Best Bets to Break Offensive Single-Season Records

August 16, 2016 • Justin Cavegn • Features, Front Page, History, Lists

Records are meant to be broken…some more than others.

But, in today’s NFL, the records that are most likely going to be broken are passing and receiving ones as this is now a pass-happy period in football while runners have been somewhat pushed back.

That is why Ladainian Tomlinson’s record of 28 rushing touchdowns will probably stand for quite a while whereas Marvin Harrison’s record of 143 catches is destined to fall soon. Read on to see the records for the most well-known statistics on the offensive side of the ball and see who has the best shot at breaking them.

Passing Records

1) Passing Yards

RECORD: 5,477 Yards by Peyton Manning (2013)

Will It Be Broken in 2016?: There’s an outside chance. I would say there’s about an 8% shot.

Closest in 2015: Drew Brees, 4,870 (607 yards away)

Best Bets (Personal Best):

Most Probable: Drew Brees (5,476)

You’ll be hard pressed to find a more pure passer in (probably) NFL history than Brees. He might be getting up there in age but he continues to throw the ball at an alarming rate with outstanding efficiency. And, nothing for nothing, he already has the second-best yardage total ever and four different seasons with over 5,000 yards.

Most Upside: Andrew Luck (4,761)

Before last season, most thought it was inevitable for Luck to etch his name among the greats at the quarterback position. However, after a forgettable season for the Stanford product, many have turned into harsh critics. Nevertheless, he has the arm and his coach’s trust to keep throwing the ball downfield. Although he has never eclipsed 5,000 yards, or even 4,800 yards for that matter, Luck has all the tools and weapons at his disposal to have a truly historic year in 2016.

Dark Horse: Phillip Rivers (4,792)

Rivers is never mentioned with the elites at the position which, to me, is criminal. Year in and year out, he puts up more than respectable numbers with not much help from his teammates and coaching staff. Last season (before his No. 1 receiver went down with an injury), Rivers was on pace for an insane––and an NFL record––5,500 passing yards after eight games. So, he’s definitely got the ability to do it, it’s just a matter of health and production with Rivers.

2) Passing Touchdowns

RECORD: 54 Touchdowns by Peyton Manning (2013)

Will It Be Broken in 2016?: Not likely. 1.5% chance.

Closest in 2015: Tom Brady, 36 (18 TDs away)

Best Bets (Personal Best):

Most Probable: Aaron Rodgers (45)

Aaron Rodgers is arguably the best quarterback in the game right now and no lower than third best. He might never lead the league in most pass attempts or completions, but he doesn’t need volume to break records due to his otherworldly efficiency. His touchdown numbers are always high, as his career-high is 45 touchdowns, while his interceptions are always low. This consistency allows him to be the best bet to eclipse the 54 TD mark. Not to mention he’ll have WR Jordy Nelson back on the field this year.

Most Upside: Ben Roethlisberger (32)

When you’re talking about upside, the Pittsburgh Steelers offense has to come to mind. With Antonio Brown, Sammie Coates, Markus Wheaton, Ledarius Green, and a now well-rested Le’Veon Bell coming back from a suspension, Ben Roethlisberger clearly has the supporting cast to put up incredible numbers. Injuries have hindered him before so as long as he suits up each and every week, he could make a run at the record.

Dark Horse: Blake Bortles (35)

In just his second year, Bortles was able to put up 35 touchdowns, one off of Tom Brady for the league lead. That statement oozes potential. Now in his third year, alongside breakout receivers Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns, his gifted tight end Julius Thomas, and the dynamic duo of T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory, Bortles has the potential to put up a career year in ’16, maybe even smashing some records along the way.

3) Completion Percentage

RECORD: 71.2% by Drew Brees (2011)

Will It Be Broken in 2016?: Maybe, just maybe. 10% probability.

Closest in 2015: Kirk Cousins, 69.8% (1.4% off)

Best Bets (Personal Best):

Most Probable: Drew Brees (71.2%)

The record holder himself comes in as the best bet to break his own record…figures. With Brees, every passing record, in essence, is attainable and breakable. He is one of the most precise passers of all time and what’s going to stop him from being just as accurate in 2016? The Saints added tight end Coby Fleener as well as the athletic Mike Thomas out of Ohio State to join the already talented corps of Brandin Cooks, Willie Snead, Mark Ingram, and C.J. Spiller. Don’t be surprised if Brees is even more accurate this year.

Most Upside: Ben Roethlisberger (68.0%)

The upside award again goes to Ben Roethlisberger of the Steelers. Since Todd Haley took over as Pittsburgh’s offensive coordinator, Roethlisberger has seen his numbers rise, specifically his completion percentage. This is due to the more short-routed play calls and quick throws in which he takes a three step drop and slings the ball out quickly for the speedy and elusive Antonio Brown or Le’Veon Bell. This helps inflate all of his numbers, especially his completion percentage.

Dark Horse: Russell Wilson (68.1%)

After being tagged as a game managing quarterback during his first few years in the league, Wilson turned heads in 2015 by throwing for over 4,000 yards and 34 touchdowns to just eight picks. Along with these numbers came the jump in his completion percentage, by going from his previous high of 64.1% during his rookie campaign to 68.1% last year. Thanks to his continual progress and work, Wilson has placed his name among the elite signal callers in the NFL and could make a run at the record for highest completion percentage.

Rushing Records:

1) Rushing Yards

RECORD: 2,105 Yards by Eric Dickerson (1984)

Will It Be Broken in 2016?: Don’t bet on it. .5% chance. It hasn’t been broken in 31 years for a reason.

Closest in 2015: Adrain Peterson, 1,485 (620 yards away)

Best Bets (Personal Best):

Most Probable: Todd Gurley (1,106)

Gurley rushed for 1,106 yards on 229 carries in just 12 games (he really only missed three games but one game he had 6 carries for just 9 yards so I counted it as a missed game) last year in his rookie year. If projected over 16 games, he would have finished with about 300 carries and almost 1,500 yards. That is still quite a ways from Dickerson’s 2,105 yards but if the Rams continue to feed Gurley the ball, he has the talent to do it and add another Ram to the 2,000 yard club.

Most Upside: Adrian Peterson (2,097)

Never count out Adrian Peterson. He is the most talented runner in this generation and I don’t see him slowing down anytime soon (and I don’t think he does either). After pacing the league in rushing yards once again in 2015, the sky is the limit with Peterson as he heads into his 10th year as a pro. Every year in which he has played more than 12 games, he has finished with over 1,266 yards and double-digit touchdowns. The 2016 campaign should be no different.

Dark Horse: Ezekiel Elliott (N/A)

Elliott is the ultimate dark horse since we have yet to see him take a meaningful snap as a professional. But, everything else is in place for a great season for the rookie runner. His team’s offensive line is near-perfect and should give him plenty of room and holes to run through, his teammates are now healthy as Dez Bryant and Tony Romo return in one piece, and plenty of volume should be there for the fourth overall pick. Now, all he needs to do is perform. Anything short of 1,000 yards on the ground would be disappointing.

2) Rushing Touchdowns

RECORD: 28 by LaDainian Tomlinson (2006)

Will It Be Broken in 2016?: No shot. I’d be shocked if it were broken this year. .000000001%

Closest in 2015: Adrain Peterson, DeAngelo Williams, Jeremy Hill, Devonta Freeman, 11 (17 TDs away)

Best Bets (Personal Best):

Most Probable: Adrian Peterson (18)

Adrian Peterson has scored double-digit touchdowns in every year of his career with the exception of one…and that was the year he played in one game. As far as sure things go, Peterson is the epitome of it at the running back position. Putting up 28 touchdowns is a tough feat that may not ever be approached again. I mean Peterson, one of the best rushers ever, had 18 touchdowns in 2009, still ten short of the record. But, if anyone could do it, it’d be AP.

Most Upside: David Johnson (8)

David Johnson was a rookie last year and was played sparingly in the first eleven games, not receiving more than eight carries in any one of those games. Still, Johnson was able to rush for eight touchdowns and score 12 times in total. That potential gives him the best upside of all rushers in the game. It also helps that he plays for the Arizona Cardinals, who have a really good offense capable of driving down into the red zone often.

Dark Horse: Lamar Miller (8)

Miller is one of my favorite running backs heading into 2016. He comes into a great situation in Houston where he should get 20 touches a game, which, with his ability, should translate to quite a bit of production and maybe a good amount of touchdowns. His most scores in a season is only eight but he should get that total up to double-digits at the very least this season in Houston.

Receiving Records:

1) Receiving Yards

RECORD: 1,964 by Calvin Johnson (2012)

Will It Be Broken in 2016?: I think it could. 55% chance.

Closest in 2015: Julio Jones, 1,871 (93 yards away)

Best Bets (Personal Best):

Most Probable: Antonio Brown (1,834)

He has more receiving yards over the past three years than anyone in football, with 5,031, and those three years makes for the greatest stretch (yardage-wise) by a receiver in NFL history. Antonio Brown is safely the best wide receiver in the game today and might be included with those who have revolutionized the game at the position if he has a couple more years at the level he is currently playing at. He was only 130 yards off of the record last year and Big Ben missed a few games. He was on pace for over 2,000 yards last year with Ben Roethlisberger playing.

Most Upside: Julio Jones (1,871)

Last year’s receiving yards leader was Julio Jones, and I think he is easily the second best receiver behind Antonio Brown. Although I think Brown has the most upside of any receiver, I did not want to put him twice in this column for Most Probable and Most Upside, so here is Julio. That’s not to say Julio Jones isn’t special because he is, at 6’3, 220 pounds and runs a sub-4.4 40. That combination of speed and size coupled with the quarterback presence of Matt Ryan (who had a slightly down year in ’15) allows Julio to be a front runner to break the single season yardage record.

Dark Horse: Odell Beckham Jr. (1,450)

It doesn’t feel right putting Odell as the dark horse, as he probably has just as much upside and capability to break this yardage record as Brown and Julio. But, there’s so much talent at the receiver position that that is what it’s come to, so here’s OBJ as the dark horse. His career-high is only 1,450 yards but that figure could rise significantly in 2016 as Eli and OBJ head into year three together.

2) Receiving Touchdowns

RECORD: 23 by Randy Moss (2007)

Will It Be Broken in 2016?: Most likely not. 1% chance I’d say.

Closest in 2015: Brandon Marshall, Doug Baldwin, Allen Robinson, 14 (9 TDs away)

Best Bets (Personal Best):

Most Probable: Rob Gronkowski (17)

Gronk has come the closest among active players with 17 touchdowns in 2011 and is always a threat in the red zone. He is simply uncoverable since he is too big for smaller defensive backs and too fast and agile for lumbering linebackers. Pair him with Tom Brady and you get a lethal duo. They have been terrorizing defenses for years now and 2016 should be no different as he should comfortably be in the double-digit range for touchdowns and maybe he has another historic year. And yes, I’m aware that Jimmy Garoppolo is the starting quarterback for the first four games but think about it, if you were thrown in to quarterback the Patriots, who would you throw to out of desperation? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Most Upside: Dez Bryant (16)

Dez is one of the most athletic and talented receivers in the game. He had a bit of a rough year last season due to injuries both to him and his star quarterback, but both return healthy for the upcoming season. His measurables are incredible and his play on the field is freakish. He owns the jump ball like no other receiver and consistently rises up over defensive backs, allowing him to put up high scoring numbers every year. He should rebound in ’16 to the tune of touchdowns numbering in the teens.

Dark Horse: DeAndre Hopkins (11)

Hopkins is one of my favorite wide receivers mostly because I feel like he doesn’t get enough credit. This is a guy who caught 111 passes from backup quarterbacks all season and turned that into over 1,500 yards and 11 touchdowns. Simply incredible. Now Brock Osweiler steps in and should continue to target his most talented receiver. Don’t be surprised to see Hopkins’ name on top of every statistical ranking throughout 2016.

3) Receptions

RECORD: 143 by Marvin Harrison (2002)

Will It Be Broken in 2016?: YES!!! Maybe even by more than one player. 75%. Bet on it.

Closest in 2015: Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, 136 (seven catches away)

Best Bets (Personal Best):

Most Probable: Antonio Brown (136)

Brown has caught over 100 passes in the last three years and as long as Ben Roethlisberger stays healthy, that streak should continue. After he caught 110 passes in 2013, everyone thought that that was his ceiling and he was done…until he put up 129 receptions in 2014, and everyone said that that was his ceiling and he was done…until he recorded 136 catches last year, and now everyone has shut up and is waiting for what he can do in 2016. To be continued…

Most Upside: Julio Jones (136)

Julio Jones was leading this category for pretty much the entire year until Antonio Brown stepped in to tie him at the end of the 2015 season. I think Julio has the biggest upside for this stat because of the sheer volume he receives from Matt Ryan every game. He led the league in targets with 204 (nine more than Brown) and was given at least ten targets in every game but two last year. Also, his role in the slot in Atlanta’s offense gives him a few more opportunities to catch more balls.

Dark Horse: A.J. Green (98)//Keenan Allen (77)

I cheated a bit here as both are potential candidates to have a ton of looks in 2016. A.J. Green is and has always been the guy in Cincinnati, but this year, he might be called on to do a little more. Marvin Jones and Mohammed Sanu are now gone, leaving behind 153 combined targets, and tight end Tyler Eifert is struggling to get out of the trainer’s room. Most of those targets should go Green’s way giving him a chance at the record.

Keenan Allen is another dark horse who I felt deserved to be named. Through eight games last year, before his injury, Allen was on pace for 134 receptions, two behind the league lead of Antonio Brown and Julio Jones. That type of production is not easy to sustain over the course of an entire year but if Phillip Rivers keeps keying in on him, Allen just might be the receptions leader by season’s end.

Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

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