NFL Record Watch: Which Player, Team Milestones Could Be Eclipsed in 2013?

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystOctober 9, 2013

NFL Record Watch: Which Player, Team Milestones Could Be Eclipsed in 2013?

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    We've made it through five weeks of the 2013 season, and several things have taken shape across the NFL.

    The Denver Broncos and New Orleans Saints are really good, while the New York Giants and Jacksonville Jaguars are really bad.

    We've also witnessed some fantastic individual performances in this first month, including an assault on the record books by a certain quarterback in Colorado.

    That signal-caller kicks off our look at players and teams who are on record-setting paces to start the year. 

    Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.

Peyton Manning's Assault on the Record Books

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    Through the first five weeks of the 2013 season, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning isn't just on a pace that would set a record here or there.

    At the rate Manning is chucking the ball around the field, he's going to completely re-write the record books where single-season passing is concerned.

    Manning's 20 touchdown passes through five games puts him on pace for 64, which would shatter the record of 50 set by Tom Brady of the New England Patriots in 2007.

    Manning's passer rating of 136.4 is nearly 14 points higher than the record of 122.5, set by Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers two years ago.

    The touchdown record looks to be well within Manning's grasp. Even if his pace drops a full touchdown pass per game, Manning would still throw 53 scoring strikes in 2013.

    However, that isn't to say it's a done deal that Manning will break the record. Of Denver's last 11 opponents, four (the Kansas City Chiefs twice, New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts) are allowing less than one TD pass per game this year. Three more are allowing less than two.

    Of course, none of those teams have faced Denver's offensive buzzsaw either, and with only three true "cold weather" games in November and December, Manning will avoid much of the chill that has cooled his productivity throughout his career.

    The passer rating mark may be a bit trickier. Simply put, for Manning to break Rodgers' record, he would have to post a passer rating for the season slightly higher than his single-season best (121.1 in 2004) and over 25 points higher than his career mark of 96.7.

    With games remaining at Kansas City, New England and Houston, all it would take is one poor showing for his rating to tumble.

    Manning is likely on his way to a career best in that regard, and Brady's TD mark is in serious trouble, but we wouldn't bet the rent on Manning besting Rodgers.

Most Passing Yards, Season

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    Touchdown passes and passer rating are hardly the only records that Manning is on pace to break in 2013.

    Two seasons ago, Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints broke Dan Marino's long-standing record for single-season passing yardage, throwing for 5,476 yards.

    Brees is actually on a pace that would better that mark slightly this year. The 13th-year veteran's 1,722 yards through five games extrapolates to 5,510 over 16.

    Where Brees is set to squeak past his own record, Manning is on a pace that would truly make history.

    At Manning's current clip, he would pass for 6,028 yards in 2013, becoming the first player in NFL history to cross the 6,000-yard barrier.

    It's not going to be easy. Seven of Denver's last 11 games are against teams that rank in the top 10 in the NFL in pass defense. Three of those games are against teams allowing fewer than 200 yards per game through the air.

    Denver's final 11 opponents (the Jacksonville Jaguars, Indianapolis Colts, Washington Redskins, San Diego Chargers twice, Kansas City Chiefs twice, New England Patriots, Tennessee Titans, Houston Texans and Oakland Raiders) average 231 passing yards allowed per game.

    That average would leave Manning with 4,425 yards, a fine season but well short of the record.

    However, Manning is no average quarterback, so let's split the difference between that 231 yards and the 376 yards that Manning is averaging.

    That's 303.5 yards per game, or 3,338 yards the rest of the way. Add the 1,884 yards that Manning already has, and we're left with 5,222 yards.

    In other words, the record is well within Manning's grasp.

    Don't sleep on Brees either. He's the only man to throw for more than 5,000 yards more than once, he plays his home games indoors, and the Saints have been known to throw the ball occasionally.

Highest Completion Percentage, Season

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    New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees holds the record for the highest single-season completion percentage, connecting on 71.2 percent of his throws in 2011.

    That mark is in serious trouble through five games in 2013. Three signal-callers are on a pace that would break that record, including Manning:

    1. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos: 75.8 percent 
    2. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers: 73.8 percent 
    3. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys: 71.8 percent

    Of the trio, Manning and Romo would appear to be in the best position to make a serious run at Brees.

    For starters, while Manning and Romo's career completion percentages are over 65 percent, Rivers has only accomplished that feat twice in a season, and not since 2010.

    Romo has the highest single-year completion percentage of the bunch (69.5 in 2010), and the 33-year-old has the advantages of playing his home games indoors and playing in an NFC East that's woefully short on defense this year.

    However, Romo's Cowboys aren't as good as Manning's Broncos, which could lead Romo into more close games where he's forced to take risks with the football.

    Throw in the four-point lead that Manning is already staked to and the best cadre of receivers in the NFL, and once again it's Captain Commercial who has the best shot at making history in 2013.

    This is just getting annoying.

Most Points, Season

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    Yep, more Manning.

    The New England Patriots set the record for single-season points scored with 589 during their undefeated season in 2007.

    At this rate, the Denver Broncos will break that record with a couple of games to spare.

    Not only does Denver's 46 points per game put the Broncos on pace for an eye-popping 736 points this season, but that would also represent over a touchdown-per-game increase over the NFL record for points per game (38.8, by the 1950 Los Angeles Rams).

    With that said, over 45 points per game, every game, is a breakneck pace, even for the Broncos.

    The Broncos have four games left against teams who rank in the top five in the NFL in points allowed. That includes two games with the Kansas City Chiefs, who are allowing an NFL-low 11.6 points per contest.

    Denver's remaining opponents allow an average of 21.2 points per game, a pace that would leave the Broncos well short of history.

    Split the difference (33.6 points in each of their remaining games), and we're left with a season total of 570, knocking on New England's door.

    This record could come down to the following questions.

    How long will the Broncos keep their foot to the floor?

    Will inclement weather force a shift in offensive philosophy?

    If Denver clinches home field early, will the starters sit?

Most Receiving Yards by a Tight End, Season

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    The record for receiving yards in a season by a tight end is 1,327, set by Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots two years ago.

    Jimmy Graham of the New Orleans Saints appears set to lay waste to Gronkowski's record.

    Graham is averaging over 118 receiving yards per game this year. Not only is he the NFL's top tight end through five games, but he's also the NFL's leading receiver at any position.

    At this rate, Graham would tally 1,897 yards, good for the second-best single season by any receiver in NFL history.

    There really isn't any reason to expect a slow-down either. Graham has had at least 100 yards in his last four games. Graham is the top option in one of the most prolific passing attacks in the NFL, and so far defenses have essentially been powerless to stop him.

    Unless Jimmy Graham gets hurt, this record is toast.

Worst Point Differential, Season

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    So far, every record we've discussed is something for a team or player to be proud of. However, there are some records that NFL teams would really rather not have.

    In 1976, the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers were outscored by an eye-popping 287 points. When former head coach John McKay was asked about their execution, he said, "I'm in favor of it."

    Believe it or not, there are not one but two teams challenging the Buccaneers' "achievement" in 2013.

    The New York Giants, who were picked by many to win the NFC East this year, are on a pace that would see them outscored by 320 points. However, as bad as the Giants are, it's unlikely that pace will keep up.

    Yes, the Giants are terrible. The rest of the NFC East isn't a whole lot better, though, and as awful as the Giants are on defense, they still have plenty of offensive talent and a two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

    Two of New York's losses are by a combined score of 69-7. It skews the differential. The Giants may be hard-pressed to win five games, but they'll be in their fair share of them.

    That brings us to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

    The Jaguars are bad on a level that defies description. They rank dead last in points per game (10.2), and 31st in points allowed (32.6). The Jaguars can't run the ball, throw the ball or stop opponents from doing either.

    The Jaguars are on a pace that would see them outscored by a staggering 358 points in 2013. That differential is only going to get worse after this week's game at Denver. Two weeks after that, they "host" the 49ers in London.

    They may just want to stay overseas, because the 2013 Jaguars are well on their way to claiming the title of the worst team in NFL history.

    One last thing. The 1976 Buccaneers, by the way, didn't win a game.

Most Sacks, Season

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    It's just about an annual rite of passage for someone to make a run at Michael Strahan's single-season sack record of 22.5. 

    Good. Someone needs to break it, especially given how Strahan "earned" it to begin with back in 2001.

    This year, three players are on a pace that would put them past Strahan, from grizzled veterans to up-and-coming youngsters.

    (Sack pace in parentheses)

    1. Robert Mathis, Indianapolis Colts: 9.5 sacks (30)
    2. Justin Houston, Kansas City Chiefs: 8.5 sacks (27)
    3. Mario Williams, Buffalo Bills: 7.5 sacks (24)

    Mathis has long been one of the NFL's more under-appreciated pass-rushers. The 32-year-old is off to a phenomenal start, with at least one sack in every game this year.

    However, Mathis has missed time in two of the past four seasons, and the veteran would have to double his career high to break Strahan's record.

    Williams is showing why the Buffalo Bills made him the NFL's highest-paid defensive player last year, and the 28-year-old is a dominant edge-rusher in the prime of his career.

    However, Williams has gone sackless in two games already this year. If the Bills struggle with quarterback EJ Manuel on the shelf, teams may not have to throw the ball as much against them. That's going to cost "Super Mario" chances to get after the quarterback.

    Houston is the pup of the bunch, a third-year pro who is rapidly developing a reputation as one of the NFL's most feared young pass-rushers.

    That reputation brings with it increased attention from opposing offenses. It's starting to show, as Houston has only one sack over his past two games.

    All three are immensely talented, and any of the bunch could break the record, but there's a reason why the likes of Jared Allen of the Minnesota Vikings and J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans have come up short in recent years.

    It's hard to keep the momentum from a hot start going as the double-teams pile up.

    Should they come up short of Strahan, Mathis and Houston still have a shot at history.

    Twenty-one sacks would be enough to break the record for sacks by a linebacker, set by Lawrence Taylor of the New York Giants in 1987.