Monday, 5 December 2011

The Arms Race - airing it out for the history books

Poor old Dan Marino - not only has the former Miami Dolphins quarterback got to wake up every morning with nothing but a wedding ring on his fingers, he is soon going to be a footnote in the annals of NFL statistical history.

With Week 12 over not one, not two , but three quarterbacks are on pace to surpass Marino's 5084 yards passing in a single season.

The current projections have the following gun-slingers due to finish 16 games with the following numbers:
  • Drew Brees - New Orleans Saints - 5,374 yards
  • Tom Brady - New England Patriots - 5,221 yards
  • Aaron Rodgers - Green Bay Packers - 5,125 yards
Not that I am that much of a Marino basher, but one thing the three quarterbacks above all have in common is that they are all already Super Bowl winners.

Bizarrely Brees, Rodgers and Brady were not even top 20 picks in their respective drafts - Rodgers having been selected the highest at #24 in 2005.

Marino set the passing season record back in 1984 primarily because the Dolphins team had a mediocre running game. The same applies to the Patriots and the Packers, who utilise a RBBC (running back by committee).

It is the Saints though that are the true personification of a schizophrenic backfield - using rookie Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram to get the tough yards, Pierre Thomas to come in when teams are getting tired and Darren Sproles (who leads the league in all-purpose yards as I type) who is perhaps the best catching running back in the league.

So my prediction for the next four weeks as our three protagonists battle it out for the Arms Race?

Brady's chances to win the Arms Race - HIGH
Patriots coach Bill Belichick is not one to back down when his team is winning, obliterating, murdering or even digging the decomposed body of a beaten opponent out of the ground Dr Frankenstein style, so it would be fitting for Brady to add to his crazy 50 touchdowns in a season record with the passing crown. With Wes Welker, the human catching machine, on his side Brady has someone capable of ending the season with about 140 catchers, but elsewhere the wide receivers are not world beaters. TE Rob Gronkowski is without doubt the greatest red zone threat since Jaws went on holiday to the Red Sea.

Rodgers' chances to win the Arms Race - LOW
With the Packers already 12-0 and having clinched their division, and the Bears on a slide as fast as the helter skelter that Jamie and his Magic Torch would spiral around on I cant see past Matt Flynn playing in weeks 16 and 17. Yes Rodgers will want to play every game and it will be tough for Coach McCarthy to rest Rodgers, but with the chance to be first NFC team to be repeat Super Bowl winners since the Dallas Cowboys in 1994 the Pack have to think the only record that really matters is the number of rings owned.

Brees' chance to win the Arms Race - SUPERB
Brees to his credit already knows what it's like to get to 5,000 yards in 16 games. He passed for 5,069 yards in 2008 - a non Super Bowl winning season - in fact a season where the Saints finished dead last in their division with an 8-8 record. Brees knows the pressure of chasing Marino's record and has perhaps the widest ball catching talent on any NFL roster - just about pipping the Packers due to Sproles and Tight End Jimmy Graham, who already has over 1000 receiving yards.

My money is with Brees establishing a new benchmark for passing excellence. My prediction is Brees finishes with 5,237 yards and Brady with 5,104.

Regardless what happens we are in for a smooth ride - fasten your seat belts.

Lawrence Vos
Primetime Sports NFL blogger

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