Predicting NFL Records That Will Fall During the 2014 Season
Records might be made to be broken, but they certainly don't go down without a fight. We take a look at a few...and just a few...NFL records that are in danger of falling this 2014 season.
Take Calvin Johnson's single-season receiving yardage mark of 1,964 yards set in 2012. We tried to figure out a way for that to fall, or even have someone break the 2,000-yard plateau for the first time.
There are too many factors working against that, though:
- Megatron has too much competition on the Detroit Lions roster now with Golden Tate signing as a free agent and Eric Ebron being the first tight end drafted this May.
- Josh Gordon is facing a suspension.
- A.J. Green's quarterback, Andy Dalton, isn't great, and the Cincinnati Bengals are going with a power-running attack.
- Demaryius Thomas' Denver Broncos have too many other targets.
- Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery cut into each other's production with the Chicago Bears.
- Dez Bryant of the Dallas Cowboys or Julio Jones of the Atlanta Falcons are possible 2,000-yard candidates, but we just cannot bring ourselves to expect them to stay healthy for a full 16 games.
We won't look to defense this year either, even if the Seattle Seahawks' Super Bowl-winning formula might make that en vogue. We leave defense out of the discussion.
It is not a bias toward offense—although the point-happy, play-happy, pass-happy NFL is leaning that way. We just don't see any of those defensive records getting touched at this point:
- Charles Woodson, 37, needs two interception returns for touchdowns to pass Rod Woodson's career mark of 12. Meh, not going to get there.
- J.J. Watt, 25, could be a candidate to challenge Michael Strahan's record of 22.5 sacks, which was controversial because Brett Favre took a dive for the final one in 2001. But the Houston Texans drafted pass-rusher Jadeveon Clowney, who could beat Watt to the quarterback more than a few times this season.
- Jared Allen, now of the Chicago Bears, needs just one more safety to set the career mark of five, but those are rare plays that are difficult to expect. Heck, Allen is tied for the record right now with four, but in 10 seasons. They don't come around that often, so we won't expect that one to fall.
Career Passing Touchdowns (Brett Favre—508): QB Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
It is fitting Peyton Manning, the man who twice set the single-season passing touchdowns record, wears the No. 18 and is just 17 away from Brett Favre's career passing TD record of 508. Manning's 18th touchdown pass this coming season will make him the all-time leader.
The question doesn't figure to be if Manning will pass Favre this year, but when.
Manning has averaged just over two touchdown passes (2.046) in his 240 career games. That would put him setting the record in Week 10 at Oakland (Nov. 9). If you consider, though, Manning has thrown almost three touchdowns per game (2.875) as a Bronco, the record could fall as early as Oct. 19 (home versus the San Francisco 49ers) or Oct. 23 (home versus the San Diego Chargers), a pair of prime-time games just a few days apart.
With targets like Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, tight end Julius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and second-round rookie Cody Latimer, Manning has more than enough candidates to be on the receiving end of the record-breaker. Expect retired wide receiver Marvin Harrison, who was on the receiving end of 112 of those scoring strikes, to be on hand for the event, whether it is in Denver or Oakland.
Once Manning resets the career touchdown passes record, it figures to be held for a long time. Tom Brady and Drew Brees are too old and just too far behind Manning.
Andrew Luck, who is 25 years old, figures to be the only one truly capable of approaching Favre-Manning at this point. He really has to pick up the pace, though. He has just 46 touchdowns through two seasons, a 1.43 average. It would take Luck almost 20 full seasons at that pace to reach just 500 career TDs.
Single-Season Field Goals (David Akers—44): K Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens
Justin Tucker's performance in Detroit this past Dec. 16 is the impetus for this one. Tucker kicked six field goals, including a game-winning 61-yarder to beat the Lions. It was the longest field goal made indoors in NFL history, according to Fox Sports.
Tucker also endeared himself to fantasy footballs fans, telling the media after the game:
I've been getting hit up actually quite a bit on the Twittersphere leading up to the game for a couple days—people in their fantasy playoff matchups. I'm glad to come through, of course, for my team here; my reality team. But also for all my fantasy owners, a big thank you for picking me up. It means a lot to me, and hopefully I can contribute to the successes of your respective teams.
Tucker is going to be an easy guy to root for to better David Akers' record 44 field goals.
It will require the Baltimore Ravens offense to be productive enough to position itself to score, but score via field goal instead of touchdown. With Ray Rice facing a multi-game suspension, according to Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun, it is conceivable the Ravens' reliance on the field goal will remain high in 2014.
Tucker is already tied for fifth on the single-season list with his 38 from a year ago. The third-year kicker has a big, accurate leg and plays for a team that has a defense that can help the Ravens win the position battle game by game.
Note: A little personal anecdote on Akers' record-setting 2011. That spring, when Akers was headed to free agency from the Philadelphia Eagles before signing with the San Francisco 49ers, I wrote a story for Sports Illustrated, calling Akers the "Must-Have Kicker" in fantasy football. I even interviewed Akers and his agent, something fantasy writers rarely do.
The story was killed and never made the magazine, because of the pending contract situation. Akers wound up setting the single-season record later that year with the 49ers. Go figure.
Postseason Touchdown Passes (Joe Montana—45): QB Tom Brady, New England Patriots
This record almost fell last season, if not for the Denver Broncos ending the New England Patriots and Tom Brady's Super Bowl run in the AFC Championship last January. Tom Brady is just two away from equaling Joe Montana's postseason passing touchdown record.
You have to figure Brady and the Pats are going to run away with the AFC East like they always do. The New York Jets, Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins just don't figure to pose much of a threat.
This record should have already fallen by now, honestly. Brady is in a bit of a postseason slump. He has just two TD passes in his past three postseason games. That is after having 41 in his first 23 playoff appearances.
Brady gets a lot of pub for being a Montana-like postseason star, someone who comes through in the clutch to win championships. That might have been the case, but the 36-year-old has just an 87.5 quarterback ranking in postseason games.
Brady needs just three touchdowns to break Montana's postseason TD record. Expect the record-setter to come by the middle of January.
By the way, Peyton Manning might pass Montana's hallowed mark next postseason, too. Manning sits right behind Brady on the all-time postseason TD list with 47. Manning would need to average three TD passes through three postseason games, which is conceivable.
Game-Winning Drives (Dan Marino—51): QB Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
If you define a game-winning drive as "an offensive scoring drive in the fourth quarter or overtime that puts the winning team ahead for the last time"—as Pro-Football-Reference.com does here, Peyton Manning is just two game-winning drives away from tying Dan Marino for the all-time record.
In Manning's record-setting 2013 runaway, game-winning drives were not often needed. This season figures to be a bit more of a fight-kick-scratch campaign for Manning's Denver Broncos, who rebuilt their defense and want to build up a power rushing attack, taking a page out of the Seattle Seahawks' Super Bowl-winning formula.
If you don't believe those points, just realize Manning is now 38 years old. Father Time catches up to everyone eventually. Manning won't be able to overwhelm opponents forever.
Manning has 49 game-winning drives in his 15 seasons of game action. That is an average of just over three per season. Give him until December to pass Marino in this unusual category.
Manning has late-season road games Week 13 at Kansas City (Nov. 30), Week 15 at San Diego (Dec. 14) and Week 16 at Cincinnati (Dec. 22). Heck, Manning could set the all-time touchdown pass record with a game-winning TD in the closing minutes of that Monday-nighter at Cincy. That would be some prime-time hoopla.
Single-Season (Fill in Blank) for Tight End: TE Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints
Jimmy Graham and the New Orleans Saints are going to battle in a grievance hearing about whether Graham should be classified as a tight end or a wide receiver—former sports agent Joel Corry breaks that down at CBS Sports—but for our purposes here there will be no debate: Graham is a tight end and capable of destroying all of the significant marks for his "position."
Regardless of how that franchise-tag dispute plays out, let's go out on a limb...a fairly sturdy one...and predict Graham unifies the tight-end records with a season for the ages:
Receptions: 110 by Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys, in 2012
Touchdowns: 17 by Gronkowski, New England Patriots, in 2011
All three records were set in recent seasons, and this is a golden era for the tight end position, even if you can argue Graham is more receiver than in-line end. In this pass-happy NFL and the pass-friendly Saints system with Drew Brees, Graham is capable of smashing all three marks in his age-27 season.
That is a prime age for any athlete. It is the age Calvin Johnson set the single-season receiving yardage mark and the age Adrian Peterson fell just eight yards shy (2,097) of Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record (2,105).
These are optimistic projections, but the Saints would be wise to lock up Graham long term before he posts a season of 111-1,311-18 or greater.
Richest Tight-End Contract: TE Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints
Last but not least, Jimmy Graham is going to be the first record-setter this year, and it should come before the season. He is going to shatter Rob Gronkowski's off-the-field mark of the richest contract in NFL history for a tight end.
Gronk set the record two years ago Sunday (June 8), signing a six-year, $54 million contract extension, the richest at the position, according to Clifton Brown of the Sporting News. Spotrac.com calculates Gronk's total deal at eight years and $55.23 million.
It won't matter which number you choose to target as the record. Graham should fall somewhere in the six-year, $60 million range or more. Expect a long-term deal to be done shortly after the June 17-18 grievance hearing, if not before.
This should set the wheels in motion for what can be a memorable and record-setting 2014 NFL season.
Eric Mack, one of the giants among fantasy writers, was the Fantasy Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report this past season. He is now an NFL featured writer here. Follow him on Twitter, where you can ask him endless questions about your team, rip him for his content and even challenge him to a head-to-head fantasy game.