Manning is on pace to surpass Dan Marino for second place in passing yardage midway through the 2012 season. Depending on whether Brett Favre decides to hang them up before he's 50, Manning will eclipse Favre in passing yards and touchdown passes by his 40th birthday.
Manning has averaged 4,177 yards and roughly 30 touchdowns for the last 12 seasons. His numbers are unprecedented , an NFL record four MVPs , six consecutive seasons with at least 4,000 passing yards and 12 consecutive seasons with at least 25 touchdown passes.
All of which were achieved during a 16-game schedule over 12 years. Record setting numbers that, if he continues to produce for the rest of his career, will put him atop the record books across the board.
Imagine for a second that come 2011 or 2012 the NFL extends the regular season to 18 games. Figure in the possibility that Manning will sit the majority of the 18th game, that still likely gives Manning an extra six quarters of action.
Six quarters to tack on an additional 500 or so yards and a few more touchdowns each season for the remainder of his career. In 2009, Manning passed for 4,500 yards and 33 touchdowns, an average of 281 yards and two passing touchdowns a game. With six more quarters Manning, with those averages, could have added something like 421 passing yards and another three scores through the air.
There are several arguments for why adding two more games to an already grueling schedule will or will not work. NFL owners see dollar signs, the players see more potential for injury, Mercury Morris and the Dolphins see their record staying intact and guys like Bill Williamson of ESPN believe it would damage the integrity of the game and league records.
In 1961 when Major League Baseball expanded and the American League played 162 games, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris chased Babe Ruth's single season record for home runs. Eventually Maris broke Ruth's record on the final day of the 1961 season but next to the record was an asterisk signifying the difference between Ruth's record which was achieved in eight fewer games and Maris'.
It is unlikely that such an occurrence would happen today, especially after the asterisk next to Maris' record was eventually removed. Emmitt Smith broke Walter Payton's career rushing record and despite the fact that Payton played in the 14-game schedule era for three seasons, no one disputes Smith's record.
Manning will eventually prove to be a statistical anomaly, no matter how many games are scheduled but if the NFL makes this change, sports fans everywhere will soon have more unbreakable records to discuss.