Chad Pemberton: Records may fall in final weeks of regular season
The following is a breakdown of the NFL season records that have a chance of being broken.
MOST RECEIVING YARDS (1,848, JERRY RICE)
It should come as a surprise to absolutely no one that Jerry Rice holds the record, a mark he set in 1995 when football was played with a different set of guidelines concerning defenseless receivers, helmet-to-helmet contact and the incessant protection of quarterbacks -- which is to say when Rice played, there essentially were none. Which makes Rice's yardage from that season infinitely more impressive than if Calvin Johnson is able to supplant him in the next two weeks.
Johnson is 182 yards away from breaking Rice's record, which makes sense when you look at the staggering numbers of how much teams are throwing the ball now. Just last year, Drew Brees and Tom Brady broke Dan Marino's season passing record that stood for almost 30 years, so it was only a matter of time -- given the way rule changes have opened up the passing game and made it advantageous to sling the ball around -- before the record for receiving yards in a season followed suit.
Even if Johnson didn't gain another yard this season, his 1,667 receiving yards would still rank eighth all-time, 14 yards behind his output from last season for seventh place. Johnson is one of only two players to possess two of the top 10 individual seasons for receiving yards. Marvin Harrison is the other. Of the top 10 individual seasons for receiving yards, only Johnson (five) and Jimmy Smith (six) had single-digit receiving touchdowns in that season, too. To put Johnson's low touchdown count into perspective, he has been tackled on the 1-yard line six times this season.
I'd be completely shocked in Johnson didn't break this record. With the Detroit Lions having nothing to play for, I assume this is what they're setting their sights on as their underwhelming season comes to an anticlimactic close.
MOST QUARTERBACK SACKS (22.5, MICHAEL STRAHAN)
Like the passing and receiving records, it only makes sense that Michael Strahan's season sack record would also be in jeopardy. As quarterback drop backs increase, sacks will too. In fact, of the 12 best single season sack performances, a third of them occurred in the past two seasons: Jared Allen had 22 sacks and DeMarcus Ware had 19.5 sacks in 2011. J.J. Watt and Aldon Smith have 19.5 sacks this season.
Watt and Smith both have a great chance at breaking Strahan's record (or at least tying it), but I'll give Watt the slight edge, simply because of the teams he faces -- Minnesota and Indianapolis. Christian Ponder has been sacked 30 times (11th most), and Andrew Luck has been sacked 37 times (fourth most). Not sure if you saw what Watt did to the Colts last Sunday -- 10 tackles, three stuffs, one forced fumble and three sacks -- but it was the defensive lineman equivalent of a wrecking ball.
MOST RUSHING YARDS (2,105 YARDS, ERIC DICKERSON)
I've already poured a lot of ink on how unbelievable Adrian Peterson's season has been. Everything about it is unprecedented, and he's doing all of this in spite of the NFL being a quarterback's league, while all of the other records that have a chance at being broken are because it's a quarterback's league. Peterson rushed for 1,313 yards in the last eight games. Consider this: that's as many rushing yards as Arian Foster, who is fourth in total rushing yards, has all season.
Peterson needs 188 yards to become the seventh player to reach 2,000. He needs 294 yards to break Eric Dickerson's 28-year record. Can he do it, with Houston's fifth-ranked rush defense waiting this Sunday, and an amped up divisional matchup against Green Bay in the final week? I don't know, but based on what I've seen so far, I'm anticipating something quite spectacular.
Chad Pemberton is a Marshall University graduate who follows the NFL and is writing about it for The Herald-Dispatch. Email him at email@example.com.