- Chris Johnson holds the NFL single-season scrimmage yards record with 2,509 yards
- Christian McCaffrey has 866 scrimmage yards through five games
- McCaffrey’s strength as a receiver is key for his chances to break the record
It’s difficult to describe how well Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey has performed through five games this season — unless, of course, you want to compare him to the New York Jets. McCaffray has out-gained them in total yards, 866 to 718.
To be fair, the Jets have only played four games. But you get the point. The last time the NFL had a running back this dominant was back in 2009, when second-year stud Chris Johnson torched the league for an NFL-record 2,509 scrimmage yards.
McCaffrey looks unstoppable so far, but can he break Johnson’s record? Oddsmakers believe it to be possible now, compared to odds they released ahead of the season.
Odds Christian McCaffrey Breaks Scrimmage Yards Record
* Odds taken 10/11/19
The Current Pace
With 866 scrimmage yards through five games (173.2 yards per game), McCaffrey is on pace to break Johnson’s record and collect an astounding 2,771 scrimmage yards. Still, to surpass Johnson’s record, McCaffrey would need to average 149.5 yards/game in the final 11 games — and that’s no small feat, even for a guy who can do it all.
Christian McCaffrey leaps into the endzone to put the Panthers up early ??
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) October 6, 2019
Through five games in his record-setting season, Johnson only had 594 scrimmage yards (118.8 per game). So in that sense, McCaffrey has a nice lead. Then again, Johnson was a machine after that, posting at least 120 scrimmage yards (and as many as 239) in each of his final 11 games.
|866||Yards from scrimmage through five games||594|
|173.2||Yards from scrimmage per game||156.8|
The Future Matchups
McCaffrey’s key to potentially breaking this record lies in his pass-catching ability. Why? Because although he’s facing some stout run defenses in his final 11 matchups (including Tampa Bay, San Francisco and Seattle, all of whom rank in the top five in fewest rush yards allowed), the overall team defense rankings look generally favorable.
In terms of total yards allowed, only San Francisco (2nd) and Tennessee (9) rank in the top ten. Meanwhile, McCaffrey will have seven matchups against bottom ten defenses. He knows how to take advantage of those situations.
Christian McCaffrey has forced 25 missed tackles the last 2 weeks.
— Andrew Siciliano (@AndrewSiciliano) October 7, 2019
This week’s matchup against Tampa Bay is huge for McCaffrey. The Buccaneers rank 26th in total yards allowed, yet McCaffrey only had 53 scrimmage yards when he faced them in Week 2. Clearly, he’ll need to do better than that to maintain a record-setting pace.
Will He Get Enough Touches?
Chris Johnson had an NFL-high 408 touches in his 2009 season. At his current pace of 27.2 touches per game, McCaffrey will reach 435 touches. That would be the most touches by a player since DeMarco Murray’s 449 touches in 2014.
Highest percentage of team’s scrimmage yards this season:
1. Le’Veon Bell: 51.8%
2. Christian McCaffrey: 46.8%
3. Dalvin Cook: 41.5%
4. Nick Chubb: 35.0%
5. Alvin Kamara: 33.5%
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) October 10, 2019
So, maybe it’s a far-fetched number…but maybe it’s not. Panthers coach Ron Rivera told the Charlotte Observer last week he thinks McCaffrey’s workload is “where it needs to be.” The team is being cautious with McCaffrey in some ways, evidenced by him missing practice on Wednesday, but it’s clear he’s a major part of their plans.
How's Christian McCaffrey doing? Coach Ron Rivera told me CMC's back is a little sore, but he is doing just fine. He did not practice yesterday, but Rivera said that the "Wednesday off day" is the new norm for CMC #keeppounding pic.twitter.com/h9voFjbyEA
— Tiffany Blackmon (@tiffblackmon) October 10, 2019
Admittedly, McCaffrey’s chances on paper to pull this off look pretty good. If he stays healthy — and that’s a big if, although he hasn’t missed a game in his two-plus years in the NFL — he’ll likely get enough touches to have a shot.
But it’s not enough just to be healthy, or to get enough touches. You also have to produce every single week. That’s why Adrian Peterson in 2012 is the only running back since 2009 to come close to Johnson’s record. And even then, Peterson fell nearly 200 yards short.
So for now, I still think the smart money says “No” to McCaffrey breaking the record. But reassess after his rematch with Tampa Bay. If that goes well, it could be worth your while to bet “Yes.”