NFC South: Walter Payton

Steven Jackson by the numbers

March, 15, 2013
A day after the fact, Atlanta’s signing of running back Steven Jackson continues to be the hottest story in the NFC South.

I don’t see that changing anytime soon, unless the Tampa Bay Buccaneers suddenly make a trade for Darrelle Revis. So let’s feed the Jackson talk a little more with some by-the-numbers nuggets from ESPN Stats & Information.
  • The three-time Pro Bowler has rushed for 1,000 yards in eight consecutive seasons. Only Emmitt Smith (11 straight seasons), Curtis Martin (10 straight) and Barry Sanders (10 straight) have longer streaks than Jackson.
  • Jackson is a receiving threat out of the backfield. He has had seven seasons with 1,000 rushing yards and 300 receiving yards. LaDainian Tomlinson and Walter Payton, who each accomplished that feat eight times, are the only players to do that more than Jackson.
  • Jackson can make things happen after contact. Over the past four seasons, Jackson has run for 2,172 yards after contact. Adrian Peterson (2,918 yards) is the only player with more yards after contact in that span.
  • Among active running backs, Jackson ranks first with 2,395 career carries, first with 10,135 rushing yards and is tied for fifth with 56 touchdowns.
  • Also, in this Insider post, Football Outsiders takes an in-depth look at what Jackson brings to the Falcons.

Vote for 'Madden NFL 25' cover

March, 12, 2013
The “Madden NFL 25’’ cover voting has arrived with a twist.

Instead of including only current players, one “legend’’ from each team is included. One current player from each team also is on the ballot.

Let’s start with the NFC South legends. Former Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme is matched up against Joe Montana. Delhomme is one of the nicest guys I’ve ever covered, but he’s got no chance of getting by a guy that might be the best quarterback ever.

Speaking of unfortunate draws, former Tampa Bay linebacker Derrick Brooks, who might be the best player out of the NFC South, is matched against Baltimore’s Ray Lewis. The timing here is horrible for Brooks because Lewis’ final act before retirement was to lead his team to a Super Bowl championship and that makes him a sentimental favorite.

Retired New Orleans running back Deuce McAllister also ended up with a tough draw. He goes against former Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman. Saints’ fans are passionate, so let’s see if they can pull off an upset against one of the brightest stars from America’s team.

The only NFC South legend that appears to be a favorite is former Atlanta cornerback Deion Sanders, who goes against former Seattle defensive lineman Cortez Kennedy.

Oh, and there’s one more total mismatch that’s tied to the NFC South in the legends division. Carolina coach Ron Rivera is representing Chicago against Detroit’s Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders. No offense to Rivera, who was a nice player, but wouldn’t Dick Butkus, Gale Sayers or Walter Payton at least stand a chance to win against Sanders?

Switching over to the active players, two of the NFC South’s bright young stars are matched up. Atlanta receiver Julio Jones and New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham are paired against each other.

Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin is matched against Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford. Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly is up against Baltimore running back Ray Rice.

Go do your civic duty and vote.

Final Word: NFC South

November, 9, 2012
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about the Week 10 games:

King of the NFC South: The Atlanta Falcons are running away with the division. But the title doesn’t officially belong to them yet. The Saints won last season’s division title and they’ve won a lot against the Falcons in recent years. The Saints have won three straight against Atlanta and six of their past seven meetings. Over the past 12 contests, the Saints have won 10 times.

[+] EnlargeDoug Martin
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesDoug Martin could surpass Walter Payton's three-game yardage record with a big day.
Doubting the Falcons? If you fall into that category, you might like this offering from ESPN Stats & Information. Based on the current record of opponents, the 8-0 Falcons have faced the easiest schedule in the NFL. Their opponents are a combined 24-41 (a .369 winning percentage). But you should also consider that number might be skewed a bit because everyone who has played the Falcons has one built-in loss. By the way, the Buccaneers have the second-easiest schedule, with opponents combining for a .388 winning percentage.

Positive Carolina stat: These are a rarity these days, so I try to share anything positive about the Panthers that I spot. The Panthers are 2-1 against Denver quarterback Peyton Manning in his lengthy career. That’s a .667 winning percentage, which ties Carolina with Chicago and Green Bay for the best winning percentage against Manning. So the Panthers have that going for them, which is nice.

With or without VJ. San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers has struggled on deep throws after losing Vincent Jackson to the Buccaneers in free agency. On throws of 20 yards or more, Rivers has completed 30 percent of his passes this year, almost a 10 percent drop from last year. He also had 19 touchdown passes on such throws last year, but only one this season. But Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman is benefiting from Jackson’s arrival. Freeman already has a league-high 17 completions on throws over 20 yards. He had only 12 completions on such throws all last season.

Chasing Sweetness. Tampa Bay rookie running back Doug Martin has 486 yards from scrimmage over the past two games. That’s the most in a two-game span since Walter Payton in 1977. Martin is within striking distance of the NFL record for a three-game span (593 yards), set by Payton in 1977.

Looking back at Sunday by the numbers

October, 3, 2011
With some help from ESPN Stats & Information and the individual NFC South teams, let’s take a look at some interesting numbers and facts after Sunday’s games.
  • New Orleans’ Drew Brees now has thrown a touchdown pass in 31 straight games. That broke his tie with Dan Marino and gives Brees the third-longest streak in NFL history. Johnny Unitas (47) holds the record and Brett Favre (36) is second.
  • New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham caught 10 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown Sunday. That makes him the first primary tight end (not including wide receivers who sometimes lined up at tight end) to catch 10 passes in a game for the Saints since Cam Cleeland on Dec. 27, 1998.
  • New Orleans’ win was the first regular-season victory ever for an NFC South team in Jacksonville. Prior to Sunday, the four NFC South teams were a combined 0-8 in Jacksonville.
  • Carolina’s run defense continued to struggle against Chicago. Matt Forte rushed for a career-high 205 yards on 25 carries. That’s the most by a Chicago player since Walter Payton ran for 275 yards in Week 10 of the 1977 season.
  • Carolina rookie quarterback Cam Newton completed 27 of 46 passes for 374 yards with one passing touchdown and two rushing touchdowns. He and Steve Young (Week 3 of the 1994 season) are the only players since the AFL-NFL merger to have 350 passing yards, a passing touchdown and two rushing touchdowns in a game.
  • Newton has 1,386 passing yards in the first four games of his career. That’s 286 more yards than Billy Volek, who held the previous record.
  • Carolina receiver Steve Smith had 181 receiving yards Sunday. He is the first player since Tim Brown in 1997 to have at least 150 receiving yards in three of his team’s first four games.
  • Atlanta’s Michael Turner carried 26 times against Seattle. The Falcons now are 23-1 in games in which Turner has at least 25 carries.
  • Julio Jones had his second straight 100-yard receiving game. He’s the first Atlanta rookie receiver to have multiple 100-yard receiving games in a season since Alfred Jackson in 1978.
  • The Falcons scored a touchdown on their opening drive for the first time this season.
  • Atlanta now has forced a turnover in 23 consecutive regular-season games, the longest such streak in the league.
  • The Falcons now are 5-0 in regular-season West Coast games since Mike Smith took over as coach in 2008.
  • Under Smith, the Falcons are 13-3 following a loss.