But not all players can be judged strictly off what shows up on the stat sheet.
Some positions are more difficult than others to judge when it comes to success or impact, but none may be more difficult to size up than the players down in the trenches.
That’s exactly where you’ll find Vince Wilfork on just about every down each week.
Wilfork has been an integral piece of the Patriots’ defensive success for nine seasons now, yet his impact can’t exactly be broken down into totals and averages. His value goes far deeper than any set of numbers could ever show — well, any number but one.
“Obviously, the biggest stat we’re concerned with is winning. I think you can definitely say that Vince helps us win every week,” Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said. “That’s really what we’re trying to do, and that’s what we’re trying to work for as a defense: to get better.”
Since Bill Belichick drafted Wilfork at No. 21 overall — if you can believe he fell that far — in 2004, the Patriots have been nearly unbeatable. As of Week 14 of this season, New England has won 110 of its 141 games in the nine seasons since selecting Wilfork. That staggering number means that, with Wilfork on the roster, the Patriots win better than 78 percent of the time, and the big lineman has had more than just some small part of that record.
The Patriots clinched their 10th consecutive 10-win season Monday night. In nine of those seasons, Wilfork has had a central role. This season has been no different, as was evidenced by Wilfork’s massive role in Monday’s 42-14 romp over the AFC-leading Texans.
This season, even more than any other, has been Wilfork’s masterpiece. He has been a monster on the interior, completely dominating opposing offensive linemen week after week. Even more importantly, his consistent, steadying presence along the line has helped the Patriots improve from one of the worst defenses in football at season’s start to a well-respected and even feared group heading into the home stretch.
So, while guys like J.J. Watt, Aldon Smith and even the Bengals’ Geno Atkins are all deserving of their place in the defensive player of the year conversation, Wilfork belongs there, too. His dominance may not be quantified in stats quite like the others’ are, but Wilfork’s had just as much, if not more, of an impact on the Patriots as any other player in football. Give the man his due!
Tom Brady, QB, Patriots: UP — If you didn’t hear the MVP cheers coming from the stands at Gillette Stadium on Monday night, at least now you realize how worthy he is.
Houston Texans: Down — Talk about an “a– whipping.” The Texans got to see what it felt like firsthand Monday night. Now, we’ll find out whether they’re a legitimate contender or just your seasonal pretender.
Nick Foles, QB, Eagles: UP — After a trio of disappointing outings to start his NFL career, Foles showed exactly what he’s capable of in a last-second win.
Ken Whisenhunt, head coach, Cardinals: Down — It’s not Wiz’s fault that he can’t find a healthy quarterback to lead his bunch, but a 58-0 loss is just about the worst result possible when you’re fighting for your job. Hey, Ken, there’s the door.
Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings: UP — Peterson gained more than 100 yards for the seventh straight game, and now he’s got his eyes set on Eric Dickerson‘s single-season rushing yards record.
Drew Brees, QB, Saints: Down — A week after throwing five interceptions against a divisional rival, you follow up with a two-pick performance? What gives?