--2007rav-kanRB61109350774.6583.24972933164.5567.7
40Ricky Watters1992--2001sfo-phi-seaRB91182375524.14836396337203.8659
41Jim Nance1965--1973nwe-nyjRB3057124554.381.86268025853.841.7
42Robert Smith1993--2000minRB63103951464.9581.74151722624.3855.2
43George Rogers1981--1987nor-wasRB53100943264.2981.64577231284.0569.5
44Jim Taylor1960--1967gnb-norFB81146865764.4881.23140115823.9551
45Travis Henry2001--2007buf-oti-denRB3667229064.3280.75281631803.961.2
46Willie Parker2004--2009pitRB5597744364.5480.72740314133.5152.3
47Ray Rice2008--2011ravRB4579236274.5880.62227411944.3654.3
48Maurice Jones-Drew2006--2011jaxRB4577636164.6680.45072232864.5565.7
49Deuce McAllister2001--2008norRB5091340174.480.34754322404.1347.7
50Thurman Thomas1988--2000buf-miaRB1302373103784.3779.87184331383.7244.2
51Terry Allen1991--2001min-was-nwe-nor-ravRB69130355044.2279.86589032633.6750.2
52Fred Jackson2007--2011bufRB2539319805.0479.24042418144.2845.4
53Jonathan Stewart2008--2011carRB2841422175.3679.23531412954.1237
54Franco Harris1972--1984pit-seaRB1362553106824.1878.55577629243.7753.2
55John Riggins1971--1985nyj-wasRB103204880883.9578.579111942603.8153.9
56Tiki Barber1997--2006nygRB80127762694.9178.480105446324.3957.9
57Lydell Mitchell1972--1980clt-sdg-ramRB58110344724.0577.14964522803.5346.5
58Ricky Williams1999--2011nor-mia-ravRB81148662214.1976.8709673868455.3
59Greg Bell1984--1990buf-ram-raiRB3559626414.4375.55068426763.9153.5
60Marshawn Lynch2007--2011buf-seaRB3159223373.9575.44356823384.1254.4
61Stephen Davis1996--2006was-car-ramRB72123454224.3975.36380731013.8449.2
62LeSean McCoy2009--2011phiRB2842721004.9275202259964.4349.8
63Domanick Williams2003--2005htxRB122268983.9774.82854422974.2282
64Hoyle Granger1966--1972oti-norRB2744320134.5474.63835815304.2740.3
65DeAngelo Williams2006--2011carRB3855728335.0974.64345122775.0553
66Rodney Hampton1990--1997nygRB56104841223.9373.65182629693.5958.2
67Ahman Green1998--2009sea-gnb-htxRB89141665454.6273.56375931814.1950.5
68Earnest Jackson1983--1988sdg-phi-pitRB3154422794.1973.54451518883.6742.9
69Lawrence McCutcheon1973--1981ram-den-sea-bufRB75124354624.3972.83842216934.0144.6
70Freeman McNeil1981--1992nyjRB71113251094.51727578233644.344.9
71Rashard Mendenhall2008--2011pitRB3764626434.0971.4172289544.1856.1
72Warrick Dunn1997--2008tam-atlRB98161869964.3271.492116743713.7547.5
73Cedric Benson2005--2011chi-cinRB5092535683.8671.44564724463.7854.4
74Natrone Means1993--1999sdg-jaxRB55100439173.971.23954919483.5549.9
75Gary Brown1991--1999oti-sdg-nygRB4061928414.59713542414763.4842.2
76Michael Turner2004--2011sdg-atlRB76113053914.7770.93837614573.8838.3
77Christian Okoye1987--1992kanRB447803120470.93544717713.9650.6
78Karim Abdul-Jabbar1996--2000mia-cle-cltRB3365123393.5970.93138811883.0638.3
79Garrison Hearst1993--2004crd-cin-sfo-denRB76121053854.4570.95568128404.1751.6
80Joe Morris1982--1991nyg-cleRB63110344604.0470.85044816783.7533.6
81Johnny Johnson1990--1994crd-nyjRB2442816853.9470.24761823933.8750.9
82Thomas Jones2000--2011crd-tam-chi-nyj-kanRB88154161543.9969.999126249503.9250
83Chuck Muncie1976--1984nor-sdgRB5181735544.3569.76585436644.2956.4
84Chuck Foreman1973--1980min-nweRB77132453184.0269.13842614093.3137.1
85Ottis Anderson1979--1992crd-nygRB94163064893.986980103342174.0852.7
86Larry Csonka1968--1979mia-nygRB91138762234.4968.46469125873.7440.4
87Randy McMillan1981--1986cltRB2028213654.8468.36669524843.5737.6
88John Brockington1971--1977gnb-kanRB3663724563.8668.25465123083.5542.7
89Ryan Grant2007--2011gnbRB4567030524.5667.82231312914.1258.7
90Willis McGahee2004--2011buf-rav-denRB66104244154.2466.96185933593.9155.1
91Ron A. Johnson1969--1975cle-nygRB3762924263.8665.64153317293.2442.2
92Joe Cribbs1980--1988buf-sfo-miaRB5583435804.2965.14952319613.7540
93Marcus Allen1982--1997rai-kanRB145222194334.2565.191106841573.8945.7
94Antowain Smith1997--2005buf-nwe-oti-norRB75124848723.9656167425593.842
95Larry Brown1969--1976wasRB69117144413.7964.43546417803.8450.9
96Kevin Jones2004--2008det-chiRB2232614154.3464.34146917613.7543
97Floyd Little1967--1975denRB4573828803.9646782031873.8947.6
98Wendell Tyler1977--1986ram-sfoRB7193145104.8463.54655024434.4453.1
99Ricky Bell1977--1982tam-sdgRB253971588463.53846215913.4441.9
100Abner Haynes1960--1967kan-den-mia-nyjHB4860130465.0763.56043915923.6326.5
101Cadillac Williams2005--2011tam-ramRB3350520944.1563.55056819933.5139.9
102Clem Daniels1960--1968kan-rai-sfoRB5168932364.763.54940116694.1634.1
103Pete Johnson1977--1984cin-sdg-miaRB64102839953.8962.45053818793.4937.6
104Leonard Russell1991--1996nwe-den-ram-sdgRB3154919343.5262.45161520393.3240
105Bam Morris1994--1999pit-rav-chi-kanRB396052423462.13744416363.6844.2
106Rueben Mayes1986--1993nor-seaRB3655522334.02624031412624.0231.6
107Errict Rhett1994--2000tam-rav-cleRB3663522133.4961.54253919303.5846
108Anthony Thomas2001--2007chi-dal-nor-bufRB3962823953.8161.44943115323.5531.3
109James Wilder1981--1990tam-detRB3248119644.0861.486112341603.748.4
110Joseph Addai2006--2011cltRB6294338044.0361.42631012704.148.8
111Marion Butts1989--1995sdg-nwe-otiRB507663067461.35560122623.7641.1
112Matt Snell1964--1972nyjRB4264125734.0161.33543518494.2552.8
113Delvin Williams1974--1980sfo-miaRB5174531154.1861.14758825254.2953.7
114James Brooks1981--1992sdg-cin-cle-tamRB8397650605.18618676731184.0736.3
115Kevin Mack1985--1993cleRB5175331094.13615464524383.7845.1
116Mike Thomas1975--1980was-sdgRB5279631633.9760.82831911483.641
117Neal Anderson1986--1993chiRB6899241304.1660.74960423153.8347.2
118Paul Lowe1960--1969sdg-kanHB6676739985.2160.62822810754.7138.4
119DeShaun Foster2003--2008car-sfoRB4768928334.1160.33332311383.5234.5
120Napoleon Kaufman1995--2000raiRB4651227605.39604646720364.3644.3
121Mike Garrett1966--1973kan-sdgRB6282337124.5159.94147717033.5741.5
122Dave Hampton1969--1976gnb-atl-phiRB3654721443.9259.65558322963.9441.7
123Leroy Kelly1964--1973cleRB92126854654.3159.44953821453.9943.8
124Sam Cunningham1973--1982nweRB5380031333.9259.15261524303.9546.7
125Duce Staley1997--2006phi-pitRB6692338814.258.85262123683.8145.5
126Charlie Garner1994--2004phi-sfo-rai-tamRB6983040354.8658.58278435034.4742.7
127Mike Rozier1985--1991oti-atlRB4565426224.0158.35256020223.6138.9
128Brian Westbrook2002--2010phi-sfoRB8097146604.858.34952922064.1745
129Mark van Eeghen1974--1983rai-nweRB96139355613.9957.94143217143.9741.8
130Julius Jones2004--2010dal-sea-norRB4868427754.0657.84863624723.8951.5
131Marion Barber2005--2011dal-chiRB5978334074.3557.74441415243.6834.6
132James Stewart1995--2002jax-detRB5482831083.7557.65368128954.2554.6
133Eddie Lee Ivery1979--1986gnbRB3540720144.9557.5342448913.6526.2
134Ken Willard1965--1974sfo-crdRB69100339553.9457.35857919633.3933.8
135Mike Pruitt1976--1986cle-buf-kanRB6794438404.0757.37692136053.9147.4
136Marv Hubbard1969--1977rai-detRB6676737734.9257.2242258673.8536.1
137Gerald Riggs1982--1991atl-wasRB6289435443.9657.272111046904.2365.1
138Ronnie Brown2005--2011mia-phiRB4359624484.1156.95058625224.350.4
139Adrian Murrell1993--2003nyj-crd-was-dalRB4463724943.9256.77276528623.7439.8
140Don Perkins1961--1968dalFB-HB5575831074.156.55175430794.0860.4
141Lamar Smith1994--2003sea-nor-mia-carRB5481130433.7556.45856520303.5935
142Mike Anderson2000--2007den-ravRB5871632544.5456.1402509763.924.4
143J.D. Smith1960--1966sfo-dalFB-HB3345118504.156.13641115643.8143.4
144Ted Brown1979--1986minRB5066027994.24565649919073.8234.1
145Dick Bass1960--1969ramFB-HB4759026124.4355.65956725044.4242.4
146Sammy Winder1982--1990denRB80119544433.7255.55242313563.2126.1
147Emerson Boozer1966--1975nyjRB5477429843.8655.35851820924.0436.1
148Ed Podolak1969--1977kanRB4865526304.0254.84742314823.531.5
149Earnest Byner1984--1997cle-was-ravRB111152260643.9854.610275730344.0129.7
150Brandon Jacobs2005--2011nygRB7186238694.4954.53933614414.2936.9
151Roger Craig1983--1993sfo-rai-minRB127165868734.1554.15352921063.9839.7
152Mel Farr1967--1973detRB3137716774.4554.1272929603.2935.6
153Bobby Humphrey1989--1992den-miaRB3342217814.22542234213383.9160.8
154Jim Otis1970--1978nor-kan-crdRB5778230573.9153.65139113353.4126.2
155Chris Warren1990--2000sea-dal-phiRB7087237434.2953.59194840614.2844.6
156Ahmad Bradshaw2007--2011nygRB5256527804.9253.5272469173.7334
157John Stephens1988--1993nwe-gnb-kanRB2841014773.652.85953519633.6733.3
158Gary W. Anderson1985--1993sdg-tam-detRB3642018994.5252.87344915103.3620.7
159Otis Armstrong1973--1980denRB5872130554.2452.73932114084.3936.1
160Mercury Morris1969--1976mia-sdgRB7473738965.2952.6331616824.2420.7
161Kevan Barlow2001--2006sfo-nyjRB3745119464.3152.65058320743.5641.5
162Tom Sullivan1972--1978phi-cleRB2637513593.6252.35148316833.4833
163Reggie Cobb1990--1996tam-gnb-jax-nyjRB2940715143.7252.26267022553.3736.4
164Hewritt Dixon1963--1970den-raiRB-TE5567728614.2352381615533.4314.6
165Altie Taylor1969--1976det-otiRB5471827943.8951.74541714063.3731.2
166Tony Collins1981--1990nwe-miaRB5668228854.2351.55355619623.5337
167Sherman Smith1976--1983sea-sdgRB3540317924.4551.25343117284.0132.6
168Justin Fargas2003--2009raiFB2528712784.4551.16554020913.8732.2
169Edgar Bennett1992--1999gnb-chiRB6489932643.63514737912893.427.4
170Terry Metcalf1973--1981crd-wasRB-WR4649923414.6950.93628212164.3133.8
171Calvin Hill1969--1981dal-was-cleRB96114548844.2750.95439515593.9528.9
172Michael Vick2001--2011atl-phiQB6545932877.1650.65129721657.2942.5
173MacArthur Lane1968--1978crd-gnb-kanRB5260226204.3550.46755118843.4228.1
174Larry Kinnebrew1983--1990cin-bufRB3745818634.0750.44032812873.9232.2
175Gerry Ellis1980--1986gnbRB4647923144.8350.35435014994.2827.8
176Barry Word1987--1993nor-kan-minRB4554122354.1349.7242238593.8535.8
177Johnny Roland1966--1973crd-nygRB4050119683.9349.24742714583.4131
178Herschel Walker1986--1997dal-min-phi-nygRB8496241224.2849.1106102042354.1540
179Curtis Dickey1980--1986clt-cleRB3038314673.8348.95155325454.649.9
180Keith Lincoln1961--1968sdg-bufFB-HB4744022945.2148.83830812554.0733
181Boobie Clark1973--1980cin-otiRB4860123113.8548.1312258373.7227
182Clarence Davis1971--1978raiRB7375935114.6348.1251666253.7725
183Michael Pittman1998--2008crd-tam-denRB6978233154.24488166524993.7630.9
184Tom Woodeshick1963--1972phi-crdRB3134614834.2947.85045619224.2138.4
185Tyrone Wheatley1995--2004nyg-raiRB6781831853.8947.56149218783.8230.8
186Charley Tolar1960--1966otiFB4657621733.7747.24235411833.3428.2
187Frank Pollard1980--1988pitRB5255124484.4447.15044717723.9635.4
188Lorenzo White1988--1995oti-cleRB5461225384.15475952619683.7433.4
189Ron Dayne2000--2007nyg-den-htxRB5469325373.66474232012713.9730.3
190Walter Abercrombie1982--1988pit-phiRB4551621134.09474236914233.8633.9
191Harvey Williams1991--1998kan-raiRB5363224873.9446.95541115283.7227.8
192Don Calhoun1974--1981buf-nweRB5557725324.39463928810443.6326.8
193Greg Hill1994--1999kan-ram-detRB5357924394.2146281967954.0628.4
194Roland Harper1975--1982chiRB3439815543.945.74036415014.1237.5
195Rob Carpenter1977--1986oti-nyg-ramRB7690434493.8245.44835412463.5226
196Dexter Bussey1974--1984detRB5757825714.4545.17662825514.0633.6
197Wray Carlton1960--1967bufHB-FB4347219354.1453833814024.1536.9
198John David Crow1960--1968crd-sfoHB-TE5253923244.3144.74535514254.0131.7
199Mike Alstott1996--2006tamRB89100239483.9444.47946914813.1618.7
200Dalton Hilliard1986--1993norRB6576228643.7644.14438313643.5631
201Joe Washington1977--1985sdg-clt-was-atlRB6467228194.19446254220763.8333.5
202Wilbur Jackson1974--1982sfo-wasRB3637115744.2443.76060823053.7938.4
203Nick Pietrosante1960--1967det-cleFB5052021854.243.73630612414.0634.5
204Mario Bates1994--2000nor-crd-detRB3844016443.7443.35341614393.4627.2
205Les Josephson1964--1974ramRB5855225014.5343.1352006283.1417.9
206Reggie Bush2006--2011nor-miaRB4542919384.5243.13634914384.1239.9
207Rocky Bleier1968--1980pitRB8586136024.1842.4362077403.5720.6
208Chris Brown2003--2009oti-htxRB3230213524.4842.33844217814.0346.9
209James R. Jones1983--1992det-seaFB-TE3742915553.62427557520243.5227
210Charlie H. Smith1968--1975rai-sdgRB6672127513.8241.7221737154.1332.5
211Don Woods1974--1980sdg-sfoRB2933812053.5741.64042518824.4347.1
212Wayne Morris1976--1984crd-sdgRB4749619513.9341.56439914323.5922.4
213LaMont Jordan2001--2009nyj-rai-nwe-denRB5346721804.6741.16046917703.7729.5
214Ernie Green1962--1968cleHB-FB6455626214.7141271346544.8824.2
215Doug Kotar1974--1981nygRB3132412533.8740.45857621273.6936.7
216Dorsey Levens1994--2004gnb-phi-nygRB104102841824.0740.24838014753.8830.7
217Charles White1980--1988cle-ramRB5148720394.19405130310683.5220.9
218Craig Heyward1988--1998nor-chi-atl-ram-cltRB7164728374.38407240715183.7321.1
219Reuben Droughns2001--2008det-den-cle-nygRB5047819934.1739.94745916383.5734.9
220Johnny Hector1983--1992nyjRB5856923064.0539.86348920074.131.9
221Harold Green1990--1998cin-ram-atlRB4744218664.2239.77872025543.5532.7
222Amos Marsh1961--1967dal-detHB-FB3126412224.6339.45241216554.0231.8
223Dave Osborn1965--1976min-gnbRB8288632323.6539.44735213123.7327.9
224Cid Edwards1968--1975crd-sdg-chiRB2923511434.8639.4494181670434.1
225Tom Matte1961--1972cltRB9494237003.9339.44329811473.8526.7
226John L. Williams1986--1995sea-pitFB8173931724.2939.27553119393.6525.9
227Ladell Betts2002--2010was-norRB5248120164.1938.86035613553.8122.6
228Walt Garrison1966--1974dalRB8777733194.2738.1372369754.1326.4
229Michael Bennett2001--2010min-kan-tam-sdg-raiRB4742417884.22386044020084.5633.5
230Wendell Hayes1963--1974dal-den-kanRB625872349437.95840114453.624.9
231Willie Ellison1967--1974ram-kanRB5549020624.2137.52624810164.139.1
232Essex Johnson1968--1976cin-tamRB4839917894.4837.36532914614.4422.5
233Jim Kiick1968--1977mia-denRB8079129723.7637.23431310563.3731.1
234Stump Mitchell1981--1989crdRB5143918904.3137.16451425735.0140.2
235John Fuqua1969--1976nyg-pitRB5752421014.0136.93723910874.5529.4
236Robert Newhouse1972--1983dalRB115103042374.1136.84230411983.9428.5
237Curtis McClinton1962--1968kanFB-TE5851721344.1336.8322429784.0430.6
238Leroy Hoard1990--1999cle-rav-car-minRB7667727964.1336.87039213973.5620
239Merril Hoge1987--1994pit-chiRB5650520274.0136.25435913593.7925.2
240Charlie Harraway1966--1973cle-wasRB6258822403.8136.1342759213.3527.1
241Larry Garron1960--1968nweHB-FB5245718774.1136.1372609193.5324.8
242Correll Buckhalter2001--2010phi-denRB6249022224.5335.8482229594.3220
243Erric Pegram1991--1997atl-pit-sdg-nygRB5856420673.6635.64132714504.4335.4
244Carl Garrett1969--1977nwe-chi-nyj-raiRB5043517524.03356460424784.138.7
245Rickey Young1975--1983sdg-minRB5852820323.85357347216053.422
246Greg Pruitt1973--1984cle-raiRB8861430785.01357157725174.3635.5
247Darrin Nelson1982--1992min-sdgRB7358325454.3734.97648320674.2827.2
248Lenny Moore1960--1967cltRB-WR5846720114.3134.7332479863.9929.9
249Donny Anderson1966--1974gnb-crdRB6859423493.9534.55758922563.8339.6
250Kenneth Davis1986--1994gnb-bufRB7760326564.434.55433313714.1225.4
251Tommy Mason1961--1971min-ram-wasRB6154421023.8634.55542418554.3833.7
252Chester Taylor2002--2011rav-min-chi-crdRB8672629534.0734.37047019324.1127.6
253Tony Nathan1979--1987miaRB8963630474.7934.2452149504.4421.1
254Dominic Rhodes2001--2010clt-raiRB7057823874.1334.14033413063.9132.7
255Timmy Brown1960--1968phi-cltRB5139017244.4233.85346320054.3337.8
256Dick Hoak1961--1970pitRB-WR4341314203.44337963823073.6229.2
257Bill Mathis1960--1969nyjFB-HB6661521643.5232.86041713803.3123
258Earl Gros1962--1970gnb-phi-pit-norFB4434814414.1432.85245516733.6832.2
259Bill Brown1961--1974chi-minRB9689331383.5132.77770924613.4732
260Anthony Johnson1990--2000clt-nyj-chi-car-jaxRB5348217123.5532.37437113893.7418.8
261Jess Phillips1968--1977cin-nor-rai-nweRB6244419804.4631.96145116013.5526.2
262Terry Kirby1993--2002mia-sfo-cle-raiRB6853821564.0131.75130510193.3420
263Ronnie Bull1962--1971chi-phiRB6052018963.6531.64932712483.8225.5
264Norm Bulaich1970--1979clt-phi-miaRB7255222754.1231.64630011953.9826
265John Cappelletti1974--1983ram-sdgRB7767624103.5731.3341836243.4118.4
266Sammy Morris2000--2011buf-mia-nwe-dalRB6544319894.4930.66529410733.6516.5
267Pete Banaszak1966--1978raiRB11386734533.9830.6401856373.4415.9
268Cullen Bryant1973--1987ram-seaRB9571827463.8228.9522449653.9518.6
269Maurice Morris2002--2011sea-detRB7653521694.0528.57637416004.2821.1
270Randall Cunningham1985--2001phi-min-dal-ravQB9848627015.5627.67333424757.4133.9
271Tony Galbreath1976--1987nor-min-nygRB7950421244.2126.99054420213.7222.5
272Matt Suhey1980--1989chiRB8460222573.7526.9592698453.1414.3
273Kordell Stewart1995--2005pit-chi-ravQB7641019924.8626.25420411645.7121.6
274Steve Young1985--1999tam-sfoQB12555032365.8825.96026815975.9626.6
275Steve McNair1995--2007oti-ravQB10047924885.1924.97224514575.9520.2
276Donovan McNabb1999--2011phi-was-minQB10645823915.2222.67422914886.520.1
277Kevin Faulk1999--2011nweRB12565327434.221.95429912894.3123.9
278Preston Pearson1968--1980clt-pit-dalRB11860723803.9220.25837713313.5322.9
279Keith Byars1986--1998phi-mia-nwe-nyjFB-TE11953718933.5315.97931811543.6314.6
280John Elway1983--1998denQB16359822793.81149226615535.8416.9
281Fran Tarkenton1961--1978min-nygQB13139017104.3813.111729219346.6216.5

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Adrian Peterson’s amazing, except when the Vikings win

Adrian Peterson is having an incredible season. He’s likely to hit the 2,000-yard mark on Sunday, and he’s also chasing Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record. But his splits this year are…interesting.

The table below shows Adrian Peterson’s game logs. These display his traditional statistics, along with his Win Probability added, Expected Points Added, and Success Rate, all courtesy of Advanced NFL Stats; finally I have added the Vikings SRS score for that particularly game (on the season, Minnesota has an SRS of +3.0).


A robot and a vegan walk into a bar...

A robot and a vegan walk into a bar...

Peterson has only had two games this season where he averaged fewer than 3.5 yards per carry. Those two games were, without question, the two most impressive wins of the year for the Vikings. Peterson had identical stat lines of 25 carries/86 yards/0 touchdowns in shocking upsets over the 49ers and Texans.
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NYT Fifth Down: Post-week 15

A double post at the New York Times this week.

Did you know that Alex Smith is seven attempts away from qualifying for eligibility for certain rate-based statistics? If Jim Harbaugh wants to game the system — and this is Harbaugh — he could ptobably that Smith breaks the completion percentage record, set by Drew Brees in 2011.

I also looked at how the playoff field will be very familiar this year:

With two weeks remaining in the N.F.L. regular season, seven teams have clinched a playoff berth and several more can clinch this weekend. Chances are, two weeks from now, the teams in the playoffs will look pretty familiar to N.F.L. fans.

In the A.F.C. in 2011, the Patriots, the Ravens, the Texans and the Broncos won the East, North, South and West Divisions. New England, Houston and Denver have already clinched their divisions in 2012, and even the free-falling Ravens are still the favorites to win the A.F.C. North. That would give the conference four repeat division winners, a first since the league moved to the four-division format in 2002.

Last year, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals were the two wild-card teams. Well, those two teams are currently battling for a wild-card spot, and it would be a surprise if both teams are left out of the playoffs. That would leave one spot in the A.F.C., which is most likely going to go to the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts did not make the playoffs in 2011 — in fact, the team had the worst record in the league — but they did make the playoffs every year from 2002 to 2010.

From 2009 to 2011, half of the conference — the Ravens (6), Jets (6), Patriots (5), Steelers (4), Colts (4), Broncos (2), Texans (2), and Bengals (2) — played in 31 of the A.F.C.’s 33 playoff games, and barring the miraculous (the 6-8 Dolphins are technically still alive), that won’t change this year. The last time a Tom Brady-led team didn’t make the playoffs was in 2002; the last time Peyton Manning’s team missed out on the postseason was in 2001. In the A.F.C., some things never change.

The N.F.C. features only slightly more turnover. Green Bay is going to the playoffs for the fourth straight season while Atlanta will be there for the fourth time in the five-year Matt Ryan/Mike Smith“>Mike Smith era. San Francisco has a good chance of securing a first-round bye for the second year in a row. That leaves just three remaining spots.

Seattle, winner of a playoff game just two years ago, is likely to be back in the postseason as well. The Giants, winners of two of the last five Super Bowls, will make the playoffs if they win their final two games. Chicago and Dallas are no strangers to the playoffs, and one might make it again this year. The real “surprise” teams in the N.F.C. are Minnesota — which did go to the N.F.C. championship game three years ago — and Washington. Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III were the first two picks in the draft and may power their teams to the playoffs this year. When it comes to the 2012 season, that qualifies as unpredictable.

Your weekly updates on Adrian Peterson and Calvin Johnson

At this point, it’s getting impossible to write a statistical column without talking about Adrian Peterson“>Adrian Peterson. The Vikings gained just 322 yards against the Rams on Sunday, but Adrian Peterson“>Adrian Peterson ran for 212, accounting for 66 percent of the Minnesota offense. It was the fourth time this season — and in the last two months — that Peterson has rushed for at least 8 yards per carry on 15-plus carries; since 1960, only Barry Sanders (5) and Peterson have accomplished such a feat in a season.

In one of the most incredible stats of this or any year, Peterson has rushed for 1,313 yards in his last eight games, the most by a player in an eight-game stretch since at least 1960. From 1960 to 2011, only four men rushed for 1,200 yards in that span. In 1977, Walter Payton rushed for 1,221 yards over an eight-game stretch; three years later, Earl Campbell rushed for 1,245 yards in half a season. In 2005, Kansas City’s Larry Johnson gained 1,244 rushing yards in the last eight games of the year. Before Peterson, Eric Dickerson held the record for rushing yards in an eight-game stretch; Dickerson rushed for 1,292 yards in the last five games of the ’84 season and the first three games of 1985.

For more on Peterson and Calvin Johnson, along with some interesting week 15 stats, check the full article here.


Running back success rate

Grading running backs can be tricky; rushing yards tell much of the story but remain a function of opportunity (itself an indicator of talent). Yards per carry sounds nice but often is more misleading than revealing. Last year at Smartfootball.com I analyzed team rushing games using rush success rate, and I will do the same today. Success rate has been around for awhile – The Hidden Game of Football wrote about it in the late ’80s and Football Outsiders has been tracking it for close to a decade. Everyone has their own unique definition, it seems; here is mine.

C.J. Spiller is a success.

  • I started with every play from scrimmage where a running back was credited with a carry. I then removed all instances of 3rd or 4th down carries where the back needed to gain more than 5 yards for a first down, since the primary goal in these situations usually isn’t to get the first down. However, on the rare occasions where a running back did convert for the first down, those plays were kept in the data set. This has only happened 20 times this season.
  • On 3rd and 4th down, a success is a rush that gains a first down (or touchdown). A failure is every carry that does not result in a first down.
  • On 2nd down, a success is achieved when the player gains at least 50% of the yards needed for the first down. This means that 2nd-and-8 runs are failures unless they pick up 4 yards; on 2nd-and-7, the running back must also gain at least 4 yards. A rush for one yard on 2nd-and-3 is a failure, and so on.
  • On 1st down, a running back is credited with a successful carry if he gains at least 40% of the yards needed; therefore, four yards are required on 1st-and-10 before the running back is given credit. On 1st and goal from the 5, a two-yard gain would be considered a success.

The league average success rate by these rules is 49.8%. The table below lists all running backs with at least 50 carries, along with their number of rushes (which excludes the excluded carries), number of successful runs, and their success rate. The table is sorted by the far right column, which shows how many successes over 50% of their runs the player had. In the event of a tie, the player with more carries was ranked higher.
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NYT Fifth Down: Post-week 13

This week at the New York Times, I blush when discussing Andrew Luck, praise the great Calvin Johnson as he tries to surpass Jerry Rice (but with a caveat), and take a look at some other random stats (including some absurd numbers from Adrian Peterson). Trivia: Brandon Marshall has gained over 1,000 yards on both the Bears and Broncos in seasons in which Jay Cutler was his primary quarterback both seasons. Can you name the only two other wide receivers to gain 1,000 yards with multiple teams but the same passer?

It’s not supposed to be this easy.

Sure, Steve Young and Aaron Rodgers followed Joe Montana and Brett Favre and excelled, but the fact that those examples are so memorable shows that they are the exception to the rule.

You’re not supposed to be able to replace a Hall of Fame quarterback with another star. In Indianapolis, the Colts got a taste of what life is often like for a team in the first year after a franchise quarterback’s exit: Curtis Painter, Dan Orlovsky and Kerry Collins earned every bit of their combined 2-14 record in 2011. But after the Colts bottomed out, Indianapolis’s fortunes changed dramatically. With the first pick in the 2012 draft, the team selected Stanford’s Andrew Luck, and the Colts appear set to be an annual contender for the next decade. Again.

Luck ranks fourth in passing yards this season, and he has shouldered the load for a Colts team that is below average in rushing, stopping the run and stopping the pass. Luck ranks “only” 19th in Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt and 14th in Net Yards per Attempt, unimpressive numbers only outside of the context of a rookie quarterback playing for what was the worst team in the N.F.L. a year ago. Luck passes the eye test and at least one advanced metric (before last night’s game, Luck ranked 6th in ESPN’s Total QBR), but part of what’s impressive about him is that even when he isn’t playing well, he remains capable of carrying his team to victory. Luck struggled for much of the game against Detroit on Sunday but still managed to pull out a most improbable victory.

In the first 56 minutes of the game, Luck was 17 for 39 for 279 yards with three interceptions. His team trailed the Lions, 33-21, with under three minutes remaining. At that point, Advanced NFL Stats calculated Indianapolis’s odds of winning at 2 percent.

But Luck led them on two scoring drives, and the Colts became just the seventh team to win a game despite trailing by 12 or more points with so little time remaining since 2000. Two of the other instances involved Peyton Manning with the Colts. In 2003, Manning led the Colts on a marvelous comeback against the Buccaneers on “Monday Night Football.” Six years later, Indianapolis trailed New England, 34-21, with 2:30 remaining. A Colts touchdown was followed by three Patriots plays that gained 8 yards, setting up Bill Belichick’s infamous 4th-and-2 decision.

It will be a long time before Luck could be considered anywhere near Manning’s class in terms of body of work, but his performance against the Lions is now alongside many of Manning’s memories in the annals of great Colts moments. Luck’s game-winning touchdown to Donnie Avery was just the 13th game-winning touchdown pass in the final seconds of a game since 2000.

Statistically, Andrew Luck may not be having the best year, but he has played an enormous part in the Colts’ magical run. At 8-4, the Colts are almost certainly going to make the playoffs; if they do, they will join the 2008 Miami Dolphins and 1982 Patriots on the list of N.F.L. teams to make the playoffs a year after going 2-14 or worse.

Luck will also set a couple of rookie records. With the game-winning drive he led against the Lions, he tied Ben Roethlisberger and Vince Young for the most fourth-quarter game-winning drives (five) by a rookie quarterback. By defeating Detroit and earning his eighth win, he broke a tie with Sam Bradford and now has the most wins among rookie quarterbacks selected first over all since 1950. Luck’s next victory will give him nine wins this season, tying him with Chris Chandler for the franchise record for wins by a rookie quarterback.

Calvin Johnson and the Lions’ Passing Game

Calvin Johnson led the league with 1,681 receiving yards last season and was named a first-team All-Pro by The Associated Press for the first time in his career. His encore performance may be even better.

He has gained a mind-boggling 1,428 receiving yards this season, joining Elroy Hirsch (1,495 yards in 1951) on the short list of N.F.L. players to top the 1,400-yard mark in a team’s first 12 games (in the A.F.L., Charley Hennigan and Lance Alworth each reached that mark once as well).

You can read the full post (and the answer to the trivia question) here.


NYT Fifth Down: Post-week 10

This week at the New York Times I looked at several interesting statistical developments in both the 2012 season and in week 10.

Even in today’s pass-happy N.F.L., it pays to have one of the best running backs. In one of the bigger surprises of the season, the best of the best is Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson.

He’s a four-time Pro Bowler and a two-time first-team All-Pro selection, but few expected a big year out of Peterson. That’s because last year, on Christmas Eve, Peterson tore the anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament in his left knee against the Redskins. Such a brutal injury often permanently robs a player of his elite ability; the rule of thumb tells us that it’s not until the second full season after the injury that the player regains his old form, if he ever does.

An injury so late in the 2011 season had most people figuring his 2012 season would be a lost year. Instead, Peterson leads the league in rushing with 1,128 yards and is on pace for a remarkable 1,804. Peterson is the first player since 2009 to rush for 1,100 yards in his team’s first 10 games, and he’s showing no signs of slowing. He has rushed for 629 yards in his last four games, including an impressive 171 rushing yards in a victory over the Lions on Sunday.

Peterson is also averaging 5.75 yards per rush the season, the most among players with at least 100 carries. He joins Jim Brown, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders and Chris Johnson as players with 1,100 or more rushing yards and such a high yards-per-carry average after his team’s first ten games.

Minnesota’s passing game ranks 26th in Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt and last in the league in yards per completion, a sign of an offense that doesn’t stretch the field through the air. But despite a passing attack that doesn’t scare any defense, thanks to Peterson, Minnesota is 6-4 and a potential playoff team.

The Return of Megatron

For most of the season, N.F.L. fans wondered what was wrong with Calvin Johnson. It wasn’t until the final minutes of Detroit’s loss to the Vikings on Sunday that Matthew Stafford and Johnson connected on a touchdown pass this season (Johnson did catch a touchdown pass from Shaun Hill earlier this year). Well, after a 207-yard game against Minnesota, Johnson is again leading the league in receiving yards. With 974 yards in nine games, Johnson is actually ahead of last year’s pace, when he gained a league-high 1,681 yards. The big difference: in 2011, he caught 16 touchdown passes, but he has only two in 2012.

Continued Dominance in New England

When it comes to the Patriots, mind-boggling offensive numbers are the norm. That means we occasionally ignore just how impressively the New England machine is operating. The Patriots lead the league in points scored, yards gained and first downs. Since 1990, only the 1993 49ers, the 1997 Broncos, the 2001 Rams and the 2007 Patriots have finished first in each metric.

The Patriots are averaging 33.2 points per game, 3.1 points more than the second-place Broncos. At 430.3 yards per game, the Patriots far outpace the rest of the league; Detroit (406.1) is the only other team averaging more than 400 yards per game.

But where New England really stands out is the 259 first downs it has gained. Last year, New Orleans set the N.F.L. record for first downs in a season with 416; the 2011 Patriots also broke the old record (held by the 2003 Kansas City Chiefs) with 399. This year’s team is on pace for an incredible 460 first downs. And the Patriots are on pace to crush the record in a surprising way: New England leads the N.F.L. in rushing first downs with 92, and Stevan Ridley leads all running backs with 54 rushing first downs.

You can read the full article here.

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Expect more MJD-style holdouts in the future

Jones-Drew's problems go back to how he was viewed as a college prospect.

The Maurice Jones-Drew holdout is slightly different than the typical holdouts we see every summer. As a 27-year-old running back, Jones-Drew is seeking his last big contract. But with a new owner and regime in Jacksonville, management is understandably hesitant to give a large contract to a player who already has two years remaining on his deal. The difference between Jones-Drew and most players is that this is his last chance to cash in. If he plays out his contract, even if he plays well the next two seasons, he’s unlikely to get a huge deal in 2014.

Would that be fair? I would hope that some of those writers who argued in favor of reducing rookie contracts would find such a result unjust, as a talented, star player should be rewarded with a big contract.1 But even if he performs well in 2012 and 2013, by 2014, Jones-Drew would be a 29-year-old runner who had just endured five years of punishment as a workhorse running back. No team would sign him to a large contract at that point, as he could not be expected to continue to produce at such a high level.

When it comes to running backs, it is understood that they must try to maximize their salaries when they are young, as big paydays for older runners are few and far between. But in this situation, some have argued that since this is Jones-Drew’s second contract, he should honor his deal (or, alternatively, that we should be less sympathetic to his cause). In 2009, Jones-Drew signed his second contract, and the argument goes that unlike a rookie contract — where players have almost no leverage — Jones-Drew already had his bite at the apple. But that argument ignores the fact that Jones-Drew’s rookie contract remains part of his current predicament.
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  1. This is obviously shtick, but I do find it hypocritical for owners to argue against paying “unproven” players and then to argue against paying aging players who “have little left” in the tank. Players should be paid for what we expect them to produce, and the “unrpoven” argument is and always has been a red herring. []

Franchise leaders — rushing stats

Yesterday, we took a look at the franchise leaders in various passing categories. Let’s do the same for running backs today. The first list shows the leaders in career rushing yards for each franchise; the last column shows the last year that running back played for that franchise:

Running Back
Last Yr
STL9093Steven Jackson
SFO7625Frank Gore
CAR5047DeAngelo Williams
SDG12490LaDainian Tomlinson2009
GNB8322Ahman Green2009
JAX11271Fred Taylor2008
NOR6096Deuce McAllister2008
SEA9429Shaun Alexander2007
KAN6070Priest Holmes2007
NYG10449Tiki Barber2006
BAL7801Jamal Lewis2006
NYJ10302Curtis Martin2005
IND9226Edgerrin James2005
HOU3195Domanick Williams2005
TEN10009Eddie George2003
CIN8061Corey Dillon2003
DAL17162Emmitt Smith2002
DEN7607Terrell Davis2001
MIN6818Robert Smith2000
BUF11938Thurman Thomas1999
DET15269Barry Sanders1998
OAK8545Marcus Allen1992
TAM5957James Wilder1989
ATL6631Gerald Riggs1988
CHI16726Walter Payton1987
ARI7999Ottis Anderson1986
WAS7472John Riggins1985
PHI6538Wilbert Montgomery1984
PIT11950Franco Harris1983
NWE5453Sam Cunningham1982
MIA6737Larry Csonka1979
CLE12312Jim Brown1965

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