Inflation, like a certain QB, on the rise

demigod1987 from Sheboygan, Wisc., has a request.

"Could you do a post showing the inflation of passing numbers over the last decade or so?" he writes. "The same argument keeps coming up in the blog regarding how great Alex Smith's numbers were compared to QBs from the past."

2000-2011 NFL Passing Per Game

Happy to oblige, demigod1987.

The chart, built from data available at Pro Football Reference, shows team averages per game for familiar passing stats since 2000.

I've shaded figures ranking in the top 50 percent within each column. Nineteen of the 25 shaded figures fall since 2007.

That affirms what we already knew about the NFL: passing is proliferating. I'm not sure it tells us much about Smith relative to other quarterbacks (someone should ask Smith what he thinks about yards per game, come to think of it). The 49ers' pass offense averaged 183.1 yards and 28.2 attempts last season. The team averaged 7.1 yards per attempt. Its NFL passer rating was 91.4.

The league-wide uptick in passing accelerated beginning in 2007. That year, the NFL made illegal contact and defensive holding points of emphasis. Penalties for those infractions have actually fallen, and rather sharply. But passing stats, like Smith last season, have been on the rise.