Discussion

Can AP catch Emmitt Smith?

Will Peterson break NFL's rushing record, or will record chase break him?

Updated: August 13, 2013, 2:04 PM ET
By Scott Kacsmar | Football Outsiders

Few would debate Adrian Peterson being the NFL's best running back, but he may also deserve the title of the league's biggest dreamer. Peterson recently told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he expects to break Emmitt Smith's career rushing record (18,355 yards) by Week 16 of the 2017 season. That's only 79 games away.

An ambitious Peterson is counting on a "couple 2,000-yard seasons" and has expressed in the past that a 2,500-yard season is on his to-do list. That type of historic season may be the only hope he has of reaching his goal. Smith's record becomes more daunting with each passing season in a NFL that continues to steer away from workhorse backs, older backs and running the ball in general.

Peterson has rushed for 8,849 yards through his age-27 season. Now 28, he trails Smith by 9,506 yards. No one has rushed for more yards after turning 28 than Smith (8,195). Peterson must be far and away the most productive runner ever after age 28 to break the career rushing record.

We have a few methods of calculating his odds, but they all involve Peterson doing things that have never done before. However, that is the very definition of a record, so let's not rest on holding that against him. Peterson is the most capable running back to enter the league in the post-Smith era, which makes him the most likely back to challenge the record.

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