Who Can Challenge Peyton Manning's New Single-Season Touchdown Record?

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistDecember 23, 2013

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 22:  Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos acknowledges  the crowd after throwing a record 51 touchdowns in a season during a game against the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium on December 22, 2013 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images

During Sunday's win over the Houston Texans, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning tossed a touchdown that is sure to add a highlight to his Hall of Fame resume.

Actually, Manning threw four touchdowns in the game, but it was the final one that set a new NFL single-season record for touchdown passes with 51.

The record-breaking score came with less than five minutes remaining in the game, on a 25-yard strike to tight end Julius Thomas.

Manning tied the record of 50, set in 2007 by New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, only minutes earlier with a 20-yard pass to wideout Eric Decker.

Now that Manning is the all-time undisputed single-season touchdown champion, there are only two questions remaining.

How much can he add to his total in Week 17, and who can possibly challenge him for the crown?

In an attempt to make an educated guess at the answer to the latter, let's take a look at some potential candidates currently slinging touchdowns in the NFL.


Tom Brady, New England Patriots

The name that first comes to mind is Brady's because, well, he has held the record before.

In fact, Brady's 50-touchdown season put him ahead of the previous record of 49, held by none other than Manning.

Brady is the ultimate competitor, and you can bet he would just love to one-up his longtime rival in the record books one more time.

BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 22: Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots passes against the Baltimore Ravens in the first quarter at M&T Bank Stadium on December 22, 2013 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

However, at 36 years of age and with a dwindling supporting cast, Brady may be running out of opportunities. Twenty-three of Brady's touchdowns in 2007 were caught by Randy Moss. No Patriots receiver has more than six touchdown receptions this season.

The second-highest season total of Brady's career is only 39, which realistically makes him a long shot here.


Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

Rodgers has been one of the league's premier quarterbacks since taking over as the starter in Green Bay back in 2008.

Thanks to a lot of natural talent and a consistently solid receiving corps (23 touchdown receptions this season despite four different quarterbacks), there is reason to believe Rodgers actually has a shot at breaking this record.

Now in his sixth season as a starter, Rodgers is in his prime and should probably be considered the favorite to break Manning's record as long as he returns 100 percent healthy from injury.

After all, Rodgers threw for a remarkable 45 touchdown passes just two short seasons ago.

Highest Single-Season Touchdown Total Per Player
Peyton Manning512013
Tom Brady502007
Drew Brees462011
Aaron Rodgers452011
Matthew Stafford412011
Andy Dalton312013
through 2013 Week 16


Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

Like Rodgers, Brees is a quarterback in a system with a supporting cast capable of challenging Manning's record.

He is also no stranger to breaking records, having most recently set a new mark with 54 consecutive games with a touchdown pass. He also holds a single-season record of 5,476 passing yards that could fall to Manning in Week 17.

One must also consider Brees has come close to the record before, with 46 touchdown passes in 2011 and 43 in 2012.

Brees comes in as a close second to Rodgers as a top candidate for Manning's records, though at 34 years of age, he will likely have a fewer opportunities. 


Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions

As long as Stafford is throwing the football to Calvin Johnson, he is likely to stay in the conversation for every single-season passing record.

Stafford has already surpassed the 40-touchdown mark in his career (41 in 2011) and should have plenty more opportunities at just 25 years old.

However, Stafford does not have a ton of legitimate options after Johnson. His second-leading scorer this season was rookie Joseph Fauria with seven scores on just 15 receptions.

If the Lions can add another dynamic pass-catcher or two to their receiving corps, however, Stafford may have a legitimate stake in the race to surpass Manning.


Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals

As a third-year quarterback, Dalton has a long way to go before being considered a truly elite passer. However, he may not be as much of a dark horse here as one might think.

Dalton may actually have the best receiving corps of the group, with budding star A.J. Green, Mohamed Sanu, Marvin Jones, Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert.

CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 22:  Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals throws a pass during the NFL game against the Minnesota Vikings at Paul Brown Stadium on December 22, 2013 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The question is whether or not Dalton has the talent to consistently take advantage of his weapons enough in one season to approach the record.

Dalton may find a way to improve in the coming seasons. However, there is a chance that Cincinnati's defense (ranked sixth, allowing 19.2 points per game) remains too consistent to put Dalton in enough shootout situations to be a legitimate challenger.


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