Eight in the Box: Single-season records that could fall in 2013
Each Friday, Eight in the Box will highlight a list of eight players, teams or moments and their impact on the 2013 season.
The NFL record book has been under assault in recent seasons. The explosion of offense around the league has given quarterbacks, running backs and receivers the opportunity to hit previously unseen heights. This season is shaping up to be no different. But the records that may fall in 2013 are not limited to offense. This week’s Eight in the Box lines up an octet of marks that could be in jeopardy.
Current record: Michael Strahan, 22.5 (2001)
Challenger: Robert Mathis, 11.5
Mathis may not be alone in pushing for Strahan’s mark — Mario Williams and Justin Houston each sit at 10.0 sacks right now, putting them in the mix through seven weeks of the season.
The Colts’ star, though, has had just one game without a sack in 2013 and is on pace for a staggering 26.0 sacks. Mathis added two more to his total last weekend against Peyton Manning, including one that knocked the ball from Manning’s hands and led to a safety.
Something to keep in mind, in case Mathis is on the brink of topping Strahan come late December: Indianapolis closes the season against hapless Jacksonville, which currently has allowed more sacks than any team in the league.
2. Completion percentage
Current record: Drew Brees, 71.2 percent (2011)
Challenger: Philip Rivers, 73.9 percent
As remarkable as Peyton Manning has been (and his current completion percentage, 71.6, is a notch above Brees’ mark), Rivers has him beat in this category.
Making Rivers’ place atop the chart more impressive is that he opened the season with a 14-of-29 outing. That’s 48.2 percent, hardly foretelling of the success to come. Since then, he’s topped 70 percent in all but one Chargers game and soared past the 80 percent barrier three times, including a 22-of-26 (84.6 percent) performance last Sunday.
3. Passing yards
Current record: Drew Brees, 5,476 (2011)
Challenger: Peyton Manning, 2,565
So … Brees had a pretty good 2011. Manning, as things stand right now, could have an even better 2013.
Manning’s on pace to take down a number of records — yards, passing touchdowns, completions, QB rating. This one might be the most iconic record of the bunch, even though it was erased and rewritten twice during the 2011 season. Tom Brady, with 5,235 yards that year, also passed Dan Marino’s mark of 5,084.
During his team’s 6-1 start, Manning averaged 366.4 yards per game. Stretched out over the full 16-game slate, that would be 5,862 yards, meaning that Manning has a little cushion when compared to Brees’ pace.
4. Punt returns
Current record: Danny Reece, 70 (1979)
Challenger: Dexter McCluster, 31
A bit more obscure record here, but a record nonetheless. McCluster still has a long way to go to catch the Buccaneers’ Reece, but his current average of 4.4 punt returns per game puts him right at a 70-return pace.
This is a mark that cannot be broken without a stellar defense doing yeoman’s work on first through third downs. When Reece set the standard in 1979, the Buccaneers boasted a league-best defense. Kansas City can make the same claim at the moment, which is why McCluster has 10 more return attempts than his closest contender this season (New England’s Julian Edelman).
5. Extra points made
Current record: Stephen Gostkowski, 74 (2007)
Challenger: Matt Prater, 37
The Broncos’ Prater already has reached the halfway point in this record pursuit, and he still has nine regular-season games left. So go ahead and put the official watch on Gostkowski’s mark.
You’ll remember that 2007 New England team, for which Gostkowski set his record, as the one that finished 16-0 and set the record for most team points in a season with 589. At their current scoring rate, the 2013 Broncos will obliterate that mark (they’re on pace for 681 points), so it stands to reason that Prater could take down Gostkowski, too.
Four kickers are tied for the second-most extra point makes in the NFL season … at 21, a whopping 16 back of Prater.
6. Interception returns for touchdown
Current record: Three players (Ken Houston, Jim Kearney, Eric Allen) tied with four
Challenger: Tim Jennings, two
It’s hard to project a stat that is so random in nature. Jennings is halfway to the current mark, though, and he’s coming off a season in which he led the NFL in interceptions with nine — meaning he might have several more opportunities to take an INT to the house.
Last season, Chicago’s Charles Tillman and St. Louis’ Janoris Jenkins each came within one pick-six of joining Houston, Kearney and Allen as record-holders.
7. Lowest percentage of passes intercepted
Current record: Damon Huard, 0.4 percent (2006)
Challenger: Jake Locker, 0.7 percent
Huard sits atop names like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers on this list — an unexpected record-holder who caught lightning in a bottle for part of the 2006 season. Huard started just eight games that year and played in only 10, but he was exceptionally sharp when he was on the field. As the Chiefs’ quarterback that year, Huard attempted 244 regular-season passes and threw just one INT.
Locker also has been picked off just once, through 152 passing attempts. That leaves him 92 passes shy of matching Huard and well ahead of the 3.5-percent clip at which he fired interceptions last season.
8. Receiving yards per game
Current record: Wes Chandler, 129.0 (1982)
Challenger: Justin Blackmon, 128.0
If Blackmon were to topple Chandler’s record (and odds are he’ll fall off his current pace), it may require an asterisk — Blackmon missed the first four games of the regular season serving a suspension.
Of course, Chandler’s record was set during the strike-shortened 1982 season. The Chargers’ leading receiver that year, Chandler played in only eight regular-season games. He still hit the 1,000-yard mark, with 1,032 and 49 catches in that limited action.
Following his return to the field, Blackmon posted yardage totals of 136 and 190 in Weeks 5 and 6, respectively. A 58-yard showing last Sunday vs. San Diego brought him back to the pack and dropped his per-game average behind Chandler. There’s a long way to go before Blackmon can be considered a serious contender for this one.
The best mark in recent years: Calvin Johnson’s 122.8 yards per game last season, when he set the single-season receiving yards record. Johnson is the only player to finish above a 110 yards-per-game average since Jerry Rice in 1995 (115.5).