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NFL Record Watch: Week 9

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There are a slew of records ready for the taking in the NFL, so much so that I decided to save space and not even include Jimmy Graham, who is on pace to break yardage, reception and touchdown records for a tight end in a single season, if only because they're all one-man races. So here are some other up-for grab records as we reach the midway point of the NFL season (it's a short intro because there are a lot of them):

Most passing yards in a season: Dan Marino - 5,084 (1984)

Threatening to match Marino's 317.75 yards per game:

  • Drew Brees: 2,746 yards, 343 per game (8 games)
  • Aaron Rodgers: 2,372 yards, 339 per game (7 games)
  • Tom Brady: 2,361 yards, 337 per game (7 games)
  • Eli Manning: 2,127 yards, 304 per game (7 games)
  • Cam Newton: 2,393 yards, 299 per game (8 games)
  • Ben Roethlisberger: 2,302 yards, 288 per game (8 games)
  • The first five names on the list all have more yards than Marino did through as many games when he set the all-time yards record. And Roethlisberger isn't too far behind either. The most important number is the average, though, and because Marino collected more than 1,200 yards in his final three games, it'll be hard for the guys lower on the list to stay in the discussion. Still, this is easily the most likely record to fall, as the three guys at the top are having unprecedentedly awesome seasons. Pace isn't everything, but Brees, Rodgers and Brady are all in position to annihilate Marino's mark; Brees alone is has 356 more yards than Marino did through eight weeks, meaning he has almost an entire game's worth of breathing room to work with. The big three all face formidable defenses this week, as Brees faces the Bucs, Rodgers faces the Chargers and Brady faces the Giants.
Most completions in a season: Peyton Manning - 450 (2010)

Threatening to match Manning's 28.13 completions per game:

  • Drew Brees: 242 completions, 30 per game (8 games)
  • Although there are a plethora of quarterbacks having excellent seasons, Brees is surprisingly the only one in the ballpark of Manning's completion record. (And it speaks to Manning's greatness that last year was considered a down year for him, and it was still an historic one. Honestly, who even knew he set this record last year?) Brees has a whopping 58 completion lead over the next man on the list, Tom Brady, and he has 14 more than Manning did through eight games last year. With all the records he's in the running for, it's not impossible we could look back at Drew Brees' 2011 campaign as the greatest statistical season in NFL history. So long as the Packers don't finish undefeated, and the Saints make the postseason, it's impossible to think he isn't the front-runner to win the MVP. (Oh, and he's also going to break the pass attempts record, also set by Manning last year, but no one cares about that record.)
Highest completion percentage in a season: Drew Brees - 70.623% (2009)

Threatening to match Brees' completion percentage:

  • Aaron Rodgers: 71.55% (7 games)
  • Drew Brees: 70.55% (8 games)
  • Both Rodgers and Brees are in the ballpark, but this could be a harder nut to crack than the others. It's easy to see the accumulation records falling, but with completion percentage, Rodgers and Brees have to be more or less perfect the rest of the way. Still, the chance that yet another record is within Brees' grasp is daunting. But we shouldn't overlook Rodgers. He's currently leading the league in touchdowns, and while he isn't a serious challenger to Brady's 50-touchdown masterpiece in 2007, he too has a chance to establish one of the greatest years in history -- especially if the Packers win the Super Bowl again.
Highest passer rating in a season: Peyton Manning - 121.1 (2004)

Threatening to match Manning's passer rating:

  • Aaron Rodgers: 125.7 passer rating (7 games)
  • In an age where most of the major quarterback records are held by either current players or the recently-departed (Brees, Brady, Manning, Favre), it only makes sense for Rodgers to get in on the act. But if setting the completion percentage record is like juggling a chainsaw, setting the passer rating record is like juggling a chainsaw, on top of a motorcycle, over a flaming shark tank. The passer rating is disproportionately harsh against interceptions, and Rodgers is ahead of the pace because of an incredible 20-to-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio. However, just one measly interception could ruin everything. He's more than qualified to break the record, but it'll take another nine great games to make it happen.
Most touchdown receptions in a season: Randy Moss - 23 (2007)

Threatening to match Moss' 1.44 touchdowns per game:

  • Calvin Johnson: 11 touchdowns (8 games)
  • If anyone was born to break this record, it's Calvin Johnson. Megatron has as many touchdowns through eight games as Moss did when he set the record, and with the Lions fighting to stay in the playoff picture, there's no reason why he shouldn't continue to see an abundance of looks in the end zone. However, where Moss had someone like Wes Welker to deflect coverage away from him, the Lions are without a true No. 2 receiver. Brandon Pettigrew, Nate Burleson and Titus Young are nice players, but none of them will distract defenses from double- or even triple-teaming Johnson on every future possibility. The Lions' second-leading receiver was running back Jahvid Best, but he's battling a concussion and is uncertain to return at all in the foreseeable future. As hard as it is to doubt the ruler of the Decepticons, we may have to it means producing 12 touchdowns in eight games without a legitimate second receiving option.
Most receptions in a season: Marvin Harrison - 143 (2002)

Threatening to match Harrison's 8.94 receptions per game:

  • Wes Welker: 57 receptions (7 games)
  • Welker has only one less reception through seven games than Harrison had when he set the catch record, and it's only fitting a record involving Peyton Manning could be broken by someone involved with Tom Brady. Still, 143 receptions is a lot of receptions, and as incredible a season as Welker's already having, he'd have to substantially improve his production to keep pace; Harrison, after all, had 85 receptions in the final nine games of 2002. No tears would be shed if Harrison lost the record, since there's a decent chance he could be a murderer off the field (which is as odd to write as it is to read), and Welker once had 123 receptions in a year where he only played 14 games, so he's equipped to come close if nothing else.
Most receiving yards in a season: Jerry Rice - 1,848 (1995)

Threatening to match Rice's 115.5 receiving yards per game:

  • Steve Smith: 918 yards (8 games)
  • Wes Welker: 824 yards (7 games)
  • Calvin Johnson: 804 yards (8 games)
  • Mike Wallace: 800 yards (8 games)
  • To appreciate the pace Welker was on to obliterate Rice's record, consider this. He had only 84 receiving yards combined in his last two weeks, and if he produced zero receiving yards in Week 9, he would still have more yards through as many games as Rice did in his record-setting season -- as would Steve Smith, Calvin Johnson and Mike Wallace. Not that Welker's small outings didn't hurt. He's still on pace to break the record, but the leader in the clubhouse is now the Panthers' Steve Smith, who has easily the best chance to do it considering there'll be no point resting Cam Newton in final weeks, while Welker, Johnson and Wallace may not have their regular starting quarterbacks in Week 17. Also, this a record where it pays to be well ahead of Rice at all times. In Week 16 of the '95 season, Rice exploded for 289 yards, so if anyone is going to surpass him, they'll need a comfortable, comfortable lead coming into the final weeks of the year.
Most receptions by a running back in a season: LaDainian Tomlinson - 100 (2003)

Threatening to match Tomlinson's 6.25 receptions per game:

  • Darren Sproles: 51 receptions (8 games)
  • There would be a lot of parallels to L.T.'s record-setting year if Sproles were to surpass him. It was Sproles, after all, who was supposed to succeed Tomlinson as the Chargers' feature running back long ago, but that never happened. Instead, Sproles could wind up breaking the receptions record in New Orleans, with Drew Brees as his quarterback, who was L.T.'s quarterback when he set the record. Sproles is second in the league in receptions, and with Brees behind him there's no reason to doubt him. Still, it's a hell of a pace to be on for someone whose career high in receptions was 59 coming into the year, so we'll have to see if he can sustain through the remaining eight games.
Most wins by a team in a season: New England Patriots - 16 (2007)

Threatening to match the Patriots' perfect season:

  • Green Bay Packers: 7-0
  • They're an excellent team to be sure, but with only an average running game at best, they're due for a slip-up somewhere down the road. After all, the '07 Patriots got appreciably worse as the season went along, but they were still able to win because of how high a level they were coming down from. The Packers may be good, but if Rodgers falls back to his average in the second half of a year, 16-0 might be impossible. However, there's no sense pointing out that they're in the running, and while gauging a team's strength of schedule is risky when the year's only half over, the Packers have a very cushy schedule the rest of the way. They have a big challenge on Sunday against the San Diego Chargers, and if they win, maybe their biggest remaining obstacle will have been dealt with. After Week 9, the Packers' hardest games are outings in Detroit, New York (Giants), and Kansas City, tough teams to be sure. But that's as kind a remaining nine games as the Packers could possibly see, especially with the Lions, Giants and Chiefs banged up. If they beat San Diego, it won't be inappropriate to at least discuss if they can go 16-0.
Most losses by a team in a season: Detroit Lions - 16 (2008)

Threatening to match the Lions' imperfect season:

  • Miami Dolphins: 0-7
  • Indianapolis Colts: 0-8
  • When the Lions went 0-16, they truly looked like the worst team of all time. They were a bad team at the start of the year, and then they got hurt. The wheels spun off, and it wasn't just that they lost, they lost big in every game they played. They had to be several levels below every team in the league to get a record that awful, and as bad as the Dolphins may be, their near-win against the Giants last week lends hope that they'll steal a win at some point. The Colts, with a 62-7 loss on their resume, may be closer to what those Lions were than the Dolphins, but they're in a much easier AFC South division, while the Dolphins are in the hopeless situation of being in the same division as the Pats, Jets and Bills. The Colts play the Falcons while the Dolphins face the Chiefs this week, so it'd be a surprise if either squad pulled out a W. Of course, with Andrew Luck on the horizon, if there was a ever a year to swallow pride and go 0-16, this was the year. So that may give additional incentive for there to be more curious Brandon Marshall running-out-of-bounds-for-no-reason type plays.