Breaking Down the NFL Sacks Leader Race After Week 15

Brandon AlisogluCorrespondent IDecember 17, 2012

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 16:  J.J. Watt #99 of the Houston Texans salutes the fans during the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Reliant Stadium on December 16, 2012 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Michael Strahan has to be sweating. The hot lights of a daytime television show are nothing compared to the heat that J.J. Watt and Aldon Smith are providing.

Strahan currently holds the single-season sack record with 22.5 in 2001. Some may argue the legitimacy of that record due to a Brett Favre "slip," but the record isn't annotated with an asterisk.

Before we get down to the two headliners, we should round out the top five.


5. Chris Clemons (Seattle Seahawks) and DeMarcus Ware (Dallas Cowboys), 11.5

We can go ahead and scratch both candidates from the race to take home the sack title, since they each sit eight sacks back.

Clemons' game isn't predicated on rushing the passer. His sacks are more the product of the attention paid elsewhere. 

Ware is a pass-rushing specialist, but is held back by the lack of any other sack artist on the Dallas Cowboys roster.

Each has had a nice season, but they aren't threats to the leaders.


4. Cameron Wake (Miami Dolphins), 14.0

He's within the county lines, but he's not in the same school district as the leaders. The Dolphins play the running Buffalo Bills and then the masterful New England Patriots. I don't see him getting the six-sack game necessary to jump back in the race.


3. Von Miller (Denver Broncos), 16.0

Now we're talking. Miller sits a few behind the top two, but he has the type of explosive ability to put up a three-sacker to make this a three-man race.

Will he do it? Possibly. Miller does get to line up against Brandon Weeden and Brady Quinn.


1. J.J. Watt (Houston Texans) and Aldon Smith (San Francisco 49ers), 19.5

The real meat and the potatoes of the race comes down to the two NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidates. Yes, there are only two.

Both players will get one game to feast on an opponent. Watt will reengage with an Indianapolis Colts offensive line that he just destroyed for three sacks. Meanwhile, Smith gets the Arizona Cardinals, who he shredded for two sacks in their first go-round.

However, each gets a more difficult proposition in their remaining contest. The Texans will face the run-heavy Minnesota Vikings, while the Niners face off against the elusive Russell Wilson.

Who will take home the belt? It's a tough call, but I like Watt's odds of getting to Christian Ponder more than I like Smith's of getting to Wilson.

Regardless, it will be tight throughout, and I can't wait to see how it unfolds.