For those of you who have been living on the moon, another star has emerged in the San Francisco Bay Area.
49ers right outside linebacker Aldon Smith has taken the league by storm with his record-setting performances. For Smith, job number one is to get after the quarterback, and he does it well.
Smith has been on a tear, currently leading the NFL in sacks 12 weeks into the season and breaking records en route. In Week 11, he set the Monday Night Football record with 5.5 sacks against the Chicago Bears.
He also became the fastest player in NFL history to reach 30 sacks (27 games), surpassing first-ballot Hall of Famer Reggie White (28 games). A pretty incredible feat, considering Smith just recently learned the standup linebacker position.
Aldon Smith has 30.5 sacks since 2011. The #49ers season sack leaders combined for 29.5 from 2007-10.
— Eric Branch (@Eric_Branch) November 29, 2012
But No. 99 could break yet another record.
In 2001, New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan, 30, set the single-season sack record with 22.5. At the time, Strahan was well into his pro career as one of the more established and feared defenders in the league.
In his first year as a starter, 23-year-old Aldon Smith may finally break Strahan’s decade-long record. In doing so, he will transcend career-bests of names like Bruce Smith, Lawrence Taylor, Chris Doleman, Derrick Thomas and DeMarcus Ware.
Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen was a half-sack away from tying the record a year ago, but fell short.
But at this point in the season, Smith is within striking distance of the NFL single-season sack record. When taking a look at San Francisco’s schedule, it’s not hard to imagine him hitting the mark.
The 49ers schedule the rest of the way:
With five games remaining in the regular season, Smith is 6.5 sacks away from breaking Strahan’s record. And so far in 2012, the second-year man is averaging 1.5 sacks per game.
The schedule includes three more divisional games, against each of the San Francisco’s NFC West opponents. The Niners have faced the Cardinals, Seahawks and Rams already this season—a three-game stretch in which Smith piled up 5.0 sacks.
Smith has also been heating up as the season has progressed.
Since the loss to the New York Giants in Week 6, Smith has been on a 5-game sack streak, seeing lows of 1.0 and highs of 5.5. In that time, Smith accumulated 12 of his 16.5 total QB takedowns this season.
Smith could match, if not outdo his sack numbers from the first half of the NFC West series. If he breaks even, he would only need 1.5 sacks between the two AFC East games.
Smith will also get one final prime-time matchup, which could perhaps be his most dominant outing in the remaining schedule. In Week 15, the 49ers will travel to Foxborough, MA to take on the New England Patriots on Sunday Night Football.
A few of Smith’s most notable outings have come under the spotlight on prime time. In 2012, 10.0 of Smith’s sacks have come during night games. And in six career prime-time games, Smith has 12.5 sacks.
With Tom Brady behind center running the Patriots' pass-heavy attack, Smith should have countless chances to rush the quarterback. It could be a multi-sack game for the second-year LB.
In Sunday’s match versus the St. Louis Rams, Smith could set a new standard for Bay Area pass rushers by surpassing Fred Dean’s single-season best of 17.5 sacks in a season.
In practically no time at all, young Aldon Smith has emerged as one of the better rush linebackers in the league. At this rate, Smith is well on his way to becoming one of the all-time greats at his position.