Archive for August, 2009

Top RBs in NFL History – Their Best 4 Years

August 27, 2009
Marshall Faulk

Marshall Faulk

Jim Brown

About a year and a half ago, I was inspired to perform an analysis on the top running backs in NFL history. I did 2 posts on the topic at Behind the Steel Curtain, first on the top 10 backs in overall rushing yards, then a followup including the RBs that were top 10 in yards/game and yards/attempt. In these analyses, I had included the entire careers of each player considered, which may have unfairly favored players who retired at or near their primes. So, I had been considering for a while whether it might be of interest to complete the same type of analysis for all of the players, but in this case, I would only consider the best 4 year period in that player’s career. So, essentially, I am reviewing the career peaks of the best running backs in NFL history.

LT (AP Photo/Matt York)

LT (AP Photo/Matt York)

Why 4 years? In some ways, it’s an arbitrary

Terrell Davis

Terrell Davis

 choice. But, it is about the average length of most running backs’ careers. I believe the average is below 3.5 years now, but that’s still more than 3, on average. It’s also the number of years that Terrell Davis was productive. Because of that, I was just curious to see how he stacked up against other RBs peak 4 year period.

Emmitt Smith

Emmitt Smith

In this post, I am reviewing the same 20 players as in the last RB analysis. They are listed in the table below, in addition to the following information:

  • the years analyzed
  • number of games played and started for those years
  • total yards from scrimmage during those years
  • total touchdowns and fumbles from those years

The way that I determined which four year period to analyze for each player was by determining for which period that player had the most total yards from scrimmage.

Players Years G GS YScm TotTD Fmb
Emmitt Smith 1992-1995 61 60 7921 76 16
Walter Payton 1 1977-1980 62 62 7746 50 28
Walter Payton 2 1983-1986 64 64 7829 41 22
Barry Sanders 1994-1997 64 64 8122 45 10
Curtis Martin 1998-2001 63 63 6920 35 11
Jerome Bettis 1996-1999 62 58 5804 30 17
Eric Dickerson 1983-1986 62 62 7842 57 49
Tony Dorsett 1978-1981 61 60 6604 33 39
Jim Brown 1962-1965 56 56 7302 63 28
Marshall Faulk 1998-2001 60 59 8992 69 8
Marcus Allen 1983-1986 61 57 7056 50 32
Franco Harris 1976-1979 59 59 5206 45 33
Marion Motley 1947-1950 51 36 3840 28 5
Bo Jackson 1987-1990 38 23 3134 18 11
Spec Sanders 1946-1948 40 30 3172 36 1
Terrell Davis 1995-1998 61 61 7594 61 16
LaDainian Tomlinson 2003-2006 63 63 8301 86 13
Clinton Portis 2002-2005 60 56 7059 49 16
Edgerrin James 2003-2006 60 60 6801 40 16
Jamal Lewis 2000-2004 60 57 6822 34 24
Ricky Williams 2000-2003 58 58 7104 43 28

There are a couple of Items of Note to address before moving forward. First, I included two 4 year periods for Walter Payton because he was the only player to have two distinct peak periods, for which the total yards from scrimmage were within about 80 yards of each other. By distinct periods I mean that there was no overlap in the years for those two periods. Secondly, Spec Sanders’s and Jamal Lewis’s periods are adjusted for special circumstances. Sanders’s analysis is only for 3 years, because he played halfback from 1946 to 1948, did not play in 1949, and returned in 1950 as a safety. So, I thought it made more sense to only include his numbers from the first three years. Lewis’s analysis covers the period from 2000 to 2004, which is 5 years. But, since he was out the entirety of the 2001 season with a knee injury, I decided that this period would be accurate for this analysis.

As with the previous analyses, I ranked each player according yards per game and per touch in both rushing and receiving as well as TDs and fumbles per game. After ranking them in each category, I calculated the average of each player’s rankings in all categories and sorted the running backs from highest average among all categories to lowest. In the following tables, I have included the raw statistics (gathered from for the players.



A Statistical Analysis of the Atlanta Falcons’ Schedule

August 21, 2009
AP Photo

AP Photo: Michael Turner Runs Away from Detroit Defense

Last year, the Atlanta Falcons were one of the surprise teams in the NFL. In fact, some were even predicting that the Falcons would go winless in 2008, including Peter Schrager of (whose 2009 prediction for possible winless teams I came across in tlozwarlock‘s post at The Falcoholic). While it may have been a stretch to expect them to go winless last year, I don’t think anyone predicted that they would win 11 games and make the playoffs with a rookie GM, rookie Head Coach and rookie QB (not to mention a first year starter at running back). Never-the-less, the Falcons had a great year last year, with rookie QB Matt Ryan having one of the best rookie campaigns in NFL history.

Coming off of that success, how likely are they to repeat that success in 2009?


How Does Philip Rivers Compare to Ben and Eli?

August 14, 2009
QB Philip Rivers (Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty)

QB Philip Rivers (Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty)

Of course, being a Steelers fan, I love Ben Roethlisberger. I am also an NC State alum, so I love Philip Rivers as well. An argument can be made that he is one of the top 5-10 college quarterbacks ever, particularly considering that unlike other QBs in that discussion, he didn’t have a team filled with top 10 recruiting classes. Considering that and the fact that his college offense was a typical pro-style offense, not the run-and-shoot or spread, his numbers in college were staggering. Just check here, and scroll down to the bottom. With that said, I wanted to take a look at how Philip Rivers compares with his more decorated Draft Classmates. I realize that Rivers is the only first round QB from the 2004 NFL draft without a super bowl ring. But, that doesn’t mean he’s vastly inferior to Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning.

So, as I have already done in this post and this followup post on Ben vs. Eli, I will review Philip Rivers’s accomplishments against theirs. I will also review the level of defense that he faced so far in his career. He’s been hammered for playing in the weak AFC West, but has the Chargers’ defensive schedule overall been significantly weaker than the Steelers’ and Giants’ schedules? We’ll find out. (Note: All data taken from


Observations from the Steelers – Cardinals Pre-season Game

August 14, 2009

In a departure from my typical statistical analyses, I am putting out a couple of posts today that are more observational analysis (mainly just my thoughts about a couple of things).

NFL Football is finally back! Sure, it’s just preseason, but I know most Steelers fans are interested in several young guys and whether they are making good progress this pre-season. I know I am! Here are just a few things that I noticed from the game last night.


Thoughts on Vick to the Eagles

August 14, 2009

So, Michael Vick has landed with the Philadelphia Eagles. My first thought was I’m glad he’s not in NE. Maybe I still have a little nervousness about the “genius” of Belicheat, but when I heard he may go to the Patriots, I thought he may be the extra wrinkle that puts them over the top. Of course, given the team they had two years ago, they shouldn’t really need that extra wrinkle. But, anyway, I think that the Eagles is a good landing place for Vick on many fronts.


Ben vs. Eli follow-up

August 12, 2009

This is just a quick follow-up to my previous post on Ben vs. Eli. In the comments, Varmint had a request:

As a follow-up, it would be interesting to know which division had the better pass and rush defenses. Obviously, a better rush defense puts more pressure on the QB to get the job done. The combined defensive rank is more important, but I think knowing both categories would be an interesting addition.

So, I went back and looked at the opposing defensive ranks broken out by pass and rush defense rank. First, as Varmint asked, I looked at the defenses just in the division, but then, for my own gratification, I did the same for all teams that Ben and Eli have faced in their careers. As before, I did not include the defensive ranks of teams that the Steeler or Giants faced in which the player did not play. (more…)

Can We Expect the Steelers OL to Improve in 2009?

August 9, 2009


Photo Credit: Robin Rombach/Post-Gazette (Willie Colon celebrates Super Bowl XLIII)

Since the Steelers’ 2009 Training Camp is upon us, I thought it was a good time to take a look at the group that has caused Steeler Nation the most concern each of the last two years, particularly from a pass protection standpoint. I realize that we have seen a drop in the Steelers’ rushing game in 2008, but the issue that has caused the most serious concern is that Big Ben has been sacked nearly 90 times in the last two seasons. Steelers fans have discussed the lack of pass protection at great length the past two seasons, and we have voiced great concern over the fact that the Steelers have passed on several OL draft picks that we wanted. Because of these concerns, I wanted to compare the level of defenses that the OL has faced in the 2007 and 2008 seasons. The Steelers faced a much easier schedule in 2007 than 2008 but still had approximately the same number of sacks per season. So I asked “Was it possible that the OL was actually better in 2008 than 2007, just that they faced a much stronger defensive schedule?” I thought it possible. So, lets take a look at the numbers (from


Is Rod Woodson the Greatest DB Ever?

August 7, 2009
AP Photo/Jeff Glidden, File

AP Photo/Jeff Glidden, File

With Rod Woodson’s Hall of Fame Enshrinement fast approaching, Maryrose over at Behind the Steel Curtain, wrote an excellent post reviewing Rod Woodson’s career and accomplishments, with, of course, a focus on his time as a Steeler. I will not try to parallel or top his post. My plan is to review Woodson’s career interception numbers against some of the other all time great DBs and see if a compelling case can be made that he was the greatest DB of all time. My “inspiration” for this idea was hearing that he had the most Pro Bowl starts of any DB in NFL history, which was mentioned on NFL Total Access last night.