Going into the final game of the NFL’s 2015-16 regular season, the Minnesota Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson had two important things to him locked up before his battle for the NFC North title with the Green Bay Packers had even begun.
The first of those things was a spot in the 2016 NFL playoffs and second was the NFL rushing title. When the night came to a close, Peterson ended the season with 1,485 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns, which was also a league high, and the opportunity to play the Seattle Seahawks at home in the playoffs..
This was just bright ending however to what was a terrible season for the NFL’s running back position.
In 2015 seven running backs rushed for over 1,000 yards. Of those seven, Peterson is the only one who has found himself in the playoffs. Peterson is the best running back of a generation though, and even he has not found himself in the playoffs often throughout his career. The Vikings won the NFC North for the first time in six years in 2015.
After Peterson, when you think of the top running backs in today’s game, you might think of the names Le’Veon Bell, Marshawn Lynch, Arian Foster and Jamaal Charles to round out the top five. These players all have three things in common.
First, they are all on playoff teams this year. Second, they all got injured this season and missed significant time. Third, each of their teams, except Bell’s whose was .500, had a losing record with them and a winning record without them this season.
The Pittsburgh Steelers went 3-3 when Bell was playing. While Bell was suspended or injured, the Steelers went 7-3 and just got into the playoffs over the New York Jets in week 17.
The Seattle Seahawks went 3-4 in games that Lynch played in this season. The Seahawks went 7-2 without him, and are entering the playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the league.
The Houston Texans went 1-3 with Foster playing. After Foster went down, the Texans went 8-4 and won only their third AFC South title in franchise history.
The Kansas City Chiefs started the season 1-4 with Jamaal Charles leading the offense until he went down with a torn ACL. The Chiefs lost their next game bringing them to 1-5, with their lone win coming in week one. The season appeared to be over…. until it wasn’t.
The Chiefs are entering the playoffs on an NFL-best 10-game win streak and quarterback Alex Smith has had the most passing yards of his career, and rushing yards for that matter.
Lynch was the only one of these backs expected to make it back for their team’s playoff run. In a surprising turn of events, Lynch decided Friday that he was not ready and did not take the trip to Minnesota with the team.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, without Lynch leading the offense, has obtained the most passing yard and touchdowns, highest completion percentage, and best touchdown/interception ratio of his career. He also has the highest passer rating in the NFL.
There have also been new running backs that have thrived on three of these teams; Steelers’ DeAngelo Williams, Seahawks’ Thomas Rawls, and Charcandrick West with the Chiefs. Each of these three players have also been hurt this season and West is the only one starting for their Wildcard playoff match.
Hopefully all of the players named in these article get and stay healthy. But it is time to question, how much is a great running back really worth?