As the NFL regular season nears its home stretch, there are plenty of topics and storylines to discuss, and PFR’s Community Tailgate is designed to address those stories. What’s the Community Tailgate all about? Well, it’s pretty simple. We’ll highlight one of the top stories going on in the NFL. Then, in the comment section below, we want you to weigh in and let us know what you think.
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The Lions’ Calvin Johnson had the most prolific season ever in terms of receiving yards in 2012, setting the all-time record with 1,964. That record could be in jeopardy this year, ESPN’s Michael Rothstein noted earlier this week, as the Falcons’ Julio Jones and the Steelers’ Antonio Brown are doing their best to outdo Johnson’s 2012 total. Jones leads the league with 1,189 yards, while Brown is close behind with 1,141. Johnson averaged just under 123 yards per game during his record-setting campaign, so Jones (118.9) and Brown (114.1) will both need to pick up their respective paces.
What’s unlikely to help Jones going forward is having to face NFC South rival Carolina twice in his final six games. The Panthers presently boast Football Outsiders’ top-ranked pass defense in the NFC and are led by shutdown cornerback Josh Norman. How good is Norman? As Pro Football Focus’ Sam Monson tweeted Thursday, opposing quarterbacks would be better off throwing passes directly into the ground than testing him. That certainly doesn’t bode well for Jones. On the other hand, Jones still has a pair of games left against the awful pass defenses of the Jaguars and Saints. That should help balance out having to deal with Norman two times, but it might not be enough.
Brown, like Jones, has some less-than-ideal opponents left on his team’s schedule. It starts Sunday against the Seahawks, who allow the fewest passing yards per game in the NFC. The Steelers also have a game against the Broncos, who are atop the league in pass defense by both traditional stats and Football Outsiders’. Luckily for Brown, three of the Steelers’ other four opponents – the Colts, Ravens and Browns – have bottom-feeding pass defenses. Further, for now at least, three-time Pro Bowl quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is healthy. Roethlisberger has been shelved with multiple injuries this year, which has hurt Brown’s numbers. Brown was without Roethlisberger for all of October and averaged a pedestrian (by his standards) 58.75 yards per game. In games that Roethlisberger has at least appeared in this season, Brown has racked up a ridiculous 151 yards per contest. It’s a lot to ask, of course, but 151 yards per matchup during the last six weeks would give Brown over 2,000 yards for the season – enough to unseat Johnson.
What do you think? Is Johnson’s record in jeopardy? Regardless, how many yards will Jones and Brown finish with this year?
Weigh in below in the comments section to let us know your thoughts!