NFL Records Most Likely to Fall During the 2021 Season
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady has had an incomparable NFL career. With seven Super Bowl victories, he already owns more rings than any single franchise—and he's shown no signs of slowing down.
At 44 years old, Brady is playing like a legitimate MVP candidate. He's also on the doorstep of setting yet another NFL milestone. With 79,859 career passing yards, Brady is exactly 500 yards away from breaking the all-time passing record held by Drew Brees.
Ironically, there's a good chance that the record will be broken against Brady's former team, the New England Patriots in Week 4.
While Brady's dominance over Father Time remains one of the top stories of the 2021 season, it's far from the only one. Brees' record isn't the only one likely to fall this year, either. With the NFL expanding to a 17-game schedule this season, several other high-water marks are likely to be surpassed.
Here, we'll examine 11 other records likely to fall in 2021, based on both career statistics and the numbers through the first two weeks of the season.
Career Pass Completions
Current Record: 7,142 (Drew Brees)
Brady has known Brees since their days in the Big Ten at Michigan and Purdue, respectively. There is a certain level of respect between the legendary signal-callers.
"He's a great player—I’ve known him for a long time. I've always had a great amount of respect for him going all the way back to his Purdue days," Brady said of Brees, per Tom Westerholm of Boston.com.
Admiration, though, isn't going to stop Brady from surpassing Brees in multiple categories this season. Brady is within weeks of setting the career passing yardage record. He should set a new mark in completions by season's end.
Brees set the bar with 7,142 completions before retiring at the end of the 2020 season. With 6,834 completions on his resume, Brady is 309 completions away from raising it. At his current pace of 28 completions per game in 2021, Brady should have the record by Week 13 or 14.
Single-Season Passing Touchdowns
Current Record: 55 (Peyton Manning, 2013)
Brees isn't the only NFL great that Brady is chasing in 2021. Newly minted Hall of Famer Peyton Manning holds at least one record Brady may break this season.
During Manning's time with the Indianapolis Colts, he and Brady were the NFL's version of John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg. However, Manning was with the Denver Broncos when he set a new NFL record for touchdown passes in a single season.
Manning tossed 55 scoring strikes in 2013, breaking Brady's record of 50 set in 2007.
Now, Brady has an opportunity to return the favor to an old foe. With nine touchdown passes through two weeks, he is on pace for a whopping 77 touchdown passes. Keeping up the current pace isn't realistic. However, Brady throwing 47 touchdowns over the next 15 games is far from outlandish.
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray is also on pace to surpass 55 touchdown passes this season.
Single-Season Passing Yards/Completions
Current Records: 5,477 Yards (Peyton Manning, 2013) and 471 Completions (Drew Brees, 2016)
We'll lump these two passing milestones together. Both are likely to topple this season because of the league's expanded schedule and the continued proliferation of passing.
Manning set the single-season yardage record in 2013, while Brees set the completions mark three years later. While Brady might not be responsible for breaking either record, someone is going to do it.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott is the two-week leader in completions with 65. That puts him on pace for an astounding 553 completions in 2021. However, he is far from the only quarterback on pace to surpass 471 completions. Brady, Justin Herbert, Derek Carr and Jared Goff are also averaging enough completions to leave Brees' record in the proverbial dust.
Carr, who has thrown for 817 yards with the Las Vegas Raiders thus far, leads the NFL in that category. He's on pace for 6,945 yards in 2021. That's an unrealistic goal. However, Carr, Brady, Herbert, Murray and Patrick Mahomes are on pace to surpass the mighty Manning.
It will be a mild surprise if both of these record don't fall in 2021.
Single-Season Receiving Yards
Current Record: 1,964 (Calvin Johnson, 2012)
Like Manning, former Detroit Lions wideout Calvin Johnson was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer. Unlike Manning, Johnson didn't have a particularly lengthy NFL career. He played nine seasons and reached Canton because of his dominance in a short window.
A six-time Pro Bowler and three-time first-team All-Pro, Johnson was unquestionably the best receiver in the game for much of his career. In 2012, he set an NFL record for 1,964 receiving yards. There's a good chance his record falls in 2021.
While no running back is on pace to break Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record of 2,105 yards—Derrick Henry is on pace for 2,040 yards—multiple receivers are on gunning for Johnson's milestone.
San Francisco 49ers wideout Deebo Samuel leads the NFL with 282 receiving yards. This puts him on pace for 2,397 receiving yards. Kansas City Chiefs wideout Tyreek Hill and Los Angeles Rams wideout Cooper Kupp are also on pace to top 2,000 receiving yards this season.
Single-Season Receiving Touchdowns
Current Record: 23 (Randy Moss, 2007)
When Brady set the since-broken single-season touchdown record in 2007, wide receiver Randy Moss played a huge role. Yet another Hall of Famer to hold a record on this list, the Marshall product led the league in touchdown receptions an incredible five different times.
In 2007, Moss caught 23 touchdown passes from Brady, a mark that still stands.
However, there's a realistic chance Moss' record will be broken in 2021—possibly by one of Brady's targets. Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski has caught four touchdown passes through two games, putting him on pace for 34 on the season.
Five other wide receivers, tight end Travis Kelce and running back Aaron Jones have all caught three touchdown passes through two weeks. This puts them on pace for 26 touchdowns in 2021. Can any of them produce 21 touchdown receptions over the next 15 games? It's entirely possible.
Current Record: 22.5 (Michael Strahan, 2001)
The NFL's transition to being a pass-first league has opened up the opportunity for pass-rushers to produce prolific numbers. Yet, the official single-season sack record—sacks didn't become an official statistic until 1982—was set 20 years ago.
New York Giants great and Hall of Famer Michael Strahan twice led the league in sacks. In 2001, he broke Mark Gastineau's 1984 record of 22—it's worth noting that Al Baker had 23 sacks in 1978, before sack numbers were deemed official.
To the chagrin of players like Gastineau, Strahan was gifted his final sack of 2001 by longtime friend Brett Favre.
"I ran a bootleg, and he'd been crying, belly-aching for a sack the whole game," Favre said in an interview with Eric Bolling (beginning at the 3:50 mark). "So I had an option to run or hand it off and I ran."
Anyone believing that Strahan shouldn't hold the record won't have to wait long to see someone else claim it. Arizona Cardinals pass-rusher Chandler Jones is on pace for an otherworldly 42.5 sacks in 2021. Even if his current pace cannot be maintained, he only needs 17 sacks in the next 15 games to be the new record-holder.
Eight other defenders are currently on pace to break Strahan's sack record this season.
Current Record: 156 (Ray Lewis, 1997)
Strahan's sack record is not the only long-standing defensive milestone that could fall in 2021. In 1997, Baltimore Ravens linebacker and current Hall of Famer Ray Lewis set a record for the most solo tackles in a season with 156.
That marked the first of three times Lewis would lead the NFL in solo tackles.
Lewis' record has stood for more than two decades because it's an incredible feat—one borderline unobtainable in a 16-game season. Lewis himself never even came close to raising the bar, getting as high as 130 solo stops in 1999. However, Las Vegas Raiders linebacker Bobby Wagner is on pace to set a new mark with 22 solo tackles through two weeks.
Wagner is on pace to record 187 solo stops in 2021. While Wagner is the only defender currently on pace to break Lewis' record, several are close. Adrian Amos, De'Vondre Campbell and Eric Kendricks are all currently on pace to top 127 solo tackles this season. A surge by any of them could put them on Lewis' heels.
Single-Season Scrimmage Yards
Current Record: 2,509 (Chris Johnson, 2009)
Though not a Hall of Famer, former NFL running back Chris Johnson holds a special place in NFL history. The former Tennessee Titans standout once known as CJ2K set an NFL record with 2,509 combined rushing and receiving yards in 2009.
The dual-threat speedster out of East Carolina hasn't really had his record challenged since. Adrian Peterson and Christian McCaffrey are the only players since 2009 to come within 200 yards of Johnson's mark.
McCaffrey has been the closest, racking up 2,392 scrimmage yards with the Carolina Panthers in 2019. After an injury-plagued 2020 campaign limited McCaffrey to three games, he's back and has a real shot at setting a new high-water mark.
Through the first two weeks, McCaffrey compiled 324 scrimmage yards, putting him on pace for 2,754 yards on the year. Henry, with 312 scrimmage yards through two games, is also on pace to topple Johnson's record.
Most Career 100-Yard Rushing Games by a Quarterback
Current Record: 10 (Michael Vick)
Michael Vick set the standard for dual-threat quarterbacks in the early 2000s. The former Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles signal-caller rushed for 6,109 yards during his career and still holds an NFL record with 10 games of 100 or more rushing yards.
However, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has set a new standard, while earning the admiration of Vick.
"It's cool to see Lamar having so much fun, so much success with his teammates. That's what the game is all about," Vick said, per Clifton Brown of the Ravens' official website.
Jackson already broke Vick's single-season rushing record for a quarterback with 1,206 yards in 2019. He entered this season two 100-yard games shy of another Vick record. He's now two games shy of breaking it.
With 107 yards against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2, Jackson notched the ninth 100-yard rushing game of his career. It's reasonable to expect him to hit that mark at least two more times this season.
Times Sacked in a Single Season
Current Record: 76 (David Carr, 2002)
Not all records are good ones, something former Houston Texans quarterback David Carr knows all too well. He holds the dubious distinction of being the NFL's most-sacked quarterback over a single season.
Carr was the No. 1 pick in 2002. That same year, he was sacked an unbelievable 76 times in 16 games. It is a record that has stood for nearly two decades, though it may well be broken this season.
Unfortunately, New York Jets rookie Zach Wilson is feeling Carr's pain. The No. 2 pick has been sacked 10 times through two games, putting him on pace for 85 sacks on the year.
Wilson isn't the only quarterback on pace to be sacked 85 times, either. Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow has also been sacked 10 times after being sacked 32 times in 10 games last season. Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been sacked nine times and is on pace to tie or narrowly surpass Carr's undesirable milestone.
*Statistics from Pro Football Reference.