Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Year of the Quarterback

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Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Drew Brees are all having  unbelievable seasons this year, but just how good are they? For fun I've decided to compare them to Dan Marino's 1984 season (5084 yards, 48 touchdowns), Peyton Manning's 2004 season (49 touchdowns) and Tom Brady's 2007 season (50 touchdowns). Here's a look at each quaterback through 11 games:

*through 11 games

And then a look at what Rodgers, Brady and Brees are on pace to do versus how Marino, Manning and '07 Brady finished their seasons.

*projected numbers through 16 games

As you can see, right now all three quarterbacks are on track to throw for over 5000 yards, with both Brees and Brady on pace to shatter Marino's 27 year old record. We talked about the pursuit of Marino's record last year as well when Kyle Orton, Manning, Brees and Philip Rivers were all chasing 5084. This year feels different though. Let's take a closer look at each of the three quarterbacks.

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First, Drew Brees. Brees had been here before falling just 15 yards shy of Marino in 2008 and is one of only two players in NFL history to eclipse 5000 passing yards in a single season. With the addition of Darren Sproles the Saints screen game is in top form, and the emergence of tight end Jimmy Graham (957 yards, 8 touchdowns) has made the Saints passing attack just that much more dynamic. Here's a look at the pass defenses Brees will see the rest of the way:

12/4 vs Detroit - #6 Pass Defense (202 ypg)
12/11 @ Tennessee - #13 Pass Defense (229 ypg)
12/18 @ Minnesota - #29 Pass Defense (258 ypg)
12/26 vs Atlanta - #23 Pass Defense (246 ypg)
1/1 vs Carolina - #15 Pass Defense (233 ypg)

Brees has already taken on the Falcons and Panthers, and fared well against them the first time around eclipsing 320 yards in both games while playing on the road. Brees needs to average just 279 yards a game the rest of the way to pass Marino. He has only thrown for under 300 yards 3 times this year (Chicago, St. Louis, Tampa Bay).

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Second, Tom Brady. Brady has cooled off a little bit after throwing for 1327 yards the first three weeks of the season. But even a cooled off Brady is better than probably 90% of the league's quarterbacks. Like Brees, Brady has gotten great production from his tight ends as Rob Gronkowski (864 yards, 11 touchdowns) and Aaron Hernandez (480 yards, 5 touchdowns) are both stars in the making. And I'd be remiss if i didn't mention the NFL's leading receiver Wes Welker who is having a career year catching passes from Brady. Here's a look at Brady's matchups over the next 5 weeks:

12/4 vs Indianapolis - #18 Pass Defense (239 ypg)
12/11 @ Washington - #10 Pass Defense (213 ypg)
12/18 @ Denver - #17 Pass Defense (235 ypg)
12/24 vs Miami - #24 Pass Defense (248 ypg)
1/1 vs Buffalo - #22 Pass Defense (244 ypg)

Against Miami and Buffalo earlier this year, Brady threw for a combined 904 yards and 8 touchdowns. And after Drew Brees and the Saints went for 62 points against the Colts a couple weeks ago, I can only imagine what Brady might do on Sunday.

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Finally, Rodgers. While Rodgers isn't on pace to break Marino's record, he is within striking distance of Tom Brady's record 50 touchdown passes. Rodgers needs 17 touchdown passes over the final 5 games to tie Brady which means he needs to throw at least 3 a game. Sounds hard, but Rodgers has thrown 3 or more touchdowns 8 times this season including 3 4-touchdown games. Here's Rodgers' schedule down the stretch:

12/4 @ New York Giants - 16 passing touchdowns allowed
12/11 vs Oakland - 20 passing touchdowns allowed
12/18 @ Kansas City - 19 passing touchdowns allowed
12/25 vs Chicago - 14 passing touchdowns allowed
1/1 vs Detroit - 12 passing touchdowns allowed

Earlier this season Rodgers threw 3 touchdown passes against the Bears, but managed just 2 touchdown passes against the Lions on Thanksgiving Day.

Keep an eye on these three over the next couple weeks as they continue to chase history.

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