Better comeback: Peterson or Peyton?

November, 15, 2012
11/15/12
11:44
AM ET
Adrian Peterson is having a better comeback season
Adrian Peterson is averaging 112.8 yards rushing per game and a career-high 5.8 yards per carry. In NFL history, only three running backs have ever finished a season at those thresholds: Barry Sanders (1997), O.J. Simpson (1973) and Jim Brown (1958, 1963). Sanders, Simpson and Brown in 1958 were named AP NFL MVP.

The fact that Peterson is flirting with history less than a year after tearing his ACL and MCL should be enough to make him the top comeback story this season, but there are a few more statistical tidbits that only help support that position.

Peterson has averaged 2.8 yards per rush AFTER first contact. It’s his highest rate over the last four seasons, and the second-best rate in the NFL this season (C.J. Spiller, 3.0).

Peterson has needed the power boost because he has faced eight or more defenders in the box on a league-high 57 rushes this season – and even that hasn’t slowed him down. Peterson is averaging a league-best 6.3 yards per rush against such defensive fronts.

You can’t discount his speed, either. Peterson has gained 20-plus yards on 13 runs this season, almost twice as many as the next highest rushers (LeSean McCoy and Spiller, 7). The most 20-yard runs Peterson has had in a season was 20 in 2008.

-- John McTigue

Peyton Manning is having a better comeback season
After missing all of last season with a neck injury, Peyton Manning is -- once again -- playing at an MVP-type level. He leads all qualified quarterbacks with an 84.8 Total QBR. If he were to finish with that number, it would be the second-highest QBR in a season in the last five years. (Last season, Aaron Rodgers finished with an 86.2 Total QBR on his way to winning the league’s MVP award.)

Manning is in the top-5 in most major passing categories, including: touchdowns (21), yards (2,705) completion percentage (69.7) and yards per attempt (8.2). He and Matt Ryan are the only quarterbacks who are in the top-5 in all four categories.

Although his arm strength might not be what it was, Manning still has 16 plays of 30 or more yards, trailing only Josh Freeman for the most such completions. Manning also has the fourth-highest Total QBR on passes traveling 15 or more yards downfield.

Switching teams and getting used to new personnel hasn’t fazed the future Hall-of-Famer, who has the Broncos in first place in the AFC West. Manning is efficient as ever, throwing a touchdown pass every 15.7 attempts and posting a 3.5 touchdown to interception ratio. Both numbers are the second-best of his career, trailing only his 2004 MVP season.

-- Bobby Greenhalgh

(To read AFC West blogger Bill Williamson and NFC North Kevin Seifert's discussion on the Peterson-Peyton debate, click here.)

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