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2021 NFL Preview: Records Are Made to Be Broken

NFL Injury Report: Derrick Henry

Which single-season records might fall as the NFL moves to a 17-game regular-season schedule?

With the introduction of a 17th game, it’s entirely possible that 2021 could serve as a record-setting season in the NFL. For example, Michael Thomas’ receptions record (149), which he set only two seasons ago, seems like a prime candidate to be rewritten. That’s not to say every single-season record is in danger (Pro Football Hall of Famer George Blanda threw 42 interceptions in 14 games in 1962!), but another game with which to pile up the stats increases the likelihood that we’ll see history made in 2021. Let’s take a look at seven prestigious marks and assess whether the current record-holder should be nervous this season or not.

Passing Yards

Current Record: 5,477 yards
(Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos, 2013)
2020 NFL Leader: 4,823 yards
(Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans)
Throwing for 5,000 yards was a major milestone when Dan Marino first reached it in 1984, but quarterbacks have done that 11 times since 2008. In fact, five quarterback seasons (Drew Brees, four; Tom Brady, one) would have been on pace to break Manning’s record, if given a 17th game. This record will fall soon.
Who Could Break the Record: Patrick Mahomes

Passing Touchdowns

Current Record: 55
(Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos, 2013)
2020 NFL Leader: 48
(Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers)
Three quarterbacks (Rodgers, Tom Brady and Russell Wilson) reached 40 touchdowns in 2020, but the latter two reached exactly that mark. The league is becoming increasingly pass-happy, so this record remains slightly more attainable but still difficult to reach. Even Patrick Mahomes’ 50 scores in 2018 were not quite on Manning’s pace.
Who Could Break the Record: Russell Wilson

Related: NFL's All-Time Passing Touchdowns Leaders

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Rushing Yards

Current Record: 2,105 yards
(Eric Dickerson, Los Angeles Rams, 1984)
2020 NFL Leader: 2,027 yards
(Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans)
Averaging 126.7 rushing yards per game last season, Henry would have eclipsed Dickerson’s mark had he played a 17-game slate. Workhorse running backs are becoming obsolete, but Henry has averaged 340 rushing attempts over the last two seasons. As long as he stays healthy, King Henry is very much a threat to surpass Dickerson. Topping O.J. Simpson’s season record of 143.1 yards per game is another story.
Who Could Break the Record: Derrick Henry

Receiving Yards

Current Record: 1,964 yards
(Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions, 2012)
2020 NFL Leader: 1,535 yards (Stefon Diggs, Buffalo Bills)
Megatron owns this record by nearly 100 yards; only Julio Jones in 2015 would have been on pace to top his record, if given an extra game. This record is much more in play than Jerry Rice’s career mark (22,895 yards), but it will take a special player with very little competition for touches to break Johnson’s mark, let alone break 2,000.
Who Could Break the Record: DeAndre Hopkins

Total Touchdowns

Current Record: 31
(LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego Chargers, 2006)
2020 NFL Leader: 21 (Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints)
Fantasy owners will never forget LT’s magical 2006 season, and it may be a while before someone challenges his record, too. Kamara, Todd Gurley II (21, 2018), David Johnson (20, 2016) and LeSean McCoy (20, 2011) are the only players to reach 20 this decade. If anyone can score nearly two touchdowns per game, it will need to be a pass-catching running back.
Who Could Break the Record: Christian McCaffrey

Sacks

Current Record: 22.5
(Michael Strahan, New York Giants, 2001)
2020 NFL Leader: 15.0 (T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers)
Players have gotten within three sacks of Strahan’s mark nine times this decade, including Justin Houston falling a half-sack short in 2014. And five of those players are still active. This record is bound to fall soon, like Brett Favre when he helped Strahan set it in 2001.
Who Could Break the Record: Myles Garrett

Interceptions

Current Record: 14
(Dick “Night Train” Lane, Los Angeles Rams, 1952)
2020 NFL Leader: 10 (Xavien Howard, Miami Dolphins)
Lane’s record comes from 1952, when teams completed 46.3 percent of their passes with 7.4 percent of them getting picked off. In 2020, teams completed 65.2 percent of their passes with only 2.2 percent intercepted. It’s just a different game today. Howard was the first player to reach double-digit picks since Antonio Cromartie in 2007 (10), so it will take an extreme outlier season — with opponents continuing to target the player — for this record to fall, even with an extra game.
Who Could Break the Record: Xavien Howard