NFL Records That Could Fall During the 2017 Season

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistMay 23, 2017

NFL Records That Could Fall During the 2017 Season

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    David Goldman/Associated Press

    Every NFL season, dozens of big and small records are pursued by dozens of individuals and teams. And every year, most of those players and squads fall short.

    That'll certainly be the case again in 2017, but some records appear to be more ripe for picking than others. 

    Here are 10 high-profile records that could fall in the fall or soon thereafter. 

Career Completions (Brett Favre)

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    Dave Martin/Associated Press

    Record-holder: Quarterback Brett Favre

    Favre completed his career with the Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers, New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings with exactly 6,300 completions. Peyton Manning finished up his career with the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos with 6,125, falling just 175 short of Favre. 


    Candidate to break the record in 2017: New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees

    Brees has 5,836 completions, which puts him 464 from Favre. The 38-year-old completed a career-high 471 passes last year, so if he does that again, he'll surpass Favre by seven in 2017. 


    Why it matters

    Football is a complicated game, but in this era it ultimately comes down to throwing and catching balls. The guys who have executed that successfully more often than anyone else—Favre, Manning, Brees, Tom Brady Dan Marino and John Elway—are legends.

Single-Season Sacks (Michael Strahan)

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    Record-holder: New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan

    The Pro Football Hall of Fame pass-rusher broke Mark Gastineau's 17-year-old record with 22.5 sacks in 2001. Jared Allen of the Minnesota Vikings and Justin Houston of the Kansas City Chiefs joined Gastineau in the 22-sack club in 2011 and 2014, respectively. 


    Candidates to break the record in 2017: Atlanta Falcons LB Vic Beasley, Denver Broncos LB Von Miller, Oakland Raiders DE Khalil Mack, Houston Texans DE J.J. Watt

    This record's been under a lot of fire in recent years, so it might only be a matter of time.

    • Beasley broke out with a league-high 15.5 sacks last year, and 14.5 of those came in the final 12 games of the season. He could make a push in his third year. 
    • Always a force, Miller is a few years removed from an 18.5-sack season and is entering his prime at the age of 28. 
    • The 26-year-old Mack is also entering his prime. A year removed from a 15-sack campaign, he might have it in him. 
    • Watt is the only player in the history of the NFL with two 20-sack seasons. He also had 17.5 while winning his third Defensive Player of the Year award in 2015. His 2016 campaign was derailed by back issues, but he's healthy now entering his age-28 season. 


    Why it matters

    This game is about quarterbacks, along with those who protect them and those who try to crush them. That's why signal-callers, offensive tackles and pass-rushers are in such high demand. And it's why Strahan's record carries a lot of weight. 

Single-Season Rushing Yards (Eric Dickerson)

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    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    Record-holder: Los Angeles Rams running back Eric Dickerson

    Dickerson broke Buffalo Bills legend O.J. Simpson's 11-year-old record of 2,003 rushing yards with a 2,105-yard campaign in 1984. Adrian Peterson fell just eight years shy of that mark with the Vikings in 2012. 


    Candidate to break the record in 2017: Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott

    The 2016 No. 4 overall pick led the NFL by a large margin with 1,631 rushing yards last season. If he can take a big leap in his second season, the workhorse might have a chance to make a Peterson-like run. It helps that Dallas has a young stud under center and arguably the best offensive line in the game. 


    Why it matters

    It's a record that is older than Elliott himself and most of his NFL colleagues. A pursuit here would become one of the top stories of the year in sports.

Single-Season Yards from Scrimmage (Chris Johnson)

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    Ed Zurga/Associated Press

    Record-holder: Running back Chris Johnson

    Johnson established himself as "CJ2K" when he rushed for 2,006 yards with the Tennessee Titans in 2009, but his larger accomplishment that year might have been his 2,509 yards from scrimmage. That broke Marshall Faulk's record of 2,429 with the St. Louis Rams in 1999. 


    Candidate to break the record in 2017: Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell

    Bell rushed for 1,268 yards and picked up 616 yards as a receiver last season, giving him 1,884 yards from scrimmage despite the fact he missed a quarter of the season. Prorate his numbers to account for the four games he didn't play and the 25-year-old would have picked up 2,512 yards from scrimmage, breaking Johnson's record by a three-yard margin. 


    Why it matters

    To say that you gained more yards in a season than any other offensive player in pro football history? That's just cool. 

Single-Season Passing Yards (Peyton Manning)

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Record-holder: Peyton Manning

    While with the Broncos in 2013, Manning edges Brees' 2011 record of 5,476 with a 5,477-yard campaign. Quarterbacks have hit the 5,000-yard mark on six other occasions in the last nine seasons, but nobody has been able to hit 5,478. 


    Candidate to break the record in 2017: Brees

    Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions, Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons and Brady have all come close as well, and none can be ruled out. But Brees has come the closest. And he's been over 5,000 yards five times. Only four other quarterbacks have hit that mark once, and zero have done it twice.


    Why it matters

    In the most pass-happy era in NFL history, this record has certainly lost some luster. Still, you have to be an absolute stud to get into that territory. 

Single-Season Passer Rating (Aaron Rodgers)

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    David Goldman/Associated Press

    Record-holder: Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers

    While earning MVP honors in 2011, Rodgers posted the highest qualified single-season passer rating (122.5) in NFL history. His final numbers: 68.3 percent, 45 touchdowns, six interceptions and 9.2 yards per attempt. Manning, who had a 121.1 rating with the Colts in 2004, is the only other quarterback to post a rating of 120 or higher. 


    Candidates to break the record in 2017: Ryan, Brady, Rodgers

    Ryan posted the fifth-highest rating in league history (117.1) last season. Brady has a 117.2 rating on his resume and is coming off another off-the-charts campaign. Rodgers is a candidate to break his own record after posting a rating of 120.0 in the final seven games of the 2016 regular season. 


    Why it matters

    It's not as sexy as the bulk-based records listed above and passer rating has its flaws, but rate-based stats probably measure a quarterback's impact better than volume stats. 

Single-Season Completion Percentage (Sam Bradford)

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    Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

    Record-holder: Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford

    This record carried a little more weight when Brees held it after completing 71.2 percent of his passes in 2011, but Bradford broke it with a 71.6 completion percentage in 2016 and it's just not the same. Kudos to the 29-year-old former top pick for hitting that mark, but the guy averaged just 7.0 yards per attempt (ranking tied for 18th among 30 qualified signal-callers) in a super conservative season.


    Candidate to break the record in 2017: Brees

    The old man has posted a completion percentage of 68 or higher in each of his last four seasons. Only six quarterbacks have ever completed more than 70 percent of their passes in one season, but Brees has done it three times. 


    Why it matters

    It hardly does, because completion percentage is overrated. Still, it's something that gets attention because it sounds better than it does and it usually indicates efficiency. 

Single-Season Punt Return Touchdowns (4 Players)

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    Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    Record-holders: Rick Upchurch (1976 Broncos), Jack Christiansen (1951 Lions), Patrick Peterson (2011 Arizona Cardinals), Devin Hester (2007 Chicago Bears)

    All four of those return men took four punts back for touchdowns. Returners have recorded three punt return touchdowns on 11 other occasions. 


    Candidate to break the record in 2017: Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill 

    Hill immediately established himself as one of the league's most dangerous weapons as a rookie, becoming the first player in NFL history to score three-plus touchdowns as a receiver, a runner and a return man in one season. And a lot of it came late. He scored on a kick return in Week 12 and on punt returns in Weeks 14 and 17. If he picks up where he left off, he could make a run at a handful of punt return scores in 2017. 


    Why it matters

    Because touchdowns on returns are just fun. And because they've become more rare as the league has introduced more rules in order to curb injuries. 

Career Field Goals (Morten Andersen)

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Record-holder: Morten Andersen

    Anderson, who played for five teams over 25 seasons, made 565 field goals in his career. In February, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. For years, he and Gary Anderson were the only two kickers with 500-plus career field goals. 


    Candidate to break the record in 2017: Adam Vinatieri

    The 44-year-old longtime Colt and former Patriot made his 500th field goal late in 2015 and hit the 530 mark last season. He'd need to tie a career high with 35 in order to catch Andersen in 2017, but he should at least come close because he's nailed at least 25 kicks in each of the last five years. 


    Why it matters

    If you've got more field goals than anyone else in NFL history, you're usually the highest-scoring player in NFL history. That's a hell of a feat, and it'd probably ensure Vinatieri a Hall of Fame nod. 

Perfect Season (Miami Dolphins)

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    Record-holder: 1972 Miami Dolphins 

    The Don Shula-led '72 Dolphins are the only team ever to win every single game they played in the regular season and the playoffs (17-0). The Patriots came close to matching them when they ran the regular-season table before reaching the Super Bowl with an 18-0 record in 2007, but they were upset by the Giants in Super Bowl XLII.

    Candidates to break the record in 2017: Patriots

    Coming off a 17-2 Super Bowl season in which they won 14 of their 15 games with Brady under center, the Pats could be even better in 2017. They'll be getting superstar tight end Rob Gronkowski back from injury, and they added potential key cogs in cornerback Stephon Gilmore, wide receiver Brandin Cooks, defensive end Kony Ealy and running backs Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee in free agency. 


    Why it matters

    Perfection is perfection. The '72 Dolphins are mythical, and New England's mere pursuit of perfection in '07 was unforgettable.