10 Most Ridiculous Stats of the 2011 NFL Season

Adam LazarusSenior Analyst IDecember 28, 2011

10 Most Ridiculous Stats of the 2011 NFL Season

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    Drew Brees snapping Dan Marino's sacred passing yardage mark Monday night was just one of several fairly ridiculous statistics posted throughout the 2011 NFL season.

    Since there is another week to the regular season, several additional records—if they haven't yet—are bound to fall.

    Each of these 10 stats—record-breaking or not—is ridiculous for its own unique reasons. It might be just the pure numbers, the role the player has on his team or simply who the player is.

    Check it out!

10. David Akers: Field Goals

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    Stat: 42 field goals

    I suppose every field goal—except the game-winner—is a slight indication of defeat. Teams almost always settle for a field goal; they'd rather have a touchdown.

    That's certainly true for this year's 49ers. Time and time again, the offense has struggled in the red zone, and it's cost them points.

    Nevertheless, you have to give David Akers credit for making almost all of his kicks: Of the 46 attempted (those that weren't blocked) he's made 42, an NFL record.

    Taken with a grain of salt, it's an impressive mark.

9. Steelers Defense: Turnovers

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    Stat: 14 turnovers

    Not every entry on this list necessarily suggests "ridiculous" means "awesome" or "great." This entry indicates that "ridiculous" can also mean "bizarre."

    Sure, there is some element of luck involved in defenses collecting turnovers: a careless throw by the quarterback or poor ball security from a runner. But great defenses still force turnovers, by fine coverage, pressuring the passer or hard hits.

    The Steelers are obviously a great defense. In 2011, they have allowed the fewest yards through the air, fewest total yards and the second-fewest points.

    Yet they've only forced 14 turnovers, tied for dead last in the NFL this year. Think about that: The Patriots—one of the most-maligned defenses in the NFL—have more than twice that number. The same is true for the Packers, who have 34 turnovers.

    The Steelers are averaging less than one per game, and they've had seven games (four of which they won) without recording a single turnover. That should make their defensive ratings seem even more incredible.

8. Rob Gronkowski: Touchdowns

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    Stat: 15 touchdown catches

    Averaging one touchdown per game is a big deal at any position, but for a tight end it's almost unfathomable.

    Rob Gronkowski collecting 15 when the previous record was 13 is even more so.

    But what makes the figure truly ridiculous is this: Not only does his quarterback, Tom Brady, have the NFL's (presumed) leader in receptions, Wes Welker, but he has a very good pass-catching tight end in Aaron Hernandez.

    It's amazing that Gronk's been able to pull in enough passes to collect even half as many touchdowns as he has. Well, maybe not if you've ever seen him run with the football.

7. Darren Sproles: All-Purpose Yardage

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    Stat: 2,528 all-purpose yards

    It's hard to pick which element of the Saints attack Darren Sproles has had the most impact on.

    As a punt returner he's been excellent, returning one against the Packers 72 yards for a score. As a kick returner, he's fifth in the NFL with a 27.2-yard average. As a running back he's provided a great spark, seven yards per carry. And as a receiver he's second on the Saints in receptions.

    Put that all together and he's in line to snap the single-season all-purpose yardage record set by Derrick Mason in 2000. He needs just 163 yards on kicks, punt, catches and runs to surpass it.

    But even if he doesn't, for Sproles to put together so much yardage on a team that has that much talent—a superstar tight end, three excellent receivers, a Heisman Trophy-winning running back and two good backs in Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory—is truly ridiculous.

6. Jared Allen: Sacks

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    Stat: 18.5 sacks

    In the end, barring a crazy Week 17, Jared Allen isn't going to grab the NFL sack record away from Michael Strahan. In fact, there's a good chance he A) won't lead the NFL and B) won't even break the team record of 21 set by Chris Doleman in 1989.

    But you've got to consider the rest of the Vikings defense.

    Their secondary this year has been atrocious. For him to have enough time to actually rush the passer and record a sack while the Vikings are being burned downfield is definitely ridiculous.

5. Drew Brees: Passing Yardage

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    Stat: 5,087 yards passing

    Yes, Drew Brees taking the all-time, single-season passing yards record is a tremendous feat. Dan Marino's record stood for more than a quarter-century and survived the incredible previous seasons put up by Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, Joe Montana, Steve Young and many great quarterbacks.

    But the fact that Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady will probably also snap Marino's 5,084 mark is slightly sobering. The other reason to slightly temper the fever over Brees' season is the number of attempts he's put up.

    He has 58 more attempts than Marino did in 1984 and was also fortunate to play 11 of 15 games on synthetic turf inside a dome: literally perfect, windless/rainless/weatherless conditions atop a speedy field. Only one of Marino's 16 games was played in a dome.

    I'm not trying to knock Brees' achievement. It's an all-time great record, but I wouldn't say it's THE most ridiculous stat of the 2011 season.

4. Patrick Peterson: Punt Returns

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    Stat: Four punt returns for touchdowns

    No one should be surprised that Patrick Peterson is a great punt returner. Coming out of LSU, we all knew that—most scouts said he was the best athlete in the 2011 draft.

    But still, four touchdowns? Tying the NFL record in his first season? Incredible.

    Here's a better way to break it down: One out of every 10 punt returns Peterson has taken in for a score. That's a ratio greater than Devin Hester has ever put up.

    The sad thing about the mark: He might never get another chance to return a punt. Why would anyone ever kick to him again?

3. 49ers Defense: Rushing Touchdowns Allowed

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    Stat: One rushing touchdown allowed

    Because it's a team stat that more than 11 guys worked to achieve, I don't think the 49ers run defense should earn the top spot on this list. Then again, if Marshawn Lynch hadn't scored from four yards out last week, I might have changed my mind.

    Take a look at the running backs that the 49ers have played this year: Rashard Mendenhall, Ray Rice (Pro Bowler), LeSean McCoy (Pro Bowler), Steven Jackson, LeGarrette Blount, Marshawn Lynch twice and Beanie Wells twice. Together those seven backs have rushed for a combined 80 touchdowns.

    Only one came against the 49ers.

2. Cam Newton: Total Touchdowns

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    Stat: 34 touchdowns

    Even the biggest Cam Newton fans in the world couldn't have anticipated the season he had this year.

    As impressive as the record-setting 14 rushing touchdowns are—a feat Michael Vick, Steve Young or Randall Cunningham never even approached—it's the passing totals that are truly mind-boggling.

    He very well might be finishing the greatest rookie season as a passer in NFL history: 60 percent completion, likely 4,000 yards passing and 20 touchdown passes.

    For him to account for 34 touchdowns—more than Matt Ryan, Eli Manning, Tony Romo and Ben Roethlisberger—defies all rookie quarterback logic.

1. Aaron Rodgers: Passer Rating

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    Stat: 122.5 quarterback rating

    Yes, Drew Brees' 2011 season has been awesome. The same is true for Tom Brady, Cam Newton and a handful of quarterbacks.

    But it's impossible to look at the numbers Aaron Rodgers has and not put them substantially above his quarterback peers.

    He's thrown 39 more touchdowns than interceptions. He has an outside shot at topping the 5,000-yard passing mark. And he's completed more than two-thirds of his passes.

    Those are historic numbers, but nothing that Drew Brees hasn't achieved this year or Tom Brady in 2007.

    But here's why Rodgers deserves the top spot on this list: He's only thrown 502 passes this year. In 2007, Brady had 578. This year, Brees has 622.

    That's why he's in line to break Peyton Manning's all-time single-season passer rating mark set seven years ago.