4 Single-Season NFL Records That Could Be in Jeopardy
It's often said that records are made to be broken.
To me, records are meant to stand the test of time, especially if I’m inputting "SON" next to the high score on the Street Fighter machine.
Through six weeks of the NFL season, there have been a handful of individual performances that could challenge some single-season NFL records. Will these marvels of 2015 be able to deliver?
Philip Rivers and the Completions and Passing Yards Record
Philip Rivers has been pretty incredible this year, completing 178 passes on 254 attempts for 2,117 passing yards.
The 178 completions puts him on a pace to finish the year with 472. The current record holder is Drew Brees with 468 (2011).
The 2,117 yards puts him on a pace to throw for 5,642 yards. The record holder is Peyton Manning with 5,477 yards (2013).
What are some reasons for this hot streak?
The Chargers defense allows the seventh most points per game at 26.8. Opposing offenses gain 6.3 yards per play, which is the second most generous mark in the league. The unit ranks 25th in schedule-adjusted Defensive Net Expected Points (NEP) per play.
For those new to numberFire, NEP is our signature metric that factors in situational variables such as down-and-distance in order to compare a team or player’s production to historical expectation levels. A positive number indicates how much the team or player scored above expectation, while a negative number shows how much below.
The Chargers have trailed going into the fourth quarter in five of six games played, so the running game has often had to be abandoned because of the need to chase points. That is, if the running game hadn't already been abandoned due to its current state -- according to our metrics, the Chargers rank 31st in schedule-adjusted rushing offense, ahead of only the Broncos.
So, the Chargers can’t stop anyone, can’t run the ball, and need to chase points. And that Rivers guy is a pretty good quarterback as well, as he currently ranks seventh in Passing NEP per play. Looks like the perfect recipe for records to be broken.
Is the pace sustainable?
Well, let’s break down the remaining schedule for the Chargers. The Raiders are the best team they'll face offensively, as they currently rank 14th in Adjusted NEP. The Chargers face the Broncos twice (last in Offensive NEP) and the Chiefs twice (22nd) as well. And then the remaining teams all rank lower than 20 in Offensive NEP.
So this whole "chasing points" notion may not be much of a thing moving forward.
Rivers could continue to flourish, though, as he faces some of the worst pass defenses in the league -- aside from Denver, every pass defense the Chargers will face from here on out rank in the bottom third of the league against the pass. Meanwhile, only the Bears really provide a favorable matchup for the run game.
Our computers project rest of season numbers to be 285.21 completions with 3,247.95 yards. The final numbers would then be 462.21 completions with 5,363.95 yards, meaning he'll be just short of both records.
Keenan Allen and the Receptions Record
Rivers has to throw to someone, right?
As mentioned in the Rivers section, the Chargers can’t run the ball and have a porous defense. In addition, the schedule sets up more favorably to pass.
Among receivers with at least 25 catches, Allen ranks 19th in Receiving NEP per target (0.72). Not great, no, but Marvin Harrison had a 0.79 Receiving NEP mark when he set the record in 2002.
Allen is fourth in the league in targets with 71, and his catch rate of 74% places him third in the league.
Harrison’s record is going down, right? Not so fast.
While Allen is fourth in targets, the inconsistency from game to game will make it difficult to break the record. Look at his target distribution by game so far: 17, 4, 18, 7, 10, and 15. During Harrison’s 2002 season, there were three games with eight targets and one with nine. In every other game, he received double-digit targets. Allen is prone to the occasional dud, which won't cut it when chasing a record.
Our algorithm has Allen projected for 57.91 receptions the remainder of the year. That has him finishing with 110 receptions on the year.
DeAndre Hopkins and the Receptions, Targets and Receiving Yards Records
DeAndre Hopkins has hauled in 52 receptions on 90 targets for 726 yards this year. That puts him on a pace for 138 receptions, 240 targets, and 1,936 yards.
The 138 receptions would put him five behind the 143 of Marvin Harrison. The 240 targets would shatter Rob Moore’s 208 record in 1997. The 1,936 yards would be 28 yards behind Calvin Johnson's 1,964 yards in 2012.
Can it continue?
The Texans' offense has run 454 plays to start the year. That’s 75 plays a game, and puts them on a pace for 1,210. That would break the single-season record of 1,199 set by the 1994 Patriots. And, obviously, if they can maintain that pace, then it increases the chances for Hopkins.
A peek at the upcoming schedule shows three difficult matchups according to our metrics. The Jets rank fourth in Defensive Passing NEP, the Patriots rank eighth, and the Bills rank seventh. So far, Hopkins has been held to under nine receptions just once, which was Week 2 in Carolina. The year Harrison broke the record, he had six games under nine receptions.
The rest of the schedule looks favorable, including games against the Jags and Saints.
Up to this point, Hopkins has a catch rate of 58%, good for 28th in the league. But that's more an indictment on Ryan Mallett -- in two starts, Mallett had completion percentages of 46.6% and 44.4%.
Really, the fate of Hopkins depends on Brian Hoyer. Fortunately, Hoyer's been one of the more efficient passers in the league within our small 2015 sample size, ranking sixth in efficiency on a per drop back basis according to NEP.
Our computers have Hopkins with 71.48 receptions and 1,007.54 yards the rest of the season. Hopkins would then end with 123 receptions and 1,733.54 yards, both well short of those records. There's a good chance for the target record though -- if Hopkins averages 12, the record is his.
Devonta Freeman and the Touchdown Record
Devonta Freeman has now scored 10 touchdowns (9 rushing) so far this season. If he maintains that pace, he would finish with 24 rushing touchdowns and 26 total touchdowns.
The record holder for both is Ladainian Tomlinson who, in 2006, rushed for 28 touchdowns, scoring 31.
Our projections see Freeman with 2.22 receiving touchdowns and 4.10 rushing touchdowns the remainder of the year. That would give an end of season line of 13 rushing touchdowns and a total of 16 touchdowns. That's not in the vicinity of challenging Tomlinson, but that's why they play the games.