The 2012 NFL season saw the return of one of the all-time great quarterbacks, a wideout top Jerry Rice's single-season record for receiving yards and a running back come within a mere eight yards of tying the single-season record for rushing yards.
Those players, along with a few others, may be in line for rewriting the history books in the upcoming 2013 season.
Peyton Manning enters the year with 59,487 career passing yards. He’s only 1,874 yards away from surpassing Dan Marino for No. 2 on the all-time passing yard list. Brett Favre currently holds the top spot and is about 12,000 yards ahead of Manning.
Reaching Favre's record would take Manning about another four years. It’s unclear whether or not the 37-year old Manning has that much left in the tank, but passing Marino for all-time No. 2 would mark a significant moment in Manning’s career.
Even with only one Super Bowl win under his belt, Manning will go down as one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game. The way he used his knowledge of the game to make adjustments at the line of scrimmage is legendary.
Ed Reed no longer wears a Baltimore Ravens uniform, and he is looking to make his mark with the Houston Texans. However, he has a chance to add to the total interceptions he collected with the Ravens and move into the top five of all time.
Reed enters the season with 61 career interceptions. He needs five interceptions this season to surpass Ken Riley and enter the all-time top five.
His ability to quickly identify a developing play and close on the ball is what made Reed so effective. He’s also a fearless player who loves to make game-changing plays. This is best represented by the 13 total touchdowns he has recorded throughout his career.
Reed isn’t just a defensive player; he’s looking for the end zone whenever he gets his hands on the ball.
Adrian Peterson’s 2012 season was one of the more remarkable performances in NFL history. He finished the season only eight yards shy of Eric Dickerson’s single-season record. It’s important to note that he was only months removed from an ACL injury when last year began.
Peterson will again be the No. 1 option for the Minnesota Vikings offense. He has proven over the years that he can still be highly productive even if the opposing defense stacks the box.
Peterson's competitiveness will drive him to make another push at the record, and he’ll get the touches he needs to approach that mark.
No receiver in NFL history has topped the 2,000-yard mark in a single season. Last year, Calvin Johnson came within 36 yards of reaching that historic total. His combination of size, speed and leaping ability is what makes him such a nightmare to cover.
Johnson is the type of receiver who doesn’t need to be wide open in order to make a play on the football. This helps him remain productive despite constantly dealing with double-teams and extra coverage.
Two obstacles in the way of Johnson’s attempt to top the 2,000-yard mark is the Detroit Lions’ lack of another receiving threat and their shaky offensive line. Detroit is facing the task of replacing both offensive tackles from last year, and that could cause some issues for Matthew Stafford and the passing game.
J.J. Watt, Aldon Smith, Von Miller
Back in 2001, Michael Strahan set the single-season record with 22.5 sacks in a season. He still has a hold on that record, but some of the young pass-rushers in the league today are legitimate threats to overtake Strahan.
J.J. Watt, Aldon Smith and Von Miller are ferocious pass-rushers who have shown improvement in each season.
Last year, Watt finished with 20.5 sacks, which was tops in the NFL. His combination of awareness and technique make it difficult for blockers to keep him out of the backfield. Watt is also a tireless worker who has a tremendous motor.
Smith’s arrival with the San Francisco 49ers helped the defense take a major step forward. His quickness off the edge has allowed him to tally 33.5 sacks in only a two-year period. Smith has proven that he’s one of the more consistent pass-rushers in the entire league.
Miller might be the most naturally gifted out of this group. He has a rare combination of quickness, strength, awareness and motor that allows him to wreak havoc in the backfield. Miller isn’t just a one-dimensional player, as he also does a good job setting the edge against the run.
All three of these players have the skills needed to set a new single-season sack record.