Quick Hit: Welker’s Cooled Off, Still On Pace For Record
A few weeks ago, Wes Welker was on pace to shatter NFL receiving records. Predictably, he’s cooled down a bit – stymied by some good defensive play. The good news is, he’s still on pace to break some records if he can maintain his pace. Let’s take a look at the best receiving performances through 7 team games since the 1970 AFL/NFL merger:
After 5 games, Welker was #1, now he’s dropped to #3. Steve Smith is also holding steady in the top 5. Of the top 20, we should ignore Chandler and Clark in 1982 (shortened season) and Terrell Owens in 2005 (injury ended his season prematurely). For the others, we see an average receptions-per-game decrease of 0.7 and yards per game decrease of 29.39. Those numbers tell us that the historic paces these guys were on were buoyed by big plays (inflating their yards) as opposed to volume (since there isn’t much change in Rec/G). Since big plays are flukey and unpredictable, it’s no surprise these guys fell off pace.
Next, let’s look at the top 10 receiving performances by total yards since 1970, and how those guys started/finished:
As you can see, the guys atop the all-time receiving yards list are a mixed bag of fast starters (Moss 2003, Irvin 1995, Harrison 1999), guys who excelled in the 2nd half of the year (Rice 1995, Smith 1999) and guys who were pretty steady throughout (Harrison 2002, Holt 2003).
If Welker maintains his pace, he will end up with 129 catches for 1883 yards. Still good enough to top Jerry Rice, but there is little room for him to slow down. With the Patriots’ schedule getting considerably easier after the 9th game, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Welker get close to or beat Rice’s record.