An expanded NFL schedule means one more game and an assault on records.
The 17-game schedule in the National Football League will apparently become official in a few days. While there have already been a few nay-sayers among the players (see ESPN’s Mike Triplett), there will also be some new changes to the offseason as well.
The 16-game slate began in 1978 and since then, there have been many league records broken as the NFL added two more contests (14 games) from the previous schedule. So what five individual and team marks could be threatened by an extra contest?
In 2019, Saints’ wide receiver Michael Thomas set a new NFL record by catching 149 passes. Who’s to say that in this aerial-oriented NFL that someone won’t reach 150 grabs in 17 games?
The most points allowed by a team in a single season? Well, the Detroit Lions came pretty close in 2020 when they surrendered 519 points, just 14 shy of tying the record the dubious record set in 1981 by the then-Baltimore Colts (533).
It would be ridiculous to suggest that any team could break the astonishing 104 sacks allowed by the 1986 Philadelphia Eagles. But what about the individual record, own by then-rookie quarterback David Carr of the Houston Texans? He went down a distressing 76 times in 2002 during the franchise’s first season in the league.
So when is a record not really a record? That could be said about the 22.5 sacks reached by Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive end Michael Strahan for the New York Giants in 2001? Now this has nothing to with the fact that many believe Packers’ quarterback Brett Favre had an “assist” in the mark (see ESPN’s Mark Kreidler).
It’s worth remembering that individual sacks were not counted by the NFL until 1982. So technically the likes of Merlin Ollsen, “Mean” Joe Greene, Bob Lilly and Deacon Jones (the latter coined the term “sack”), technically do not have any official QB traps on their resumes. So for now, Strahan’s mark is the standard. But who’s to say that someone like Aaron Donald couldn’t flirt with that number thanks to an extra game?
Finally, while the ball is in the air a lot these days, along comes a player like running back Derrick Henry. He ran for 2,027 yards this past season, just the eighth time in NFL history that a performer reached the two-grand yardage mark on the ground. But could he post similar numbers sooner than later and break Eric Dickerson’s mark of 2,105 yards set in 1984 in his second year with the Rams.
Henry would also become the first player in NFL annals to run for at least 2,000 yards twice.
It’s going to be fascinating to see what kind of numbers will be put up in 2021 on both sides of the ball with an additional contest to be played.