NFC's small sample size all-stars

Randall Cobb could have a breakout season if he gets the playing time at wide receiver. Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Statisticians know that for numbers to truly mean something, you need to have a large sample. That's as true in sports as anywhere else. The numbers of a running back with 300 carries probably give a more accurate picture of that player's ability than the numbers of a running back with 30 carries.

A guy who looks like a great pass-rusher in 10 snaps per game may not look as good with 50 snaps. However, a strong performance with a small sample size can sometimes point to a player destined to be more valuable with more playing time. To give two examples: Miles Austin caught just 13 balls in 2008 but had 21.4 yards per reception; Arian Foster had 4.8 yards per carry on 54 carries at the end of the 2009 season. So who are the next Austins and Fosters?

Here's a list of eight NFC players who deserve more playing time based on their performance in 2011:

Matt Flynn, QB, Seattle Seahawks

Flynn signed a three-year, $19.5 million contract with Seattle based on two starts, one in 2010 and one in 2011. His Week 17 game against the Lions will go down in the Small Sample Size Hall of Fame: 31-for-44, 480 yards, six touchdowns and one interception. In the Football Outsiders' play-by-play breakdown, that was worth 268 DYAR (defense-adjusted yards above replacement, explained here), the third-highest total of any single game by a quarterback in 2011. Bad quarterbacks simply don't have games that good, even as flukes.