It's not exactly a secret that the NFL is continuing to move away from its running-friendly roots. Through Week 11, this has been the most pass-happy season in league history. Teams are averaging 26.9 rushing attempts per game, which would be the first time NFL teams would fail to hit 27 running plays per game. Receptions per game are also at an all-time high — NFL teams are averaging 21.9 completions per game and 239.6 passing yards per game, which would both be league records. Now 69.9 percent of yards from scrimmage come on passing plays; just wait till Andy Reid and I throw a party when that baby goes over 70 percent!
Fewer run plays would normally suggest that each individual running play would be more effective; as passing plays become more prevalent and teams begin to build their defenses around stopping the pass, rushing should theoretically become more efficient as passing becomes less efficient (even if the two paths never meet). That hasn't been the case this season, with runners averaging a mere 4.1 yards per carry, the lowest figure since 2007.
The lack of efficiency in 2013 extends to many of 2012’s star backs. It seems like every superstar running back has either experienced a notable decline in efficiency, struggled to stay healthy, or both. I count 24 backs who received 100 or more carries in 2012 and have received that many in 2013. Of those 24, nearly half (11) have lost a half-yard or more off their average yards per carry from last season. Just three — DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews, and LeSean McCoy — are averaging a half-yard per carry more than they did a year ago.
What's ailing those players, though? Is there a consistent problem that stands out?
We're halfway through another NFL season, and this week the trade deadline came and went without any big news, because this is pro football. The only trade that happened involved some guy named Isaac Sopoaga. NFL teams never shake things up at the trade deadline. Bill Barnwell already covered the trades that should've happened, but now it's time to think bigger. Let's talk about the guys who deserve a new life, for their sake, our sake, and the game's sake. The great players on bad teams who deserve better.
For someone who loves both giving awards and pro football, I should love the NFL MVP race. And maybe I would, if it weren’t completely devoid of fun and/or intrigue.
Bill Barnwell wrote about this in detail amid last year’s uncharacteristically murky race, but here’s the gist: The NFL MVP is the Best Quarterback Award, barring a mind-blowing, record-shattering season by a running back. In the past 20 years only seven non-QBs have won the award, and each time, it’s taken an historic effort to do it.
Adrian Peterson needed the seventh 2,000-yard season ever. Barry Sanders and Terrell Davis each needed one too. Shaun Alexander broke the single-season rushing touchdown record during his MVP campaign in 2005. LaDainian Tomlinson broke that record the following year. You get the idea.
If Las Vegas voted for MVP, a quarterback would win every year. We explored the oversize impact of Johnny Manziel’s season of uncertainty, and I reported about Las Vegas sportsbooks freezing in their tracks when Tom Brady limped off the practice field a few weeks ago. Obviously marquee quarterbacks matter, but what’s not so clear is whether any defensive players move the needle. Or, what is the value of the league’s best running backs? Or, what is the value of non-elite quarterbacks? To get the legitimate answers, I went straight to the source: Las Vegas bookmakers and professional handicappers.
It’s that time of year — when snakes, auctions, ADPs, keepers, and sleepers start to rule our football hearts and minds. This season, last year’s Fantasy Island contest winner, Matt Borcas, will be providing some fantasy insight, starting with the tools you need for a league-winning draft.
According to MyFantasyLeague.com, this is what the first round of fantasy football drafts looked like in 2003:
In recent years, running back, once football's glamour position, has been diminished beyond all recognition. Not so long ago, NFL teams routinely built around franchise running backs, but now the need to highly invest in the position is mostly gone. Late-round picks in established systems frequently explode onto the scene, only to be replaced by some other value pick in time. The franchise running back is dead.
Except, of course, for Adrian Peterson, who is the exception that proves the rule. Nearly every bit of modern football wisdom we’ve learned about running backs — running backs should be short and compact, running backs don’t return from major knee surgery as the same players — must be qualified with “… unless you’re talking about Adrian Peterson.” From his talent, to his results, to his importance to his offense and his team's success, Peterson is a throwback to an earlier time, a time when running backs still reigned supreme.
On Monday afternoon news broke that Ryan Braun was accepting a suspension from Major League Baseball and will miss the rest of the season. It's the sort of news that doubles as a tornado siren for 1,000 different sportswriters jumping out with various hot takes, and now we're all talking about PEDs again.
This was the hottest take, I think:
Wow PEDs are quite the topic, lots of Qs 1 tweet will clear it up,yes #Iliftbro
>@MLB some action>none, I am LIFETIME drug free #playitclean
As for the news itself, I haven't cared about baseball since I was 13 years old. As someone who's not invested in the least, all I see is a sport that's been engulfed in this stupid crap for more than a decade. It seems like the only time baseball enters the larger sports conversation is when something like this happens.
The NFL is a nearly perfect television product. But the way football is presented limits our ability to understand the game. On a 100-yard field populated by 22 men, a press-box camera fixated on the ball leaves us without a proper vantage point of the game’s stats-free players. The result is that for some of the NFL’s elite, their performance and reputation — both among fans and among their peers — remains uncelebrated or misunderstood. The All-22 All-Star Team is an attempt to provide some insight on the sport’s 22 most underappreciated players. Some will be All-Pros who haven’t fully gotten their due; some will be names few casual fans have ever heard. All will, for one reason or another, have been overlooked.
The series begins with a player at one of the league’s most discounted positions — Vikings center John Sullivan.
A hulking stack of boulders. That's one description you might hear. Even when people don’t know the names of the NFL's men up front, they know their look. They are football’s towering, block-out-the-sun maulers, unmistakable and impossible to miss. It’s not easy to be nondescript among offensive linemen, but somehow John Sullivan manages to pull it off. A 6-foot-4, often-bearded man who spends most of his year in the Twin Cities, the Vikings center hasn't had many meals interrupted in his five years playing pro football. “Most of the time, people don’t see me and think ‘NFL football player,’” Sullivan says. “I’m not built like your traditional barrel-chested offensive lineman.” On the streets in Minneapolis, Sullivan seems, well, ordinary. Inside the Metrodome, he’s anything but.
The 27-year-old Notre Dame graduate is the second-longest tenured member of the Vikings offense, and like his MVP running back, Adrian Peterson, he has proven to be perhaps the NFL’s preeminent player at his position. For the most part — whether it’s his lack of that barrel chest or the plainest Irish name imaginable — that fact has gone mostly unnoticed. What’s remarkable about Sullivan’s success is just how unremarkable it appears — a product of acumen and subtle physical tools that, while easy to miss, have made him one of the best football players in the world.
What's that? You were wondering exactly how many days until the start of the NFL season? Well, you're in luck! We here at the Triangle are set to spend the next three months providing a daily reason to get excited about pro football's return.
I'm pretty sure the video says everything, but in case you forgot, here's Adrian Peterson’s 2012, coming back from a shredded knee andwith a sports hernia: 2,097 yards, 12 rushing touchdowns, 131.1 yards per game, 6.0 yards per carry, 3.93 yards per carry after contact, 44 broken tackles, 40 runs of 15 or more yards, and the most not-surprised-by-anything-he-does season a running back has had since I’ve been alive.
Everyone remembers that feeling on the first day of school. Rolling up in that brand-new collared shirt and the impossibly clean shoes. Not thinking, but knowing that, yeah, this is going to be my year. There was something reassuring about seeing everyone back together again. This isn’t new. I’ve been here before. I’ve got this. In those first couple days, the possibilities seemed endless.
For NFL players, that’s OTAs. After a few months away, everyone’s finally back in the same place, and the prospect of starting anew, well ... it tends to get people a little overexcited. This is the time of year reserved for baseless, outrageous predictions by groups of pathologically competitive men drunk on football and hope. With that in mind, we present the 2013 NFL season, based on nothing but those baseless, outrageous predictions.
It’s a clear and crisp 55-degree day in Cleveland, and as the first half comes to a close, the only thing that’s been more perfect than the weather is Ryan Tannehill. The Dolphins quarterback got himself a fresh buzz cut this week, and in those new Fins unis, damn, does he look immaculate. That chin is what comes to mind when you think Franchise Quarterback.
OK, so I know what you’re thinking: If you’re going to start a countdown this far in advance (which is admittedly crazy), why not just wait to start on a round number? I’ll tell you why — because Simmons is the boss, and he wasn’t going to go another day without a reason to get excited about football season:
I want the countdown to the NFL season. EVERY DAY.
That was an e-mail from earlier this week. It was not a request.
With free agency and the draft process revving up, there are plenty of questions for every NFL team. But for most, there's one issue that trumps the rest. This is the first in a team-by-team look at the offseason tasks that just can't get botched.
There's higher-profile news in Minnesota at the moment, but amid all the Percy Harvin drama is a lingering question that threatens the Vikings’ very foundation. There’s no actual proof that Adrian Peterson can be killed by conventional weapons, but his post-human season is at least partially (partially!) a result of running behind of the league’s best offensive lines.
Early this morning, the Minnesota Vikings released a seemingly blasé statement not atypical for this stretch of the NFL calendar. "Adrian Peterson had a surgical procedure done today by Dr. William Meyers, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Dr. Meyers was able to successfully repair Adrian’s abdominal core muscle injury (sports hernia). We expect a speedy recovery with no long-term concerns." Our question: No long-term concerns for whom?
Super Bowl XLVII was also the final game for one of the legends of an era, Ravens Linebacker Ray Lewis. Lewis, who has seen his share of controversy throughout his career, left the stage with his trademark piety, saying, "Man, I didn't play well enough for us to win, but the team and God really picked me up. Haven't gotten away with anything like that in a loooooong time." Lewis then winked, pointed to the sky, and said, "I owe you one, big guy!" God responded, "Dude owes me more than one. Way more. Man, sometimes I have no idea why I keep bailing him out. But we go way back. I dunno, Pete is telling me to cut him off, but then I see those big sweet eyes, and I just can't help myself."