It's worth spending a couple of moments to preempt the inevitable discussion of Adrian Peterson as this year's NFL MVP, or even the league's best running back. It's true, after his fine performance against the Packers yesterday, Peterson now leads in one important category: rushing yards. An impressive feat to be sure. But how do his numbers stack up to other runningbacks around the league Clinton Portis?
Well, let's go back to those rushing yards. Peterson has carried the ball 206 times for 1,015 yards (4.927 yards per carry); Portis, 200 for 995 yards (4.975 yards per carry). Most sports websites will round Peterson's down to 4.9 and Portis's up to 5.0, but the difference is only an extra 1.72 inches per carry for Portis, not statistically significant at any reasonable sensitivity level, even when ignoring potential measurement error effects (officials spotting the ball imprecisely). Bottom line, Peterson rushed for 20 more yards on 6 more carries. Ho hum. Point reluctantly goes to Peterson, but only so the end tally appears somewhat impartial.
Touchdowns: 7 to 7. ...Next.
Fumbles: Peterson has 4, including 3 recovered by the opposing defense; Portis has 1, also lost. Point goes to CP.
Versatility: Both players have made minor contributions in the passing game. Portis's 150 yards top Peterson's 98, and actually put him over the top when it comes to total yards (1,145 to 1,113). Oh, and "not everyone knows this, but Portis is the best pass protecting RB blocker in the league." Point goes to CP.
Match-ups - the coup de grâce. I don't know of a single coherent argument that the NFC North is as tough of a division as the NFC East, so the previous comparisons greatly benefit Peterson (although not to the same extent as comparing Babe Ruth to others like Hank Aaron). So let's set aside every game these two backs have played - except for their shared opponents:
Clinton Portis: 45 rushing attempts for 222 yards and 2 touchdowns, with no fumbles. Peterson: 46 rushing attempts for 143 yards, no touchdowns, and 2 fumbles lost. Point goes to CP.
Final Tally: Portis 3, Peterson 1.