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Wednesday, November 4, 2009
AFC South runners NFL's best in division games

By Paul Kuharsky
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com’s Paul Kuharsky

A running back going against an unfamiliar team can be a surprise.

No matter how much film a defense has watched, a guy can be shiftier, more slippery, faster, stronger or tougher to bring down than he appears.

Division games are, of course, a different deal.

There are few such surprises between teams that face each other twice a year and often gear their personnel moves and roster construction to give themselves the best chance of conquering their most frequent foes.

So what does it say that the AFC South boasts the NFL’s three best running backs when we measure only division games?

This chart comes courtesy of the Titans supplemental weekly notes.

Highest rushing average in division games, 2008-09 (min. 40 attempts)
Player Games Att. Yds. Avg. Long TD
Chris Johnson, Tennessee 9 145915 6.31 91*5
Steve Slaton, Houston 8 1327385.59 71* 6
Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville 10 138765 5.54 80* 10
Darren Sproles, San Diego 10 593275.54 37 2
DeAngelo Williams, Carolina 8 153843 5.51 416
Frank Gore, San Francisco 7 1306935.33 80* 7
Leon Washington, NY Jets 9 71377 5.31 47*2
*TD run


Is this a good thing that shows how good these three backs are? Is it a bad thing that shows how these defenses, even as familiar as they are with these backs, still can’t stop them?

I’m curious about your interpretations.