A group of seven players is sacking quarterbacks like never before. With Michael Strahan’s single-season sack record in jeopardy, 2008 is beginning to look like the year of the sack.


Approx. 4:50 p.m. ET: Dolphins linebacker Joey Porter takes down Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler two yards short of the line of scrimmage on a third-and-eight. Give Porter 11.5 sacks in the season’s first eight games. In nine seasons, Porter’s career high to this point was 10.5.

Approx. 4:50 p.m. ET: Falcons defensive end John Abraham breaks through and sacks Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell, forcing a fumble in the process.

Approx. 5:10 p.m. ET: Abraham takes down a scrambling Russell at the line of scrimmage for his second sack.

Approx. 5:30 p.m. ET: Abraham tackles Russell for an eight-yard loss as the first half comes to an end. Give him three sacks on the day and 10 on the season, three short of his career high from 2001.

Approx. 6:15 p.m. ET: Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware joins the blitz on Giants quarterback Eli Manning, taking him down while forcing a fumble. Ware has his 10th sack of the year and 24th in 23 games.

Three players. A combined 31.5 sacks in 25 games.

Porter’s on pace to register 23 sacks, which would break Michael Strahan’s all-time single-season record of 22.5. Abraham is on pace to pick up 20 sacks. Two played with 20-plus sacks? That’s happened only once in the history of the league.

Of course, the NFL didn’t officially tally sacks as a stat until 1982, bringing the legitimacy of Strahan’s record into question. There’s been much controversy over where the records actually belong.

Deacon Jones once said, “Since when does ‘all-time’ begin in 1982?” And he’s got a point. But this is neither the time nor the place to debate that. What’s important, at least with respect to the last 27 years, is that we are halfway through the most prominent season, sack-wise, of the modern era.

Only once since 1982 has seven players recorded 15 or more sacks in a season. This year, seven — Porter, Abraham, Ware, James Harrison, Justin Tuck, Mario Williams and Lamar Woodley — are on track to pick up 15 sacks.

If things stay this way, 2008 will be the first year in which seven players will record 15 or more sacks while two will pick up 20 or more.

Four teams — Tuck’s Giants, Harrison and Woodley’s Steelers, the Jets and the Eagles — are on pace to have 50-sack seasons.

Some cite the ever-increasing emphasis on passing as a catalyst for more sacks, but that’s a misconception. In ’82, teams averaged 2.7 sacks per game. In 2007, teams averaged only 2.2.

And the overall sack totals haven’t changed. In fact, since 2002, NFL teams have averaged 36 sacks per season. This year, that number’s on pace to drop to 34. Part of that is thanks to the Tennessee Titans and Denver Broncos, who’ve given up a total of only 10 sacks in 16 combined games.

Mathematically, more pass attempts equals more sacks. Strangely, though, that hasn’t been the case in the 27 years since sacks became an official stat. Here’s a chart to better explain the phenomenon:

1982 – 1990 51.2 48.8 5.3
1991 – 1999 53.9 46.1 4.8
2000 – 2008 54.1 45.9 4.6

What we’re seeing this year is more about the cream of the crop being richer than it ever has in years past. We’re only halfway through the ’08 season, but some exceptional athletes — seven in particular — are on one hell of a tear.

Sit back and enjoy.

Week 9 one-liners

• An example of why inter-conference games don’t happen enough: In his 265th career game, Brett Favre won at Ralph Wilson Stadium for the first time on Sunday.

• With Marshawn Lynch feeling “under the weather,” Trent Edwards was forced to do it all on his own. The Bills, in turn, are becoming sloppier each week.

• Kris Jenkins continues to pay off for the Jets.

• Derek Fine’s first NFL catch was for a touchdown.

• Derek Stanley’s first NFL catch was for a touchdown, from 80 yards out.

• Shame on Ronde Barber, getting fooled by Tyler Thigpen on that Mark Bradley touchdown pass.

• Thigpen became the first quarterback to catch a touchdown pass since Drew Brees did it in 2003.

• Jeff Garcia completed 15 of his final 18 passes.

• We knew the Cardinals were turning things over to Tim Hightower, but Edgerrin James not getting a carry? Criminal.

• We’re convinced. The Cardinals are a playoff team, and not just because the NFC West is a joke.

• No. 1 reason Tennessee is money: The Titans have been in the red zone 26 times this season. They’ve scored on all 26 occasions.

• No. 2 reason Tennessee is money: The Titans have stopped the Colts and Packers on four straight fourth-down conversion attempts.

• After surrendering two sacks in their first seven games, the Titans gave up two sacks in three plays Sunday.

• The Titans are 8-0, despite the fact they’re yet to pass for over 200 yards in a single game.

• The Broncos might have won if not for a ticky-tack offensive pass interference call against Brandon Marshall.

• Dan Dierdorf summed up the Dolphins’ quarterback situation nicely: “Brett Favre was the best thing to happen to Miami.”

• Why are all the folks at Fox pronouncing Visa, “Vee-Za”? Have we and everyone we know been saying it wrong all these years?

• Must Toyota run that blasted “Saved by Zero” spot 10 times during every game? This one has to rank as one of the most annoying of all time.

• Nice to see that Matt Ryan learned from last week’s struggles.

• The Falcons and Raiders are easily two of the most up-and-down teams in the league. This week, Atlanta happened to be up, Oakland down.

• JaMarcus Russell was 2-for-9 for nine yards in the first half, worse than Earnest Graham and Mark Bradley, neither of whom are quarterbacks.

• Who knew the NFC South would be this dangerous?

• Donovan McNabb started 0-for-7 and 3-for-13, then went on to complete 12 consecutive passes and 25 of his final 30.

• That was a winnable game for the Patriots. NBC neglected to mention on the broadcast that they would have had that first down had Bill Belichick not called timeout. From there, it would’ve been first-and-goal inside the five-yard line and the game would have changed.

Blatant overreaction of the week

(The sound of fantasy owners worldwide picking up Peyton Hillis)

We’ve gone over this before. Mike Shanahan loves taking certain guys and making them into one-game stars. We can’t see Hillis, a fullback who made a surprise start, playing that big a role again this year.

Why the (New York Giants) will win Super Bowl XLIII

It wasn’t even close. Four more takeaways Sunday against the Cowboys, and the G-men have the third-best defence in the league. Amazingly, they’re on pace to record seven more sacks than they did last year, despite not having Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan.

Why the (Denver Broncos) won’t win Super Bowl XLIII

What a strange team. The defence made Miami’s offence look like the ’07 Patriots on Sunday, especially when it mattered. The AFC West is weak enough to let the Broncos walk to the playoffs, but the defence is far too weak for this team to make a run.

Team of the week: Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals finally removed the road hump from their back with a blowout win in St. Louis. The victory pretty much wraps up the NFC West. The news gets better: Arizona returns home in week 10 to face the 49ers.

Player of the week: Jonathan Joseph

Joseph was all over the place against the Jaguars, helping the Bengals win their first game of the year. The third-year corner had 15 tackles and made a big defensive play on Jacksonville’s late two-point conversion attempt to tie the game.

Setting the pace

• Drew Brees continues to be on pace to break Dan Marino’s single-season passing yards record after having the week off.

MVP Watch

As of right now, it’s impossible not to give the NFL MVP to Albert Haynesworth, who’s anchoring the perfect Titans. Kyle Vanden Bosch hasn’t been healthy for several weeks and Keith Bulluck missed a good chunk of time against Green Bay. Haynesworth has been the one constant in a defence that might go down in history.

Rookie of the Year Watch

As of right now, your offensive rookie of the year is Titans running back Chris Johnson. We’re actually considering throwing Johnson into the MVP conversation, because without him, the Titans are pretty much toast. Your defensive rookie of the year is Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo, who continues to lead all rookies in tackles.

Ray Edwards single-season sack record watch

Edwards, the little-known Vikings defensive end, said in the offseason he planned on breaking Michael Strahan’s single-season sack record of 22.5. We’ll track his progress here each week.

How ‘bout it? Edwards picked up his first solo sack of the year against the Texans, giving him 1.5 on the season.