If it feels like pretty much every major single-season passing and receiving record is in jeopardy in 2011, well ... that's because they are.
We've already witnessed 10 individual 400-yard passing games this season, and Week 7 isn't even finished. Four quarterbacks are averaging more than 300 passing yards per game, including rookie Cam Newton, and two others are over 290. Wes Welker is on schedule to deliver the first 2,000-yard receiving campaign in league history, and Matt Forte is delivering 155.9 scrimmage yards per game.
So yeah, there are some big individual seasons taking place. It always seems sketchy when we start discussing on-pace numbers — after all, we haven't yet hit the bad weather months, and NFL defenses have plenty of time to adjust to players and schemes — but we're also nearing the halfway point in the season. Several players are delivering stats at rates that won't merely break longstanding league records, but obliterate them.
Here are 10 significant single-season individual records that are clearly at risk of falling this year ...
Passing Yards, 5,084 (Dan Marino, 1984): After Sunday night's merciless dissection of the Colts, Drew Brees is on pace to finish the season with 5,662 passing yards. The man is averaging a ridiculous 353.9 yards per game through the air — and that number doesn't even lead the league. Tom Brady is throwing for 360.5 yards per game, on pace for 5,768 yards. Aaron Rodgers is well behind Brady and Brees in terms of per-game yardage (338.9), yet at his current pace he'll still top Marino's record by nearly 350 yards. Not too shabby. At this point, it would be a small surprise if Marino's mark survived the onslaught.
Passer Rating, 121.1 (Peyton Manning, 2004): Through seven games, Rodgers has a passer rating of 125.7, which is just obscene. He hasn't dipped below 111.4 in any game all year, as his undefeated team heads into its bye-week. All of his key receivers are healthy and he appears to be playing multi-dimensional chess while everyone else plays checkers. Or Candyland. Or Barrel of Monkeys.
The point is, he's unlike anyone else. I won't rule out the possibility of Rodgers resetting the record for passer rating, because I'm not sure we've ever seen a quarterback play the position quite this well. He's averaging 9.9 yards per attempt, with 20 touchdown passes and just three interceptions.
Completion Percentage, 70.6 (Drew Brees, 2009): Right now, following the 31-for-35 performance versus Indianapolis, Brees' year-to-date completion percentage is 70.9. Incredibly enough, Rodgers has actually been better, completing an obnoxious 71.5 percent of his throws. Can that crazy rate survive a December schedule that offers nothing but outdoor games, likely in unfriendly conditions? Perhaps not. But again, I don't want to be the guy who tells Rodgers what he can't do.
Receptions, 143 (Marvin Harrison, 2002): Back in 2009, Wes Welker hauled in 123 balls, tied for the second-highest total in league history — and he did it in just 14 games. So far this season he's been targeted a league-best 75 times, catching 51 passes. He's on pace to catch 136, which would at least put him within range of Harrison's mark. Assuming he remains healthy, Welker will easily top triple-digit catches for the fourth time in his career, matching both Harrison and Jerry Rice. That's pretty impressive company.
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Receiving Yards, 1,848 (Jerry Rice, 1995): Welker is currently on pace for 2,093 receiving yards, having topped 100 in four of six games. He's averaging 130.8 yards per week, just ahead of Wes Chandler's all-time per-game record, established back in 1982 (129.0). If Welker can't quite chase down Rice's single-season yardage record, there's always Carolina's Steve Smith. He currently leads the league in total receiving yards (818), though he's played one more game than Welker. At Smith's current pace, he'll finish the season 22 yards ahead of Rice's record total, at 1,870.
Receiving Touchdowns, 23 (Randy Moss, 2007): Calvin Johnson has a superhero-level skill-set and a quarterback who can make any throw, so he's thus on pace for 23 touchdowns. Megatron opened the season with four straight multi-TD games. In his least useful fantasy week this year, he still caught seven passes for 113 yards. Johnson is utterly uncoverable, a demon on jump-balls, the unrivaled master of the end zone fade. If Matthew Stafford manages to dodge serious injury — he was banged up in Week 7, so this is no sure thing — then Johnson has a clear shot at Moss' record.
Every Major Receiving Record for a Tight End, 102 catches, 1,290 yards, 13 TDs: Jimmy Graham legitimately has a shot to break or tie all the big single-season records at his position. When a guy has a chance to bump Tony Gonzalez, Kellen Winslow, and Antonio Gates from the record book, then you know he's doin' work. At Graham's current pace, he would finish the season with 103 catches for 1,541 yards and 11 scores.
Scrimmage Yards, 2,509 (Chris Johnson, 2009): Matt Forte heads into a well-deserved bye week with 1,091 total yards to his credit, on pace for 2,494. He currently ranks second in the NFL in rushing yards (672) and he leads all players at his position in receiving yardage, by a mile (419). Forte already has 162 total touches on the season; the rest of his teammates have combined for 143. This sort of usage might seem unsustainable, but Forte is healthy at the moment and he'll get a pair of friendly match-ups immediately after the break (at Philadelphia, vs. Detroit). The Bears are going to regret their reluctance to pay the guy; the price-tag gets bigger every week.
We should also mention that Buffalo's Fred Jackson — undrafted Fred Jackson from Coe College — is on pace for 2,347 scrimmage yards. If Jackson can emerge from a messy November schedule at something close to his current pace, he'll enter the record-setting discussion. Ray Rice entered Week 7 with an even 700 total yards through five games (140.0 YPG), so he's on the watch list as well.
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