When the NFL last expanded the regular season in 1978, the bump from 14 to 16 games represented 14.28-percent growth. The move from 16 to 17 now equates to a 6.25-percent increase in the games that count.
Relative to the last time, then, the current addition of one game won’t mean as much to issues like season-long records. Still, it’s worth taking a quick look at some of the most significant single-season marks, along with the average performance that will now be needed to set a new standard.
Eric Dickerson set the single-season rushing record with the Rams in 1984. With 2,105 yards, he averaged 131.56 yards per game. (O.J. Simpson had set the previous record in 1973, with 2,003 yards in 14 games — an average of 143.07 yards per game.) To beat Dickerson with a 17-game season, an average of 123.88 yards per game will be needed.
In 2013, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning set the single-season passing yardage record, at 5,477. That’s an average of 342.3 yards per game. To beat Manning record in 17 games, a quarterback needs to average 322.23 yards.
The prior year, Lions receiver Calvin Johnson established the single-season receiving yardage record, with 1,964. That’s 122.75 per game. An average of 115.58 will be needed to beat it in 17 games.
Saints receiver Michael Thomas, in 2019, set the single-season reception record with 149, or 9.31 per game. With an extra game, an average of 8.82 gets a pass-catcher to 150.
Manning’s passing touchdown record of 55, also from 2013, works out to 3.43 per game. To get to 56, a quarterback must average 3.29 per game.
The extra game also will make it a little easier to break the single-season touchdown record of 31 (LaDainian Tomlinson, 2006), 22.5 sacks (Michael Strahan, 2001), and 14 interceptions (Night Train Lane, 1952). (Lane, by the way, picked off 14 passes in a 12-game season.)
Of course, it’s just a matter of time before 17 games becomes 18. At that point, the average performance needed to break the various records will get even lower.