With just three weeks left, let’s take a look around the league and see what records are in jeopardy of falling down the stretch. Obviously, with an extra game on the schedule, single-season records will be threatened regularly.
1. Most passing yards
Peyton Manning’s 5,477 in 2013 broke Drew Brees’s 5,476 from 2011. It felt like that record might change hands a few more times, but it has hung around for about a decade at this point. Patrick Mahomes currently leads the league in passing with 4,496, a mere 981 behind Manning. Okay, it’s a big number, but the pace Mahomes is on (321 yards per game) would get him darn close to the record (5,459).
Mahomes gets Seattle, Denver, and Las Vegas to end the year. Seattle ranks in the middle of the pack in passing yards per game while Denver is one of the best, ranking fifth in the league. However, Vegas is one of the worst teams against the pass this year and in a game where the Chiefs will likely still be fighting it out for the number one seed… against a division rival… I think Mahomes has a chance.
Prediction: Record Breaker
2. Most receiving yards
Calvin Johnson’s record of 1,964 from 2012 has held up against a number of threats, including last year during Cooper Kupp’s amazing triple crown season. Justin Jefferson sits well within striking distance at 1,623. Jefferson’s current pace of 116 yards per game would top Megatron’s record by 6 yards. What’s more, he’d only need slightly above his current pace to be the first receiver over the 2,000-yard mark.
The Vikings finish with the Giants, Packers, and the Bears. Both the Giants and the Bears rank in the middle of the league in passing yards per game allowed while the Packers are quite stingy, mainly due to their inept run defense. The biggest hindrance to Jefferson getting the record might be their head coach. Kevin O’Connell said earlier this week he’d consider resting players down the stretch to keep them fresh for the playoffs. That could certainly impact Jefferson’s chances.
3. Yards per punt
Okay, so maybe not everyone is interested in this record, but this is pretty dang fascinating. The record for yards per punt in a single season is held by Sammy Baugh from the 1940 season at 51.4 yards per punt. Now, let’s put aside your doubts about just how good Sammy Baugh could’ve possibly been at punting the ball and take that record at face value. Would you believe that the 82-year-old record might be broken twice in the same season?
Ryan Stonehouse of the Titans currently leads the way with a ridiculous 53.6 yards per punt average while Tommy Townsend averages an amazing 51.8 for the Chiefs. Both of these guys are absolute cheat codes in the punting game with the ability to regularly flip the field. They’ve both been given enough greenspace to boom enough rockets to maintain an incredibly high average and haven’t had that mark hurt by too many pooch punts. You have to admit that an 82-year-old record getting broken twice in the same year would be pretty cool.
Prediction: Definitely a goner
TJ Watt tied the official record last season with a fantastic 22.5 sacks. He tied a player that was gifted a sack by a certain Mississippi swindler so in my book, the record is Watt’s. It sure seems safe at this point as Joey Bosa, the current leader, is seven takedowns behind Watt. Bosa’s 49ers play the Commanders, Raiders, and Cardinals to close out the year. Washington and Arizona are giving up three sacks per game and the Raiders average only two. Bosa would need to grab that many for himself to get there. Still, there’s at least an outside chance here for the likely Defensive Player of the Year.
5. Adjusted yards per attempt
Tua Tagovailoa leads the league in many of the efficiency passing categories this year (wow, so having two dynamic pass catchers DOES help!) so let’s check in on where his league leading AY/A current sits after a couple of down games. Let’s see, 9.31 – still pretty good but that’s OMG, SID LUCKMAN! Our guy Luckman is still sitting pretty at 10.96 in 1943. I don’t see that going anywhere, folks.
Would you care to hear another record that’s not going anywhere? Luckman’s TD percentage from that year weighs in at a whopping 13.9% of his passes. The ceiling for active players like Rodgers and Mahomes in this era has been around 9%. Just a friendly reminder when you hear people say the Bears have never had a quarterback that they most certainly did. It’s just been a hot minute.
Prediction: Forget about it
6. Game winning drives
This is maybe a bit of an odd quarterback stat but we’ve got Kirk Cousins chasing down one Mr. Matthew Stafford from the 2016 Lions season - do you like that? The key to this statistic is your team needs to play in a lot of close, one-score games and boy have the Vikings delivered on that this year! Cousins has seven game winning drives on the year – I’m sure you’ve heard plenty about them from that neighbor wearing purple and gold all fall – one behind Stafford’s record of eight. The Vikings, as mentioned above, finish with the Giants, Packers, and Bears. Kirk may not have the chance to bring the Vikings back late in those games if they’re protecting a lead but don’t underestimate how bad this Vikings defense is this year!
Prediction: I think he ties it
7. Worst. Playoff. Team. Ever.
Washington rolled into the 2020 playoffs winning the NFC East with a sub-.500 record at 7-9. Could the representative from the NFC South have a worse record? The Buccaneers currently lead this division, as it were, with a 6-8 record. All three of the other teams in the division are somehow alive with identical 5-9 records. The Bucs hold the cards as they play the, well, the Cards, Panthers, and Falcons to close the year. Two wins should net them the division and an 8-9 record that would be slightly better than the 7-9 mark from Washington in ‘20.
But could we get a 10-loss playoff team?
I’ll admit, at this point I want it. I’m cheering for chaos. What makes you believe the Bucs won’t just continue to fade? Why not the Panthers in the playoffs, who fired their coach at mid-season? Or the Saints, who mortgaged their future for this year with Andy Dalton slinging the pill? Maybe you’re ready for the Desmond Ridder experience in the playoffs? I say why not? Let’s go, NFC South, give us something truly wild!
8. Eagles Flying High
Not a league record but we are almost certainly looking at the best regular season for the Philadelphia Eagles. Despite losing Jalen Hurts after their win against the Bears for at least a short time, the Eagles have already tied their franchise best 13 wins from 2004 and 2017, not coincidentally their last two Super Bowl teams. They have three games to break their record, sew up the #1 seed, and battle through a somewhat weak NFC field on their quest to another SB appearance.
The Eagles should be a great case for where the Chicago Bears want to build their franchise in a few years. The Eagles are well built on both sides of the ball, particularly through the trenches, with depth at all levels. Their GM, Howie Roseman, never stops looking for ways to improve his team, with late-season FA signings, trades, and good drafting. It’s a good place to learn from and wouldn’t you know it, the Assistant GM, Ian Cunningham, came from the Eagles.
Prediction: 15-2 seems about right
9. Bills ‘Breaker
The 11-3 Bills are locked up in a battle for the #1 seed in the AFC with the Chiefs. The Bills own the tie-breaker with Kansas City due to the head-to-head victory. The Chiefs will almost certainly push the Bills to the finale so no extra rest days for the pre-season favorites. That puts the Bills team record of 13 wins on the line. The Bills have finished on lucky 13 three times in their history – twice on those great ‘90s teams and again back in 2020.
Buffalo finishes with the Bears, Bengals, and Belichick. With the Bears outmatched and the Patriots struggling (although never count out Belichick), this does will likely come down to a road game against the Bengals. That should be a fantastic game and one I hope we see a version of in the playoffs as well.
Prediction: Bills complete the wire-to-wire act, finish 14-3
10. Justin Freaking Fields
With 95 rushing yards on Sunday, Justin Fields became just the third quarterback in league history to rush for 1,000 yards in a single season. Lamar Jackson has two such seasons with the record of 1,206 and another at 1,005. Michael Vick’s 2006 sits in second place, for now, with 1,039.
In a year where there hasn’t been a whole lot to cheer for, this sure feels like a nice fat silver lining. I’d love to see Fields etch his name in the record book here. He’s already on the record for saying he’d like to take the top spot – and then never rush this often again. He knows this isn’t where he wants to be long term, but why not grab the brass ring when you’re this close?
Those are my thoughts, what are yours? Hit the comments or find me on Twitter @gridironborn.