By Kerry J. Byrne
Cold, Hard Football Facts figure skating champion
When will Big Ben get his due? Is Brett Favre piecing together his greatest season yet? And is Indy's brutal schedule to blame for its two-game losing streak?
The Cold, Hard Football Facts answer each of these questions with big, burly stats to kick sand in the face of your puny, little opinions.
Icy Issue: How come nobody talks about Ben Roethlisberger as an elite NFL quarterback?
Icier Response: Apparently people just can't believe it's possible to be so good so young.
The Pittsburgh signal caller stormed onto the National Football League stage in 2004, leading the Steelers to an improbable 15-1 season in his rookie campaign. For an encore in 2005, he merely became the youngest quarterback to lead his team to a Super Bowl title. After a series of well-publicized off-the-field and health issues that led to Pittsburgh's 8-8 campaign in 2006, Big Ben is back and better than ever here in 2007.
With a 110.2 passer rating (a figure virtually unheard of just 20 years ago), Roethlisberger is second only to New England's Tom Brady (131.8). And, with 22 TD passes, he's third behind only Brady (33) and Dallas media-darling QB Tony Romo (23).
You wouldn't know it if you measured the two quarterbacks by hype and headlines, but Roethlisberger is actually more productive than Romo if we look at TDs per attempt. Romo has needed 292 pass attempts to reach his 23 TDs (1 TD every 12.7 attempts). Roethlisberger has reached 22 TDs with just 242 pass attempts (1 TD every 11.0 attempts).
Roethlisberger also has a phenomenal 92.2 career passer rating – the same rating as Brady and just 2.0 points behind Peyton Manning, who's widely perceived as a statistical juggernaut and has had the benefit of playing most of his games indoors. Given the same advantage, it's reasonable to assume that Roethlisberger's career passer rating would be well ahead of Manning's right now.
The bottom line is that Roethlisberger is an elite quarterback by any measure but national media acclaim. And at just 25 years old, history tells us that Roethlisberger's best years are still ahead of him.
Icy Issue: Could three-time MVP and future Hall of Famer Brett Favre be in the midst of his greatest season ever?
Icier Response: Yes!
The Green Bay quarterback has been one of the most amazing stories of 2007. After several sub-par seasons and calls by disrespectful media outlets that he should hang up the cleats and purchase a new recliner (one source even likened the quarterback to Old Yeller
), Favre has responded with a tremendous season, as evidenced by his team's 8-1 record and No. 2 position in the Cold, Hard Football Facts Power Rankings
, along with his league-leading 2,757 passing yards.
In fact, 2007 might be his best season ever.
Favre's 2,757 passing yards through nine games puts him on pace for 4,901 yards, which would be second most in history to Dan Marino's 5,084 yards in 1984. Of course, Marino was a spry 23-year-old second-year man back in 1984; Favre turned 38 last month – which makes him about as old as dinosaur fossils in football years – and is playing in his 17th NFL season.
With a poor running game and remaining contests against weak defensive clubs such as Oakland, St. Louis and Detroit (twice, including their first clash on Thanksgiving), Favre has an outside shot of – at the remarkable age of 38 – surpassing Marino's all-time single-season mark for passing yards.
And, oh yeah, the guy who won three straight NFL MVP awards a decade ago is also on pace for career bests in the all-important yards per attempt category (7.8) and completion percentage (67.2). His 96.2 passer rating here in 2007, meanwhile, would be second only to the 99.5 he generated back in his MVP 1995 season.
Icy Issue: Are the Scheduling Gods cruel and vindictive?
Icier Response: Well, they've certainly been cruel to the Colts this year.
Sure, Indy has lost two games in a row and the season suddenly has the wobbly feeling of the wheels falling off the wagon.
Injuries have played no small part. But the Scheduling Gods certainly seem like they've played some sort of vindictive joke on the Super Bowl champs, too. Indy spent the two weeks before the epic New England showdown on the road visiting tough, physical teams Carolina and Jacksonville. Then they engaged in the Battle Royale with New England at home, only to fly cross-country to San Diego which, at nearly 1,800 miles, is among the longest possible trips on Indy's schedule.
After the loss at San Diego, the Colts get a game at home this weekend against the struggling Chiefs, which might have been a bit of a breather (by NFL standards) if not for Indy's injuries – and the fact that the Colts get right back on a plane for a Thanksgiving night game at Atlanta.
Indy still has one more cross-country trip to Oakland, before ending with two games at home, including a finale against Tennessee in which the AFC South title might be up for grabs.
There's rarely an easy schedule in the NFL. But it's hard to envision a period at anytime that's been more grueling than Indy's stretch of six games from Oct. 22 to Nov. 22 that included four on the road.
Somewhere, the vindictive Scheduling Gods are admiring their handiwork.