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Six NFL records that could fall by end of 2021 regular season

·5 min read
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  • Atlanta Falcons
    Atlanta Falcons
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  • Los Angeles Rams
    Los Angeles Rams
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  • Cooper Kupp
    Cooper Kupp
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  • Matthew Stafford
    Matthew Stafford
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There are three weeks to go in the NFL's 2021 regular season, a final trio of opportunities for players to break records – whether they come with figurative asterisks or not – amid the league's first 17-game schedule.

Leading the way is Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp, whose numbers have skyrocketed in conjunction with quarterback Matthew Stafford's arrival, including another sterling performance in Tuesday night's win over the Seattle Seahawks when Kupp hauled in nine catches for 136 yards and two touchdowns. He now owns a league-high 1,625 receiving yards – nearly 300 more than his closest pursuer, Justin Jefferson (1,335) of the Minnesota Vikings – and has a legitimate shot at being the first 2,000-yard receiver in the NFL's 102-season history.

"I mean, he's a great player. He's having a fantastic season. He's such a huge part of what we do as a team," Stafford said Tuesday night.

"I'm just happy that I get the chance to play with a guy like that. I know a lot of guys on our team feel the same way. We all take a hand in his success and that's really fun. We're just proud of him. Just proud of him watching him do his thing.”

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Rams WR Cooper Kupp leads the NFL in all major receiving categories.
Rams WR Cooper Kupp leads the NFL in all major receiving categories.

By averaging 125 yards over the final three games – Kupp's pace to this point has been 116.1 yards per game – he'll reach the 2,000-yard plateau and amplify his "success" to an achievement of legendary proportions. Kupp needs 340 yards (113.3 per game) to take down Hall of Famer and former Detroit Lion Calvin Johnson's nine-year-old single-season record of 1,964 yards, a run Stafford also fueled.

It could be the most prominent record to fall in 2021, but it may not be the only one ... and perhaps not the lone one claimed by Kupp.

Receptions

The unassuming Kupp also paces the NFL with 122 catches, tied for 10th most all time, and needs 28 – 9.3 per game – to break Michael Thomas' two-year-old standard while becoming the first man to bring in 150 receptions. Very doable given Kupp has at least nine catches in eight games this year and has hit double digits four times. And with the Rams still in the hunt for the NFC West title and maybe even home-field advantage and a first-round playoff bye, good chance their starters see a lot of reps down the stretch.

(Kupp also has 14 touchdown catches, most in the league, but he ain't sniffing Randy Moss' mark of 23.)

Sacks

Pittsburgh Steelers star T.J. Watt currently sits on 17½ sacks, five shy of matching Michael Strahan's record of 22½*, set in 2001. (*Brett Favre gifted Strahan this record, and now back to your regularly scheduled programming.) The amazing thing about Watt's season is that he's missed two games and sat out the second half of a Week 14 loss to Minnesota. He's averaging 1.46 sacks per game, which would theoretically get him to 22. But he's also had five games with at least two sacks and has hit three or more on two occasions. Keep an eye on a guy who stars for a desperate team ... provided he can stay on the field.

Most yardage by a rookie tight end

The Atlanta Falcons' Kyle Pitts has lived up to his pre-draft hype – and there was plenty after he was selected fourth overall this year, the highest a tight end had ever gone in the common draft era (dating to 1967). During the Super Bowl era – since 1966 – no rookie tight end has amassed 1,000 receiving yards. Pitts currently sits on 847 and needs 48 more to break Jeremy Shockey's Super Bowl-era record. If Pitts gets another 153 yards (51 per game), he hits the 1,000-yard target. Pitts will have to rack up 230 yards (76.7 per game) to break Hall of Famer Mike Ditka's rookie record of 1,076 set in 1961. (It should also be noted Pitts has 58 receptions. Keith Jackson caught 81 balls in 1988 to establish the rookie standard for tight ends.)

Interceptions

Been quite the breakout season for Dallas Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs, who's swiped 10 passes in his sophomore campaign. It's a tall order, but he'll tie the modern record of 13 set by Lester Hayes in 1980 if he can pilfer three more over the final three games. Diggs picked off a pass in each of this season's first six games (a total of 7 over that stretch), so he can get them in bunches. (And in case you're wondering, Hall of Famer Dick "Night Train" Lane possess the all-time record for INTs, snatching 14 in just 12 games in 1952.)

Passing yards

Since Tom Brady doesn't have enough league records, seemed only fair to at least float the possibility. He's passed for 4,348 yards in 2021, putting him in line to pace the NFL for the fourth time in his career. To wrest yet another of Peyton Manning's records (5,477 yards in 2013), TB12 will have to turn it on to the tune of 376.7 yards per game the rest of the way. Working to Brady's advantage is the fact that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers likely need to win their final three games to have a shot at the NFC's No. 1 seed ... and he could make a lot of hay against the New York Jets' league-worst defense in Week 17. On the flip side, the Bucs are missing several of Brady's best weapons due to injuries, and their other two games come against the Carolina Panthers' second-ranked pass defense. Hey, we're merely saying there's a chance ...

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Follow USA TODAY Sports' Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Six NFL records that could be broken by end of 2021 regular season