Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Adrian Peterson Question

One of the most intriguing questions (to me) regarding the upcoming season is whether Adrian Peterson will bounce back from his disappointing 2009 season. While Peterson did have 1300+ yards last season, that doesn't tell the whole story (and besides Ryan Grant had 1200+, but no one would confuse him with a franchise back). Peterson averaged 5.15 per carry during the first six games of the season, but only a mediocre 3.94 over the last 10 games. During the last 10 games of the season, Peterson posted only one 100 yard performance.

As I posted last season, the Vikings worked Peterson hard in 2008, giving him 363 carries in the regular season. This is significant because Peterson flirted with hitting 370 carries. Football Outsiders has developed the "Curse of 370" which states that running backs who rush the ball 370 in the regular season will suffer a major drop in effectiveness the following season.

So the question is: can Peterson bounce back? The answer to this question will have a profound impact on the NFC North standings this season. Apparently, the answer is that you should not bet on Peterson returning to form:

Well, if we look at the past, this trend isn't just a one-year deal. It's sort of like "the Beast" in that episode of Seinfeld.

It tends to linger.

Of the 22 running backs to post one or more seasons with 370 or more carries, 93 percent of them failed to ever rush for the same number of yards again. In fact, Dickerson, Smith and Tomlinson are the lone backs to post more rushing yards in a single season after a 370 campaign. Here's another little tidbit to wrap your mind around.

Two years removed from a 370 season, no running back has ever equaled the same number of rushing yards.


Not even the all-time greats could post better yardage totals two seasons removed from the dreaded 370. Not Dickerson, not Smith, not Tomlinson. Not even Walter Payton, Marcus Allen or Earl Campbell could do it. And you can't blame age on their respective statistical declines, either.

Outside of John Riggins (1983), Payton (1984) and Martin (2004), none of the 370 runners was older than 28. In fact, most of them were 26 or younger.

Moreover, you have to wonder how much punishment Peterson is going to take this season without Chester Taylor to share the load.

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