We've entered the stretch run of the 2012 NFL season, and while most of the attention has been paid to teams making a push for the playoffs and the leading candidates for this year's individual accolades, there are a few NFL records in danger of being broken this season, including one that's stood for nearly 30 years.
Let's take a look at those records, the players that are threatening to shatter them and how good their chances really are.
Most Rushing Yards, Season (2,105, Eric Dickerson, 1984)
Less than a year after tearing up his knee, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is having one of the most remarkable seasons by a running back in recent memory. While it's amazing enough that Peterson leads the NFL in rushing after his injury, the sixth-year pro has his sights set much higher.
Peterson has now topped 100 yards on the ground in seven straight games, and after shredding the Chicago Bears' vaunted defense for over 150 yards on Sunday, Peterson told Peter King of Sports Illustrated that he's intent on having the finest single season ever by a player at his position in the NFL.
Adrian Peterson tells me his eye is on Eric Dickerson's all-time record of 2,105 yards, not just 2,000. Needs 506 to break it now.
— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) December 10, 2012
Peterson would need to average about 170 yards per game over the past three weeks to break Dickerson's 28-year-old record, and that's not going to be easy given a Week 16 matchup with a very stingy Houston Texans defense.
With that said, though very few people thought Peterson would be this good again this quickly, and given that he's hit the 170-yard mark three times already this season, I'm not going to bet against him.
Most Receiving Yards, Season (1,848, Jerry Rice, 1995)
It wasn't that long ago that fans and the media were wondering aloud what was "wrong" with Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson, but after bouncing back from his relatively slow start with a vengeance, the sixth-year pro is now making a run at having the best season yardage-wise of any wide receiver in the history of the National Football League.
Johnson has now passed the 100-yard mark in six straight contests, and after surpassing 1,500 yards for the second consecutive season, he's presently on a pace that would net him just over 1,900 yards for the season and the record.
Still, even while in the midst of one of the best receiving seasons ever, Johnson sees plenty of room for improvement in his game, and as he told Michael Rosenburg of Sports Illustrated, Johnson is more interested in what could have been than the success he's had.
"Man, I go back to the last three weeks, there's plays that, if we made those plays, I'd be looking for the 2,000-yard mark instead of Jerry Rice's record," Johnson says. "It's been plays we just missed, or just an overthrow, or just off my fingertips. Especially the last few weeks, you're like, damn!"
Johnson needs to average just over 100 yards a game over the last three weeks of the season, and given that he's already averaging a fair bit more than that this year and a Lions team out of playoff contention that has no reason not to force feed him the ball, the smart money says that barring injury, Rice's record will fall.
Most Sacks, Season (22.5, Michael Strahan, 2001)
In only his second season in the NFL, San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Aldon Smith has already developed into one of the league's most feared pass-rushers. Now that Smith has set the franchise record for sacks, it's time for the youngster to turn his attention to one of the more dubiously achieved records in NFL history.
New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan set the single-season sack record in 2001 due in large part to a gift sack from buddy Brett Favre, but none of Smith's 19.5 sacks this year have been gimmes.
With another half a sack, Smith will become only the eighth player in NFL history to record 20 sacks since the league started keeping track of the statistic, and even Smith confesses that Strahan's mark is on his radar, telling Eric Branch of The San Francisco Chronicle that “I’m human, so it’s going to cross my mind.”
Opposing offensive linemen may disagree with the part about Smith being human, and with at least one sack in seven straight games and a Week 17 tilt on the calendar against a reeling Arizona Cardinals team that leads the NFL in sacks allowed, there's a better-than-50-50 chance that the NFL will be crowning a new sack king this year.
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