Tuesday trends: Best of Luck

With much hype surrounding old-guard QBs like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger, the young Andrew Luck is actually leading the NFL in passing yards and on a record tear. Plus, get other stats and trends through NFL Week 9.

With all the spotlight of the last few weeks on Peyton Manning breaking the record for touchdown passes and matching up against Tom Brady for the 16th time, Manning’s replacement in Indianapolis is proving that the NFL has young blood at the quarterback position to continue the passing trends.

Passing and scoring records continue their upward trajectory, and Luck is actually leading the way. The Indianapolis Colts’ cold-blooded thrower leads the NFL with 3,085 passing yards, more than 300 more than second-place Ben Roethlisberger, who is coming off consecutive six-touchdown passing games.

With his Monday night win against the New York Giants, Luck became the first player in NFL history to throw for 350 yards or more in five straight road games, according to the Elias Sport Bureau, and he’s thrown 40 passes or more in each of his last six games, the third-longest streak in NFL history.

It should be little surprise that Luck and Roethlisberger are tied for the league lead with 26 passes plays of 25 yards or more.

While the old guard of quarterbacks continues to make news for breaking all-time records, Luck is proof that some of the NFL’s replacement parts are in place. He needs 300-yard passing performances in each of his next two games to tie Drew Brees for the all-time mark of consecutive games doing that.

Through nine weeks, teams have combined to score 711 touchdowns and have thrown 459 touchdown passes, the most ever at this point in an NFL season – the previous marks were 692 TDs and 415 TD passes last season.

Passers are also on pace to set NFL records with a combined 91.2 passer rating (86.0 in 2013), 63.1 completion percentage (61.2 in 2007 and 2013) and 487.8 net passing yards per game average (471.2 in 2013).

Here are some other stats and trends after Week 9:

  • If the playoffs started today, the New England Patriots (7-2) and Denver Broncos (6-2), who just faced each other, would have first-round byes and the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the AFC, respectively. The other teams in the AFC that would be in the playoffs: the Cincinnati Bengals (5-2-1), Indianapolis Colts (6-3), Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3) and Kansas City Chiefs (5-3). Next in line are the Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins and San Diego Chargers.

    All four teams in the AFC North – the Steelers (6-3), Bengals (5-2-1), Browns (5-3) and Ravens (5-4) – have winning records. Only four times previously has a division had all four teams with winning records this late in a season since realignment in 2002.

  • In the NFC, the top two teams right now aren’t used to be there. The Arizona Cardinals rule the roost at 7-1, followed by the Detroit Lions at 6-2. The Philadelphia Eagles (6-2) would be the third seed, followed but the New Orleans Saints (4-4), Dallas Cowboys (6-3) and Seattle Seahawks (5-3). Also in the picture are the Green Bay Packers (5-3), San Francisco 49ers (4-4), Minnesota Vikings (4-5) and Carolina Panthers (3-5-1).

  • The difference between the AFC and NFC shows in the playoff picture. All of the top 10 teams in the AFC have winning records. In the NFC, three of the top 10 teams are either .500 (San Francisco) or have a losing record (Minnesota and Carolina).

  • DeMarco Murray still has a comfortable lead in rushing yards at 1,133 while averaging 125.9 per game (23 more than his closest competitor), but he isn’t the leader in average per carry. That honor goes to Justin Forsett of the Baltimore Ravens, averaging 5.39 yards per carry on only on 113 rushes.

    Murray easily leads in number of rushes for 10 yards or more with 32, followed by Arian Foster (22) and Forsett (21).

  • On the receiving end, yards after the catch can be a big factor. Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers leads the league in reception yardage, but among receivers, it’s Demaryius Thomas of the Denver Broncos who leads in yards after the catch (418). Brown is tied for second with Golden Tate with 391 yards after the catch, according to STATS.

  • Who is leading the NFL in interceptions? It’s former undrafted safety Tashaun Gipson of the Cleveland Browns, who already has six interceptions and 158 yards and a touchdown returning those. Last year, Gipson had five interceptions.

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