While making the playoffs and winning the Super Bowl is the ultimate goal, there isn't an NFL player alive that doesn't want to put up gaudy numbers and, in some cases, rewrite the record books.
Individual performances are ultimately how a player is judged, and with many players having performance-based incentives written into their contracts, those milestones are what dictates a player's ultimate earning potential in a given season, not to mention future ones.
Some of those milestones are more impressive than others, of course.
Which players with a chance to reach a milestone will not only reach, but surpass those milestones in the final regular-season game of the 2012 NFL season?
Let's take a look.
Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys
Milestone: 5,000 yards passing in a single season
Tony Romo is playing the best football of his career, having already set a new career-high of 4,685 passing yards through the first 16 weeks of the regular season.
Sitting 315 yards away from the first 5,000-yard passing season of his career, Romo leads the Cowboys into FedEx Field to face the Washington Redskins for the NFC East division title and the Cowboys' playoff hopes hanging in the balance.
It's true that Romo doesn't have a great track record when the pressure is at its highest, a point not lost on NFL.com's Ian Rapoport (via Twitter):
#Cowboys QB Tony Romo is 1-5 in elimination games, including 4 playoff games. Lost in 2011 and 2008 with playoff spot on the line.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 27, 2012
Romo might not lead the Cowboys to victory, but he's facing one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL, a team he threw for 441 yards against earlier this season.
It's not a question of whether Romo will reach 5,000 yards passing, but how far over 5,000 yards he's going to finish the season.
Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions
Milestones: 2,000 receiving yards and most receiving yards per game in a single season
The best wide receiver in the NFL, Detroit's Calvin Johnson finds himself on the precipice of history.
Johnson, who already broke Jerry Rice's single-season record for receiving yards, enters Detroit's Week 17 game against the Chicago Bears needing 108 yards to become the first receiver in NFL history to eclipse 2,000 receiving yards in a season.
Not only that, but according to ESPN Stats and Info, Johnson is in position to set another single-season receiving record, one that has stood for more than 50 years (via Twitter):
Calvin Johnson needs 104 receiving yds to break single-season record for most receiving yards PER GAME. (Charley Hennigan: 124.7, 1961— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 26, 2012
Over his last eight games, Johnson is averaging more than nine receptions and nearly 160 receiving yards per game.
While Chicago's pass defense, led by Pro Bowl cornerbacks Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings, poses a significant challenge to Johnson's endeavor, not even the Bears' formidable group can stop Megatron.
Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings
Milestones: Single-season rushing yardage record and 2,000 yards rushing in a single season
The front-runner for the NFL MVP award, what Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has done in 2012 is nothing short of extraordinary—and as ESPN Stats and Info notes, potentially record-breaking as well (via Twitter):
Adrian Peterson needs 208 yards to break Eric Dickerson's single-season record for most rush yards. He had 210 in 1st meeting w/ GB in 2012— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 26, 2012
Adrian Peterson needs 102 rushing yards to become the 7th running back in NFL history to reach 2,000 rushing yards in a single season.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 26, 2012
Considering the run that Peterson has been on, averaging more than 155 rushing yards per game over his past nine games, coupled with the fact that he's already thrashed Green Bay's defense once already this season, you can't bet against him setting records on Sunday.
Minnesota's entire offense—and best chances for a win—rest on Adrian Peterson's legs.
Head coach Leslie Frazier will feed Green Bay a heavy diet of Peterson to not only get his star running back the yards he needs to reach his milestones, but to eat the clock and keep Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' explosive offense off of the field.
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