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T.J. Watt, Cooper Kupp chasing hallowed NFL records

Sportsnaut
Dec 9, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt (90) looks on before the game gainst the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 9, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt (90) looks on before the game gainst the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

One of the most compelling storylines entering the final week of the regular season is whether Pittsburgh Steelers pass rusher T.J. Watt will set a new single-season NFL sack record.

Watt brought himself within one of Michael Strahan’s record of 22.5 set in 2001 with a career-high four sacks of Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield on Monday night. Pittsburgh closes the season at Baltimore, with both teams still mathematically in the hunt for the final playoff spot in the AFC, although they both need a win and significant help.

Watt leads the NFL with 21.5 sacks this season, followed by Chicago’s Robert Quinn (18.0), Cleveland’s Myles Garrett (15.0), San Francisco’s Nick Bosa (15.0) and Cincinnati’s Trey Hendrickson (14.0).

BetMGM is offering +180 odds that the sack record will be broken in Week 18, compared to -225 odds that the outright record will either be tied or not reached. The season-long struggles of Baltimore’s offensive line had contributed to 98 percent of the bets and 99 percent of the money backing the record to be broken shortly after the sportsbook posted the prop bet.

By contrast, DraftKings is offering -130 odds that Watt will record at least 1.5 sacks on Sunday.

Watt cleared COVID-19 protocols in time to record 3.5 of his 21.5 sacks this season in a 20-19 Steelers win at home against the Ravens last month.

Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson has missed the past three games with an ankle injury and didn’t practice Wednesday. If he can’t play Sunday, Tyler Huntley will get the start.

There has been some debate as to whether an asterisk should be associated with single-season records that are set with the NFL moving to a 17-game schedule. However, Watt will be listed as the officially record holder by the NFL if he breaks Strahan’s mark.

Watt did miss two games earlier this season and has already joined Reggie White as the only players in NFL history to record at least 21 sacks in 14 games or less. Watt and White are also the only players in league history with at least 13 sacks in four consecutive seasons since the NFL officially began tracking sacks in 1982.

Just before this season, Watt inked a four-year, $112 million contract extension that made him the NFL’s highest-paid defensive player. He was the runner-up for NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2020 and is averaging 0.93 sacks per game since entering the league in 2017 – the most in league history.

Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp will also be chasing two of the league’s most hallowed records on Sunday.

He currently leads the NFL in catches (138), receptions (1,829) and touchdowns (15). Kupp has a chance to break Calvin Johnson’s record of 1,964 receiving yards set with Detroit in 2012.

The Lions’ quarterback that season? That would be current Rams signal-caller Matthew Stafford.

Kupp has recorded at least 136 receiving yards in three different games this season. He had 11 catches for 122 yards in the first meeting against San Francisco this season.

He also needs 11 receptions to tie Michael Thomas’ record for catches in a single season.

DraftKings is offering +160 odds that Kupp will record over 135.5 receiving yards and +380 odds that he will have more than 11.5 receptions.

However, Kupp said Monday that breaking the record “wouldn’t hold the same weight” by accomplishing the feat in a 17-game season.

“In all honesty, in my opinion, we’re in a very unique season,” he said. “We’re the longest football season ever played.

“What the guys did that set those records – Mike Thomas, Randy Moss for the touchdowns, what Calvin Johnson did with the yards. What those guys did in 16 games, it wouldn’t seem right to, I don’t know, for those to be broken in 17 games.

“Those are incredible things, incredible accomplishments. You kind of have to separate the two. I have just an incredible respect for what those guys were able to do, what they were able to accomplish and what they were able to produce for their teams in those 16 games.”

–Field Level Media