Most would agree the Minnesota running back is, or at least was, one of the best in the game. Sure, we know all about his kid-switching incident last year and subsequent suspension from the NFL. Basically he missed a season. Actually another. Before that he had suffered a leg injury that put him out for a year. However, go back one more year, to 2012, and AP not only led the league in rushing, but cracked the elite 2000 yard club. At 2097, he fell only a paltry 8 yards short of the all-time single-season record.
That is still held by one Eric Dickerson who accomplished the feat in 1984. Perhaps George Orwell twitched in his grave. Sorry.
Nowadays, with most NFL teams having become pass-happy, it's highly unlikely any running back will get enough carries to approach the 2000 yard mark again. Besides being world-class himself, such a back would need a dynamite offensive line blocking for him to boot. But ya never know.
The list of backs that have cracked the 2K mark is small indeed. Besides ED and AP, Jamal Lewis did it in 2003, Barry Sanders in 1997, and Chris Johnson in 1999. Even Jason Pierre-Paul can still count that high on his hands -- maybe. Ahem.
But an astute reader will know by now that yours truly has overlooked something. There's another guy in the club. Way back in 1973, when something called Watergate was first coming to light, this man had, far and away, the greatest rushing season in the history of the NFL.
His name is Orenthal James Simpson, and he currently sits in a Nevada state prison. Think of OJ how you will for his off the field trials and tribulations, but what he did on the gridiron in 1973 has never been remotely approached ever since.
True, he only had 2003 yards, officially putting him in sixth place all time. But there's a MAJOR asterisk that goes with that number. OJ pulled it off in 14 games. The NFL wouldn't switch to a 16 game regular season schedule for several years after OJ was the first to crack 2K. In other words, all the others mentioned above had 2 more games to rack up rushing stats.
How good was #1 Dickerson? He averaged 131 yards a game. Very impressive stuff, but OJ averaged 143, a whopping 12 yard differential. It's not even a close call.
But back to Adrian Peterson. After basically two years off, he should certainly be well-rested and raring to go, even at the age of 30. Thirty is getting up there in running back years, but AP boldly predicted he could run for 2500 yards this season. He might well be in Superman shape, but throwing out a number like 2500 is quite a mouthful. Not only breaking the all-time record, but shattering it by almost 400 yards? While he's playing on a team like the Minnesota Vikings? Not likely.
To do so, AP would need to average 156 yards rushing a game. Every game. All season. That's a bunch, especially when defenses are surely geared up to stop him.
Strangely enough, Peterson was held out of all 4 preseason games. True, teams don't want to put their superstars at risk in exhibition games, but one would think after spending the last couple years either under Roger Goodell's thumb or in rehab, the best thing for AP to get back into "game shape" would be facing live competition. You know, where the other guys actually hit -- something that can't be simulated in practices.
Fast forward to the Vikings' first game of the regular season in San Francisco. As a team they looked awful. Offense, defense, you name it, the former Purple People Eaters more closely resembled Tiny Tim tiptoeing through the tulips. And this against a San Fran team with a new head coach that had also been decimated by star players either retiring or going elsewhere.
As for Peterson -- he had 10 carries for a measly 31 yards. Three yards a pop. One week down. Let's recalculate his 2500 prediction. Instead of the 156 yards per game mentioned above, he now has to average 165 for the next 15 contests. That would be 22 more yards a week than when the Juice was running wild, and 34 more than Dickerson averaged. Good luck with that. It -- ain't -- gonna -- happen.
AP may have a beautiful wife, boatloads of money, fans galore, and maybe the scars on his kid's legs will go away eventually, but the man is delusional if he ever thought he could run for 2500 yards in a single season.
Then again, even with the Vikings, it beats the heck out of where OJ has been for the last several years, with more to come.