Can Justin Houston become the first player to lead the NFL in sacks in back-to-back seasons since Reggie White in 1987 and '88?
Recent history suggests the Kansas City Chiefs pass rusher, who landed a monster long-term deal this week after collecting a league-high 22 sacks in 2014, will have a tough time pacing his peers for a second consecutive campaign. Each of the past five seasons has featured a new leader in the category; over the past 10 seasons, only DeMarcus Ware (2010, 2008) and Jared Allen (2011, 2007) finished on top more than once.
Of course, statistical dominance isn't everything; the best players aren't always the most prolific. But it does tell you something.
As training camp nears, I thought I'd try predicting the leaders of nine key statistical categories in the 2015 season. Again, the names below aren't necessarily the best, as opportunity and other circumstances can play a huge role in determining a player's final numbers.
Passing yards: Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
Will finish with: 5,100 passing yards.
Luck passed for 939 more yards and 17 more touchdowns in 2014 than he did in 2013 -- a huge jump. And that was without free-agent signee Andre Johnson or rookie Phillip Dorsett on the field. Indy's defense isn't great, meaning this pass-happy offense should end up in a fair amount of shootouts. The fact that the Colts will play 10 games in roofed stadiums (eight home games in Lucas Oil Stadium, plus one in Houston and one in Atlanta) and another four in warm-weather locales (at Tennessee, Carolina, Jacksonville and Miami) should only help Luck rack up the yardage.
Passing touchdowns: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Will finish with: 40 passing touchdowns.
Over the past four seasons, Rodgers has completed more regular-season touchdown passes (139) than anyone but Drew Brees -- and the Packers QB is entering 2015 with a stacked receiving corps. He'll have at his disposal three wideouts -- Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams -- who can score from anywhere on the field, while tight ends Richard Rodgers and Andrew Quarless and running backs Eddie Lacy and James Starks can also get involved in the passing game. This should be a high-scoring offense, and many of the scores should come from Rodgers' right arm.
Rushing yards: Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
Will finish with: 1,625 rushing yards.
I expect Peterson to have a big year in his return to the field. I don't worry about the 30-year-old's age, as he looks to be in marvelous shape. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner likes to run the ball just about as much as he likes to pass it; don't forget that, while they wait for their new home stadium to be completed, the Vikings will play their home games outside again this season, in conditions that favor the ground game. Peterson seems to be out to prove himself, and I think he'll succeed emphatically.
Rushing touchdowns: C.J. Anderson, Denver Broncos
Will finish with: 16 rushing touchdowns.
New coach Gary Kubiak loves to run the ball down by the goal line. Last season, when Kubiak was offensive coordinator in Baltimore, the Ravenstied for fifth in rushing touchdowns with 16; under Kubiak's direction in Houston, Arian Foster led the NFL in ground scores twice (with 16 in 2010 and 15 in 2012). Meanwhile, the Broncos' leader in touchdowns last season -- tight end Julius Thomas, who grabbed 12 touchdown passes for the second straight year -- is gone, having signed on in Jacksonville. Denver, which tied the Packers for the most total touchdowns in 2014 (58), should continue to have plenty of scoring opportunities, but I expect more of those chances to go to Anderson, who carried the ball across the goal line eight times despite starting just seven games.
Receiving yards: Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers
Will finish with: 1,700 receiving yards.
2014 rank: No. 1, with 1,698 receiving yards.
With suspended running back Le'Veon Bellset to miss three games to start the season, the Steelers should lean even more heavily on Brown in the early going. He's got a strong-armed quarterback throwing him the ball and a proclivity for picking up yards after the catch, meaning last year's receiving yards leader has a good shot to repeat in 2015. He can catch short, medium or long passes, over the middle or anywhere, and is very hard to stop. Pittsburgh does have promising receiving talent in Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant, but Brown is the man right now.
Receiving touchdowns: Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions
Will finish with: 14 receiving touchdowns.
Megatron -- who missed three games last season -- obviously needs to stay healthy, but if he does, the savvy veteran can pile up six-pointers with the best of them. He can leap and catch in the end zone or break off big scoring plays from a distance. Detroit doesn't have a great running game, and Johnson should have plenty of chances, even with Golden Tate coming off his first 1,000-yard campaign.
Sacks: Robert Quinn, DE, St. Louis Rams
Will finish with: 19 sacks.
Quinn went without a sack his first five games last season -- and he still finished with 10.5. This will be Quinn's second season under coordinator Gregg Williams and his second working with rising youngster Aaron Donald, whose run-stuffing prowess should give Quinn more opportunities to bring down the quarterback. If I had more faith in Jadeveon Clowney, I'd put J.J. Watt here, but at this point, Clowney is too much of a question mark.
Interceptions: Joe Haden, CB, Cleveland Browns
Will finish with: Seven interceptions.
Production at defensive back is extremely difficult to predict. That said, the addition of rookie Danny Shelton and the return of injured lineman Phil Taylor will make it hard for opponents to run against the Browns, meaning opponents will wind up passing more -- leading to more chances for Haden. He's a skilled cornerback, a very good player who should be able to capitalize, especially in Cleveland, where the ball tends to hang late in the year.
Tackles: Luke Kuechly, MLB, Carolina Panthers
Will finish with: 155 tackles.
2014 rank: No. 1, with 153 tackles.
Kuechly plays every down on defense; he doesn't come out for any situation, whether it's first-and-goal or fourth-and-20. Remarkably, many of his 153 tackles last season came within 2 yards of the line of scrimmage, which is what you want in a linebacker. He possesses good reaction ability, whether he's defending the run or the pass; he knows the play before the offense calls it. He's kind of like Brian Urlacher in his prime, only better.