Right around this time of the year, I get a crazy notion stuck in my head. It usually results in an ill-advised wager.
Last year, my crazy notion that the Texans would finish with a better record than the Colts led to a wager with one of our editors, Brian Stubits. In my defense, I figured Peyton was due for an injury year. Looks like I was a season off.
Being the bold blogger I am, I floated him the idea Michael Turner would have a better season (I'll share the stats we're following shortly) than LaDainian Tomlinson. Here's the logic, as disturbing as it may be.
I'm not buying the Chargers as a team. I don't believe in Philip Rivers' health and decision making. I don't believe in Chris Chambers' drive and I'm not convinced Antonio Gates is 100 percent. Also, I find Norv Turner incapable of putting together back-to-back double-digit win seasons. Of course, these beliefs, while not self-evident, don't necessitate any statistical decline in Tomlinson.
But maybe this does...
L.T. has 2,356 carries to his name and 458 receptions. If you'll agree with me Marshall Faulk is a similar player in style to Tomlinson, check out what happened after Faulk hit 2,300 carries. Faulk entered the 2003 season with 2,367 carries. He left that season with 818 rushing yards, 290 receiving yards and 11 total touchdowns. Faulk was 30 that year. Tomlinson is 29. There's no denying Faulk's erosion began a year earlier when he failed to top 1,000 yards, but running backs not named Curtis Martin tend to fall from grace rather quickly. It's also not like Faulk was in an inept offense. The Rams were 12-4 that season under the guidance of Marc Bulger and Mike Martz.
So I'm banking L.T.'s wheels have a little wear and tear. But what about Michael Turner? What can we realistically expect from him in his first year as a non-handcuff? He's going to anchor an Atlanta backfield with Jerious Norwood that's going to function similar to Jacksonville with Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew. So 1,200-1,350 yards isn't out of the question. Fred Taylor, who Turner compares better to physically, racked up 1,202 in 15 games last season splitting carries with MJD.
However I think Turner's game lines up more with Jamal Lewis. They both weigh about the same, and catch the ball adequately, at best. Lewis averaged exactly 1,300 yards playing in pass-deficient Baltimore for six seasons.
Atlanta, with a questionable quarterback situation is going to lean heavily on the run. I also think Atlanta, no matter how bad it's losing, won't be the type of team that airs it out in futile comeback attempts ala Arizona or Detroit of the past 10 years. Mike Smith is building something here and I'm not sure he's concerned with having his young QB throw the ball 40 times a game. Expect to see the ball still being handed off in the fourth quarter of Atlanta games.
So here's the wager. I need to win two of the three following categories: rushing yards, total touchdowns and 100-yard games.
I think I can take rushing yards and 100-yard games. Turner's proven to be explosive, despite his girth and I believe the Falcons are committed to running for four quarters. He won't win the total touchdowns battle since his team's offense isn't as well-oiled (even with San Diego's question marks) and he'll be lucky to record one receiving touchdown.
The wager is a bottle of 12-year-or-older Scotch to be purchased by the loser and delivered to the winner. I may be an ill-advised gambler, but when those are the stakes, there are no losers.
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