2012 could be the best season for running backs since 2006

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We all know the cliche that the NFL is a quarterback driven league.  It is true and we have to look no further than back to the 2011 season where for the first time in the history of the game, not two, but three quarterbacks passed for over 5,000 yards including Matt Stafford, Tom Brady and Drew Brees.

Now I will not spend too much time looking at those numbers, because there is truth that passing numbers are inflated, and passing yards can be an over valued statistic.  But the point remains that the NFL is a passing league.  A perfect example is this graphic that charts the evolution of the game by monitoring the change in the pass to run ratio in the league.

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chart by Brian Burke of Advanced NFL Stats

According to Stephen Dubner of Freakonomics, that trend continued through the past two seasons, with a rise to 34.3 pass plays and down to only 26.9 runs per game.  So how could 2012 be any different?

It won’t.  Ok, wait a minute, I just told you that 2012 could be the best season for running backs since the great season of 2006, but nothings going to change?  What gives?  And what was so special about 2006?

I will explain, but let’s talk about 2006 first.  In 2006 LaDanian Tomlinson was with the San Diego Chargers, and he was at his peak.  That season he ran for 1,815 yards and 28 touchdowns.  He averaged a gaudy 5.2 yards per carry.  He reigned supreme among running backs that year, as only the Chiefs’ Larry Johnson even came close to his totals, with 1,789 yards of his own.  Despite their dominant seasons, those guys were not alone.  In fact, that season a remarkable 22 backs toppled over the 1,000 yard barrier, which stands as the 2nd most in league history.  Yet there is something else that stands out about that season as particularly interesting.

Read more here…

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