4. Peyton Manning - 5,477 Passing Yards in a Season For one of the most prestigious NFL records, the record for most passing yards in a season, is one that hasn’t lasted long and could continue to. Manning set the mark last season, by one yard, passing Drew Brees, but he shouldn’t get too comfortable with it. Of the top 11 passing seasons, 10 of have been set by active QBs, with five of those blowing past Dan Marino’s once seemingly untouchable 1984 mark (5,084 yards), since Drew Brees and Tom Brady passed him in 2011. No one passed 5,000 FOCUS ON SPORT/GETTY IMAGES SPORT yards in a season until 2008 (Drew Brees). Now there are now eight, by five different QBs and there are plenty of candidates to challenge Manning’s record, including Manning himself, Brees, who holds four of the top seven passing seasons, and, of course, Tom Brady. The NFL’s young guns are represented by a pair of 24-year-olds, Detroit’s Matthew Stafford and Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck. Stafford, thanks to Calvin Johnson, cracked the 5,000-yard mark last season, and Luck should in 2014. He saw his yardage total dip last year but also cut his interceptions in half and raised his accuracy over 60 percent. Luck will take aim at Manning, with a healthy Reggie Wayne back, speedster T.Y. Hilton, and veteran Hakeem Nicks beginning on opening night, fittingly in Denver vs. Mannings’ Broncos. Probability of Record Falling: Aerial attacks are so commonplace in today’s NFL offenses that this record can conceivably be topped. 5. LaDainian Tomlinson - 186 points in a season Like the consecutive games streak, points in a season takes kickers out of the mix, which eliminates the top 30 scorers from 2013. That makes New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham the top scorer with 96 points. That’s barely halfway to LaDanian Tomlinson’s mark. Really nobody has come close to LT’s scoring mark, since he passed Paul Hornung’s 26-year-old record of 176 points, which included 86 points on PATs and field goals. Tomlinson passed Hornung the year after Seattle’s Shawn Alexander came with eight points of him. The right kind of versatile back in the right system could challenge Tomlinson, like Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles playing in offensive genius Andy Reid’s scheme. In 2013, Charles went for nearly 1,980 total yards and found the end zone 19 times (12 rushing, seven receiving), the most among offensive players. Reid’s former team, the Philadelphia Eagles, the NFL’s second-most potent offense last season, features running back LeSean McCoy, who led the league in rushing (1,607 yards) and touches (366) and put the ball in the end zone nine times. Darren Sproles may cost McCoy touches but also keep him fresher. Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson also is a threat. Peterson scored 10 touchdowns last season playing through groin and foot injuries. That followed the previous season’s horrible knee injury. A healthy AP could mean a bunch of TDs and a challenge to LT. Probability of Record Falling: It’s a longshot, but 186 points could fall. The chances of it being broken be a wide receiver— even with today’s passing offenses—is unlikely. And with more passing, teams are less apt to run the ball as much, leaving less opportunities for a back to break one for a score. Like Tomlinson, it’ll likely come from a versatile back who gets the bulk of hand-offs and still have good enough hands to moonlight as a receiver out of the backfield that will challenge the record. Unbreakable Perfection DONALD MIRALLE/GETTY IMAGES SPORT The 1972 Miami Dolphins’ 17-0 season is still the standard to which all NFL teams aspire. Nobody’s perfect…except for the 1972 Miami Dolphins. Watching teams attempt to match their perfect 1972 season has become a rite of every NFL season. So has seeing the popping of champagne corks by the surviving members of the team once the last undefeated team loses. Last year that came on Nov. 17, when the 9-0 Kansas City Chiefs lost, 27-17, at Denver. While few and far between, there have been some memorable close calls over the years. In 1985, the Chicago Bears went 12-0 before losing their only game on the way to a Super Bowl championship, 38- 24, Dec. 2, at Miami in the Orange Bowl. Then, in 2009 the Indianapolis Colts started 14-0 before suffering their first defeat, 29-15, on Dec. 27, to the New York Jets. But the bubbly sat on ice the longest in 2008, when the New England Patriots nearly ended the ritual. The Pats passed 17-0 on the way to winning their first 18 games. The bid for perfection ended in Super Bowl XLII, when Eli Manning, David Tyree (and his helmet) and the New York Giants beat them, 17-14. Probability of Record Falling: The 1972 Dolphins shouldn’t be shy about ordering bubbly by the bulk.
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