O'Hara's Monday Countdown: noteworthy accomplishments of 2012 - individuals, teams and coaches

Posted Nov 19, 2012

Johnson leads the list, and not because he's one of our own in Detroit.

Calvin Johnson didn't play one of his better games for the Lions in Sunday's loss to the Packers, but neither did anyone else who played on the Lions' offense or coached it.

Johnson was good, not great, but his receiving stats would have most wide receivers waiting for a call or text message from the Pro Football Hall of Fame asking to send their gloves, cleats, helmet or any other part of their equipment to commemorate their performance.

Johnson's five catches weren't much, but his 143 receiving yards were spectacular. He would have added at least another 100 if he and Matthew Stafford had been able to connect on a couple plays when Megatron had the Packers' secondary beaten.

There also was a drop early in the game that would have given the offense a good gain.

It's probably time to get off the weekly rant about how many times the ball is thrown to Johnson, particularly when the Lions are in scoring territory.

But today is not that time.

This week's Monday Countdown focuses on some of the noteworthy accomplishments of the 2012 season - individuals, teams and coaches.

Johnson leads the list, and not because he's one of our own in Detroit. I've stated often my opinion that he is the best non-quarterback in the NFL, and nothing happened to change that in a wretched first 10 games of the season for the Lions.

There's also a look ahead at what awaits the Lions, and the best and worst teams of the NFL after 11 weeks.

We start with Megatron:
1. Catching a record: Jerry Rice is the best receiver of all time, and a lot of people consider him the best football player of all time because of how he dominates the statistical categories at his position. In terms of career catches, receiving yards and touchdowns, there really isn't a second place. There is Jerry Rice ... and a wide gap to everybody else.

Calvin Johnson is moving within range of one of Rice's cherished records – receiving yards in a season. Rice had 1,848 in 1995. It was his 11th season with the 49ers, and he turned 33 in October of that season.

Johnson has 1,117 yards after 10 games. That's an average of 111.7 yards per game. At that pace, he will finish with 1,787, or 61 yards short of Rice's record.
2. Needed to break the record: For a full 16-game season, a receiver has to average 115.5 yards a game to have 1,848. Johnson was 3.8 yards below that level for the first 10 games.

He needs to average 121.83 yards over the last six games to reach 1,848.
3. Johnson's current rate:  In his last three games, Johnson had 129 yards against Jacksonville, 207 against Minnesota and 143 against Green Bay. That's 479 in three games, and an average of 159.6.

If Johnson continues at that pace for the last six games, he'll have 958, and 2,078 for the season. Then we'll be talking about him elevating the record for receiving yards the same way Usain Bolt lowered the record for the 100-meter dash.
4. Why Johnson won't break the record: A lot of great receivers - including his greatness Jerry Rice - have played in the NFL since Rice set the record 17 years ago. It's hard to keep producing yards close to the level Johnson has for the last three games.

The odds are just as good that he'll have back-to-back games of 34 receiving yards against Chicago and 46 against Seattle, as he did last month.
5. Why Johnson will break the record: Sunday against Green Bay, Tony Scheffler was targeted 10 times by Stafford and caught two passes. Titus Young was targeted six times and caught one pass.

You don't have to be a mind reader to see the look on Stafford's face and figure he'd rather throw to a superstar who gives him at least a 50-percent chance to get a completion.
6. Coming up: Green Bay was just the first step in a seven-game torture test for the Lions. Up next on Thanksgiving Day are the Houston Texans, who led the NFC with a 9-1 record.

The Texans were three-point favorites when the Las Vegas odds makers posted their NFL lines Sunday night.

However, Houston's defensive performance in a 43-37 overtime win over lowly Jacksonville opens the possibility of another big game for Johnson.

Chad Henne took over at quarterback early in the game when Blaine Gabbert went out with an injury and threw a career-high four TD passes. Rookie Justin Blackmon had 236 receiving yards.
7. Comeback player - Adrian Peterson: He is sure to get some votes, and what he has done in his return from a season-ending severe knee injury is amazing. He leads the league with 1,128 yards.

The only reason to question Peterson as a candidate is the timing of his injury. He was hurt in Game 15. Players who get the comeback award usually miss most of a season, but that was not the case with Peterson. He missed three games before sustaining the knee injury but played in 12 games.
8. Comeback player - Peyton Manning: Another amazing comeback story. Manning missed all of last season because of a neck injury. He was released by Indianapolis in March and signed with Denver. Manning has led the Broncos to a 7-3 record and first place in the AFC West.

Manning has 24 TD passes, seven interceptions and a 106.2 passer rating that is second only to Aaron Rodgers of the Packers.
9. MVP/Coach of the year: You could probably give both to Manning. The way he orchestrates an offense, he's a coach on the field. I'd give Manning  the inside track for MVP.

Here's a weird vote for coach of the year: Joe Vitt, interim head coach of the Saints. They're 3-1, with a three-game win streak, since he returned from suspension. The Saints have gotten into playoff contention.
10. Rookie of the year: The Colts' Andrew Luck will be a superstar, but the stats go to Robert Griffin III - 12 TD passes, three interceptions, 613 rushing yards and six TDs for the Redskins.
11. The NFL's best

1. Texans (9-1): They showed some versatility by using offense to beat Jacksonville in overtime.
2. Falcons (9-1): A bounce-back win over Arizona wasn't a classic, but they got the job done.
3. Ravens (8-2): Tough win at Pittsburgh gives them clear lead in AFC North.
4. Packers (7-3): Win streak is at five, and wait till they get healthy. Super Bowl awaits.
5. Broncos (7-3): Five straight wins, sailing toward playoffs.
6. Bears (7-2): They could take a tumble against the 49ers with Cutler out.
7. 49ers (6-2-1): Beating the Bears will give them a stronger grip on NFC West.
8. Bucs (6-4): Four straight wins puts them ahead of other 6-4 teams.
9. Giants (6-4): Sagged before the bye, rest should help.
10. Seahawks (6-4): Strong defense and running game make them threat in every game.
11. Steelers (6-4): Must stay close until Big Ben gets back.
12. Saints (5-5): Three-game win streak puts them in contention.

12. The NFL's worst
1. Chiefs (1-9): Seven straight losses, can't score.
2. Jaguars (1-9): Seven straight losses, slightly better than KC.
3. Eagles (3-7): Six straight losses, -90 in points differential.
4. Raiders (3-7): Outscored by 114 points. Horrible defense.
5. Panthers (2-8): Keep waiting for Cam Newton to break out.