At the moment, 2013 is on pace to wind up as only the second NFL season in the past 20 years without a single 1,500-yard rusher.
It’s certainly possible that’ll happen — and seems plausible in today’s pass-first league, where a game in which a player accounts for 350 yards through the air is far more commonplace than one with a guy gaining 150 on the ground. So far, there have been 36 such passing games this season, and only nine such running games.
On the other hand, rushing does tend to rise over the latter part of each season, boosted in part by colder and wetter weather that encourages teams to pass a bit less and run a bit more.
To amass 1,500 yards across 16 games, a player needs to average 93.75 each time out. The league’s leading rusher through 10 weeks was Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy, whose 932 yards leave him ever so slightly shy of that.
But as long as he doesn’t get injured — no guarantee in the NFL, of course — there is a strong chance he will get to 1,500, a milestone achieved by four players last season. The last time no one ran for at least that many yards was 2007. Before that, though, you need to go all the way back to 1993 for a season without anyone getting there.
Here’s a Pick 6 of running backs who could reach 1,500 yards rushing before the regular season ends in late December:
LESEAN MCCOY, EAGLES: McCoy’s 184-yard output in Week 1 against the Washington Redskins stands as the top rushing day this season, and Eagles coach Chip Kelly is thrilled at his back’s production. “Special talent. Very,” Kelly said last month. “He has a great innate ability to make people miss.”
MARSHAWN LYNCH, SEAHAWKS: He’s got 871 yards, the league’s second highest total, through 10 games and needs to pick things up down the stretch. Still, Lynch can pile up numbers in a hurry, because no one is better at producing big runs. His 27 carries of 10 or more yards lead the NFL, according to STATS; Mr. Skittles breaks one that long roughly once every seven carries. It helps, too, that defenses need to worry about the running ability of Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson.
ALFRED MORRIS, REDSKINS: He finished with a franchise-record 1,613 yards as a rookie, and enters Sunday’s game at Philadelphia with 825 yards after nine games, putting his average of 91.7 behind only McCoy and only a tad shy of what’s needed. One stat in Morris’ favor: He gets 5.2 yards per carry, best among running backs.
ADRIAN PETERSON, VIKINGS: Oh-so-close to setting the single-season record during his MVP turn in 2012, Peterson probably won’t come anywhere near replicating his 2,097 total. With 786 yards through nine games in 2013, Peterson needs 102 per game the rest of the way for 1,500, which he’s absolutely capable of, especially if he gets just a bit more than the 19.2 carries he’s been averaging.
JAMAAL CHARLES, CHIEFS: Last season, Charles ran for 1,509 yards after missing most of the previous year with a knee injury. He helped the 2013 Chiefs start 9-0 under new coach Andy Reid by running (725 yards, 80.6 per game) and receiving (team-high 47 catches), and is very adept at avoiding wasted plays: Charles is tied for the lowest percentage of runs stuffed for a loss, 4.1, among players with at least 120 carries, according to STATS.
EDDIE LACY, PACKERS: Really? A guy who has only 669 yards entering Sunday’s game against the New York Giants? A guy who missed one entire game and had only one carry in another because of a concussion? Yes, the rookie from Alabama would need a terrific close to the season, averaging 119 yards, to get to 1,500. But consider who he gets to face. Green Bay’s last four opponents — Atlanta, Dallas, Pittsburgh, Chicago — all rank among the league’s bottom six in yards rushing allowed. Also in his favor: He leads the league in rush attempts per game at 19.8; take out that one-carry appearance, and it rises to 22.4.
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