Juicy statistical gossip for the 2008 season

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Jul 15, 2008



The Cold, Hard Football Facts copy of the 2007 NFL Record & Fact Book was so dog-eared and beaten that our guests often confused it with one of Michael Vick's pets.
 
So it was with great excitement the other day that we picked up the brand-new 2008 version of this Bible of NFL data.
 
Of course, not everybody can be bothered actually reading the NFL Record & Fact Book. Even hard-core football fans find it a little daunting. For most of you, it's like Vanity Fair or a book of modern art, something you stick on the coffee table so that guests think your sophisticated, but that you will never actually open and read.
 
But the compendium is truly an oasis of cool, refreshing knowledge and, here's the best part, we've done the work for you! 
 
We tore through the pages of the brand-new 2008 NFL Record & Fact book this week, pulling out all the tastiest statistical gossip you need to know about heading into the new season. Naturally, these juicy morsels are highlighted by the records that fell last year and the new milestones likely to be set here in 2008.
 
PASSERS
Every football fan knows that if Brett Favre returns in 2008, he'll continue to pad some of the most impressive passing stats in history. He already holds records for virtually every volume stat, including passing yards (61,655), attempts (8,758), completions (5,377) and TDs (442).
 
But not every fan knows that Favre is also the most prolific turnover machine in league history, too, coughing up the ball so often Robitussin wants to sign him to a long-term sponsorship deal.
 
Favre's already the all-time leader in INTs (288), easily surpassing Dead Ball Era dinosaurs such as No. 2 George Blanda (277) and No. 3 John Hadl (268).
 
But Favre's no regular-season phenom.
 
He's just as prolific in the postseason, too. Favre's crushing INT in overtime against the Giants not only ruined, in true Favre-ian fashion, an otherwise amazing season for the Pack, it tied him with another postseason INT expert, Jim Kelly, for the most playoff picks in history (28).
 
But fear not, Cheeseheads. His oopsies are not limited to passes gone astray. Favre also needs to fumble just six times this season to tie Dave Krieg for second on the all-time fumbles list (153). With a truly sub-human effort of 14 fumbles befitting a soon-to-be 39-year-old who can't make up his mind, Favre can tie the career mark of 161 fumbles set by Warren Moon.
 
Don't count out the King Cheesehead out just yet, folks! Favre fumbled 16 times back in 2001, 14 times back in 2006, and a respectable 12 times last season. Moon's record is well within his reach.
 
Of course, we only make fun of Favre because 1) we love him and, 2) it's all true.
 
But keep in mind that Favre has also tossed a TD in a record 18 consecutive playoff games and, with 39 postseason TDs, is second all time to Joe Montana (45).
 
***
 
Tom Brady, by the way, is second behind Favre's postseason record, tossing TDs in 15 consecutive playoff games. Brady's also neck-and-neck with the greatest of Green Bay quarterbacks, Bart Starr, for the lowest postseason INT rate in history: Brady has tossed 12 picks in 595 playoff attempts (2.02 percent). Starr threw 3 picks in 212 postseason attempts (1.41 percent).
 
As the Cold, Hard Football Facts have long noted, the key to postseason success is for quarterbacks to keep the ball out of the hands of the opposing team. It's no coincidence, after all, that the two most successful quarterbacks in postseason history (Starr was 9-1, Brady is 14-3) also hold the records for lowest postseason INT rates.
 
***
 
As Cold, Hard Football Facts readers are well aware, we live in the Golden Age of the Passing game, and passing records are dropping like panties at a prom this decade. All you need to know is that 16 of the top 20 all-time passer rating leaders were active last season.
 
Steve Young continues to hold the career passer-rating record (96.8), but active quarterbacks Peyton Manning (94.7), Kurt Warner (93.2) and Brady (92.9) are hot on his trail. It's conceivable that Manning or Brady could surpass Young's career mark sometime within the next two seasons. Manning even has an outside shot of catching Young this year. After all, Manning holds the single-season passer-rating record (121.1 in 2004), while Brady nearly matched him last year, with the second highest single-season mark (117.2).
 
Brady passed for 4,806 yards last year, third most in history behind Dan Marino (5,084 in 1984) and Warner (4,830 in 2001). And, in case you hadn't heard because nobody really talked about it much, Brady's 50 TDs in 2007 set a new single-season standard.
 
Brady also set the all-time single-game completion percentage record when he connected on 26 of 28 passes (92.9 percent) against Jacksonville last season in the divisional playoffs. The regular-season record remains in the hands of Vinny Testaverde, with his 21 of 23 (91.3 percent) effort for the Browns against the Rams in 1993.
 
***
 
Brady's partner-in-awesomeness, Peyton Manning, boasts seven 400-yard passing games in his career, tied for second most all-time with Hall of Famer Montana and fraudulent Hall of Famer Moon. However, Manning has a long way to go to catch the No. 1 man on the 400-yard-game list: Marino reached that mark 13 times in his career. Manning's last 400-yard effort came against Houston in Week 2 of the 2006 season.
 
***
 
Ben Roethlisberger enters the 2008 season with a truly historic mark, averaging an amazing 8.13 yards per pass attempt for his career, the top mark in the Live Ball Era (1978-present) and behind only Hall of Famers Otto Graham (8.63), Sid Luckman (8.42) and Norm Van Brocklin (8.13).
 
However, Roethlisberger needs 64 pass attempts – which he should reach no later than Week 3 – to meet the minimum 1,500 career attempts required by official NFL records. With a good season, he could leap past Van Brocklin into the No. 3 spot all time in passing yards per attempt.
 
Officially speaking, Warner, who should be starting in Arizona over the ineffective Matt Leinart, is No. 4 all time, with a career average of 8.11 yards per attempt.
 
***
 
Chad Pennington (65.51 percent career completion percentage) and Warner (65.09 percent) enter the 2008 season as the most accurate passers in NFL history.
 
***
 
Drew Brees dropped back to pass more than 40 times per game last year. His 652 attempts for the season stand at third most for a single campaign, behind Drew Bledsoe (691 in 1994) and Moon (655 in 1991). 
 
But Brees was more accurate than either Bledsoe or Moon, however. His 440 completions last year set a new  single-season record, blowing away Rich Gannon's 418 completions for Oakland in 2002.
 
***
 
If a miracle happens and Favre leads the league in TD passes this season, he'll have done so a record five times in his career (1995-97, 2003). He's currently tied atop the list with Johnny Unitas, Len Dawson and Young, each of whom led the league in TD tosses four times. Peyton Manning has already led the league in TD passes three times, so he can match the Dawson-Favre-Unitas-Young mark here in 2008.
 
If the Gridiron Gods deem yet another miracle in 2008, and Favre twice tosses 4 TDs or more in a game, he'll match Marino's mark of 21 games with 4 or more TD tosses.
 
***
 
Donovan McNabb remains one of the most widely criticized starting quarterbacks in football, by virtue of his erratic play and the general agony of Eagles fans, who last won a title at the end of the Eisenhower Administration.
 
But McNabb's among the best ever at keeping the ball out of the hands of his opponents. His career INT rate of 2.12 percent (79 INT in 3,732 attempts) is just a slimjim's width behind Neil O'Donnell's record of 2.11 percent (68 INT in 3,229 attempts).
 
But lest we forget, McNabb was sacked a record 12 times in a single game last year by the league's No. 1 Defensive Hogs in the Giants. He joined Bert Jones and Moon atop that ignominious leaderboard. No other players had been sacked 12 times in a game. (And, for the record, it only felt like Tom Brady was sacked 12 times by those very same Giants in Super Bowl XLII. He was actually taken down a mere five times.)
 
RUNNERS
Minnesota phenom Adrian Peterson's name is all over the record books after just one injury-filled rookie season. He set the single-game rushing record, of course, with his 296-yard outburst against San Diego last year.
 
He also averaged an amazing 5.63 yards per attempt in 2008 (238 for 1,341). He hardly comes close to qualifying for official career records (min. 750 attempts), and still (possibly) has a long career ahead of him. But that 5.63 average puts him well on his way to shattering the career record for average by a running back of 5.22 YPA, set by no less a figure than pro football's All-Time Alpha Male, Jim Brown.
 
Peterson's also just one of 18 ballcarriers in history with two 200-yard efforts in a single season. The career record for 200-yard games is six, by O.J. Simpson. So Peterson is well on his way to matching that mark.
 
LaDainian Tomlinson is tied for third all time with four career 200-yard games, behind only Simpson and Tiki Barber (five).
 
Oh! And Peterson's 361 combined yards against Chicago last Oct. 4 was the third-highest single game total in history.
 
RECEIVERS
A healthy Marvin Harrison this year can add to his 59 career 100-yard receiving games, the second most in history. But Randy Moss is breathing down his neck so closely that Harrison can smell what he had for lunch. Moss boasts 55 100-yard receiving games. Plus, Moss is just 31 and coming off one of the best seasons in his career, while Harrison will be 36 when the season gets underway and missed most of the 2007 season. So it's likely Moss could storm past Harrison into the No. 2 spot before all is said and done.
 
Both have a long way to go to catch Jerry Rice and his record 76 100-yard receiving games.
 
***
 
After his record 23-TD effort last year, Moss has led the league in TD catches four times in his career, placing him third all time behind Rice (six) and behind the most dominant receiver of all time, Green Bay legend and CHFF All-Time 11 member Don Hutson, who led the league in TD receptions a truly stunning nine different seasons.
 
***
 
Terrell Owens (129 TD receptions) needs just two more TD catches this year this year to leap past Cris Carter (130 TD receptions) into second place all time – but he's still a considerable distance behind Rice (197).
 
And Owens will have some competition in the race for No. 2: Moss is fourth on the all-time TD reception list (124), while Harrison is fifth (123). Both could surpass Carter here in 2008.
 
DEFENDERS
Darren Sharper has returned 8 picks for TDs in his career. With one more this season for Minnesota, he'll tie Ken Houston, Aeneas Williams and Deion Sanders for second all time, behind only Rod Woodson's 12 INT returns for touchdowns.
 
***
 
Jason Taylor needs three fumble recoveries to tie the career record set by Hall of Famer Jim Marshall (29).
 
And if Taylor can convert one of those fumble recoveries into a TD this year, he'll set a new career record (6) for fumbles returned for scores. He's currently tied at five with former Atlanta great Jessie Tuggle atop the all-time list. Tampa's Ronde Barber and Tennessee's Keith Bulluck are tied behind Taylor and Tuggle, with four fumble-recovery TDs in their career.
 
***
 
Osi Umenyiora's 6.0 sacks for the Giants against the Eagles last year fell one takedown shy of the single-game record set by Kansas City's Derrick Thomas back in 1990. When considering sacks in the context of history, however, it pays to remember that sacks were not an official NFL stat until 1982. (Even more shocking: There is still no official stat for tackles!)
 
SPECIALISTS
Oakland's Shane Lechler boasts the greatest punting average in history (46.47 yards per punt). It's quite a historic mark when you consider that the previous record holder is the Pigskin Messiah himself, Washington's legendary Hall of Fame defensive back, quarterback and punter, Sammy Baugh, who averaged 45.10 yards per punt in his career and last played in 1952.
 
Lechler has also led the league in punting three times, including last year. If he leads the league again in 2008, he'll join Baugh as the only player to lead the NFL in punting four times. Baugh pulled off the feat every year from 1940 to 1943.
 
(Former Kansas City punter Jerrel Wilson is also credited with leading the league four times, but twice was with the AFL.)
 
But Lechler still trails Baugh for the single-season record. Last year, the Raiders punter averaged 49.11 yards per boot. Baugh's amazing mark of 51.4 yards per boot was set back in 1940.  (Of course, being with Oakland, Lechler gets a lot more practice punting than did Baugh, who  played for consistently competitive Washington teams).
 
***
 
Speaking of guys who get a lot of practice, San Francisco punter Andy Lee dropped 42 kicks inside the 20 last year, beating the previous record of 39 set by Baltimore's Kyle Richardson in 1999.
 
***
 
Twenty-year veteran Jeff Feagles, likely to be back with the Giants this year, has attempted more punts than any player in history (1,585) – far ahead of the retired Sean Landeta (1,401).
 
***
 
Chicago's spine-tingling game-breaker Devin Hester has averaged a record 14.06 yards per punt return in his career (89 for 1,251 yards), shattering the previous record held by another Bears great, George McAfee (12.78 average per punt return), in the 1940s.
 
Hester, amazingly, also owns the top two single-season dual-return (kick, punt) TD records in history, with six last year, and five in 2006. With two more TD returns this season, the third-year player will – amazingly – tie the career mark of 13 punt- or kick-return TDs set by Brian Mitchell over the course of a record-setting 14-year career.
 
A healthy Dante Hall, meanwhile, needs just one kick return TD to tie the career record of six set by Hall of Famer Ollie Matson. Hall needs one TD via punt or kick return to tie Mitchell's dual-return mark of 13.
 
No return man has ever brought back 3 punts or kicks for scores in the same game. However, Hester is knocking on the door. He's already the only player in history to twice return two kicks or punts for scores in the same game.
 
Hester's four punt returns for TDs last season tied a record previously held by Jack Christiansen (Detroit, 1951) and Rick Upchurch (Denver, 1976).
 
***
 
Cleveland's Josh Cribbs returned kicks for 1,809 yards last season, the second highest total in history (Arizona's MarTay Jenkins, 2,186 yards in 2000). Cribbs also boasted 2,214 combined kick and punt return yards last year, trailing the single-season combined return mark of 2,432 yards set by Michael Lewis of New Orleans in 2002.
 
***
 
New England DB Ellis Hobbs set a record for the longest kick return in NFL history last year, with his 108-yard score in Week 1 against the Jets.
 
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Of course, Hobbs was upstaged by San Diego superstud DB Antonio Cromartie, who ripped off the longest scoring play in the 88-year history of the NFL a few weeks later, when he returned a missed Minnesota field goal 109 yards for a TD.
 
TEAM & LEAGUE RECORDS
If you were glued to the tube for the Giants' amazing 17-14 upset of the undefeated Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, you were not alone. With 148.3 million viewers (based upon A.C. Nielsen data), it stands as the most-watched TV program in American history, surpassing New England's 32-29 win over Carolina in Super Bowl XXXVIII (144.4 million viewers).
 
(In terms of ratings, though, San Francisco's 26-21 win over Cincinnati in Super Bowl XVI still tops the list with a 73 percent share and 49.1 rating.)
 
***
 
The Giants have now won seven NFL championships, standing alone in third place behind Green Bay (12) and Chicago (nine). Not so coincidentally, the Giants stand at No. 3 in the Cold, Hard Football Facts epic all-time franchise rankings.
 
***
 
The Giants were a wildcard team last year, but they've won a record 21 conference or division titles in their history, tied with the Packers and Bears for most all time. Dallas has won 20 conference or division titles – pretty impressive considering the Cowboys joined the league in 1960. The Bears (1920), Packers (1921) and Giants (1925) all joined the NFL much earlier.
 
The Giants have also appeared in more Super Bowls or NFL title games (18) and lost more Super Bowls or NFL title games (12) than any other franchise.
 
With a 10-6 record, the 2007 Giants joined the 1988 49ers as the Super Bowl champions with the worst regular-season records.
 
***
 
The Patriots and Colts enter the 2008 season with five straight division titles each. If they can piece together two more consecutive division crowns, they'll tie the record seven straight that the L.A. Rams gathered from 1973-79.
 
***
 
The Patriots are also in the midst of the longest "official" winning streak in NFL history, with 19 straight regular-season victories (official records do not count playoff games). The Patriots also stand alone in the second spot on the win-streak list, with 18 consecutive victories from 2003 to 2004. The Bears of 1933-34 are third, with 17 consecutive regular-season victories.
 
New England's "unofficial" streak – including the team's Super Bowl run in the 2003 playoffs – stands at 21 consecutive victories from 2003 to 2004. The Patriots also won a record 10 straight postseason games from 2001 to 2005 and, of course, they set a record last year as the only 16-0 team in regular-season history.
 
In other words, despite their disastrous defeat to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII, the 21st century Patriots own every meaningful win-streak record in history.
 
***
 
New England's division-mate Dolphins stand at the far other end of the spectrum, tying a league record with 15 losses last season. Miami also lost the division race by 15 games – a record likely never to be equaled or surpassed.
 
***
 
The 2007 Patriots, as most people know, set new NFL standards with 75 TDs, breaking the previous mark of 70 scored by the 1984 Dolphins, and with 589 points, breaking the previous single-season mark of 556 set by the 1998 Vikings. (Randy Moss, amazingly, was been a part of the two highest-scoring offenses in history.
 
However, New England's scoring record is a bit misleading. The 2007 Patriots averaged 36.81 points per game last year, falling shy of the single-season record of 38.83 PPG set by the 1950 Rams (466 points in 12 games).
 
However, the 1950 Rams had something of a historical advantage: 3 of their 12 games that year (25 percent of the schedule) were played against expansion teams (the N.Y. Yanks and Baltimore Colts). The Rams scored 158 points (52.7 PPG) in these three games.
 
But either way, it didn't matter: the two highest scoring offenses in history, the 1950 Rams and 2007 Patriots, were both toppled in the NFL championship game.

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