Why Tom Brady Will Break Drew Brees' Passing Yards Record in Week 17

Andrew McCluskeyCorrespondent IDecember 30, 2011

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 24:   Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots reacts against the Miami Dolphins in the second half at Gillette Stadium on December 24, 2011 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Drew Brees' 307-yard performance against the Atlanta Falcons on Monday Night Football put him past Dan Marino, breaking the single-season passing yard record.

While it is a fantastic feat, Drew Brees shouldn't get too comfortable.

Brees is currently sitting at 5,087 passing yards on the season, but Tom Brady is right in his rear-view mirror with 4,897 yards. Due to the way Week 17 may pan out, Brady is in perfect position to surpass Brees and take the record for himself.

The New Orleans Saints are currently the No. 3 seed in the NFC playoffs. With one first-round bye already locked up by the Green Bay Packers, the San Francisco 49ers and the Saints are competing for the other. The 49ers are currently in the driver's seat, as all they need to do is beat the lowly St. Louis Rams in Week 17 to clinch the No. 2 seed.

While anything can happen in the game of football, the Saints are aware that they will most likely have nothing to play for on Sunday. It wouldn't be shocking to see Drew Brees take a seat on the bench early or possibly not play at all. The only catch is that all of these games are at one o'clock, which makes it more likely that Brees will take the field for at least part of the game.

The single-season passing record will come down to how long the Saints keep Drew Brees on the field. They are certainly well aware of the record and would love for him to hold onto it, but I don't believe that they are willing to risk his physical health and their playoff chances to do so. 

Brees and the Saints will be taking on the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers' pass defense is ranked 21st in the league and is allowing an average of 236 yards per game. Drew Brees lit them up for 359 yards in their first meeting this season, but it is likely that he won't get a full four quarters to match that total this week.

Assuming that Brees only plays a half or so of football, he will have a chance to pad his lead. Brees averages 339 passing yards per game. If he stays on track with his normal numbers, he will likely throw for somewhere between 170 to 200 yards in a half of football.

This would put the record somewhere in between 5,257 and 5,287 passing yards. While it would be a task for Brady to get there, the record would certainly be in reach if this scenario plays out by the numbers.

Tom Brady and the New England Patriots will also be taking the field at one o'clock against the Buffalo Bills. Knowing the way that the Patriots and head coach Bill Belichick approach the game, you can bet that Tom Brady will be playing the majority of the game. Even if New England takes a big lead, Brady and the rest of the starters will stay out there until Belichick feels comfortable.

The last time Tom Brady played the Buffalo Bills, he put up 387 yards. The Bills are currently ranked as the 15th best passing defense in the league, allowing an average of 224 yards per game through the air. While that is a solid number, the Bills haven't exactly played the most elite passing offenses in the league. 

Besides Brady, the toughest quarterbacks they faced were Eli Manning and Tony Romo. Philip Rivers put up some solid numbers against the Bills as well, but the rest of the quarterbacks ranked mostly in the bottom half of the league. Buffalo's schedule has certainly helped their statistical ranking.

Brady has averaged 326 passing yards per game this season. He has only dipped below 300 yards twice this season, including a big outlier in the data in Week 8 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, when he only threw for 198 yards. Of course, Brady has an outlier on the other extreme from Week 1, when he threw for 517 yards against the Miami Dolphins.

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 24:   Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots throws during a game against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on December 24, 2011 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

If Brady only throws for his average against the Buffalo Bills, that would put him at 5,223 passing yards, which is clearly short of Brees' projected total based on this data. However, since Brady performed above his average in their first matchup, it is completely possible that he could throw for the 70 yards or so to pass Brees total.

Now these numbers are all based off of averages and past matchups. It is entirely possible that Brees' and Brady's numbers could be much different by the time the games are over with on Sunday. However, based on the likelihood of Brees not playing a full game and Brady's past performance against the Bills, the single-season passing yards record is still very much up in the air.

Unless the Saints decide to play Drew Brees for the entire game, the odds are in Brady's favor. It'll take a big passing performance out of Brady, but against a reeling Bills team, that's not out of the question.

Passing Dan Marino was a fantastic accomplishment for a great quarterback like Drew Brees. Brees is a classy guy that is hard to dislike. Even fans of other teams can appreciate his talent and the way he plays the game.

Still, as likable as Brees is, he shouldn't get too comfortable with that record. When Tom Brady is in the hunt to break an NFL record, it is smart money not to bet against him.