J.J. Watt, Aldon Smith, Calvin Johnson, And Adrian Peterson All Chasing History

This year has been historic, with the start of the season seeing replacement referees, and parity having struck the NFL. Now at the end of the season we have four supremely talented players all within reach for historic numbers.

J.J. Watt

Watt has been the most disruptive player in the NFL this season. Watt’s statistics for the season are amazing: 74 total tackles, 62 solo tackles, 19.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and 14 passes batted down at the line. Yet, the impact of Watt on this defense goes far beyond his stats. In his last game against the Colts, Watt stopped 1 of every 10 snaps, running or passing, for a loss. Watt lines up at every position on the defensive line, but does most of his damage rushing the left tackle, and his 19.5 sacks is tied for the NFL lead, and only 3 off of the all time record of 22.5 set by Michael Strahan in 2001. Watt has games against the Vikings at home and at the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts have given up the 9th most sacks in the NFL (37), and the Vikings are ranked 18th (30) in sacks allowed. Watt will have a chance at the record, but the Texans may be playing for nothing in week 17, having possibly locked up the first round bye, and whether or not Watt will be active may be the decider on if Watt gets the record.

Aldon Smith

Aldon Smith is pursuing history as well. Smith and Watt are tied for the league lead in sacks with 19.5, needing 3 sacks to tie and 3.5 to break the record. Getting 3.5 sacks in 2 games is an extraordinary performance under normal circumstances. To do it in December, when coaches have film on most of a teams blitz schemes, when an offensive line is focusing protection on a teams superstar, will be a truly great task. Especially when there is only one definitive pass rusher on a defense, as it is with Aldon Smith. Justin Smith and Ray MacDonald have been successful getting pressure and setting the line for Aldon Smith, but Smith’s 19.5 sacks is more than the rest of the team together (15.5). The 49ers have games left against the Seattle Seahawks and at home against the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals are the NFL leader in sacks allowed (52), but the Seahawks and Russell Wilson have been great in pass protection, ranked 25th in sacks allowed (26). Aldon Smith also has a chance to achieve legendary greatness; only divisional rivals Arizona and Seattle stand in his way.

Calvin Johnson

Calvin Johnson has effectively broken the Madden curse. With 2 games left in the season Johnson is 182 yards away from braking Jerry Rice’s single season receiving yards record of 1,848. Johnson has had a season shy of touchdowns, but his consistent yardage production has established him as the marquis receiver in the NFL. After this season, Johnson will have 2 spots in the top 10 single season receiving yards list, and is the only player in the last 9 years to even place in the top 17. Johnson is the first player in NFL history to have back-to-back 1,600+ yard seasons. All he has left to do is gain another 182 yards in two games, and 91 yards per game is nothing for a player that is averaging 119 yards per game. Johnson has the chance to break another record as well, his streak of 7 straight 100-yard games is tied for the NFL record, and he can get his NFL record 8th straight 100-yard game this week against the Falcons on Saturday. With a great game, Johnson may have a chance to break the record this week against the Falcons 16th ranked passing defense. If he does not, look for him to complete the record week 17 against their divisional rivals, the Chicago Bears.

Adrian Peterson

What Adrian Peterson has done this year is superhuman. Coming off an ACL injury late last season, Peterson was not expected to start the season. Start he did, and has defied all previous examples of his terrible injury. The first year off an ACL injury is expected to be a test the water kind of season, with the breakout comeback season usually coming the second year after an ACL injury. Peterson’s comeback does not just defy previous stigma in athletics, it defies medical logic. Peterson is having the best season of his career, Peterson has accrued 1812 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns, averaging 6.3 yards per carry, add 38 receptions for 211 yards, and you have an MVP candidate looking to break a hallowed record. Peterson is 294 yards away from breaking Eric Dickerson’s epic record of 2,105 yards rushing set in 1984. With games left against the Houston Texans and the Green Bay Packers, Peterson needs 147 yards per game to break the record. Peterson is the focus of the Vikings offense, he has had 75 more rushing yards than the Vikings have had passing yards five times this season, and is averaging more per run (6.3), than Christian Ponder is averaging per pass attempt (5.95). This may be the toughest of the three records to break, but Adrian Peterson and the Vikings both seem determined to get this record for Peterson.