There is no doubt about it.
When these two running backs face off Sunday, the RCA Dome will be hosting history in the making. Two future Hall of Fame running backs will be squaring off – one on a mission to make the playoffs, while the other is on a quest for a perfect season.
By the numbers
Edge is finally back.
In 2004, he gained 1,548 yards rushing, 483 yards receiving and scored nine touchdowns. This season, he's on pace to gain 1,772 yards – his highest total of his career. He's on pace to catch 48 passes for 373 yards and score 16 touchdowns on the season – the latter of which would also be a career high.
But a look at Tomlinson also reveals a mammoth season in the making. He's on pace to rush for 1,535 yards and catch 53 passes for 417 yards, totaling 1,952 yards on the season. Oh, by the way, with 19 total touchdowns on the season, he's on pace to end with approximately 23 touchdowns. That's 138 points on the season.
This is like weighing Fat Albert against the Incredible Hulk. There is no scale to measure – they're both too huge.
Look back to their careers, you say? Well, even those numbers are shockingly similar.
James has averaged 97.4 yards rushing and 29.8 yards receiving per game in his career. That's a total of 127.2 yards from scrimmage per game.
Tomlinson has averaged 94 yards rushing and 31.1 yards receiving for a total of 125.1 yards per game. That's close. However, throw in the times he's thrown the ball – he's even closer -- averaging 126.5 yards from scrimmage per game.
That's pretty remarkable.
However, there is one significant difference. Tomlinson's touchdown numbers are simply more impressive.
Take this season for example, James has gotten 75 carries inside the red zone and 22 carries inside the five-yard line, rushing for 12 touchdowns. On the other hand, Tomlinson has 56 touches in the red zone and 21 carries inside the five-yard line, rushing for 17 touchdowns.
Furthermore, in 76 games career games he's scored 79 touchdowns, while James has scored only 74 in 94 games.
Don't get me wrong, that's still a lot of touchdowns, but nevertheless, Tomlinson has five more in 18 less games.
He's a touchdown machine, averaging 16.6 touchdowns per 16 games in his five-year career, while James is averaging 12.6 touchdowns per 16 games.
Both James and Tomlinson are known as powerful, multi-faceted running backs, which are triple threats to any defense. James is listed at 6-foot-0, 214 pounds, while Tomlinson is listed as 5-foot-10, 221 pounds. They both have the power, hands and speed to block, catch and run.
However, Tomlinson is known more for his flare.
In his 76 games, Tomlinson has 43 carries of 20 yards or more. He's known for his big game-breakers, while James is more of a chipper, busting for five, and then bruising ahead for the extra yard or two.
In his 94-game career, James has 40 carries of 20 yard or more. That's impressive, but not as impressive as Tomlinson's number.
However, it could be argued that some of James' finest work goes unnoticed by many, and unmarked in the stat book.
Tony Dungy recently called James the best blocking back he had ever seen.
Colts' center Jeff Saturday also praised James, saying, "What people don't realize is that he's a great blocker in protection. I mean, we don't play two backs, because that's not our style. So he's back there all by himself."
But Marty Schottenheimer would take his running back any day. Recent quotes indicate his willingness to put his running back up against anyone. And I mean anyone.
"I believe with a certainty,
in my opinion, he is the finest running back I have ever seen in professional
football," Schottenheimer said. "And I know people say: 'Well what
about Jim Brown? And what about Gale Sayers?' That's all well and good, but I
tell you what, in the era that we're in now where you have defensive linemen
that weigh 300 pounds and run 4.75, and these mammoth guys that are playing
linebacker, I think with a certainty, in my opinion, he is the finest running
back that I have ever seen."
Drew Brees went even further, comparing Tomlinson to the unthinkable. Yes, the one and only – the love of Lois Lane.
"We've used the [term] 'Superman without the cape.' We've used a lot of terms to describe L.T. But I think he never ceases to amaze," Brees said.
If Tomlinson is Superman, then the Colts can only hope to be his kryptonite.
The Colts hold the seventh-best rushing defense in the NFL, allowing an average of 96.5 yards per game. However, their premier run stopper, Corey Simon, is likely to miss Sunday's game with a sprained foot. This could mean trouble for the Colts defense.
On the contrary, the Chargers possess the No.1 run stopping defense in the NFL, allowing an average of only 78.8 yards per contest. This could mean trouble for the Colts' offense.
The Pittsburgh defense, currently ranked fourth against the rush, is by far the toughest rushing defense James has faced this season. In that game, James shined, rushing for 124 yards on 24 carries, averaging 4.2 yards per carry. Pittsburgh is currently only allowing an average of 88.8 yards per game.
Tomlinson faced the Steelers in week five with less luck, rushing for 62 yards on 18 carries, averaging 3.4 yards per carry.
Another tough rushing defense, the Broncos, currently ranked second in rushing defense, held Tomlinson to 52 yards on 19 carries. Furthermore, the 19th ranked defense, the Eagles, allowing an average of 113.8 rushing yards per game, held him to seven yards rushing on 17 carries, averaging .4 yards per carry.
Granted, Tomlinson played hurt with bruised ribs. But still, come on.....seven? James' lowest rushing total this season was 89 yards against the Bengals.
It can be argued that Peyton Manning is a far greater threat than Drew Brees. Tomlinson is the focal point of San Diego's offense, while James is a merely a weapon at Manning's disposal.
With the deep threat of Manning to Marvin Harrison or Reggie Wayne, opposing defenses will play the pass against the Colts. Manning recognizes these are good times to run, and makes the necessary adjustments at the line.
That is in part what makes James so effective.
The Chargers simply don't have this ability. Although Drew Brees is a solid quarterback, he is not a force in the league. He will not be the mission of the Colts' defense. Stopping Tomlinson will be the Colts' mission on Sunday. Therefore, the Colts' safeties can afford to creep in a little bit on Tomlinson.
Look for this to lead to success for the Colts on defense.
The Chargers defense is ranked 27th against the pass, averaging 231.1 yards passing per game. They will have no choice but to focus on stopping Manning. Expect the Colts quarterback to pick them apart early. The defense will make adjustments, the safeties will creep back and then James could breakthrough with a large, large day my friends.
It should be fun to watch. See you there.