The last decade has seen a consistent assault on the NFL record book as marks that once looked essentially unbreakable have been shattered time and time again. Whether we’re talking about career marks or single-season records, a number of NFL records have a chance to fall in 2017. What are they?
How can Bill Belichick and Tom Brady separate themselves even more? What record does Drew Brees want? Whick record is he maybe hoping that he doesn’t break? Which kickers have a chance to make history? We know that Antonio Brown and Julio Jones are remarkably gifted receivers. What single-season marks should they have their sights on?
Which 10 NFL records have a chance to fall during the 2017 season?
Most career completions: Drew Brees
Brees is 464 completions short of the career completions record. If he stays healthy, the record will be his by early in the 2018 season at the absolute latest. The question is, can he complete 465 passes to surpass Brett Favre by the end of the 2017 season?
In one respect, it’s a fairly monumental task. It’s only been done twice in NFL history, after all. Of course, we can’t make that point without also saying that both times it’s been done, Brees has been the man to do it. That includes an NFL record 471 passes completed in 2016.
The New Orleans Saints have had some great seasons since Brees became their quarterback. They’ve also had some mediocre years. But one thing that’s been remarkably consistent is that they’ve relied heavily on the pass. Six of the top eight highest completion seasons (as well as each of the top three) belong to Brees.
Brees and Sean Payton may not be game planning specifically to break this record. But the game plans that they dial up will make it quite possible.
Single-season receptions: Antonio Brown
The Pittsburgh Steelers don’t lack for weapons. But when push comes to shove, Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t trust anybody like he trusts Brown.
🚨 FAKE SPIKE ALERT! 🚨
— NFL (@NFL) November 14, 2016
It’s showed in the statistics. Brown has hauled in 106 or more passes in each of the last four seasons. His career high in receptions came in 2015 with 136, only seven short of Marvin Harrison’s single-season mark.
Now, someone may look at the abundance of weapons in Pittsburgh and think that it will keep Brown’s reception total down. But think of it this way. Brown will be on the field with the likes of Eli Rogers, Sammie Coates, Martavis Bryant, and Jesse James — not to mention Le’Veon Bell. With that kind of talent on the field, opponents can’t put too much of their attention on Brown.
That’s going to lead to favorable matchups for AB. With those, he’ll haul in a lot of passes. Two of the top four reception seasons in NFL history belong to Brown. He’s a legitimate threat to top that list at the end of the season.
Most career Super Bowl wins (Bill Belichick) and wins as a player (Tom Brady)
If the New England Patriots win the Super Bowl again this season, it will be historic for a couple reasons.
One, it would tie them with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most Super Bowl wins for any franchise. It would also give New England three Super Bowl wins in four years, something that’s only been done twice in NFL history. Lastly, it would give the two men most synonymous with the Patriots dynasty their own place in NFL history.
Belichick is a seven-time Super Bowl champ. He won two as an assistant with the New York Giants before winning five in New England. Presently, he’s tied with former San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos front office man Neal Dahlen for the most ever.
Brady, meanwhile, has won five as a player. For years, no player had ever won more than four. But when the Dallas Cowboys won Super Bowl XXX, Charles Haley won a record fifth. He remained on top of that list for 21 years but when the Patriots took Super Bowl LI, Brady joined Haley on top of the mountain.
New England is on a short list of Super Bowl favorites heading into 2017. The Pats improved by bringing in players like Stephon Gilmore and Brandin Cooks. Rob Gronkowski has had injury issues through his career and is probably not dependable for 16 games. But New England should get more than eight games out of Gronk, which is what it got in 2016’s Super Bowl championship season.
Unless someone can step up to dethrone the Patriots, Belichick and Brady will stand alone as the greatest winners in the league’s history.
Single-season receiving yards: Julio Jones
While Brown is more of a threat for the receptions record, Jones gets a nod in the total yardage statistic.
Jones has a combination of power and speed that, even in the highly athletic modern NFL, is just unmatched. He’s an absolute nightmare for opponents to stay with before he has the ball, and he can be almost impossible to tackle once he does.
7️⃣3️⃣ days till kickoff.
Flashback to when Julio Jones took this pass 73 yards to the 🏠. pic.twitter.com/tAWihovLne
— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) June 29, 2017
Additionally, Jones is aided by the fact that quarterback Matt Ryan is extremely adept at throwing the ball downfield. So, Jones can get big yardage quickly.
It also helps that Jones plays in an indoor stadium. By comparison, Brown will be playing five of his last six games outdoors in cold weather cities. So, the Steelers don’t figure to be going deep as much as the Falcons, who play five of six games in a dome during that same stretch, with the other being in Tampa Bay.
Jones is a real threat to not only topple Calvin Johnson’s single-season record of 1,964, but also to become the first receiver in NFL history to go for 2,000 yards in a season.
Most career points and/or field goals: Adam Vinatieri
In 1996, Bill Clinton was elected for a second term as President of the United States. Led by a young shortstop named Derek Jeter, the New York Yankees won their first World Series since 1978. “Independence Day” was the highest grossing film. Michael Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to a 72-10 record and the NBA title. “The Macarena” was the No. 1 song on Billboard’s Year-End chart.
Also, Adam Vinatieri made his NFL debut.
Over the last two-plus decades, Vinatieri has become perhaps the greatest kicker in NFL history. By the end of the 2017 season, that could be reflected in a few stats.
One is total points. Vinatieri enters the 2017 season 166 points short of Morten Andersen for No. 1 on the all-time list. In all likelihood, that will not be reached this season. David Akers holds the single season record for points by someone who only kicks, and that is 166. Vinatieri’s career high is 141. It may not be likely, but it is worth watching.
Vinatieri could also set the record for field goals made. He enters the 2017 campaign 35 kicks short of that record, which is also held by Andersen. Vinatieri would need to match his career high to get to Andersen’s record of 565. Still, kickers have made 35 or more field goals in a season on 24 separate occasions.
It’s another record that may not be especially likely, but it’s something to keep an eye on.
Single-season rushing touchdowns: Ezekiel Elliott
Elliott had a dream rookie season for the Cowboys. He rushed for more than 1,631 yards and added 363 in the air. We don’t see him stopping in Year 2, although we’re looking at scores more than yards.
Elliott has the speed to make big plays, but he also has the strength needed to be effective in short-yardage situations. Additionally, he benefits from playing with teammates who will keep defenses from keying on him in the red zone.
Dak Prescott developed more as a passer throughout the 2016 season. As he continues to develop, teams will need to respect his passing abilities with weapons like Dez Bryant and especially in the red zone, Jason Witten. That will give Elliott fewer eight-man fronts to contend with in scoring situations. That kind of thing plagued Adrian Peterson through his career, as Peterson never topped 18 touchdowns in any one year. We don’t see such an issue getting in Elliott’s way.
Additionally, as Prescott continues to develop as a passer, it only stands to reason that Elliott will be more of a red zone receiving weapon in Year 2.
None of that means that breaking LaDainian Tomlinson’s mark of 31 will be easy. That record was broken four times from 2000-2006, but hasn’t been seriously approached since. But Elliott’s skill, along with his setting, gives him as good of a chance as we’ve seen in a while.
Most career fourth quarter comebacks: Tom Brady
One can only seriously approach this record if two things are true.
The first is that you have to have been around for a while. Brady certainly checks that box.
The second is that you need to be trailing in the fourth quarter a lot. You wouldn’t usually associate that with Brady and the Patriots but indeed, he’s six fourth-quarter comebacks away from matching the career record of his old rival, Peyton Manning.
Of course, there’s not exactly a question that Brady has the “clutch gene.” After all, the guy won a pretty big game in February, despite never playing a single second with the lead.
62 days until NFL season: Tom Brady attempted a Super Bowl record 62 passes vs the Falcons in Super Bowl LI. None came with a lead pic.twitter.com/l9R6TZ0wET
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 7, 2017
The bigger question is, will the Patriots be trailing in enough games for Brady to lead a fourth quarter comeback in six?
There’s certainly reason for doubt. Just know that quarterbacks have had six or more fourth-quarter comebacks 11 separate times in NFL history. So, if New England gives Brady the chance, history definitely says that it can happen.
Single-season extra points made: Matt Bryant
The NFL is becoming more offensive. It comes with the increased attention to player safety, especially as it relates to head injuries. It’s becoming harder and harder to defend in the NFL and that trend isn’t going away any time soon.
Naturally, one of the byproducts of a league where it’s harder to defend is one where it’s easier to score. That’s where this record comes in.
So, what needs to happen for Matt Prater’s single-season record of 75 to fall?
First of all, you need an explosive offense. The 2013 Denver Broncos were perhaps the best regular season offense in NFL history. Bryant’s Falcons have that.
Secondly, you need a good kicker. Even with the line being moved back, extra points are still relatively routine. Still, a bad kicker will miss his fair share. Bryant, however, has only missed one PAT in the two years since the line was moved back.
Lastly, it really helps to have a team that plays indoors. This isn’t always the case but generally speaking, the PAT trouble over the last two years has come with weather. It makes sense, if there’s a strong wind or it’s hard to gain solid solid footing on the ground, kicks are going to be more challenging. Indoors, that’s not such a problem.
Bryant checks all boxes.
Most career pick-sixes: Drew Brees
As we’ve already detailed, Brees likes to throw the ball. He’s also very aggressive. Brees will one day be in the Hall of Fame because a lot of those aggressive passes have hit their mark.
But Brees has also thrown plenty of passes that missed the mark.
🚨🚨 PICK-6 ALERT! 🚨🚨
— NFL (@NFL) October 23, 2016
Brees is currently fourth on the all-time pick-six list, but is only five short of Favre, who has the career record of 31. Brees’ career high is four. The single-season record is six, and five or more has been done eight times. It’s not likely that Brees will match or tie this record in 2017, but it’s not impossible.
At a glance, this wouldn’t seem like a record that someone would want. But if Brees wasn’t a great quarterback, he never would have been around long enough to throw 26 pick-sixes. No. 1 on the all-time list is Favre, who like No. 2 Dan Marino, is in the Hall of Fame. No. 3-ranked Peyton Manning will certainly be in Canton as soon as he becomes eligible. So, Brees is certainly rubbing shoulders with an elite group.
Single-season sacks: J.J. Watt
Michael Strahan’s record of 22.5 sacks in a season has stood since the 2001 season. And while Watt is our focus, a number of guys have a chance to break it this year.
An NFL player has recorded 20 or more sacks in a season on 11 separate occasions. It’s a list that features some of the greatest pass rushers in NFL history like Hall of Famers Strahan, Chris Doleman, Reggie White, Lawrence Taylor, and Derrick Thomas.
Watt is the only man who’s done it twice.
The Houston Texans had one of the NFL’s best defenses, despite Watt missing most of the year. Now, he’s back. Opposing offensive coordinators can revolve their game plans around stopping Watt. But that’s going to leave Jadaveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus in a lot of favorable matchups. On a given play, that may work. For a whole game, it’s asking for trouble.
Players like Von Miller, Khalil Mack, and Vic Beasley are all viable threats to break this record. But it’s hard to imagine anyone being the overall threat that Watt is.