Archive for the ‘NFL Analysis’ Category

Could Mark Sanchez be the Greatest Rookie QB in NFL Playoff History?

January 18, 2010

New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez responds to cheers after the Jets beat the San Diego Chargers 17-14 in an NFL divisional playoff football game Sunday, Jan. 17, 2010, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

Last summer, I wrote a post entitled Who was the Best Rookie QB to Start a Playoff Game (Since 1970)? where I compared the rookie seasons of each quarterback to start a playoff game in NFL history. Well, now we have another this season that has joined that group. Matt Sanchez has joined Shaun King, Ben Roethlisberger, and Joe Flacco as the only QB to win a playoff game his rookie season. He and Flacco are the only two rookie QBs to win two playoff games (I would give Big Ben plenty of credit for helping his team to the top seed in the playoffs, but I’m a Steelers fan). So far in this playoffs, Sanchez has played better than I would have expected him to. Since he has accomplished something that only Flacco did before him, I wanted to see how he matches up with the other rookie QBs that I compared earlier. For the data on those players, please refer to the link above.



Vince Young May Turn out to be a Franchise QB After All

December 14, 2009

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 13: Vince Young #10 of the Tennessee Titans looks to pass the football in the first half against the St. Louis Rams at LP Field on December 13, 2009 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

About this time last year, I thought it was quite possible that Vince Young’s days in Tennessee were numbered. Despite having a winning record as a starter his first two seasons, his passing was poor and appeared to be trending downward. When he was injured in game 1 of the 2008 season, he lost his starting position due to a combination of immature actions/ statements and the fact that the Titans just kept winning with Kerry Collins as the starter. When Tennessee re-signed Collins this offseason with the understanding that he would be the starter, it definitely seemed that Young’s chances in Nashville were slim. Now, following a disastrous 0-6 start, Young regained his starting position and the Titans won 5 straight before losing to the Colts last week. He started this past weekend, and had good numbers but a pulled hamstring in the second quarter sidelined him for the rest of the game. Because of the excellent record that the Titans have had since Young’s return, I thought it would be worthwhile to take a look at his numbers from his first two years and compare them to what he has done so far this season. I wondered if he really was performing at the high level that his 6-1 record as a starter this year would indicate.


Randy Moss and Larry Fitzgerald may Surpass Jerry Rice in Career Receiving Yardage

December 10, 2009

Randy Moss (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Larry Fitzgerald (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about how likely it is that  Emmitt Smith’s record for career rushing yards would be broken. Out of my own curiosity more than anything, I decided to see if there are any current players likely to break Jerry Rice’s record for career receiving yardage. In the Smith post, I was curious whether recent trends toward more pass happy offenses combined with the trend toward having two feature backs was making it less likely that a RB would even have the opportunity to break his record. In this one, I will just focus on the players themselves. I think that the continuing rules changes and tweaks to favor the passing game make it very likely that at some point a WR will come along to break Rice’s record. My question in this post was whether any current players were on pace to do so. At this point, Randy Moss and Larry Fitzgerald appear to be the most likely candidates.


How Likely is it that Emmitt Smith’s Career Rushing Yardage Record Will be Broken?

November 30, 2009

Emmitt Smith (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

A couple of weeks ago, Jason Lisk wrote this post over at the blog on the likelihood of Frank Gore becoming the 49ers all time leading rusher. In that post, he referred to another post from three years ago, which looked at the probability of certain players breaking Emmitt Smith’s career rushing record. Two years ago, I thought that LaDainian Tomlinson had the best shot at breaking Emmitt’s record of anyone currently playing. But, he seems to be slowing down quite a bit recently. With these posts in mind, I started to think that the changes in the NFL game may actually make it less likely for any RB to break Emmitt’s record.


A Playoff Argument for Terrell Davis being a Hall of Famer

November 17, 2009

Denver Broncos runningback Terrell Davis(30) slips the tackle attempt by Cincinnati Bengals safety Greg Meyers as he breaks into the secondary to pickup a first down during the second quarter of their game at Denver's Mile High Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 21, 1997. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)

Over the past couple of years, I have analyzed some of the top running backs in NFL history, both on Checking the Numbers (here) and at Behind the Steel Curtain (here and here). In each of these analyses, I have shown that, on a per game basis, Terrell Davis was one of the top RBs in NFL history. In some analyses he showed up as a top 3 player, but in all he was at least top 10. The knock on him has been that he did not play long enough for serious consideration, although for a 4 year stretch, he was every bit as good at Emmitt Smith and very close to Barry Sanders. So, as I did recently for Hines Ward, I am going to look at how Terrell Davis’s playoff numbers compare with other greats in NFL history.


Updated: Roethlisberger and Ward Having Historical Seasons

October 20, 2009
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

AP Photo/Don Wright

AP Photo/Don Wright

I added a little more information about Hines Ward’s rankings that I thought was interesting.

A little over a week ago, I wrote a post showing how high Hines Ward ranks among NFL WRs in playoff yardage. So far this year, he and Ben Roethlisberger are having historic seasons in terms of passing and receiving yardage. As of the time of this writing, both are leading the league in respective passing and receiving yardage. I wrote in the previous post on Hines that he was on pace to have over 1400 receiving yards. After his game on Sunday against the Browns, he is now on pace to have nearly 1600 receiving yard this season, which would be a career high and a Pittsburgh Steelers record (currently held byYancey Thigpen with 1398 yards in a season). Ben is on pace to have over 5000 passing yards this season, which also would be a Steelers record (currently held by Terry Bradshaw with 3724 yards in a season). With two Steelers on such a historic pace, for this franchise, at least, I wanted to see how they compared with other players’ performances after the first 6 games of the season.


NFL QBs with the Best First Five Games to Their Career

October 17, 2009

Again this year, we have two rookie quarterbacks who started from game 1 of the season. Last year when Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco started, they had unprecedented success, at least in a year where there were two rookie QBs starting (not to mention rookie head coaches as well). This year, we have Mark Sanchez and Matthew Stafford, each starting from game 1 with rookie head coaches as well. I was curious how well Sanchez and Stafford match up against other QBs that started very early in the season. Because of this, I went to‘s Player Game Finder and queried on players’ 1st 5 games of their rookie season, with greater than or equal to 80 attempts and a passer rating of 65 or above (sorted by passer rating). Here are the players that I came up with.


Another Reason to Argue for Hines Ward’s HOF Candidacy

October 9, 2009
PITTSBURGH - OCTOBER 4:  Wide receiver Hines Ward #86 of the Pittsburgh Steelers reacts after a catch in the third quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Heinz Field on October 4, 2009 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

PITTSBURGH - OCTOBER 4: Wide receiver Hines Ward #86 of the Pittsburgh Steelers reacts after a catch in the third quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Heinz Field on October 4, 2009 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Many Pittsburgh Steelers fans are already convinced that Hines Ward deserves to be inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame when he retires. Currently, in his 12th season in the NFL, he is ranked 17th in career receptions, 31st in career receiving yards, and tied for 28th in career receiving TDs. Some would, and have, argued that he doesn’t have HOF worthy statistics, and you can’t just say he should be in because he is the greatest blocking receiver in NFL history. If he retired today, and that were the extent of his accomplishments, I would agree. But, he should play another 3 or more years, including this season. Currently, he is on pace for about 100 receptions and over 1400 yards this season. Although he has yet to catch a TD pass this year, based on his productivity in past years, it’s reasonable expect at least 5 receiving TDs this season. Those numbers would put him at 11th in career receptions, 22nd or 23rd in career receiving yards, and 22nd or 23rd in career TD receptions. Just a couple more years of what would be mediocre production for Ward would put him in the top 10 in every receiving category.

I think that those numbers would be enough to get him in when you consider his other accomplishments: 2 Super Bowl rings (more to come?), a SB MVP, and a rule named after him. When the NFL Network announced the most recent round of HOF candidates a couple of weeks ago, they had two HOF voters on the show. One said that she believed that a major consideration for whether a player is HOF worthy is whether you could tell the story of the NFL without them or not. I think it’s clear that you cannot tell the story of the NFL without Hines Ward. His blocking down the field is so physical that they had to change the rules because of the hit he put on Keith Rivers in the 2008 season, breaking his jaw. The hit was legal then. Anyway, that was a long introduction to get to my latest piece of evidence in favor of Hines Ward being HOF worthy.


Another Comparison of RBs’ Best 4 Years

September 4, 2009

Last week, I posted this article comparing some of the top RBs in NFL history, this time looking at their career peaks in terms of a 4 year stretch. As quick review, I defined their top 4 year stretches as the period of 4 consecutive years where the player gained the most total yards from scrimmage in his career. In my last post, many commenters (both here at Checking the Numbers and at BTSC) suggested improvements both in analysis technique and in players to review, so I decided to go back and complete a followup analysis. Based on the feedback that I received, I added several players that were suggested, and I also made a couple changes to my ranking system. (more…)

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.