November 22, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) is sacked by Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) during the first quarter of a game on Thanksgiving at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
In 2001 Michael Strahan set the single season record for sacks with 22.5 at the age of thirty. As it stands, there are three games left and only three players who can make a run at both tying and or breaking the record. Those names included are Linebacker Aldon Smith of the San Francisco 49ers (19.5 sacks) Defensive end J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans (16.5) and Linebacker Von Miller of the Denver Broncos (16).
All three players are phenomenal athletes, who are highly valued for taking down the quarterback in todays passing game. Aside from all other defensive positions, these three can all make a case for defensive player of the year as they all stand out i some way. Smith with the highest sack totals, Watt being the only defensive linemen in the top 40 of pass deflection with (15) and Miller with an interception and forced fumbles (1 and 6).
Despite each players contributions, Watt has the best chance of being Defensive Player of the year among all players because he is not only because of his stats but also because of the position he plays. Linebackers are expected to make the plays Watt has, not defensive ends, especially 3-4 ends who are mainly supposed to stuff their blockers and have the linebackers make the play.
In order for Watt to truly cement himself as the best defensive player, he will have to reach the quarterback more as Aldon Smith is his biggest threat as he is closer to breaking the sack record, which can swing the vote in his favor. Watt’s remaining match ups include the Colts twice as well as the Vikings in between. According to Footballoutsiders.com, the Colt have the 17th ranked pass defense that has allowed 32 sacks, 3 above the league average. Colts Quarterback Andrew Luck is a rookie but has played far from it, winning 9 games this season, the most by a 1st overall selection quarterback ever, which includes a hand full of game winning drives. The Vikings on the other hand rank slightly lower at 22nd, yet have only allowed 28 sacks, one better than the league average. The Minnesota Vikings are a team that has experienced a tremendous setback with the loss of Wide Receiver Percy Harvin, so expect the Vikings to allow even more as one of their passing game suffers.
November 25, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Aldon Smith (99) sacks New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) during the second half of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The 49ers defeated the Saints 31-21. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
The 49ers have more of a mixed bag of opponents down the stretch. The New England Patriots first, followed by the Seattle Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals. The Patriots-49ers match up will be one to watch for as it sports two of the best teams in the NFL. The Patriots have future HOF Quarterback Tom Brady that will make it difficult for Smith to sack with his ability to release the ball. The Patriots have only allowed 20 sacks this season, as the second best line and 5th best in sacks allowed. the Seahawks will be difficult for different reasons as Quarterback Russell Wilson is great as extending the play outside the pocket. The Seahawks rank 16th in pass protection, but have also only allowed 24 sacks. The final match is where Smith can truly sink in his teeth as the Arizona Cardinals have allowed a staggering 51 sacks to opponents. Regardless of who starts in Arizona, Smith should be able to break the record here, barring Coach Jim Harbaugh plays the reserves to keep his starters fresh for the playoffs.
– Antonio Furgiuele